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The Good News is that Russell T Davies has a New Show...

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Industry | January 24, 2012 |

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Industry | January 24, 2012 |

The bad news is that this is the plot description:

“From the dark side of the moon, aliens are scanning the Earth searching for magic and are prepared to destroy everything in their path to get it. All that stands in the way of Earth’s imminent destruction are two 16-year old schoolboys, Tom and Benny. It’s ray guns vs wands; science vs magic and aliens vs wizards.

“Tom Clarke lives a seemingly ordinary life with his dad and grandmother. However he hides a deep secret — Tom’s family are wizards and when the Nekross arrive, hungry for magic, they find themselves on the menu. The Nekross may be equipped with ray guns, teleports and high-tech robots but they haven’t reckoned on Tom and his friend, science super-brain Benny. They form an extraordinary duo, using Tom’s magic and Benny’s science to battle the Nekross and save the Earth.”

To be fair, it is being pitched as a children’s show, as a sort of spiritual replacement for “Sarah Jane Adventures,” but also to be fair, just because it’s for kids doesn’t mean that it has to be lousy. Aliens versus wizards? Anything being pitched using the “versus” construction doesn’t have the best track record for quality. That’s the refuge of the unoriginal writer who can’t make ideas themselves interesting.

And the ideas are not themselves uninteresting. While at face value, magic versus science is just a simplistic melding of disparate genres, unlike two genres selected at random (say erotica and musicals), these two are at least nominally sides of the same coin. This could make for deep and fascinating stories, grounded in the duality of rationalism and the strangeness of the human psyche. Science is based on an rational universe, in which we can trace the consistent and replicable laws through applied empiricism. Magic though is not simply wands in place of lasers, it is at its best a fundamentally different view of the world. It’s a system of the world in which empiricism means nothing, in which the laws of the universe change at a whim, in which the strangeness of the universe is not merely unknown, but unknowable.

Too much fiction blurs the line between fantasy and science fiction by not understanding that nuance. Fantasy in particular has eroded into representing magic as anything but magic. If grinding up belladonna, a newt’s left testicle, and the blood of a virgin let’s you shoot a fireball out of your finger with the help of the right words of ancient Sumerian, that’s not magic, that’s just science with a different set of physical laws. It’s the holy word of empiricism that makes science what it is, this notion that we can actually figure out how this universe works. Magic comes from a darker place inside us, one that fears that things we cannot understand lurk in the darkness, but it’s also the well spring of miracles, of the hope that the impossible can be worked.

Aliens versus wizards does not light up my interest, but if Davies is latching onto exploring the nature of science and the nature of magic in the context of a children’s adventure, that could be something legendary.

(source: Blastr)

Steven Lloyd Wilson is the sci-fi and history editor. You can email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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