yet more on science fiction and fantasy (is this modern science fiction part 6?)

I JUST HAD A ‘WHAT A COINCIDENCE’ MOMENT! They are not all that dis­sim­ilar from deja vu mo­ments, ex­cept the some­times slightly scary feeling that ac­com­pa­nies the latter is rarely part of the former. When co­in­ci­dence oc­curs to me, I am usu­ally de­lighted, rarely fright­ened into be­lieving some form of pre-determinism, as deja vu can do. But, first we deal with coincidence …

Ac­cording to Merriam-Webster On­line, a co­in­ci­dence as “the oc­cur­rence of events that happen at the same time by ac­ci­dent but seem to have some con­nec­tion.” That’s a very def­i­nite state­ment: the events “happen … by ac­ci­dent,” no ques­tion about it.

Ex­cept it’s im­pos­sible to know that. It seems rea­son­able; it’s what I might offer as my un­der­standing of the phe­nom­enon. Nonethe­less, there is no way to know that it is so.


Please read the first five parts of this se­ries of es­says on fan­tasy, science-fiction, and the gimme.


For Wikipedia, a co­in­ci­dence is “a col­lec­tion of two or more events or con­di­tions, closely re­lated by time, space, form, or other as­so­ci­a­tions, which ap­pear un­likely to bear a re­la­tion­ship as ei­ther cause to ef­fect or ef­fects of a shared cause, within the ob­server’s or ob­servers’ un­der­standing of what cause can pro­duce what effects.”

I know—wikispeak. (Where do they find these people?) Reread it and it makes even less sense. And it’s far less de­fin­i­tive or hard­line than the MWO state­ment. At least, I think it is …


Modern Science Fiction Part 6: cover of US paperback edition of Christopher Stasheff's THE WARLOCK UNLOCKED.

Pub­lished in 1982, thir­teen years after the first War­lock novel, The War­lock Un­locked made Christo­pher Stasheff a fix­ture in the modern fan­tasy scene. This is the US pa­per­back edi­tion from Ace.

What about synchronicity?

Carl Jung’s con­cept of syn­chronicity is de­fined by Wikipedia as “the ex­pe­ri­ence of two or more events as mean­ing­fully re­lated, whereas they are un­likely to be causally re­lated. The sub­ject sees it as a mean­ingful co­in­ci­dence, al­though the events need not be ex­actly si­mul­ta­neous in time.”

Merriam-Webster states that syn­chronicity is “the co­in­ci­dental oc­cur­rence of events and es­pe­cially psy­chic events (as sim­ilar thoughts in widely sep­a­rated per­sons or a mental image of an un­ex­pected event be­fore it hap­pens) that seem re­lated but are not ex­plained by con­ven­tional mech­a­nisms of causality.”

Given these two ex­pla­na­tions, it ap­pears that my “What a co­in­ci­dence” mo­ment may have been a “What a syn­chronicity” moment.

In many cul­tures, there is no such thing as a co­in­ci­dence. For in­stance, there is the con­cept of yuanfen. Yuanfen is a Buddhist-related Chi­nese con­cept that means the pre­de­ter­mined prin­ciple that dic­tates a per­son’s re­la­tion­ships and en­coun­ters such as the affinity among friends or lovers.

In common usage the term can be de­fined as the binding force that links two per­sons to­gether in any re­la­tion­ship.… Chi­nese people also be­lieve [Yuanfen] to be a uni­versal force gov­erning the hap­pening of things to some people at some places.” (Wikipedia)


Modern Science Fiction Part 6: cover of UK paperback edition of Christopher Stasheff's THE WARLOCK UNLOCKED.

This is the UK pa­per­back edi­tion of The War­lock Un­locked from Panther.

Why bother inventing when you’ve magic?

Why the babble about co­in­ci­dence and syn­chronicity, you ask? Well, I just started reading a book three days ago that con­tain sev­eral pas­sages that di­rectly ad­dress state­ments of mine in a se­ries of ar­ti­cles that I posted three days ago.

In the book The War­lock Un­locked by Christo­pher Stasheff, the pro­tag­o­nists find them­selves ac­ci­den­tally trans­ported by a time-machine into an al­ter­nate uni­verse on an al­ter­nate planet sim­ilar to Earth. The year on both worlds is the same: 3059 AD.

On this al­ter­nate Earth, magic ap­pears to work (al­though most of it is ac­tu­ally var­ious forms of ESP, in­cluding telekinesis, tele­por­ta­tion, telepathy, etc). Rod Gal­low­glass, the sto­ry’s hero and Fa­ther Al Ul­well, a priest sent by the Pope to watch over Rod’s ex­pected trans­for­ma­tion into a High Wizard, are both from ‘our’ uni­verse. To­wards the end of the book, they have a con­ver­sa­tion about the world in which they find themselves:

ROD: “Any idea why the whole world is still me­dieval, even though it’s 3059 AD?”

FATHER AL: “Well, at a guess, I’d say it’s be­cause tech­nology never ad­vanced much.”

ROD: “Fine. So how come tech­nology didn’t advance?”

FATHER AL: “Why bother in­venting gad­gets, when you can do it by magic?” (p. 217)

ROD: “Why do you need to de­velop fer­til­izers when the av­erage parish priest can do the same thing with a blessing?”

FATHER AL: “Smiths pro­ducing case-hardened al­loys by singing to the metal as the pound it; car­riages riding smoothly, cush­ioned by spells in­stead of steel leaves, per­haps even spell-propelled; ships com­mu­ni­cating with shore by crystal balls … Yes, why bother in­venting any­thing?” (pg. 221)

Necessity is not the mother of invention

The fifth and final part of my essay on modern sci­ence fic­tion and fan­tasy is ti­tled “modern sci­ence fic­tion and the gimme part 5.” In it, I noted the fol­lowing in my argument:

“The one BIG no-no in this genre has tra­di­tion­ally been that ad­vanced magic and ad­vanced sci­en­tific knowl­edge and tech­nology CANNOT co-exist in the same world.

That is, a world in which magic ex­ists might see hu­mans de­velop knives and swords and sim­ilar tech­nology, but once hu­mans dis­cover that things can be ac­com­plished with magic, tech­nology would cease to progress.

The well-known adage that Ne­ces­sity is the mother of in­ven­tion would never need to be in­vented in a so­ciety founded on magic. There would be no need for ex­plo­ration in sci­ence and me­chanics if a spell could ac­com­plish the re­quired end.”



Christo­pher Stash­eff’s first War­lock novel was pub­lished in 1969 as a spoof on democ­racy and var­ious other is­sues that seemed rel­e­vant in the ’60s. It has nothing to do with this ar­ticle but I bought this then just for Jack Gaugh­an’s amazing cover art.

Science fiction as modern fantasy

I should note that, tech­ni­cally, while The War­lock Un­locked reads like a modern fantasy—there are ap­par­ently mag­ical in­hab­i­tants of the planet: witches, war­locks, elves, faeries, and other as­sorted fan­tas­tical beasties—it is, in fact, based in sci­ence fic­tion. It takes place in the fu­ture, a sci­ence fic­tion standard.

As stated, the seeming mag­ical powers of the human witches and war­locks are (sort of) science-based in that they are forms of ESP. The BIG gimme in this story is that a time-travel ma­chine (an­other sci­ence fic­tion staple) was in­vented by an ob­scure in­ventor in the 1950s … 

(For an un­der­standing of my use of the term gimme, see the sub­sec­tion ti­tled “The un­written law of the gimme” in the post ti­tled “modern sci­ence fic­tion and the gimme part 2.”)

And here is the coincidence/synchronicity: Mr. Stasheff pub­lished The War­lock Un­locked in 1982. This is my first reading of it. I am not saying that we each had a novel idea: the con­cepts are common. It’s just that, of the hun­dred or so books I have stacked up to read in the up­coming months, I picked one that es­sen­tially re­it­er­ated an ar­gu­ment that I made in an essay that I was posting as I was reading the book.

That’s all. It ain’t no big thing! Hell, it may not even be “Modern Sci­ence Fic­tion Part 6”! And re­member as said John Green said,“It’s hard to be­lieve in co­in­ci­dence, but it’s even harder to be­lieve in any­thing else.”


FEATURED IMAGE: I found this lovely Ul­ti­Mind poster on the Swa­mazing web­site. This is quite in line with what I think of when I hear the word co­in­ci­dence


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