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 …
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)
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 …