18.18, Sunday 2 Jan 2011

Ted Chiang makes a neat distinction between science and magic in this interview:

Science fiction and fantasy are very closely related genres, and a lot of people say that the genres are so close that there's actually no meaningful distinction to be made between the two. But I think that there does exist an useful distinction to be made between magic and science. One way to look at it is in terms of whether a given phenomenon can be mass-produced. [...] I think magic is an indication that the universe recognizes certain people as individuals, as having special properties as an individual, whereas a story in which turning lead into gold is an industrial process is describing a completely impersonal universe. That type of impersonal universe is how science views the universe; it's how we currently understand our universe to work. The difference between magic and science is at some level a difference between the universe responding to you in a personal way, and the universe being entirely impersonal.

Chiang's short story collection, Stories of Your Life and Others, is top-notch. The title story is available online: Story of Your Life. It's told by a woman to her daughter, about her life and an alien language that works kinda sideways to time. Definitely put aside a half hour to read this.