Science and Shades Below: The Crossroads of Science & Magic

“Awake Could Be So Beautiful,” Cameron Gray

At first blush, science and magic don’t seem to have an awful lot in common. One is based on observation, one on feeling. One relies on proof, the other on intuition. One deals with things that are tangible, the other with the intangible.

I wish I could say I’ve always loved science, but that isn’t exactly true. In school, my favorite subjects of study always skewed towards the arts and humanities: things like English, creative writing, history, sociology, psychology. Those are still things I use in my writing.

It was only as an adult that I discovered my love of science. These days, you’re as likely to find me reading a textbook on geology as a romance novel. This newfound love is one I share with my husband and son. It also has a profound impact on the world of Shades Below.

Even before I started writing Book One, I knew I wanted the Shades Below universe to mirror our own. I want you to visit San Francisco and find the places in my books. I want you to be able to track down the centuries-old esoteric texts stockpiled by The Ministers and protected by The Peers. I want you to look at the shadows in your closet a little closer, to see something move out of the corner of your eye and wonder, what if

I believe much of what we consider “magic” is simply what people call the things science can’t explain yet. In Shades Below, I’ve taken that concept and run with it.

So what does science look like in a world where magic is real?

For one thing, it looks like ghosts; made of energy, just like science already acknowledges everything is. The First Law of Thermodynamics states that no energy in the universe is created, and none can be destroyed. If that’s true, what happens to the energy that lives inside each of us when our physical bodies die? If that energy can’t be destroyed, where does it go?

Of all the branches of science out there, quantum science is about the closest you can get to studying magic. While other schools of science deal with what is real, quantum science deals with what is possible. It is a science of probability and energy, waves and particles. It uses the dueling properties of elements smaller than we will ever see to understand the threads that form the fabric of the universe.

I’ve been learning a lot about quantum science for my upcoming Shades Below novel, Ghost In The Machine. In particular, it plays a role in the inner workings of The Wayfare Hotel.

If you’ve been following the Shades Below series, you’re already acquainted with The Wayfare Hotel for Restless Spirits. Lena first introduces MacMillian to San Francisco’s one and only “ghost hotel” in A World Apart:

“Volatile spirits are dangerous, not just to the living, but to themselves and other spirits as well.  Mostly, they’re just adjusting.  The Wayfare is set up to contain them until they’ve come to terms with being dead.”

~A World Apart (SB#1)

The Wayfare is a prominent background feature in both A World Apart and The Devil’s Disease, but in Ghost In The Machine, it becomes a character in its own right. You see, The Wayfare isn’t really a hotel. It’s actually more of a waystation. Here’s how Cyrus explains it to MacMillian:

“Spirits come in, either on their own or because they were brought.  If they’re volatile, we contain them, try to work with them.  Those that want to move on, do.  But there are always those that don’t.”

MacMillian forced himself to concentrate on what he was hearing.  “And that’s an option?”

“Sure.”  Cyrus shrugged.  “As long as they’re not violent, there’s no real reason they can’t stick around.  But sometimes things start getting a little crowded.  That’s what the oculus is for.”

~Ghost In The Machine (SB#3)

Ah, the oculus. This is where the fun stuff starts, and where today’s post ends. I’ll be back soon to post a bit more about the oculus; what it is, what it does, and some of the real-life science that inspired it.

See you then!


Published by L.J.K. Oliva

L.J.K. Oliva writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance, with a heavy dash of suspense. She likes her whiskey strong, her chocolate dark, and her steak bloody. Most of all, L.J.K. likes monsters... and knows the darkest ones don't live in closets.

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