A cliché as old as genre: sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. In the texts, this power of tech is often stranded in terms of semi-intelligible ways humans control their environment. But, were it truly embraced as a concept, the technology stories would feel like fantasy novels. Magic is a technology of human control that is sufficiently removed from our anthropology and culture such that we do not even see what magic used to be when we slept upon the naked skin of the earth. Science is a young invention.
To the text in question, my new novel, MAZE, it means that it feels like a fantasy with a landscape so alien as to become magic. The survivors of the maze stumble loosely through the terms and concepts of their own cultural history, but the stone cows are not cows and the djinni are creatures of meat and light, not fire, and the trails are called trails, though what they are is unknowable.
Separated from her tools and equipment, the scientist from the far future does not conduct experiments worthy of the name. Instead the vast unknown swallows her. The biology is magic. The geology is magic.
Sufficiently removed from our own networks and technologies, most of us would die very quickly, and the ones that do not die will have lives that return to the origins of myth in the flickering campfires at the dawn of our consciousness.
There's a linear park here in town where anybody could get lost. Staring out into the unreadable wild, the deer stare back. If I did not have the tools or training of the ones who have survived on the soil, I would die, or else I would find survivors, form tribes, work together, and live a while in the brush where living is so hard.
I watched Jim Henson's Labyrinth more times than I can count. One time, I realized that if it were me instead of Sarah, I would never reach the center to solve the maze. I would find a patch of ground to work, a place where I could hunt and cast nets, and if it was me alone, I would not live for long. Read MAZE and imagine yourself there, and what you would do if it was you, and see the unfamiliar biologies and geologies as a kind of magical real.
Bio: J.M. McDermott is the author of Last Dragon, Disintegration Visions, The Dogsland Trilogy, and Women and Monsters. He holds an MFA from the Stonecoast Program from the University of Southern Maine. He lives in San Antonio, Texas.