Science, Technology and Magic in The Witcher

A Medievalist Spin on Modern Monsters

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About the Book

As Andrzej Sapkowski was fleshing out his character Geralt of Rivia for a writing contest, he did not set out to write a science textbook–or even a work of science fiction. However, the world that Sapkowski created in his series The Witcher resulted in a valuable reflection of real-world developments in science and technology. As the Witcher books have been published across decades, the sorcery in the series acts as an extension of the modern science it grows alongside.

This book explores the fascinating entanglement of science and magic that lies at the heart of Sapkowski’s novel series and its widely popular video game and television adaptations. This is the first English-language book-length treatment of magic and science in the Witcher universe. These are examined through the lenses of politics, religion, history and mythology. Sapkowski’s richly detailed universe investigates the sociology of science and ponders some of the most pressing modern technological issues, such as genetic engineering, climate change, weapons of mass destruction, sexism, speciesism and environmentalism. Chapters explore the unsettling realization that the greatest monsters are frequently human, and their heinous acts often involve the unwitting hand of science.

About the Author(s)

Kristine Larsen is a professor of astronomy at Central Connecticut State University, where her teaching and research focus on the intersections between science and society. Her publications include numerous articles and book chapters on J.R.R. Tolkien’s uses of astronomy in his writings.

Donald E. Palumbo is a professor of English at East Carolina University. He lives in Greenville, North Carolina.

C.W. Sullivan III is Distinguished Professor of arts and sciences at East Carolina University and a full member of the Welsh Academy. He is the author of numerous books and the on-line journal Celtic Cultural Studies.

Bibliographic Details

Kristine Larsen

Series Editors Donald E. Palumbo and C.W. Sullivan III

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 290
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2023
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8385-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4817-0
Imprint: McFarland
Series: Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Table of Contents

Preface: Science and the Serpent 1
Introduction: Science and Secondary Worlds 9
1. Science and Magic 25
2. Finding the Facts in Folklore, Superstition, and Memories 42
3. Navigating Time and Space 67
4. Mad Mages and Suspect Scientists 87
5. Uneasy Alliances: Science, Religion, and Politics 112
6. Evolution and Environmentalism 129
7. Science and Pseudoscience of Racism and Speciesism 150
8. Human Experimentation and Genetic Engineering 180
9. Technology and Weapons of Mass Destruction 206
10. The Witcher as ­Cli-Fi 226
Conclusion: STEAM, Symbiosis, and Sturgeon’s Law 249
Abbreviations 255
Works Cited 257
Index 279

Book Reviews & Awards

• “…a timely must read for anyone interested in not only these stories but in the wider world of fantasy, the cultural history of science, medievalisms and the works of Tolkien and Martin, all of which are brought together in this detailed study.”—Marcus Harmes, Associate Professor, University of Southern Queensland

• “…a foundational text for English-language studies in the world of The Witcher across all three of the represented media, effectively contributing to the study of literature, television, and video games in equal measure.”—Jason C. Cash, Associate Professor, SUNY Delhi

• “Very approachable even for audiences with a less than encyclopedic knowledge of the source material… a worthwhile read for any author interested in the confluence of medieval knowledge systems, the history of science, and popular culture…fascinating…Larsen does an admirable job of synthesizing her literary analysis with analysis of the real-world history of science.”—H-Net.