Worlds of magic are always right at your fingertips, but you may go through an entire lifetime without noticing it. In the books, movies, and television shows we love, the worlds of magic are often so close to the “normal” world, and the doorways are always hidden in plain sight. In the Harry Potter series, there is a magical Platform Nine and Three Quarters at King’s Cross Station in London that transports you to the Wizarding World. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the Pevensie children discover the secret magical world of Narnia by walking through a wardrobe. In Stranger Things, there is a parallel dimension, the Upside Down, accessible through gateways created through human psychic powers. What do these portals symbolize?
Unfortunately, for us in the real world, we cannot conjure magic at will. However, we often have a sense of hope that such abilities or wonders are just around the corner and just outside of our perception. In 1962, science fiction writer, Arthur C. Clarke, formulated three laws for writing science fiction, and his third law is strikingly powerful. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” If you witness technology so advanced that you have absolutely no understanding as to how it works, then to you it will appear as magic. Another way of looking at Clarke’s Third Law is abilities or phenomena we think of as magic now could be accessible with the right advancement in technology. I believe this is part of the reason we connect with stories where a world of magic is so close to the real world.
If you could go back in time just a few hundred years ago and bring people to the present time, they would likely conclude that modern computers, mobile phones, the internet, and television are all magic. It follows that whatever new technologies arise in the upcoming centuries would likely appear as magic to us if we were able to witness them. This is really not any different from the idea of a magical world so close to our own. There is a magical world right on the cusp of our world, and those items and abilities of magic are the scientific discoveries and technologies yet to be unearthed. In a way, human imagination and ingenuity represent the doorways to new magical abilities, and a single breakthrough or discovery could be the key to unlock a particular door.
Science fiction stories like fantasy stories also use this concept but in a more direct way. For example, in the Stargate franchise, stargates literally open portals to other worlds, but because the characters within the story understand, at least in part, the technology behind stargates it is not considered magic. In the Star Wars franchise, people are able to travel throughout an entire galaxy to different star systems through hyperspace, and again, it is assumed that the technology of hyperspace travel is understood by the characters within the story. Yet to us, the audience, this is all magic because you and I cannot walk through a wormhole to another planet or travel through hyperspace on a starship.
There is a world of magic that exists, and it is just out of sight from our vantage point from the real world. It is human imagination, ingenuity, and exploration that will open the doors to magic. Once humans open a door, the magic that is discovered will become mundane and new doorways will form waiting for even newer discoveries. Yet, until we open each doorway, there will always be a world of magic waiting to be discovered.