I’m not much for science. Haven’t studied it since high school and did not excel at it even when my brain was younger. But it turns out that sometimes what we learned in high school math and science can be useful, contrary to what we thought to ourselves (or even dared say out loud) during Algebra II, “This is so DUMB! When will I EVER need this in real life?”  Come on, all of us said it. We were wrong.

Today I’m contemplating Newton’s Third Law of Motion: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This holds true in real life, and it more or less applies to my beloved paranormal and urban fantasy novels. Even in my make-believe worlds, what goes up, must come down. 

This truth in fantasy is what separates the high octane from the decaf among authors, in my opinion. I love it when writers offer a pseudo-scientific explanation for the paranormal quirks and characteristics of their characters.  In John Hartness’ Quincy Harker series, Q is the son of Jonathan Harker and Mina Murry Harker, both of whom served as snacks for Dracula. Apparently the regular donations affected the DNA of Quincy’s parents, resulting in a human child with a little something extra in the magical ability, strength and longevity departments. Another example, Lynsay Sands’ Argeneau vampires, are the product of scientists on Atlantis mixing nanobots with mitochondria, giving them long lives, superhuman strength and vitality in exchange for replenishing their blood through ingesting that of humans. Cool stuff.

But I digress. I know you’re flabbergasted. Back to Newton’s third law and how in the real world it posits that you cannot create something out of nothing. Nor can you do something without some sort of karmic retribution, whether of the positive or negative variety. Karma’s a bitch, baby, don’t you forget it. 

This truth also holds in the paranormal and urban fantasy arenas. In most of the books I read, balance must be maintained. The most explicit expression of this is in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by JR Ward. In her world of vigilante vampires protecting their kind from soul-less humans intent on their destruction, everything comes with a hefty price tag. Save your beloved from death by disease? Okay–provided you forgo the possibility of children. Bring a ghost back from the dead? No problem, if your mother is willing to sacrifice her most prized possession. Obtain the power to inhale the life force from your enemies? Piece of cake, as long as you understand that it will taint your own life essence in the process.

It turns out that Goethe got it right–if you want an extra serving of whatever earthly delights tempt you most, you gotta make a deal with the devil. As I’ve written about before, there ain’t no free lunch. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. We need to obey gravity, you know, because it’s not just a good idea, it’s the law.

So where does that leave those of us who ride the see-saw of life going endlessly up and down?  Well, to begin with, we shouldn’t be surprised when the other shoe falls– we tossed it to the sky in the first place, after all. What goes up must come down. Secondly, we need to savor, savor, savor the high times, knowing they will inexorably be followed by the inevitable lows. Whatever is happening will stop at some point, and whatever wheels we set in motion will continue to turn — until they don’t (which may actually violate Newton’s First Law of Motion, but I’m not sure–I think I mentioned I wasn’t a science geek).

Sometimes, however, it appears as though the world doesn’t really work this way. Some people seem to have a disproportionate amount of grief and trouble, while others seems to perch on top of the world and remain there. For me, I always think that these instances of putative inequity might not be what they seem. Alternatively, we may all be living out our karma from past lives or alternate universes. I don’t really know, except to say that on most days, I prefer to think there is a big weighing scale with two side-by-side plates, racking and stacking our actions and responding with equal and opposite reactions. Anything to believe that it’s not all just random chaos out there. That would be depressing. 

So for today, I’m going to choose to give credence to karma as if it were dogma–I believe in the power of balance; I worship at the bottom of the apple tree where Newton was inspired to articulate his Third Law of Motion; and I will continue to read fantasy books that reinforce my concepts of truth.

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