Cage Match 2017: Sci-Fi vs Fantasy

Round 1

Kell Maresh vs Mark Watney


Kell Maresh

A Darker Shade of Magic

Mark Watney

The Martian

Kell Maresh

A Darker Shade of Magic
  • Age: 21
  • Species: Antari
  • Weapons: Blood magic, some very tricky outerwear
  • Special Attack: Traveling between universes


  • Able to communicate with blood, where magic resides
  • Can travel between parallel worlds
  • Can exercise some degree of control over blood


  • Can be stubborn and overprotective
  • Exhibits some occasional poor judgment
Cover art for the book A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic

By V. E. Schwab

Mark Watney

The Martian
  • Age: Late 30s
  • Species: Human
  • Weapons: A couple potatoes and whatever he can whip up in the lab
  • Special Attack: Sciencing the shit out of things


  • Superlative survival skills
  • A breadth of scientific knowledge and NASA training
  • An unfailing sense of humor


  • No real combat knowledge
  • No magic ability
  • Probably some PTSD, if we're being honest
Cover art for the book The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian

By Andy Weir
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Match Prediction

By Django Wexler

So I got up this morning and they told me that my job for today was to fight a duel against a fictional wizard.


That’s seems pretty weird, even to me, and I farmed potatoes in my own crap on Mars. But leaving aside the important questions like Why? and What the fuck?, let’s focus on the how and see if we can figure this out. It seems kind of unfair. He’s a wizard, and don’t have so much as a wand.

Okay, I do have a wand. I got it in Ollivanders at Wizarding World when I was twelve and it’s on a shelf in my apartment next to my model of the Enterprise-D. I’ve seen Lord of the Rings seventeen times! I can probably handle this.

Ways to deal with a wizard:

Just shoot him? I mean, I could get an Uzi and wait in a dark alley or something. Not sure I like this idea. Problems are a) I’m not really comfortable just shooting a guy I don’t know, and b) I’m not sure it would work. Kell isn’t a Dungeons and Dragons wizard, he knows what guns are. He can probably protect himself.

Challenge him to a fist-fight, mano a mano? Maybe he’d think using magic would be ungentlemanly. He’s British, isn’t he? But maybe not. (Also I’d probably lose. If you’ve only seen that movie they made about my life, no, I’m not as buff as Matt Damon.)

But I think that’s a step in the right direction. Kell seems like an okay guy, honestly. If I can focus the contest a little, maybe I can put one over on him. Maybe.

Stand back! I’m going to try science. (Sorry, Randall.)


I sat in the little tavern called the Stone’s Throw, doodling a magic circle on my white tablecloth in crayon. It was a nice little place, good ambience, though the beer was a little weak. I’d slipped Barron, the owner, some cash to let me set up and clear out his clientele for the afternoon.

Waiting for Kell, though, I was starting to worry. My face was starting to itch, and my feet were getting cold.

He turned up, though, just like I expected. Took one look at me and his eyes narrowed. He did the trick with his coat, flipping it over and transforming it from a Victorian affair to a battered leather jacket. (Okay, that was cool. I wonder if I could get him to come back to the lab and do it in front of a high-speed camera.)

“You’re Watney?” he said.

“Watney the Magnificent,” I said, trying my best to look like Ian McKellen. “You’re the wizard who’s come to challenge me?”

“Magician,” Kell corrected. “And yes, if I must. Let’s get this over with.” He stared at me, then cocked his head. “What’s with the beard?”

I was starting to think the beard might have been a mistake. It was white and fluffy, and nearly reached the table. All the great magicians have long white beards, right? But I think the guy at the shop sold me a Santa beard, so it didn’t really look the part. I shrugged and scratched it, then pulled the hooks over my ears. Kell didn’t have a long white beard, so it couldn’t be required.

“Forget the beard,” I said. “Look.  I want to keep this simple. Just a quick little contest, nothing fancy. Sound good?”

He came over to my table, looking faintly amused at the half-assed magic circles I’d been drawing. Sitting in the middle of them was a chunk of black metal about the size of a quarter.

“What kind of contest?” he said.

“You can control elements with your magic, right?”

Kell sighed. “If you want to put it that way.”

I tapped the rock. “So it should be no trouble for you to make this rock float in the air.”

He glared at me. “It shouldn’t be.”

“If you can do it, you win. If you can’t and I can, I win. Easy, right?”

“A bit too easy.” He looked at me suspiciously for a second longer, then shrugged. “Why not?”


Kell shivered. “Is it me, or is it cold in here?”

“Thermostat must be broken.” I bumped the switch with my knee and hoped he didn’t notice the faint whine. “You can go ahead whenever you’re ready.”

Kell raised one eyebrow and twitched a finger. Clearly he expected the rock to rise into the air, and when it didn’t, he frowned. He raised his hand, fist clenching, and I felt the air thrum just a little. The whine increased, like a dog-whistle just at the edge of hearing. The rock shuddered a little, but stayed exactly where it was.

He released his fist and let out a breath. “Very funny. It’s bolted to the table or something, isn’t it?”

“Nope. My turn?”

Without waiting for an answer, I bumped the switch again, wiggling my increasingly numb toes. The whine shifted pitched, and without ceremony the little piece of metal lifted off the tablecloth to hover a few inches in the air, tumbling slowly.

Kell went to snatch it, but I reached across and caught his wrist.

“Wait a minute. I thought we had a deal.”

“It’s not a rock, then,” he said.

“It’s a rock.” I let go of him, and he grabbed it, pulling it free with some difficulty to hold in front of his face. “A piece of a meteorite, actually. Didn’t need to be, I just thought it was cool. The point is that it’s mostly iron.”

Kell spread his hand flat. The rock went into a fast orbit around it, spinning quickly. (I definitely need to get this guy back to the lab!)

“So what’s the trick?” he said, catching it in his fist.

“Do we have a deal, or not?” I grinned. “A good magician shouldn’t reveal his secrets.”

“Fine, you win.” He waved a hand. “Show me what you did.”

“If I must.”

I grabbed the tablecloth and whipped it away. Copper coils made a circle under the spot where the rock had been, connected to a rat’s nest of wires and a large, chunky stack of batteries. In a plastic jug, white mist bubbled and frothed.

“Magic?” Kell said.

“Pretty close.” I held out my hand, and he dropped the rock into it. “It’s a superconducting electromagnet. Run it one way, and it make anything metal float. Run it the other way …” I hit the switch, and the rock leapt out of my hand back to its spot on the table. “You’d need a tractor-trailer to pull that thing off.”

“Why is it bubbling?”

I stepped away from the table and stretched my feet. “It’s cooled by liquid nitrogen. I really hope I don’t have frostbite.”

Kell glared at me again. “You cheated.”

“What was I supposed to do?” I said. “You’re a wizard.”

“Magician.” He sighed, then smiled. “Oh, well. If I buy you a drink, will you tell me about Mars?”

I grinned. “Only if you’ll show me a few more magic tricks.”

Predicted Winner: Mark Watney

Tally of Votes Cast:

Kell Maresh:


Mark Watney:

A photo of Django Wexler

Django Wexler

Django Wexler is a self-proclaimed computer/fantasy/sci-fi geek. He graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with degrees in creative writing and computer science, worked in artificial intelligence research and as a programmer/writer for Microsoft, and is now a full-time fantasy writer. Django is the author of The Shadow Campaigns, an epic fantasy series for adults published by Roc (an imprint of Penguin), and The Forbidden Library, a classic fantasy series for young readers published by Kathy Dawson Books (an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group).

Cover art for the book The Guns of Empire by Django Wexler

The Guns of Empire

By Django Wexler