so yes, as i was saying - and it's nice to see that pratchett agrees with me - what's with that sonic screwdriver?
well it's basically a magic wand isn't it, you might say.
but it's not. in tolkien's world, magic is something intangible, that mortals cannot master. it's something innate to the powers of the world, it's raw and poorly defined. it reflects the confusion the common man would have found at the world in ancient times - it didn't make any sense, or bind to limits.
but we now live in a world of gont, miss cackle's academy, the unseen university, the scintillus academy, and hogwarts. magic is an academic subject that can be mastered (or at least, bachelored). roleplaying, where skills in magic can be developed and improved over time; magic as a science. that's why it was so easy to make system shock (and by extension deus ex) out of the ultima underworld engine; replace mana with energy, replace spells with bio-mods and hey presto, sci-fi. and not the science fantasy of doctor who, but actual speculative fiction, with rules and boundries. doctor who's plot holes and deus ex machinas are a throwback to an earlier conception of magic; the bewildering genius of an alien.