Friday, 31 January 2014

"Beam Me Up"

"...another creature flashed into sight on a metal plate and stalked toward the room beyond."

- Poul Anderson, "Interloper" IN Anderson, Fantasy (New York, 1981), pp. 178-210 AT p. 195.

"Interloper" was originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1959, when I was ten. Children of a later generation can hardly read the half sentence quoted above without thinking, "Star Trek! Transporter!" - although the original sf term would have been either "teleporter" or "matter transmitter." (The Justice League of America even came up with "transmatter.")

We might also think, "Beam me up, Scotty!" That phrase was used ironically at the end of a realistic British TV drama about redundancy and unemployment. There was no way that the character saying it was going to disappear. But, if he had disappeared from Liverpool Docks to reappear in the transporter room of the Starship Enterprise, that would have been a crossover.

In "Interloper," the viewpoint character, Beoric, surprised to see the creature flashing into sight, immediately deduces that his hosts have "'...somehow managed to apply the interstellar drive principle to short distances.'" (ibid.) He is told that, "'The true minimum distance is about a hundred miles...'" (p. 196) So this "transporter" or "teleporter" is an application of the faster than light (FTL) drive. Teleportation is far less common in sf than FTL and, when it does occur, it is not usually an application of the latter.

Beoric is also surprised to learn that his hosts can communicate telepathically across interplanetary distances. They are powerful indeed.

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