Friday, 22 February 2013

Humor II

In Poul Anderson's Tales Of The Flying Mountains (New York, 1984):

"Carter sneered, 'And you'll make your spaceships weightless and float them right off Earth, eh?' "(p. 29)

We are still at the Congressional Committee meeting and Carter, having echoed ER Burroughs, is now effectively sneering at HG Wells - but Anderson is not sneering. As CS Lewis explained in a note to one volume of his Ransom Trilogy, superficially disparaging references to literary predecessors like Wells are in fact complementary acknowledgements. (Another example is a time travel story pointing out that time machines are unlikely to be invented nowadays but they could be here now if they have come from the future.)

Greek dramatists incorporated into their scripts criticisms of their predecessors; sf writers can do likewise. Anderson can give us a more detailed rationale of anti-gravity than Wells did. Now that we have reached it, let's summarize the rationale. We need to bear in mind that there is an element of humor here because a crank theory is being presented as a way to extend NASA funding for a little longer without any suspicion that the theory is going to work.

A generator will create gravitational fields by means of nuclear resonance rotations. The "gyrogravitic" drive will react against the entire mass of the ambient (?) universe. Hovering will be almost free. Accelerating or maneuvering will require minimal power from any energy source. Ships will be silent and unpolluting with interior gyrogravitic fields providing weight and cushioning against pressure while shielding from particles and meteors. And the cost is modest so the overall NASA budget can be significantly reduced...

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