Kicking off the Vintage SciFi Not-a-challenge!
Posted January 1, 2012on:
Welcome to the year 2012! and Welcome to the Vintage Science Fiction not-a-challenge month! There’s a new tab up top for you to link to your reviews and discussions in the comments. The badge on the sidebar is clickable to that page as well.
During the next 31 days, I’ll be reviewing vintage science fiction books and the authors who wrote them, along with the occasional futurehistory predictions of Arthur C Clarke as essayed in his Profiles of the Future, original publication date 1963.
To get into the mood, let’s dive right into Clarke’s predictions. This little gem of a book offers an introduction followed by seventeen essays and a time line. The book is dedicated to Hugo Gernsback, “who thought of everything”. Yes, that Hugo Gernsback. And Bantam had a “Science and Mathematics” imprint? Sweet! Here’s a taste of Riding on Air, and You Can’t Get There From Here.
Riding on Air
Or as I liked to call this essay “where we’re going, we don’t need roads”. Clarke takes the already existing hovercraft, sometimes called aircars or Ground Effect Machines (GEMs), to the utmost of the available technology. At it’s most basic, a GEM is a fan aimed towards the floor, with the air aimed further by the sides of a downward facing saucer. Able to carry immense loads, but taking immense amounts of energy, Clarke invisions a future devoid of petroleum, where perhaps our vehicle energy comes from some sort of battery. Glossing over energy requirements, Clarke goes on to discuss how paved highways would be a thing of the past, as hovercraft don’t make any contact with the ground, so simply need a path free of most obstacles. Port cities too, would lose their appeal, as hovercraft could go from the ocean right onto the beach, and even further inland.
Horrible mileage aside, it’s too bad hovercraft didn’t, no pun intended, take off.
You Can’t Get There From Here
Why are we so obsessed with going to outerspace? Why not be more interested in what lies below our very feet, down below the mantle of the Earth? Thanks to the physics of pressure, digging down more than a few miles has proven near impossible. Humans can’t survive the pressure of the deep ocean, and even liquid filled digging “moles” have a limit to the pressures they can survive. What we need is practice in environments of crushingly high pressure. Environments like, say, Jupiter. Or maybe Venus, or even the Sun. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s probably easier for us to get to Jupiter or the Sun than it is for us to get to the center of our own Earth. If we can learn to survive those pressures (I say “we”, when of course it would be an unmanned probe), then we are many steps closer to learning more about the center of our own planet.
What’s up next? Jack Vance and H. Beam Piper, of course!