Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Will the subject remain on fire?

Going to take a break from the antihero series for a little while... Been trying to force it too much, which is causing a whole lot of nothing to happen. So instead I'm going to talk a little about one of those random things that creep into my mind and make me think way too much.

This is actually slightly related to the antihero series, in that it was an antihero that got me thinking about this subject. Gully Foyle, of Alfred Bester's novel The Stars My Destination, was supposed to be the subject of With Darkness as an Ally Part 5; he was the one who gave me troubles. The world created in the novel revolves around jaunting: the ability to teleport. There is a brief portion in the beginning of the novel that details the early stages of mankind's study of the ability.

So for some time now, I've been thinking about that process. Imagining the groups of sciencey-minded women and men running tests to discover the mechanics of teleportation. If I had better knowledge of the scientific process, or felt comfortable making up some impressive technojargon, I'd attempt to write a short story about these people and their efforts.

I can imagine them inspecting the subject of clothing and such. "Why do we teleport with our clothes?" they ask one another. "Is it because we just subconsciously and automatically include them in the lightning-quick laundry-list of things to teleport? Head: one. Arms: two. Legs: two. Shirt, jacket, pants, shoes, socks, underwear. Keys, wallet, package of gum, thirty-two cents in change."

It seems pretty exhaustive, they think. Does the brain really note all of these things, and if so - what happens if some unknown element is entered? If a piece of paper with a note scrawled on it has been surreptitiously slipped into the pants pocket of the teleporting subject? Will the note make the journey as well, even though the brain cannot possibly know to include it in the list?

Say the note comes along, in spite of its secrecy (I shouldn't even go into the various tests and control factors I thought up to ensure the secrecy of the note... this blog would never end.) So the note comes along, which means that for some reason the process happens to simply include everything under certain parameters: all the things that happen to be on the person of the teleporter. But can it be selective? Perhaps there is something that the teleporter does not wish to bring along. Maybe his pants are on fire. He teleports, and certainly does not want to remain on fire. Does the subject remain on fire when he arrives in his new destination? I'm picturing a professional stunt-man, casual as he is lit up, surrounded by sciencey-minded women and men with fire extinguishers all looking tense and a little baffled.

To hell with science if it can't produce fiction.


  1. Interesting. I never thought about it like that. Although, a friend of mine once asked a (somewhat) similar question. When people see ghosts, why are they wearing clothes?

  2. Quite interesting. TSMD is one of my favorites and I had never thought of these questions. First time I read this I was maybe 13 and I was just a good space romp version of The Count of Monte Cristo. Reading it when I was older I picked up on how much of an amoral bastard Gully really is. He is definitely the product of another time and I don't mean the future.
    Sorry for respawning an old topic for you. I just came across this scouring the interwebs for all things Gully Foyle.