Spindizzy

Tagged: Theme

One of the best-loved items of sf Terminology. The spindizzy is the Antigravity Invention used to drive flying Cities through the Galaxy at Faster-than-Light speeds in James Blish's Okie series. This was collected as Cities in Flight (omni 1970), though Blish was using the term as early as 1950 – notably in "Bindlestiff" (December 1950 Astounding), incorporated into the first-published Okie novel Earthman, Come Home (April 1950-November 1953 var mags; fixup 1955; cut 1958). He gave the spindizzy a wonderfully plausible Imaginary-Science rationale, rooted in theoretical Physics, in which Gravity fields are seen as generated or cancelled by rotation owing to the "Blackett-Dirac effect". The term "spindizzy" dates from the late 1930s as a nickname for the hand-built model racing cars or "tether cars", a US fad of that era, which raced one another in grooved tracks or solo – against the clock – while tethered to and circling a central pole. Blish presumably had these in mind when he wrote in the prologue of Earthman, Come Home that the Dillon-Wagoner gravitron polarity generator (the Invention's official name) was "almost immediately dubbed the 'spindizzy' in honour of what it did to electron rotation".

Authors who have adopted the term for their own sf include J F Bone in The Lani People (1962) and Confederation Matador (1978), and Ken MacLeod – with due credit to Blish – in The Execution Channel (2007). Poul Anderson's "gyrogravitics" gravity-control in Tales of the Flying Mountains (April 1963-September 1965 Analog as by Winston P Sanders; fixup 1970) suggests a nod to the spindizzy. [DRL/PN]

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