Teleportation

Tagged: Theme

Although a common item of sf Terminology, this word is (or has been) used in three different ways.

1. Charles Fort used it in Wild Talents (1932) as a synonym for "psychokinesis" or, later, Telekinesis; i.e., the ability to move objects by the power of the mind alone. This seems to be the first appearance of the term in print, as is Fort's use of "teleport" as a verb in Lo! (1931). Eric Frank Russell, a staunch Fortean, offers the variant form "teleportate" in Dreadful Sanctuary (June-August 1948 Astounding; rev 1951; rev 1963; further rev 1967).

2. In sf of the 1950s and 1960s there was a growing tendency to use "teleportation" as an extreme case of Telekinesis, meaning the ability to move (most usually) oneself from one place to another by the power of the mind alone (see Psi Powers), not flying or floating but shifting more or less instantaneously from starting point to destination as in Matter Transmission. This has become the commonest usage and is the sense in which "teleportation" is normally employed in this encyclopedia.

In the Campbellian psi-boom years (see Psi Powers) teleportation featured most prominently in Alfred Bester's Tiger! Tiger! (October 1956-January 1957 Galaxy as "The Stars My Destination"; 1956; rev vt The Stars My Destination 1957; rev 1996), which exuberantly develops the complications arising from a future Earth society's adaptation to the development of teleporting or "jaunting", and also in such works as Gordon R Dickson's Time to Teleport (September 1955 Science Fiction Stories as "No More Barriers"; 1960) and Necromancer (1962; vt No Room for Man 1963). Teleportation by Alien creatures is a significant plot element in Anne McCaffrey's Pern series (whose dragons have been developed from alien reptiloids by Genetic Engineering), and comes into sharper focus in Vernor Vinge's The Witling (1976) and Walter Jon Williams's Knight Moves (1985). A teleporting caste or clan, as in The Witling, features in Phyllis Eisenstein's Born to Exile (stories August 1971-February 1975 F&SF; coll of linked stories 1978). Variations on the theme include teleporting animals such as the "mind hound" of James H Schmitz's The Lion Game (fixup 1973), which tracks its prey by Telepathy and teleports through walls or other defences to attack.

Individuals in sf who have the power to teleport include Gilbert Gosseyn in A E van Vogt's The World of Ā (August-October 1945 Astounding; rev 1948; vt The World of Null-A 1953 dos; rev with intro 1970); the twins forming part of the gestalt entity in Theodore Sturgeon's More Than Human (fixup 1953); youngsters who learn the trick from comprehending the fourth Dimension in Alan E Nourse's The Universe Between (stories March, September 1951 Astounding; exp fixup 1965) and Mark Clifton's "Star, Bright" (July 1952 Galaxy); the Thoth character in Roger Zelazny's Creatures of Light and Darkness (1969) – who can teleport to any location he is able to imagine, raising the philosophical question of whether infinity contains all imaginable places or whether acts of creation are involved; and the young protagonist of Steven Gould's Jumper (1992).

Many practitioners can also teleport objects other than their own bodies, as in A E van Vogt's above-cited The World of Ā. Summoning things to oneself in this way is known in the jargon of séances as apportation. Professional teleporters move cargoes across space in K M O'Donnell's series The Journeys of McGill Feighan, opening with Caverns (1981), and in Anne McCaffrey's Pegasus in Space (2000).

Hazards of uncontrolled teleportation are considered in Alfred Bester's already-cited Tiger! Tiger!, where failure to properly visualize one's destination generally leads to a "Blue Jaunte", arriving within solid matter with a resulting explosion; in James H Schmitz's The Lion Game, also cited above, a pursuing psi-beast is tricked into a similar disastrous jump. Further cautionary stories include Daniel F Galouye's "The Last Leap" (January 1960 If), in which to think is to travel and one must avoid thoughts of the Sun; and John Brunner's Listen! The Stars! (1963 dos US; vt The Stardroppers 1972), where the easiest jump from Earth's surface is to a gravitationally equipotential point in empty space, usually with fatal results.

3. Some writers use "teleportation" for the process of moving people or objects from one place to another by Matter Transmission, using future Technology to transmit items – usually in the form of information-carrying waves which at the destination are reconstituted into matter. A particularly implausible version (since there is no transmitting equipment at the far end) is the "Beam me up, Scotty!" transporter in Star Trek. Alternative pseudoscientific rationales for the transmitter may seem more logical in such cases – for example, the warping of space (see Space Warp) to bring two locations into physical contiguity. [DRL/PN]

see also: Psionics.

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