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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Wednesday, April 04, 2007 - 05:49 pm:   

Off On A Tangent: F&SF Style -- "The Weird, The Whacky, and the Prophetic in Short SF" is now up. Simply go to the F&SF website (www.fsfmag.com) and click on Departments.

This time around there is a contest at the end of the column. Name the Big Name Author and the story referred to...if you can. Hint: the story deals with a "strap-on" device and has to do with some sort of penetration. ;-)

Dave
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S. Hamm
Posted on Wednesday, April 04, 2007 - 10:23 pm:   

Dave,

I am almost embarrassed to inform you that the answer to your riddle is contained in the first hit returned by a Google search for "vibratory penetrator." The vibratory penetrator, worn about the waist, is described in a story entitled "R___ D_____" by big-name author H_____ H_______.

If you find the easy crackability of your challenge a source of irritation, just think how it would delight Murray Leinster.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Thursday, April 05, 2007 - 03:14 pm:   

S.,

I had (wrongly) assumed anyone googling "vibratory penetrator" would no doubt hit some sex site, or adult novelty store. You are indeed correct that the story in question was "Rock Diver" and was written by Harry Harrison. It appeared in 1951 in a magazine from Hillman Publications that Damon was editing at the time. I also believe this was Harry's first published SF story.

Steven H Silver beat everyone to the punch, however, and submitted his correct answer privately. Way to go, Steven. :-)

And S., good point about Leinster (re "A Logic Named Joe"). He would no doubt be very pleased how quickly the internet answers our questions today.

Dave
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S. Hamm
Posted on Thursday, April 05, 2007 - 05:25 pm:   

Dave,

I made exactly the same assumption! Perhaps I should have mentioned that I did my Google search for "vibratory penetrators" a couple of days before your column appeared.

S.

P.S. -- "Pneumatic bumpers" returns a reference to John W. Campbell, alas.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Thursday, April 05, 2007 - 07:30 pm:   

With a wry smile I ask why you were searching for vibratory penetrators _before_ my column appeared? VBG

You don't have to answer.... ;-)

Dave
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Thursday, April 05, 2007 - 08:02 pm:   

I just googled "vibratory penetrator" and ended up at the coolest website!

It's www.technovelgy.com. It's a vast resource for Science and Inventions in SF, broken down into all kinds of categories (and by decades, authors, etc.).

There's a long list of categories at the left side of the page. Click on "computers" and you'll see Murray Leinster's name listed twice for "A Logic Named Joe."

Most of the entries under Computers, I note upon only a quick glance, are from the 80s and 90s, and are from Benford, Vinge, Sterling, etc. There's others, of course, but not as many as you'd think from the early days for some reason (at least where Computers are concerned). This makes Leinster's story even more important.

There's also a lot of stuff (in a different category) on Harrison's "Rock Diver" and his vibratory penetrator, fwiw.

But what a cool website! One could easily spend hours there (and I plan to do just that).

Dave
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GSH
Posted on Thursday, April 05, 2007 - 10:38 pm:   

Maybe we should add one to the list:

The Extrapolatron™ - A brain-stimulation device employed by future science fiction writers to keep their imaginary gadgets and gizmos a step ahead of actual technological innovation.

It's got kind of a nice Woody Allenesque ring to it, don't you think?
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Thursday, April 05, 2007 - 11:13 pm:   

Heh, nice one, GSH. The sound and flow of your word sort of reminds me of the "Orgasmatron" from Barbarella.

GSH humorously postulates: "A brain-stimulation device employed by future science fiction writers to keep their imaginary gadgets and gizmos a step ahead of actual technological innovation."

Given a lot of the hoity-toity in-clique's preferences for dense prose devoted to character at the expense of much Idea in stories, I think your device should be mandatory. An "Extrapolatron" shot given at birth to genetically-designed SF writers. You know, splice a little of Vinge's DNA, Asimov's DNA, Leinster's DNA, Tanith Lee's DNA (to counteract Asimov's), along with the DNA of Sturgeon, Zelazny, and whomever...into your writer-in-the-womb.

And then give him a nano-booster shot of Harlan (for energy and intensity of purpose) when necessary, should he ever begin to write like Malzberg in the 70s (long rambling paragraphs devoted to internal conflict leading to no real point of consequence whatsoever except to Barry)--and others of like stripe today. VBG

Dave
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GSH
Posted on Friday, April 06, 2007 - 05:16 pm:   

I believe you're referring to the Excessive Machine, invented by Barbarella's evil nemesis Dr. Durand Durand. The Orgasmatron actually makes its debut in Woody Allen's "Sleeper", which is surely an under-appreciated science fiction classic. Mr. Allen gives us yet another device of similar usage: the Orb. (Don't bogart that Orb my friend...)

I suppose we can all see the importance of science fiction writers getting in the habit of affixing a trademark symbol to the name of any potentially marketable device they happen to come up with. It's a highly competetive world out there, with the Orgasmatron, the Excessive Machine, the Orb, and the Vibratory Penetrator all vying to find their way into a relatively narrow market niche. It's important that writers always protect themselves.

We actually have a working model of the Extrapolatron™, by the way, and are presently taking advance orders from frustrated fantasy and science fiction writers, who might be adept at writing character-based fiction, but lacking in a steady stream of plausible futuristic story ideas.

For those who are running over with zippy Idea Story material, but lacking in a natural inclination for characterization, we'll soon be rolling out a prototype of the Personatron™, which automatically generates a variety of flawed and conflicted fictional personalities. We recommend, however, that it not be used for extended periods of time or for longer fictional works, as there's a small but identifiable risk that certain artificially generated personality traits might transfer directly to the author. PLEASE READ YOUR INSTRUCTION MANUAL CAREFULLY.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Friday, April 06, 2007 - 05:36 pm:   

A guy in the back of the room wants to know if we'll take credit card orders for both the Extrapolatron™ and the Personatron™. I told him both will go for $19.95 apiece, but for the first 1,000 orders we'll sell both for the unheard of price of $19.95!

I also told him that to insure these amazing products don't get into the wrong hands, we must have verification that potential buyers currently belong to either HWA, SFWA, or have won at least one Nebula Award since 1972 (Hugo winners are exempt).

Orders will be processed within 24 hrs., and can be picked up at Bruce Sterling's kiosk (email for directions).

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