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Jabari Lamar
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Posted: 24 September 2018 at 11:42am | IP Logged | 1 post reply

Peter F. Hamilton, one of Britain’s leading science fiction authors, has been hard at work on his massive seven-volume Commonwealth series since 2003. His new novel Salvation, about a world where teleportation is cheap and easy, is a major change of pace.

“It’s something I wanted to do as a writer, just to keep fresh,” Hamilton says in Episode 327 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “Therefore, whole new universe, whole new set of characters, whole new problems for people.”

Teleportation is a common theme in science fiction, but most examples, like the transporters in Star Trek, tend to be used in very limited ways. In Salvation, Hamilton wanted to explore the concept fully.

“The fun bit of that was saying, ‘OK, we’ve got this system, how would it actually work on a practical, day-to-day level?” he says. “So much of what we have today revolves around getting from one place to another, getting goods out of factories to shops, it all changes. And that took me about six months to work out the minutiae, the absolute details of how it would change us.”

Hamilton envisions a future in which teleportation portals are used for garbage disposal, irrigation, and carbon sequestration, and in which the now-useless bridges and highways have been converted into parks and shopping centers. He also predicts that cheap teleportation would spell the end of the hotel business.

“If it takes two minutes to walk from where I am [in England] to America, what do I need a hotel for?” he says. “There are still fabulous resorts and places like that, but the idea of a businessman needing a hotel for the night? No, that’s gone.”

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John Byrne
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Posted: 24 September 2018 at 11:49am | IP Logged | 2 post reply

Larry Niven was down this road decades ago.
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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 24 September 2018 at 5:25pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

... and Alfred Bester cut the path in the woods they based the road on.
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Eric Sofer
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Posted: 24 September 2018 at 5:52pm | IP Logged | 4 post reply

It's a topic rife with possibilities for discussion, and the biggest one (to me, anyhow) is - how would this teleportation work? I can think of three or four ways, all of which would provide advantages and disadvantages...

1) Star Trek transporters (one interpretation) - the subject is transformed from its base form to an energy wave, transmitted across a specific distance, and reintegrated at the other end. This has been established as working on living tissue... usually. It is also shown to be not 100% reliable. I can think of three or four cases where it malfunctioned (The Enemy Within, Mirror, Mirror, ST:TMP, Second Chances, and likely a few others I don't recall. And I'm not counting Enterprise, when it was a new technology.) That's probably too significant a chance to try using it on a regular basis. Cars malfunction regularly too, but as someone said... you can't walk home from a transporter malfunction.

2) Stepping discs, used by Larry Niven (IIRC), Ilyana Rasputin (X-Men), etc. These are apparently holes opened from point A to point B in the universe where one is moved automatically (or by stepping through.) They work just fine on living tissue, and are mostly reliable - I don't recall any foul ups with these if they are used as designed (although if two people are attempting to control their use, then chaos ensues.) However, they're usually stationary, so they won't work on stationary objects; if it can't be moved, it almost certainly can't be teleported via these.

3) Teleportation as a magical ability - in comics and movies, this is pretty widespread. Dr. Fate, Dr. Strange, Clea, White Witch (Legion of Super-Heroes), Devil Slayer (Defenders), Zatanna, the Phantom Stranger. Magic is a great method; it doesn't require explanation and can work as desired, or malfunction as desired. This ties in closely with...

4) Teleportation as a super power. The use of this is also pretty wide spread; Blink (EXiles), Gates (Legion of Super-Heroes), Nightcrawler, Lila Cheney (X-Men), Time Bubbles (Legion of Super-Heroes), etc. This mostly doesn't get any explanation either, and again, functions or malfunctions as desired. HONORABLE MENTION: Super speed. Some super speedsters (mostly the Flash family) can move so fast that they seem to negotiate between two points in space without having to traverse the intervening distance. I mention the Flash etc. because they have the ability to travel through solid matter without restriction. This is obviously not true teleportation, but over relatively short distances, it is functionally the same. These are also beings who are so fast, they can seem to be in two locations at the same time.

There are probably others methods I'm not including; the imagination is stronger than I can bring to bear for every situation. They can also happen by other names that I haven't mentioned (e.g., wormholes, space warps, etc.)

The uses, too, are considerable. 
Delivering packages point to point - no problem. 
Delivering people the same way - likely the same. 
Military use - Extinction level event. A detonating atomic bomb teleported into the Oval Office, etc. would be catastrophic. Teleporting a military or political rival leader to the bottom of the Pacific or to the Moon would also be horrifically effective. Considering the number of nuclear weapons that exist, and have existed, a nation with enough of these could teleport a nuke above every major city in another country - no warning, no approach, no time to react. The only responsive action (not defense) would be to have a site in every country with a facility to take the same action. This location would have to be hidden, and so carefully guarded that it would require the best defenses possible, and be a "lost" outpost - no one who goes there ever comes back. And just like Lays potato chips... it only takes one. A Frozen War, not just a Cold War.
Medical use - if sophisticated enough, teleportation could remove cancerous or damaged organs from  a person. If highly sophisticated enough, it could remove plaque from teeth or cholesterol from bloodstreams or diseased alveoli from lungs. it could also make blood transfusions simple, and injections would be a thing of the past. (Having just endured FAR too many blood draws recently, I vote yes for that right now!)

If it works as Star Trek's transporters (the original is stored in a pattern buffer, then transmitted and unloaded out of memory), it could provide eternal life in a way. Regularly get a "beaming" to store a healthy copy of the subject's body. Something go wrong with an organ? Transport it out and transport a healthy copy in from the buffer. Pregnant and you want twins? Copy the fetus and then boom - you have twins. Need a thousand men as laborers or assistants during a disaster - or soldiers? Make 'em out of thin air. Have to test medical procedures on corpses? No need; just beam in a living body with everything but a brain, and you've got one.

I'll stop here; there are a multitude of topics of discussion for teleportation. Personally, I don't think we'll see it while we're still in a form called "human" - we may be talking about eons before development of functional teleportation. And God save humanity if we get it soon...
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Tim Cousar
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Posted: 25 September 2018 at 7:02am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

Doctor Who - The Seeds of Death
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John Byrne
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Posted: 25 September 2018 at 7:19am | IP Logged | 6 post reply

... and Alfred Bester cut the path in the woods they based the road on.

••

If you're talking about THE STARS MY DESTINATION, I don't think that can be considered in this context. Bester presented an absurd premise (everybody has the super power of teleportation, if they but knew it) and then proceeded from there. I realize this is one of the best loved works of science fiction, but the basis is more like magic.

(That seemed a very odd title, to me, from the first time I saw it. THE STARS MY DESTINATION reads, in my mind, like a MAD parody of something called THE STARS MY DESTINY.)

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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 25 September 2018 at 8:43pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

Yeah, fair cop that it falls into the realm of super powered magic but he does extrapolate what the societal and economic impacts would be.  Does STAR TREK have any precedent for non-technological teleportation? 

As for the odd title, apparently the working name was HELL'S MY DESTINATION.   I think the actual title was chosen because it's syllable count and spoken rhythm better fits one of the in-novel quatrains (the "...and Terra is my nation" one).   I've seen the title Tiger! Tiger! bandied about for some early published versions too.
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Eric Sofer
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Posted: 26 September 2018 at 7:55am | IP Logged | 8 post reply

Rob, I suppose if you consider Gary Mitchell, Trelayne, the Talosians, the Triskelions, Q, (and, heaven help us, "Spectre of the Gun"), and maybe the Scalosians (although the concept was done terribly... but, y'know, third season.) Probably one or two other super aliens who could just move things without transporters. 
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