Thursday, March 27, 2008

Prepare To Be Boarded!

I'm mighty tard (Old Hoosier for "tired") tonight, so I'm not going to say much. I was thinking of writing something about Alexei Panshin's 1968 sf novel Rite of Passage, which I just reread, but I quickly found there was more to say than I felt like saying tonight, so I'll just show you the picture above, which I suddenly remembered when I read a reference to a slide rule in Panshin's book. It's by the popular sf artist Kelly Freas, and it makes me want to try to track down the Murray Leinster story it illustrates, because I feel sure it isn't totally serious.

I think I first saw this cover reproduced around twenty years ago in a book called something like The Science in Science Fiction, which pointed out the most amusing detail in it: the slide rule, once as essential an accessory for technogeeks as a pocket protector or a ham radio license, but totally replaced by the pocket calculator and the microcomputer. Yet it never occurred to most sf writers that computers would be miniaturized. Even the Noble Engineer Heinlein, famed for his technological prophecies, had his far-future starship crews swearing by their trusty slipsticks. The obsolescence of the slide rule clenched in his teeth like a cutlass makes Freas' space pirate even campier.