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Other Fantasy Worlds Harry Potter, The NeverEnding Story and Beyond

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Old 08-07-2017, 03:28 PM
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Default Depicting Weapons in Sci-Fi and Fantasy

On Facebook, I recently wrote my observations about how the sci-fi cinema (except Star Wars) has stubbornly doubled down on making everyone use bullet-guns to the exclusion of rayguns. Let me now relate how one sci-fi novelist came up with a variation which is, well, novel.

Numerous writers in the narrow specialty of MILITARY science fiction insist on excluding any extraterrestrial intelligent life from their stories, so that all combat is humans against other humans. One such author is Rick Shelley, whose books came onto the market about fifteen years ago, under the Ace label. Mister Shelley depicts good guys from "the Accord of Free Worlds" fighting against aggressive imperialists from neighboring regions of the colonized galaxy. The infantrymen on both sides of this conflict use the author's interesting innovation as the personal weapon of the individual common soldier. I've never seen any other author depicting quite the same form of projectile gun.

Think of a thin but very strong wire, the sort that is used in traps to cut off the heads of unsuspecting enemies who run into the traps. Now imagine a kind of rifle into which, instead of a conventional magazine of bullets, you insert a spool of this lethal wire. The weapon is designed to clip off inch-long segments of this wire and shoot them out, somehow managing to align the length of each wire segment perpendicular to its line of flight. So, instead of bullets, the gun produces the equivalent of a series of razors, with each razor flying edge-first toward its target.

This is the "wire carbine" used by both noble heroic grunts and evil wicked grunts in Mister Shelley's novels.

In real-life warfare, there are always trade-offs in deciding how to equip soldiers. Ditto in the tales of the Accord's justified war of self-defense. The ammunition spools used by wire carbines have the virtue of allowing more than a hundred rounds to be fired from a man-portable gun before the weapon needs to be reloaded; they also greatly reduce the amount of weight a soldier needs to carry in order to be able to fire a given quantity of shots. The down side is that the wire segments lose velocity sooner than regular bullets would; thus, a shot from a wire carbine, if not hitting anything before it loses momentum, will drop uselessly to the ground at a distance where a true rifle bullet would still be flying at high speed, ready to kill someone.

This being the case, the opposing armies do of course have other weapons of much longer effective range, to compensate for the deficiency of the wire carbines. Just not rayguns! Can't have those!

This one feature of the futuristic army's imaginary weaponry makes for distinctive wording. All sorts of combat fiction, including cowboy novels, may speak of "the air being full of bullets," or "the air being full of lead." But if the air is "full of WIRE," you'll know that you're reading a Rick Shelley novel.
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