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Other Fantasy Worlds Harry Potter, The NeverEnding Story and Beyond

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Old 08-07-2017, 04:28 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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Old 09-04-2017, 06:12 AM
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Default Alternative weapons

I think projectile weapons have not fallen out of fashion because they are eminently practical and arguably effective. They also operate on simple principles. Energy weapons, OTOH, have some very difficult physics problem to overcome before they can be something that is truly practical. That said, I disagree that projectile weapons dominate science fiction. Besides Star Wars, consider the Star Trek universe. Almost all weapons used there are energy weapons, and we hear Spock speak of the primitive projectile weapons. You don't have to think very hard to find equivalents in other, more limited universes.

As for your 'wire carbine', there is a real world analog, and one that is becoming increasingly practical-- the rail gun. Instead of using an explosive, these guns use electromagnetic repulsion (think Lenz's Law) to accelerate projectiles to insane velocities, which could even be a piece of wire. The acceleration these devices are capable of creating far exceeds the capability of chemical powered (think gunpowder or similar) accelerating agents. A rail gun can put a plastic bullet through 8 inches of steel(!), using purely the kinetic energy of the projectile. Although the military is close to having a practical, deployable rail gun, it is still not small, and uses enormous quantities of electrical power. So at this point, they are only useful on mobile artillery and (espacilly!) on ships. The Zumwalt class destroyers, arguably, our most advanced warships, have massive electrical systems to support electric drives, and this sort of weapon.

If you want to experiment with rai guns, there are lots of YouTube videos around teaching you how to build a simple railgun.
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Old 09-11-2017, 11:28 PM
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Tim, Aslan bless you, it's always a pleasure to see you pop up again.

The Star Trek and Star Wars universes both got established _before_ the "embargo" against energy weapons in sci-fi began. As for wire carbines and rail guns, I'm already very familiar with rail guns, and they appear in my own futuristic fiction. I spotlighted the wre carbines _only_ because of the _exact_ form of ammunition they shoot, which is unusual.

Be that as it may, heaps of thanks for saving this thread from being a one-and-done!
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Old 09-18-2017, 06:41 AM
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Thank you for the kind words, sir. Recent dramatic changes in my life may result in me spending more time here.

I'll add, many years ago, I wrote a story about an alien race that had an anti-energy weapon. I sucked energy out of whatever it was targeted at, cooling it instantly to absolute zero. Depending on what was targeted, this would often cause the object to shatter or disintegrate.
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