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Trivia quiz: What science fiction writer may have foreseen TASERS?


Here’s a little trivia quiz for those of you who read and/or write science fiction: What now-famous science fiction writer portrayed something similar to today’s TASER guns in a 1949 novel? (The same writer, in the 1930s, more or less invented and described the concept of what became modern “water beds.”)

Did you get it?

I’m speaking of one of my lifetime favorite writers — Robert A. Heinlein. And if you tell my you haven’t read Heinlein, I’ll politely invite you to … well, no, I couldn’t force myself to part company with you. I’ll simply invite you to go to a bookstore, Amazon, or somewhere and buy all of the Heinlein books you can, or check your local library, and READ HEINLEIN.

I haven’t read his stuff for many years — possibly a decade or more — but I’m currently rereading “Assignment Eternity” and loving it. It was in the first part of that book, “Gulf,” where I discovered Heinlein’s references to a “Markheim gun.” From the way it’s used in his story, I realized Heinlein was referring to a weapon which apparently froze someone temporarily, but the way he describes it working and the effects it seems to have on his character, it bears a spooky resemblance to today’s TASERS.

As for the bit about water beds, I got that out of Wikipedia in the article about Heinlein. Oh, and I also recall a wonderful now often-used acronym: “TANSTAAFL.” Heinlein never invented it, but he is credited with popularizing it in one of his more famous novels. (If you don’t know what TANSTAAFL means, look it up. You expect me to tell you EVERYTHING??)

Stop reading this right now and get to a bookstore or library or friend’s bookshelf and start reading Heinlein. You won’t be sorry.