Podcaster: Pamela Quevillon

Title: Space Stories presents  Ross Rockylyn “The Best Ways to Get Around”

Organization: Speak Easy Narration

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Description: Today we bring you Ross Rockylyn “The Best Ways to Get Around”

Bio: Pamela Quevillon is a voice actress who most often lends her voice to science and science fiction content. You can find her work on the “Escape Pod” and “365 Days of Astronomy”, as well as on her site

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This is 365 Days of Astronomy. Today we bring you a new episode in our Space Stories Series. We are always on the lookout for creative commons and public domain licensed stories that we can share, and that we hop e will get people thinking.

Today we bring you a summary of the best ways, as conceived in 1940, to get around our solar system. In those pre-space flight days, rockets were things that launched fireworks, and maybe travelled up a bit beyond site if someone like Robert Goddard was responsible for there flight. We weren’t a space faring race yet, but we were dreaming of it.

What is some what amazing all these decades later is that we are still mostly just dreamers, and we are still mostly limited to rockets when we want to get around. As you listen to this 1940 tale from Futuria Fantasia, think about how everything changes while still staying just the same.


I don’t mean socially; I mean off the Earth and between the planets. There are a few really good ways, as invented by perspiring authors in science-fiction magazines. And if I miss any, which is extremely doubtful, remember that I’m writting from memory, that I hadn’t read all the scientifiction magazines from 1926 and on, and that I am not going to go researching through the tremendous stacks of old scientifiction magazines that I now have in my possession.

Now, what DO I mean by THE BEST WAYS TO GET AROUND? Briefly, by the word BEST, I mean so pseudo-logical that you could almost leave off the “pseudo”. See? (No)

For instance, Jack Williamson’s geodesic machinery, wherein he warps space around, appeals to me as being pure fairy tale stuff. He just gives a lot of verbal hocus-pocus, and runs off reams of litterary fertilizer until we throw up our hands in disgust and say; “O.K., O.K., Jack, to hell with that, let’s get on with the ‘story’. We’ll grant you that you can get around.”—And we’re willing to grant E.E. Smith the same privilege. He DOES get around—anybody disagree? The question is; how? Oh, by useing “X”, and the inertialess drive. The same with brother Burroughs. What do we care if dear old John Carter “yearns” himself to Mars? He gets there, and we are happy, or were happy.

So, we exclude all those from THE BEST WAYS TO GET AROUND. They are very nice and convenient to get people places; but, when we run across one of the “BEST WAYS” we often wonder if it REALLY WOULDN’T be possible, provided——. Of course, that word “provided” is the catch—the reason why we really aren’t going around that way.

Again—So, way back there, Edmond Hamilton, and a hundred others, have used the idea of light-preasure in an attempt to get away from rockets. But he didn’t tell us how, scientifictionaly. In direct contrast to vauge statements made regarding the use of light-preasure as propulsion, I remember the MOON CONQUORS, by R.H. Romans, in a 1931 (I think) (You’re right, 4SJ) quarterly. You’ve seen radiometers. The things with black and white vanes placed in a vacuum. The theory is that the opposite shades cause unbalanced light preasure, so that the vanes go around and around. Romans invented a pseudo-scientifically logical way to use light-preasure, once he got his ship in space. His scientist invented a compound ofabsolute black. (Which is also obtainable in a darkroom) A small square of darkroom—or, I mean, absolute black painted on the posterior of the ship, and regulated at will, gave the same ship quite respectable speeds. Certainly it won’t work outside of a story—but, I’m talking scientifictionally. Romans used his imagination, and we all had fun.

In the same story, Romans used a swell device to get the ship off the earth. He used a mile-long tube, composed of circular magnets. It was a magnetic gun. Each magnet pulled the ship towards it, and then, as the ship passed it, the magnet’s poles were reversed, and made to repel the ship. With each magnet at maximum charge, either pulling or pushing the ship, according to whether it was in front or behind the latter, the same erupted from the tube with the necessary 7 M.P.S. velocity of escape, and so was off on the way to the moon. What’s wrong with the idea? I dunno.

John W. Campell (Jr.) used to have brainstorms: in fact, he invented two of THE BEST WAYS TO GET AROUND. One, in the first of the ARCOT, MOREY, and WADE stories, “PIRACY PREFERRED”, was that of molecular motion. All the little molecules in a bar of metal go madly around in every possible direction. If you could invent, as Campbell did in the story, an electro-magnetic vibration that would force all the mollecules to go in the same direction, then the bar of metals would go in that direction, since it would be them. So Mr. Campbell hooked the thing up to his ship, and off he went to Venus, or some other planet. Well, it would work, wouldn’t it, provided (ah yes!) you could make all the mollecules go into one directional flow.

And the other brainstorm was when Aarn Munro, in the MIGHTIEST MACHINE, decided that momentum and velocity were wave formations, and therefore, one should be able to tune into them! (Anyone should be able to think up a simple theory like that.) Not a bad WAY TO GET AROUND—in a science fiction story.

Back in 1930, or some such year, Charles R. Tanner wrote THE FLIGHT OF THE MERCURY, in the old WONDER STORIES. In that story he told you just how to go ahead and make an ETHERPROPELLER, provided there is such a thing as ether, and Osmium B. The theory is: you use water screws, air propellers, and so why not an ether propeller? Put a cork in motionless water. Start a wave motion in the water with your hand. If the length of the wave is greater than the diameter of the cork, the cork just bobs up and down and stays where it is. If the lengths of the waves are shorter than the diameter of the cork, the waves go around it, and the cork still stays right where it is. If the length of the wave is exactly the diameter of the cork, tho cork rides right off, in the trough of the wave, at the same speed as that of the wave formation. Now invent an electro-magnetic vibration—by useing the metal Osmium B—exactly the length of a Copper atom. Make your ship of copper, putting the ether propeller, that which causes vibration in the ether, at the end of the ship, and presto! all the copper atoms move along in the trough of the ether waves, at the same speed as the other waves, which is the speed of light. And, Mr. Tanner is off for Mars, in a super-plausibly scientifictional way.

HELL SHIP, in last year’s ASTOUNDING, Arthur J. Burks put forth an idea which had been discussed by engineers before he had ever used It. They just didn’t know how to do it. Mr. Burks did—didn’t he write the story. At least, the idea gave him more earthly benifit than it gave the engineers. Maybe he thinks he invented it—I don’t know, nor does it matter: He used it, the idea of gravatic lines of force, forming a spider web throughout the solar system. With the proper machinery, which he ascribed with good attention to detail, you could crawl up those lines of force like a spider. This idea is so plausable that it might be placed in the same catagory as rocket propulsion, which is fact.

THE MOTH, in this year’s ASTOUNDING, contains another of those ideas of interplanatary locomotion which I call one of THE BEST WAYS TO GET AROUND. Don’t worry, I’m not pointing to myself with pride. I just wrote the story, Charles R. Tanner conceived the idea. He tossed it off paranthetically one night, and promptly forgot about it. The idea——If all objects are in motion, according to the Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction theory, lose length in the direction of motion, why couldn’t an artificialy produced cause instantaneous motion, why couldn’t an artificialy produced contraction cause instantaneous motion, proportional to length-loss? Not a thing in the world against it, my friends, all you have to do is to find a way to cause the artificial contraction of the ship in question. Of course, in my story, I invented a force-field——very handy when you’re in a tight spot!—–which caused tho electrons to flatten out. This force acted on the ship and everything within. Therefore, any speed up to a little below that of light could be obtained, and that bogey man so often ignored in scientifiction, acceleration, was disposed of at the start, since there was nothing that had a tendancy to stay behind. There is the real inertialess drive, which E.E. Smith talked of, but never used.

(Paranthetically: When Charles R. Tanner saw the story containing his idea in print, he became enthused, and promptly invented and named all machines used in the process, discovered a new and ultimate particle called the “graviton”, that which makes the proton 1846 times heavier than the electron, and practically drew plans for the force field which caused the contraction. When he finished we knew exactly how to obtain speeds far exceding both those of Smith and Campbell. Our inventions were plausable, and they’d work, provided——)

I’ve just about reached the end of the list, though there are one or two others that might be mentioned right here at the tail end of the article. Jules Verne, I suppose, has to be credited with the first ship fired from a canon, in ONCE AROUND THE MOON. Wells takes the bow for gravity plates, which Willy Ley so neatly disposed of, only he called it “cavorite” in THE FIRST MEN IN THE MOON., and Roy Cummings used it effectivly in AROUND THE UNIVERSE (and a hundred others). In a story in the old WONDER Donald Wolheim put his rocket ship on a huge wheel, rotated the wheel and flung it off into space. Fair, except that the acceleration would be killing.

AND THAT’S ABSOLUTLY ALL THE BEST WAYS TO GET AROUND. Unless there are some of those which I haven’t heard of. If you know of some, I would like to be enlightened.

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