Putting this section into this website is really straining things to the breaking point since there is little or no hard scientific evidence that such a thing exists. But, like faster-than-light starships, it shows no signs of going away. Just ask Luke Skywalker. Not to mention the Lensmen, Slans, Vulcans, and the nasty Psi Corps. Don't forget Jack Parsons.

Psionics are mystical powers of the human mind that always seem to be absent when tested for in a research lab. Sort of like Mr. Snuffleupagus. These are powers such as telepathy and psychokinesis

In other words, psionics is Magic with a fancy science-fictional name.

In science fiction psionic ability in general usually has a very dramatic title. In Star Wars it is called "The Force." In World of Ptavvs it is called "The Power." In Rocket to Limbo it is called "The Strength."

Science fiction authors occasionally mix scientific terms with the psionic terms to make it sound more plausible. In David Brin's Startide Rising the humans working with the alien starship had to check all the psionic "impedance" of all the connections in order to avoid leaking telekinetic static. In Diane Duane's The Door Into Shadow one of the protagonist cannot deal with a monster because he did not know the "protocol" for a brainburn (meaning he didn't know the sequence of steps in the magic spell that would short out the critter's cerebrum).

A common trope in pulp science fiction is that such magical powers are part of the next stage in human evolution. This concept dates back at least to E. E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman series (1937) and A. E. van Vogt's Slan (1940). The fact they are talking about "stages" of evolution just goes to show that they are unclear on the concept. Evolution ain't got no stages, nohow.

Just to head you science-fiction authors off at the pass, remember why one cannot use Quantum Entanglement for FTL communication? Well you cannot use it for ESP either, and for the same reason. I warn you about this because it is far too common in science fiction. If you use it you will be tarred with the same brush. I'm not saying don't use it, just be aware of the possible pushback from your readers.

You can find a discussion of the theme of psionics in science fiction in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

As you could have predicted, there are a few psionic related entried in TV Tropes:

WARNING! TV Tropes links, infinite time sink


There's a commercial on cable stations lately that talks about moments of epiphany—moments when you understand something that changes your life.

I've had at least one of those moments—and when it was over, my life had been changed forever.

It was when, when I was eleven or thereabouts, I went looking in the living room for something to read.

Now, in my house, books were everywhere and there was very little my brother and I were forbidden to read. We both had library cards as soon as we got past "Run, Spot, run," and by the time I was nine I was coming home with armloads of books every week and still running out of things to read before the week was over. By the time I was ten, I had special permission to take books out of the adult section—yes, in those dark days, you needed a permission slip from your parents to read things that weren't in the children's section.

Now, the peculiar thing here is that although I read anything that looked like a fairy-tale and every piece of historical fiction I could find, I hadn't discovered classic juvenile science fiction. I can't think why—unless it was because my library didn't have any. It was a very small branch library, and I hadn't yet learned that you could request anything that was in the card-catalog for the whole county-wide system. It might also have been because my branch library had helpfully segregated the juvenile section into "Boys" and "Girls," and I wasn't brave enough to cross the invisible line-of-death dividing the two. I do recall reading two little books called Space Cat and Space Cat Meets Mars and loving them—and also something called City Under the Back Steps about a kid who gets shrunk and joins an ant colony—but that was in a different library, before we moved, and perhaps the books hadn't been so helpfully segregated there. Be that as it may, although I was knee-deep in the historical novels of Anya Seton and Rosemary Sutcliff by then, I hadn't ventured into the adult Science Fiction section. I hadn't fallen headfirst into Andre Norton's myriad worlds, I hadn't joined Heinlein's resourceful heroes, I hadn't discovered Anderson, Asimov, Clarke, Nourse, Simak. . . .

All that was about to change. Because my father had. 

My father was a science fiction reader; in our house, where library books were everywhere, it was my father who bought the paperbacks. They were divided pretty equally in thirds—suspense (including spy-novels), war, and science fiction.

It was the start of summer vacation, I had already bored through my stack of nine books, and we weren't going back to the library for another two days. I was desperate. I ventured into the living room, and picked up James Schmidt's Agent of Vega. 

I'm not sure why. It certainly wasn't the cover—in those days, science fiction books were sporting rather odd abstract paintings—possibly trying to divorce themselves from the Bug Eyed Monsters of the pulp covers so that they could be taken Seriously. That wasn't going to happen, not in the Sixties, but you couldn't fault the editors for trying. It wasn't the title—I hadn't a clue what, or who, Vega was, and I wasn't interested in the James Bond books (yet) that featured the only other "agent" I knew of. Perhaps it was just desperation. I asked politely if I could read it, was granted permission, and trotted away to my room with my prize.

Five minutes later, it was true love.

It was an epiphany.

Here was everything I had been looking for—exotic settings, thrills, adventure, heroines who were just as resourceful and brave as the heroes, and something more. There was a magic in the words, but there was more than that. It was imagination. 

No one, no one, since my fairy-tales, had written like this. This James Schmitz fellow seemed as familiar with androids and alien planets as I was with the ice-cream man and the streets of my home town.

And here, for the first time, I encountered psionics.

Psi! There was even an abbreviation for it! Telepathy! Telekinesis! Teleportation! Empathy! Precognition!

Oh, these were words to conjure with! Better than the magic of the fairy-tales, these were scientific which meant that someone, somewhere (oh let it be me! Me!) might find a way to get one of these powers for himself!

Much has been made of the "sense of wonder" that science fiction evokes, and believe me, there was nothing to evoke that sense quite like the worlds of James Schmitz. Especially for someone who had never read anything like this before. The man had the right stuff; no doubt of it. By the time that I was done with that book, I was well and truly hooked.

And my life had just taken that irrevocable, epiphanal change.

From Introduction to AGENTS OF VEGA & OTHER STORIES, by Mercedes Lackey (2001)


A practitioner of ceremonial magic, fancy term for a wizard or sorcerer.
Psi Powers

The full spectrum of magic-like mystical powers of the mind. It is subdivided into active and passive psi-powers. And those pesky psi-powers that do not fit either catagory.

Active psi powers are when the person sends energy outward to a target, such as when they use psychokinesis to move an object. Passive psi powers are when the person absorbs energy from a target, such as when they use telepathic receiving to read the target's mind. Most passive psi powers act like new extra senses added to the conventional five senses everybody has.

Refer to the partial list below.

The term is derived from the Greek ψ psi, 23rd letter of the Greek alphabet and the initial letter of the Greek ψυχή psyche, "mind, soul". It was coined by Bertold Wiesner

As previously mentioned, psionics is Magic with a fancy science-fictional name.

Abbreviation of Psi Powers.
A Psi
A person who has psi powers. Unlike Espers and Psychics, a Psi can have both passive and active psi powers.
A Psionic
Synonym of A Psi. The "-onics" part appears to have come from the word electronics. John W. Campbell Jr. originally coined the term to be applied to machines that can augment psi powers. After the 1960's nobody took such machines seriously anymore so the term came to mean a snazzy word for Psi.
The study and use of psi-powers.
Extra-Sensory Perception (ESP)

Also known as the "sixth sense". It is the ability to obtain information by not using any of your mundane senses like eyes or ears, but rather by the mystical power of your mind.

This uses passive sensory-like psi powers such as telepathy, clairaudience, clairvoyance, precognition and retrocognition. That's where the term "extra-sensory" comes from. ESP does not include active psi powers like psychokinesis.

Person with Extra-Sensory Perception. Generally they only have passive psi powers.
Synonym of Esper.
Term used to avoid using the word "supernatural."

The study of psi phenomena, plus the study of paranormal phenomena such as near-death experiences, reincarnation, apparitional experiences, and other weird happenings.

It is, of course, routinely denounced as a Pseudoscience. As the Ghostbusters learned when the Dean threw them out of the university. It is a term used when people want to study such alleged powers but do not want to sound like total crack pots.

The ability to move and manipulate objects with the mystical powers of your mind. Also know as "mind over matter."
A way to say "supernatural" without actually using that word. Technically the difference between praeternatural and supernatural is the former is about bizarre phenomena that actually have scientific explanations but which are currently unknown. But in practice most people think the words are synonyms.
Synonym of Esper.
Wild Talent
Synonym for Psi Power. Term was coined by Charles Fort in 1932.

Psi Powers

Psionics are divided into assorted powers or "talents", because usually a character in a novel can only do one or two. Only the outrageously powerful can do all of them. A person who can read minds probably cannot also teleport.

In science fiction, a very common addition to some psi powers is the ability to operate faster than light and at interstellar ranges. Generally this allows telepaths to hire out as FTL radios, and allows portation psis to hire out as FTL starship propulsion. Especially since in many scifi novels, it is impossible to construct a machine to do the same thing. This either gives such psis lots of power, or ensures that they are enslaved by the galactic empire as a strategic asset.

This is only a partial list.

When a particular psi power is used, there are four dimensions:

  • Effect: what does the power do? Read minds, teleport yourself, see the future, move objects?
  • Power Level: how much energy is in this particular use. This is measured in units of "psychic energy", "mana", or "thaums"
  • Information Content: how much information is involved in this particular use. For instance, with telepathic receiving it is the amount of data harvested from the target's mind. With psychokinesis it is the desired motion of the target object.
  • Vector: the direction in which the the psi power is applied. Generally this is either from the Psi to the target or from the target to the Psi.

For purposes of his game, Isaac Bonewits set one unit of mana equal to 4.2 joules (1 gram-calorie). "Mana" is a Polynesian word (pronounced “mahnah”), and is not to be confused with "manna" (“man-nah”).

In the satirical Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett, the wizards of the Unseen University measure magical energy in "thaums" (from the word Thaumaturgy). One thaum is defined to be the amount of magic which is needed to create a white pigeon or three billiard balls. This is measured by a device called a, wait for it, "thaumometer". Bah-DUM-tishhhhhh!

Apparently strong emotions in the Psi lead to the generation of mana, somehow. Which is given as an explanation for why most non-psi-trained people cannot send telepathic cries for help unless they are dying or otherwise emotionally upset.

Active psi powers are when the Psi sends energy outward to a target, such as when they use psychokinesis to move an object.

Passive psi powers are when the Psi absorbs energy from a target, such as when they use telepathic receiving to read the target's mind. Most passive psi powers act like new extra senses added to the conventional five senses everybody has.

Some psi powers do not fit into either the active or passive categories. There is always some blasted thing that refuses to fit, as Charles Fort noted.

Please note that telepathic sending is totally different from telepathic receiving. Sending is an active psi power where the you put a message into the target's mind. Receiving is a passive psi power where you read the target's mind. A Psi might have one of these psi powers but not the other.

In order for a Psi effectively use active psi powers, they must posses the psi powers Amplification, Retuning, and Deflection.

  • Amplification allows the Psi to add to the Power Level of a psi power use, from their body's internal supply of mana.
  • Retuning allows the Psi to add Information Content to a psi power use.
  • Deflection allows the Psi to control the Vector of a psi power use.

Otherwise the Psi cannot put any power into it, specify what it supposed to happen, or aim it at the target.

These three psi powers are listed below in the Anti-Psi defences, for the case when they are not used internally by the Psi for their use, but instead on the psi powers of somebody else. That is, on an enemy Psi sending something nasty at you.

  • EXTRA-SENSORY PERCEPTION (ESP): reception of data without using the mundane sense channels (though it often seems to be sensory). If several ESP psi powers are used simultaneously, this is called "General Extra-Sensory Perception" (GESP). ESP powers are mostly passive psi powers. Sometimes called the "sixth sense", which Isaac Bonewits thinks is a stupid term since there are more than five mundane senses.
    • Clairsensing: extra-sensory perception where the information received appears in one of the Psi's mundane senses. That is, information is obtained by mystical powers of the mind, but the information is encoded in terms of one of the existing mundane senses. And the information cannot be coming from somebody elses mind, because that would be telepathic reception.
      • Clairaudience: extra-sensory perception where the information received appears in the Psi's mundane sense of hearing, e.g., a Psi's clairaudience warns them of danger with a phantom sound that isn't really present. Or when Obi Wan Kenobi said "I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced."
      • Clairempathy (clairsentience): extra-sensory perception where the information received appears in the Psi's feelings, e.g., a room that creates sinister "bad vibes" or an ominous feeling for no apparent reason.
      • Clairgustance: extra-sensory perception where the information received appears in the Psi's mundane sense of taste, e.g., a Psi meets a person, and their clairgustance warns them of the others evil intent by the meeting "leaving a bad taste in their mouth."
      • Clairolfaction: extra-sensory perception where the information received appears in the Psi's mundane sense of smell, e.g., a Psi meets a person, and their clairtangency warns them of the others evil intent by the other "having a bad odor." Or smelling smoke when a loved one is trapped in a burning building in a remote location.
      • Clairtangency: extra-sensory perception where the information received appears in the Psi's mundane sense of touch, e.g., a Psi meets a person, and their clairtangency warns them of the others evil intent by the other "feeling slimy." The touch can be a sensation of heat, cold, pressure, wetness, etc.
      • Clairvoyance ("second sight"): extra-sensory perception where the information received appears in the Psi's mundane sense of sight, e.g., waking up and seeing the ghostly form of your friend standing in the room while at the same moment your friend is dying somewhere else. Sometimes appears in the form of "remote viewing" where the Psi sees a vision of events happening at a distant location. The US Army was intrigued by the concept of clairvoyantly spying on Soviet secrets, especially since there were rumors that the Soviets were investigating along the same lines. The US Army blew $20 million US on Project Stargate before it was shut down.
    • Projection
      • Astral Projection: to the Psi, it appears like they leave their physical body, and inhabit an immaterial ghostlike replica of their body. They can then travel to remote locations and spy on stuff, while their physical body lies in a trance. Often there is a thin silvery umbilical-like cord connecting the ghost body to the physical body. What is probably really happening is that the Psi is using one or more of the Clairsenses, with the ghostly body being just a comforting illusion manufactured in the Psi's mind. Especially since the ghostly body commonly has ghostly clothing. Besides travelling to locations on Terra, Psis can astral project to other mystical dimensions called the "astral plane." These planes are where a shaman goes to meet their tribe's deities. From descriptions they sound like places you'll see in old Steve Ditko "Doctor Strange" comic books. Astral projection is also useful for scouting or navigating primitive seagoing vessels if you have no maps and navigational gear.
      • Mental Projection: Similar to astral projection, but there is no immaterial ghostlike body. Instead there is just a disembodied point of perception. This is commonly less exhausting than astral projection, perhaps because the Psi is not wasting energy making a mental illusion of a body.
    • Chronocognition: note that the clair senses are not limited by space; well, they are not limited by time either. Science fiction writers should be aware that seeing the future can destroy causality, unless there are certain limits imposed. Causality can be destroyed just as dead by time viewing as it can be killed by time travel.
      • Precognition/Retrocognition: using one or more Clairsenses to get information about future events (precognition) or past events (retrocognition). There will be a sensory impression, and the information gained will generally always be true. Sometimes a person so gifted is called a "Precog". In literature such people commonly suffer from the Cassandra Complex. They also commonly chafe under their lack of free will, sometimes avoided by precoging several possible futures. In Frank Herbert's Dune Messiah, Paul is blinded by a stone burner but can still see by using precognition to view events happening one second in the future. In Children of Dune, both Paul and his son Leto can see several possible futures, they duel by debating possibilities while simultaneously seeing which of the futures is strenghtened.
        • Psychometry: using retrocognition on an object to see its past history, including others who have touched the object. Generally the object must be touched or held. A useful skill for archaeologists and homicide detectives. The term is unfortunate, since it already being used in a totally different branch of science.
      • Hypercognition: using super-fast reasoning to deduce what will happen in the future or what has happened in the past. Unlike precognition/retrocognition, there will be no sensory impression. Instead the information will come as a hunch. Also unlike precognition/retrocognition, the information gained will sometimes be false. This is because the mental calculations might fail to include some factors, while precognition is witnessing what actually happened.
    • Telepathy: the direct communication of data mind-to-mind. The communication may be in the form of pictures, ideas, sensations, or emotions. Opposing anti-psi or unfavorable conditions can limit the amount of information communicated.
      • Telepathic reception: Reading the target person's mind. Note this is a totally different power from Telepathic sending. It becomes more difficult to get information as the intelligence of the target goes down (or the intelligence of the Psi). The info level drops as the telepath tries to read the mind of an adult, a child, and an animal. Note that an untrained Psi with telepathic reception that they cannot turn off will become mentally disturbed by the babble of all the voices in their head and probably be diagnosed with schizophrenia or other mental illness. Especially since everybody else will be insisting that telepathy is a myth.
        • Empathy: Like telepathic receiving, but can only read the target person's feelings, not thoughts. This is different from Clairempathy. Empathy allows the Psi to read what the target is feeling. Clairempathy allows the Psi to use ESP on various things and situations but the information comes encoded as the Psi's personal feelings.
          • Total Empath (a sensitive): untrained Psi who is open to the entire local "atmosphere" of a location, because they have zero psionic shielding and cannot turn off their empathy. They are totally vulnerable to psionic attack. They tend to die young due to emotional burn-out, due to the flood of emotions from everybody around them.
          • Controlled Empath: an empath that can turn it off on command.
            • Psychic Vampire: Empath that can use their psi power to drain psi energy from others. May be the same as Anti-Psi: Absorption
      • Telepathic sending: the ability make the target person hear your voice inside their head, or implanting images, thoughts and ideas. Note this is a totally different power from Telepathic receiving.
        • Mesmerism: to hypnotize a person using suggestion sent by telepathic sending instead of a verbally. Tele-hypnosis. This is especially effective since most targeted people assume that every thought they think was created by themselves, not telepathically planted by somebody else. "These aren't the droids you're looking for."
        • Invisibility: to prevent other people from seeing you by preventing them from noticing that you are there. You are not transparent, a camera will see you just fine. But people around you will be telepathically suggested to look in the wrong direction or hypnotised into not seeing you.
  • PARAPHYSICS: the mental control of matter. These are mostly active psi powers. Sometimes called "mind over matter".
    • Psychokinesis (telekinesis, PK): the ability to move objects with ones mind. This tends to get you banned from gambling casinos.
      • Psychokinesis Proper
        • Levitation: the ability to make an object float around the room. May be a form of Gravity Control or Mass Control.
      • Portation
        • Apportation: the ability to make an inanimate object vanish from point A and instantly appear at point B without traveling through the space in between.
        • Teleportation: Apportation with a living creature instead of inanimate object. May be bound by certain limitations due to the laws of physics. Authors please note that since a teleporting Psi needs no transmitter nor receiver, there are unintended consequences that might break your novel. Typically SF novels have artificial limits, such as a requirement that the Psi has to have previously personally visited the place they are teleporting to (see Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination). And as per that novel, teleportation can sometimes be used for time travel.
      • Atomic Psychokinesis: the use of psychokinesis on the molecular, atomic, and subatomic level. Presumably the lower the mass of the object being manipulated by psychokinesis, the lower the energy required.
        • Transmutation: the ability to change the molecular and elemental structure of an object. That old "lead-into-gold" gag.
        • Bonding Control: the ability to affect the molecular bonds in objects. Uri Gellar claimed to have this power but all he could do was bend spoons (and only when the researcher got distracted for a few moments). It can be used for such things as splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen.
        • Density control: the ability to affect an object's density
        • Electric control: the ability to affect flows of electricity and plasmas. During a thunderstorm this would be handy to cause the target to be struck by lightning.
        • Magnetic control: the ability to affect magnetic fields
        • Gravity control: the ability to affect the intensity of the local gravity field
        • Mass/Weight control: the ability to affect an object's mass
        • Light control (psycholuminescence): the ability to affect photons of light. Can be used to create visual illusions. May also be used to make oneself invisible. Or flashing a bright light into your opponent's eyes at a critical time (or creating the bright light inside your opponent's eyes).
        • Temperature Control (psychopyresis): the ability to raise or lower an object's temperature.
          • Cold Control: psychopyresis where the Psi can only lower an object's temperature. Yes, this is probably due to an identical psi power as used for Heat Control, but the Psi might not be capable of both due to psychological factors.
          • Heat Control: psychopyresis where the Psi can only raise an object's temperature. See Firestarter
        • Radiation control: the ability to affect the decay rates of radioactive elements. Can prevent a nuclear reactor or warhead from operating. Or can be used to make sub-critical masses of weapons grade material spontaneously explode. See Heinlein's short story "Project Nightmare".
        • Weather Control: moving masses of air molecules to change the weather.
        • Cellular Psychokinesis: the ability to affect a target person's living cells for healing, for harm, or for change
          • Curing: healing a target's wounds and diseases by altering their cells. Cellular PK where the information is "Heal"
            • Assimilation: odd form of curing. The Psi "absorbs" the target's disease. The Psi exhibits symptoms of said disease. Then both the Psi and the target are rapidly cured of the disease. Note that if the Psi is not careful, they may fail the "cure" part, thus both the Psi and the target are now permanently afflicted.
          • Cursing: killing or doing grave bodily harm to the target by messing up their organs and cells. Cellular PK where the information is "Kill". It can be used in a variety of ways: killing, crippling, stunning, inflicting various diseases, putting the target into a deep sleep, making the target move in slow motion, etc.
          • Coordination Control ("Klutzokinesis"): the ability to make the target person unusually clumsy. Might also be done with Mesmerism.
    • Recurrent Spontaneous Psychokinesis (RSPK): Also known as the poltergeist phenomenon. Traditionally this is said to be an invisible annoying ghost that likes to throw things through the air and shove furniture around. In psionics, it is more like a psychokinetic temper tantrum, caused by an untrained Psi living in the house. Generally it is a sexually or emotionally frustrated teenager going through puberty (though not always). Puberty is commonly the time when psi powers manifest, and frustration is a dandy source of large amounts of psi energy. The smoking gun is when the teenager does not think objects randomly flying around is anything to become excited about, "la belle indifference." After all, a tantrum is a satisfying way to deal with frustration. The teenager is probably doing the PK subconsciously, they have no idea they are causing it.
  • ANTI-PSI DEFENCES: interfering with another Psi's use of their psi powers. They can affect any or all of the three dimensions: power level, information content, and vector. For purposes of description, a "psi bolt" is defined as another Psi targeting you with one or more of their psi powers at a particular power level, with a particular information content, and a vector of "from them to you". "You" being defined as "the target who is defending themselves with anti-psi powers." The use of the term "psi bolt" allows me to avoid excess verbage and to avoid the term "cast a magic spell."
    • Absorption: sucks the energy out of a psi bolt (affects power level) and gives you the raw energy. Protects you much as if you were a starship protected by a Langston Field. So what actually hits you is a psi bolt with no energy in it. Of course your powers of Absorption might not be able to suck 100% of the psi bolt's energy, but every bit counts. Absorption can also be used as an active psi power to suck "life-force" out of a target person. This is called being a psychic vampire.
    • Damping: sucks the energy out of a psi bolt (affects power level). Unlike Absorption you do not get the drained energy, it just vanishes. Like Absorption your ability might not be up to the task of damping 100% of the energy.
    • Amplification: ability to help another Psi by adding some of your mana energy to a psi power they are using (affects power level). This is generally not used as a defense, it is more for assisting a member of your team who is targeting somebody else. Amplification is included in the Anti-Psi list because it doesn't really fit in any of the other categories. Amplification is the opposite of Absorption. Of course all Psis have to be capable of doing this internally or they cannot perform any psi powers at all, because they have no access to their store of mana to power it.
    • Retuning: can selectively alter the information content of an incoming psi bolt to whatever is desired. For instance, turning a curse into a cure. Of course all Psis have to be capable of doing this internally or they can only send crude brute force psi bolts, since they have no way of adding the information content to the bolt.
    • Filtering: totally removes the information content of an incoming psi bolt, just leaving pure mana.
    • Apopsi: surrounds you with a psionic force field that interferes with a psi bolt (affects power level, information, and vector). At high levels, they are immune to psi bolts.
    • Catapsi: generates random psychic static or white noise. It interferes with the information content of a psi bolt. Indeed it may interfere with the psi powers of everybody within range. It also make non-Psi people uncomfortable to be around you, because their brains itch. Non-Psis will find Catapsis annoying to be around, for no discernible reason. In the Babylon 5 episode A Race Through Dark Places the rogue Psis would constantly chant the "Mary Had a Little Lamb" nursery rhyme to generate catapsi, hiding them from a Psi Cop's telepathic search. TV Tropes says that musical Ear Worms are often used for the same purpose. Ear worms have the advantage of running automatically, you don't have to concentrate on them.
    • Sploding: generates an emotional psychic scream. It interferes with the information content of a psi bolt. Instead of making Catapsi psychic static, it makes a single psychic signal so loud that it drowns out other signals. In fact, the scream can be so loud that non-Psis can hear it. To top it off, the Psi doing the sploding may be unaware they are doing it, especially if they are untrained. All they know is that they are trying to scream really really hard.
    • Deflection: interferes with the vector of a psi bolt. It makes them miss you, but may strike an innocent bystander. Of course all Psis have to be capable of doing this internally or all their psi bolts will just go in random directions.
      • Reddopsi: a type of Deflection where the vector is bent 180° to send the psi bolt right back at the Psi, as if it hit a mirror. The Psi with Reddopsi may be unaware they are doing it.
    • Negapsi: inverts some or all of the information content of a psi bolt. For example it will turn a Cellular PK Curse into a Cure (and vice versa). Or turn Precognition into Retrocognition.
  • These psi powers can be combined. For instance, if a Psi tries to use Cellular PK Cure on Floyd, but didn't bother to check Floyd's psi powers in advance, they could be in for a rude surprise. If Floyd is unconsciously using Negapsi and Reddopsi, the CPK Cure will be turned into a CPK Curse and reflected back to hit the careless Psi right between the eyes.

    "Also? I can kill you with my brain."
    River Tam, Firefly

    Telepathy, clairvoyance, pyrokinesis — the powers are supernatural, but the names are scientific, which is good enough for soft Sci-Fi. Pointy-eared elves mumbling ancient spells on shiny spaceships would be incongruous; pointy-eared aliens reading minds on shiny spaceships doesn't raise any eyebrows.

    In general, the more powerful and dramatic the psychic, the softer the Sci-Fi — psychic powers are one of the most common ways of including Magic by Any Other Name and recycling Magical Tropes in a scientific environment. The extreme cases are largely confined to the horror, Cosmic Horror Story and superhero genres (with exceptions, such as Star Wars), but the weakest powers can crop up even in mainstream shows.

    In order of increasing power, the standard abilities are:

    • Clairvoyance/Clairaudience — also called TeleSense, Remote Viewing, Remote Sensing, Extra-Sensory Perception or ESP. Seeing (and sometimes hearing, or using other senses, including ones that aren't part of the standard package) far-away places, localizing specific persons one concentrates on, usually involves a trance state; the amount of control over what is seen can vary wildly, depending on the talent and training of the psychic and how the power works in your 'verse.
      • This can get broke down even further into Clairaudience, the psychic ability to hear things that are inaudible, Clairempathy, the ability to feel others' emotions at a distance; Claircognizance, having knowledge one has no normal way of knowing, Clairsentience refers to a psychic's ability to pick up sensations and relate messages from those sensations, Clairgustance, which is psychic supertaste, and Clairalienence, psychic supersmell. Clairvoyance is sometimes aided by hypnotic trances, a process called metagnomy, famously used by "real life" psychic Edgar Cayce.
      • Variants of this include Aura Vision — varying in power from just visible to reading someone like a book; it can encompass a wide variety of other sensing powers, usually tied to Pineal Weirdness and the Third Eye. Astral Projection and BiLocation (the ability to create a double of oneself, physical or otherwise, in another place and/or time). The latter may overlap with some forms of teleportation.
      • In dream form, this is Dream Spying.
    • Retrocognition/Postcognition — seeing things that happened in the past (without watching recordings). Often happens at crime scenes and may be considered a subset of clairvoyance.
    • Precognition — seeing the future in prophetic visions, sometimes in allegorical pictures. Often leads to a Prophecy Twist or Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. Dreaming of Things to Come is a common form.
    • Empathy — the talent of The Empath, the ability to sense another person's emotional state. At times, even disturbances in the force and how strong the force is with someone. Sometimes includes the ability to send emotions the other way. Not to be confused with Emotional Powers.
    • Telepathymind reading, can sometimes also transmit thoughts or implant suggestions, etc. Telepathy is the psychic power most commonly attributed to aliens or "advanced" humans.
    • Telekinesis/Psychokinesis — moving physical objects by pure willpower. Can range from atoms to paperclips to cars or, in extreme cases, whole planets. Specialized expressions of it:
      • Pyrokinesis — setting things on fire. In slightly harder sci-fi, this will explicitly reference making the molecules in an object more agitated until it bursts into flames (essentially, that's the way a microwave oven works). Sometimes the fire itself can be controlled, changing size or even becoming a particular shape.
      • Similarly, Cryokinesis — freezing things. Slowing molecular motion until the object stops exuding heat, or just until it freezes solid. Often combined with condensing water from the air to form ice in thick coatings or free-standing shapes.
      • Fulgurkinesis/Astrakinesis - the ability to create electrical discharges and lightning bolts, and/or to control the flow of electrons inside machines. Sometimes encompasses the control of magnetic fields, too, if the author had a passing grade in high school science. (This is sometimes confused with the word "electrokinesis" which, incidentally, has nothing to do with psychic powers.) A variant of this is Machine Empathy or Technopathy — the ability to mentally link to and control computer systems.
      • Biopsychokinesis, or Bio-PK — the ability to influence living tissue on the cellular or molecular level. Used for psychic healing, regeneration, Psychic Surgery or as a darker power the ability to kill people with your brain, traditionally by stopping their heart, but can also cause a massive stroke, simply shut the brain down, prevent the lungs from working...

    • Teleportation, also known as Apportation — the ability to transport objects or people from location A to B, including oneself. A bit like the transporter in Star Trek. Usually the psychic will either call things to them or has to touch them to send them away to someplace else. If they're really powerful, they can move objects from/to both target locations from afar remotely.
    • Mediumship — the ability to see, communicate with or channel spirits, sometimes with the side effect that they'll follow the medium around in attempts to resolve their Unfinished Business.
    • Past Life Regression: A process of hypnosis or meditative visualization for reliving or discovering previous experiences of one's previous lives.

    The first five powers are purely internal. There's no evidence they're being used apart from the occasional Psychic Nosebleed (and of course, the stance). The remaining powers have much more obvious effects. However, all these powers have stronger versions, found generally at the softer end of sci-fi. That is, strong clairvoyance is as good as X-Ray Vision, or even a Crystal Ball. Strong telepathy allows for complete Mind Control. Strong telekinesis or apportation can become a means of saying You Will Not Evade Me, and so on. The ultimate manifestation of psychic power is the ability to just make your thoughts into reality. As generally portrayed, all of these powers display No Conservation of Energy, though there are exceptions, especially if the writer wants to stiffen up the story's science yet still include cool Psionics; if so, expect terms like "quantum uncertainty", "observer effect" and "particle entanglement" to be slung around with abandon.

    Stories can have both Psychic Powers and Functional Magic, but they'll usually be treated as fundamentally different. This does not preclude them from being related or even the same thing; supernatural powers are still supernatural powers, no matter what they're referred to as.

    Compare Ki Attacks, Enlightenment Superpowers, and Functional Magic for other genre's "special powers." See also Mind Over Manners and Brain Critical Mass. 90% of Your Brain is sometimes brought in as an explanation for them. See also Phony Psychic and Not-So-Phony Psychic.


    Metapsychic powers

    The author of the novels, Julian May, prefers the term 'metapsychic' to the terms 'psionic' or 'psychic', which she considers mundane and un-evocative thus 'Metapsychic' powers are psychic abilities by another name. Humans in the late 21st century, along with the other races of the Galactic Milieu (the Lylmik, Gi, Krondaku, Poltroyans, and Simbiari) and the Tanu and Firvulag of the Pliocene epoch, have developed psychic powers. The psychic powers of Julian May's books are seemingly magical powers which go far beyond the 'simple' psychic abilities we more commonly think of, such as clairvoyance, telepathy, and telekinesis. The human race is a blend of 'operant' metapsychics (not very many, but more born every day), 'latent' metapsychics (uncommon, and unable to use their potential abilities for a number of reasons, but their offspring have a higher chance to be brought to operancy when born), and those with no useful metapsychic potential at all (most of humanity).

    Operancy and latency

    Operancy: Psychic powers which are available for conscious, controlled use by a person. Basically, one is considered operant if they have psychic abilities and can consciously use them. In the Pliocene Epoch, the Firvulag were naturally operant. They did not require torcs or other mechanical assistance to be able to use their psychic powers.

    Operant humans in the Galactic Milieu are not allowed to enter Exile, so most humans in the Pliocene are latent at most. The few who are operant are sometimes categorized using terms from the Milieu. These categories include master class (a well above standard amount of metapsychic powers), the grand master class adepts (large amounts of metapsychic abilities, like Elizabeth), and the Paramount Grand Masters (enormous amounts of metapsychic power, including Marc Remillard, Aiken Drum, and Felice Landry). Individuals generally have different levels of ability in the various classes of metapsychic powers. For instance, Felice Landry is Paramount in creativity but only roughly masterclass in redaction.

    Latency: Psychic powers which, although present, cannot be consciously used by a person - because of a lack of training, inhibiting factors, trauma, or mental blocks of uncertain origin. In theory, all humans have some psychic abilities, even though they may be hopelessly latent or extremely meager. The Tanu and the vast majority of humans are latents, with most humans having extremely meager abilities. The Tanu use torcs to allow them to use their psychic powers.

    In places May implies that individuals noted for possession of an extremely high level of a skill or an attribute are often latents who make unconscious use of their metapsychic powers. For example, Felice (an individual with extremely powerful latencies) has a natural ability to control animals, and many individuals with latent Creative powers are gifted artists or scientists, while those with latent Coercive ability may have substantial charisma - animal magnetism.

    Types of metapsychic powers

    There are five categories of 'metapsychic' powers in the series: creation, coercion, psychokinesis, farsensing and redaction.

    Creativity: the ability to create illusions, change shape and manipulate energy. The Firvulag are described as being naturally gifted at creativity, often using it to assume monstrous forms. More powerful individuals could use it to crudely change states of matter (air to plasma and thus throw lightning bolts and so forth) but the most powerful can actually manipulate and change the very form of matter (air & water to fresh cherries for example).

    Coercion: the ability of metapsychic mind control over other people.

    Psychokinesis: (or PK) the ability to move physical objects through space metapsychically. The most powerful PK Tanu used this ability to levitate a number of Tanu and their chaliko steeds as a Pliocene Wild Hunt.

    Farsensing: the ability to communicate with others and to sense remotely via metapsychic means. Analogous to telepathy, clairvoyance and remote viewing. In the story "Intervention", this ability is initially termed ultrasensing.

    Redaction: the ability of psychic healing and, to a certain extent, mind reading. This is most commonly described in the books for mental or psychological healing, but it is also used for healing physical ailments as well. It was also used in the Galactic Milieu to help latent metapsychics achieve operancy. It could also occasionally be used for interrogation and torture. In the Galactic Milieu recidivist criminals would be adjusted with this power.

    Each latent or operant individual has a different combination of these abilities and, amongst the Tanu, those with similar abilities were organized into guilds, called the Five Guilds Mental, each with a guild leader. As of the start of the first novel, "The Many Colored Land", the leaders of the five Tanu guilds were as follows: the Coercer Guild was led by the human Sebi-Gomnol (formerly the embittered Eusebio Gomez-Nolan, ennobled because he invented the controlling silver and grey torcs). The Creator Guild followed Aluteyn Craftsmaster, while the Farsensor Guild was led by Mayvar Kingmaker. The Psychokinetic Guild followed highly influential Nodonn Battlemaster (leader of the Wild Hunt), and the Redactor Guild was led by peaceful Dionket, Lord Healer. All of the guilds came under the authority of a Tanu noble called the Dean of Guilds, Lady Eadone Sciencemaster (the oldest surviving child of the Tanu King Thagdal).

    A sixth power, prolepsis, is alluded to in The Saga of Pliocene Exile and explored a little in the Galactic Milieu trilogy. May does not clarify whether prolepsis, the ability to predict future events, is a separate metapsychic ability or merely a manifestation of extremely developed farsensory ability.

    D-jumping (dimension jumping) or teleportation may also be considered a metapsychic power, but appears more in the Galactic Milieu Series of books also by Julian May. For the purposes of the Saga of Pliocene Exile only Brede, Felice and later Marc may have been able to use this power and it may have been a synthesis of other powers (creativity, psychokinesis and farsense?) rather than a separate power.


    There are three kinds of torc made by the Tanu: gold, silver and grey. Gold Torcs are the original version, worn by all pure-blooded Tanu, as well as the inhabitants of the Daughter Worlds back in the Duat Galaxy. A gold torc makes a person with latent powers completely operant in those powers.

    Dr. Eusebio Gomez-Nolan, a human who was given the name Sebi-Gomnol by the Tanu, invented the silver and grey torcs, along with much simplified torc-like devices for controlling the ramapithecine apes which do the drudge work in Tanu society. These lesser torcs allow for control of the wearer by any gold torc wearer.

    Silver Torcs give operancy equal to that of the gold, but unlike the gold torc they also incorporate control circuitry. This allows a gold torc wearer to compel obedience in the silver torc wearer, allows for punishment or reward of the silver torc wearer via so-called pleasure-pain circuitry, and act as a means of mentally tracking the wearer. (Therefore, a silver torc wearer can never succeed in running away, unless their metaphysical talent is so great it burns out the torc circuitry (see Aiken)). Humans with significant latent powers who come through the time-gate are initially given silver torcs. This allows the Tanu a degree of control over them until they prove themselves trustworthy, at which point they may be given a gold torc.

    Grey Torcs do not enhance metapsychic powers at all, although they do grant the wearer a much simplified version of Farspeech. They have control circuitry like that found in the silver torcs. They are given to humans with no significant latent metapsychic powers at all, but who have skills which the Tanu consider to be vital or sensitive, e.g. physicians, technicians, soldiers/guards.

    From Wikipedia entry for SAGA OF PLIOCENE EXILE

    Thor Annual Vol 1, #10 contains the story A Time To Die by Alan Zelenetz. Remember the four dimensions of our scifi psionic powers? The main ones were the power level and the effect. In other words each usage of a power was a bolt of pure psionic energy modulated with the effect (telepathy, psychokinesis, etc).

    In the Marvel comic universe, Thor, Odin, Hela, and the other members of the pantheon are composed in much the same way, except they are sentient. Each is packet of psionic energy patterned with their personality. The implication is that in primordial Terra free psionic energy was just crackling everywhere. Primitive man unconsiously moulded packets of psi energy into spirits and deities.

    The story postulates that such beings outlive their usefulness, and are then tying up units of psionic energy for no particular purpose. This energy could more usefully be used elsewhere. That's the job of the Demogorge, the "god-eater." This entity "eats" the pantheon, removes the modulated patterns, and releases the pure psionic energy. Basically the Demogorge is using the anti-psi power of Filtering then Amplifying the ambient psi energy level of the planet.

    You Must Learn Control

    Please note that if a person has a psi power that they cannot control, it will be more of a curse than a blessing. For instance, somebody who has the psi power of reading people's minds but who cannot turn off the psi power will quickly go insane in the constant telepathic babble caused by everybody around them. Imagine being forced to live on the floor of Wall Street with zillions of stock traders shouting at the top of their lungs. Such a person will have to either move to a wilderness with no people, or end up in an insane asylum with a diagnosis of schizophrenia (because of hearing voices in their heads). If they are real lucky, they will figure out how to turn their telepathy off on their own, or find a psionic trainer who can teach them how.

    The TV Trope is called Power Incontinence.


    (ed note: Kzanol is a telepathic Thrintun alien who does not realize he has been in suspended animation for about two billion years. He wakes up on Terra. Like an idiot he lowers his mind shield and listens telepathically.)

    He was in an empty, hideously alien building, the kind that happen only on free slave worlds, before the caretakers move in. But…how had he gotten here, when he was aimed at a deserted food planet? The next sight he had expected was the inside of a caretaker’s palace. And where was everybody? He badly needed someone to tell him what was going on.

    He Listened.

    For some reason, neither human nor thrintun beings have flaps over their ears resembling the flaps over their eyes. The thrintun Power faculty is better protected. Kzanol was not forced to lower his mental shield all at once. He chose to do so, and he paid for it. It was like looking into an arc lamp from a foot away. Nowhere in the thrintun universe would the telepathic noise have been that intense. The slave worlds never held this heavy an overpopulation; and the teeming masses of the thrintun worlds kept their mind shields up in public.

    Kzanol reeled from the pain. His reaction was immediate and automatic.

    STOP THINKING AT ME! he roared at the bellowing minds of Topeka Kansas.

    From WORLD OF PTAVVS by Larry Niven (1996)

    (user14111: At the beginning of the story, the first interstellar expedition is about to leave for Procyon)

          "That time factor," she said, "is it certain? I don't understand mathematics; to me it seems fantastic."
         "I could go over the theory with you, but it would be wasting the little time we have. It's certain enough. The ratio, as far as this trip is concerned, is approximately twelve to one. For us, eight years—for the world we leave behind, a century. We return in late April in the year 2129. That's the nearest our predictions will take us."

    (user14111: Meanwhile, some mad embryologists are planning to make all newborn babies telepathic)

         "But to do a thing like that, after only three experiments! And without any reference to the wishes of the people concerned. Aren't you afraid of it going wrong?"
         "Have you considered the alternative to a simultaneous planetwide irradiation like the one we are doing? The principle has been discovered; you can't turn science backwards. The choice is between doing what we plan to do or having the advance take place piecemeal. If we did that, there would be trouble. Resentment of those family with ordinary children against those with telepaths. National resentments, leading perhaps to wars. All the confusion of an interregnum between the old and the new. We shall avoid all of that. The world will go forward in one giant's stride."

    (user14111: Needless to say, it goes horribly wrong. The astronauts come back to a dying world)

         "Some of them grew up. Not many. They were all right as children—except the highly-strung ones, of course. But when they got to being ten or eleven and over it got them like flies. Maybe one in a hundred got out of the teens. I had a couple of kids myself; folks were always hoping that the effect would die away, though the scientists said it wouldn't, right from the start. My boy got to fifteen."
         "But why did they die?" Rennis asked him. "What killed them? Was there something else as well as telepathy?"
         He looked puzzled. "Why, no. The telepathy killed them, of course." To him, clearly, it was something self-evident. "Bound to. Some of them shot themselves or hanged themselves or whatever, but most of them just died."

         "But why?" Harl said. "Why?"
         "Because people have got bad minds. Why else? I guess you all know what you are like if you look at yourselves deep down and honest. Liars, cheats, murderers. I guess we're all like that—always have been. What comes out of our mouths has been … through a filter, I guess you might say. But there were no filters for the telepaths. It hit them and kept on hitting them all the time. The better any one of them was, the quicker it killed him—or her, but the girls lived longer, as a rule."
         Awkright said listlessly: "So that's how it was."

         Rennis said: "But was it a fixed mutation? Might there not be isolated outposts of the telepaths—and their children?"
         "Their children?" The old man laughed. "The ones who grew up enough never married. You ever try falling in love with yourself?"

    From THE NEW WINE by John Christopher (1954)

    Much more serious is the "Monsters from the Id" problem. The old saying goes "there is nothing quite so dangerous as an untaught mageborn."

    You see, if your conscious mind can use your psi power, your subconscious mind can use them as well. The trouble is the subconscious is a lot more barbaric and impulsive than the conscious mind. While a person with psi will consciously just grit their teeth when their boss starts yelling at them, the psi's subconscious mind will have no inhibition against teleporting the boss in front of a speeding freight train.

    RSPK is an adolescent who doesn't know they have psychokinetic powers. When they become sexually or emotionally frustrated, their subconscious pitches a psychic temper tantrum and throws things around. The parents think they have a poltergeist on their hands, neither the parents nor the adolescent realize the adolescent is the problem.

    It gets worse: your conscious mind is generally opposed to causing harm to yourself. But in the twisted depths of your subconscious mind there is no such guarantee. If the psi has a deep-seated need to harm themselves, or even a death-wish, they are in deep trouble.

    In Daniel Galouye's Lords of the Psychon (1963), the alien invaders use "psychon plasma" as their machines, a weird substance that can be controlled by conscious thought. Much like a psi power, actually.

    Unfortunately it can be controlled by unconscious thought as well. Psychon plasma will instantly manifest all of a person's deep seated psychoses and other horrors lurking in the depths of their subconscious, sometimes with lethal results. Actually, the psychon plasma merely creating a visual image of the observer's subconscious fears is enough to drive a person into insanity. The fact the psychon plasma didn't actually kill you is small consolation if you will be spending the rest of your life in a psych ward.

    Psychon plasma can only be safely handled by a person who has somehow psychologically purged their subconscious to become perfectly mentally balanced. In the novel, they use psychon plasma itself in a controlled environment in order to undergo a kind of psychoanalysis.

    Anti-Telepathy Shield

    Adepts with the telepathic reception psi power will rule the world, if unchecked. Industrial espionage? No problem, just have the telepath walk outside the lab building and pilfer ideas from the scientists inside. Or intelligence-agency type espionage as well. A telepath can gather computer passwords, bank account numbers, and other personal data from a hapless person just as fast as they can write it down. Not to mention blackmail material. It would only take about a week for a telepath to dig up enough blackmail dirt to own the very soul of every single politician in the government.

    To prevent the government and society from being taken over by the Telepathic Tyranny, some kind of anti-telepathy shield is needed.

    More actively, an adept who possessed one or more of the anti-psi defenses could prevent a telepath from reading some or all of their thoughts.

    In some science-fiction novels crafty adepts will set up an anti-psi defense, but have some fake innocuous thoughts outside of the defense. A solid anti-telepathy shield will tip-off an evil telepath that you are [a] an adept, and [b] have something to hide. But a layer of fake innocuous thoughts may fool the evil telepath into thinking that you are just another hapless non-adept.

    Non-adepts need some help. The best solution is some sort of anti-telepathy device, commonly called a "thought screen" in science fiction. Then the person will be protected as long as they keep changing the battery.

    In the unhappy event that thought screens have not been invented, non-adepts will have to rely upon mental training. In science fiction this usually take the form of concentrating on a nursery rhyme or something in order to generate enough Catapsi psychic static to block the telepath. But you have to keep concentrating, if you let your attention drift the rhyme will stop and the telepath will be in. In his novel The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester had a brilliant solution to that little problem. Instead of a nursery rhyme, just use an ear worm!

    Also in The Demolished Man, it is possible for a non-adept to hire an adept to provide some anti-telepathy protection.


    (ed note: the evil telepath Cummi has taken over the party of refugees. The small group of good telepaths in the Rangers want to enlist the non-telepath Smitt. So they have to teach Smitt how to close his mind to prevent Cummi from reading it.)

          “It will depend upon you, Smitt. Can you swallow your pride enough to co-operate with Cummi’s party—co-operate until you can learn something of their set-up—how much power Cummi really has, whether there are any rebels among the passengers, what are some of his future plans? We’re not”—he spoke now to the rangers—“going to strike out blindly. You two, Fylh and Zinga, will have to lie low until we do know how we stand. No use attracting any attention. As for me, since my talk with Jaksan, I am doubtless down in their black books with a double star. Rolth is handicapped for daytime work. So, Smitt, if you are really willing to join up with us, keep that wish under mind block—and I mean under block. The Arcturian is a sensitive and what he can’t scrape out of an unsuspecting mind the Can-hound may be able to get for him. It’ll be a tough assignment, Smitt. You’re got to join the anti-Bemmy, pro-Cummi crowd—at least with lukewarm attachment. A little initial rebellion is all right, they would expect that from a Patrolman with your background. But can you play a double game, Smitt—and do you want to?”
         The com-techneer had listened quietly and now he raised his head and nodded.

         “I can try. I don’t know about this mind block business.” He hesitated. “I’m no sensitive. How much can Cummi do with me?”
         “He’s a five point nine. He can’t take you over, if that is what you’re afraid of. You’re from Luga—or your family was Lugan stock originally, weren’t they?”
         “My father was Lugan. My mother came from Desart.”
         “Lugan—Desart—” Kartr looked to Zinga.
         “High resistance core,” the Zacathan informed him promptly. “Imaginative, but excellent control. Resistance is above eight. No, no Arcturian could take him over. And you do have a mind block, Smitt, whether you’ve ever tried to use it or not. Just think about some com-machine when you’re around a sensitive. Concentrate on some phase of your old job—
         “Like this?” demanded Smitt eagerly.

         It was as if he had snapped off some switch. Where Smitt sat there was now a mental blank. Kartr bit off an exclamation and then said: “Keep that up, Smitt! Zinga—!”
         His own power went out toward the com-techneer, and then he felt a second stream of energy unite with it, driving into that blankness with him like the tip of a blaster beam. So, he had been right! Zinga was a sensitive, too, and to a degree he could not even measure. Together their wills smashed at Smitt, smashed on a barrier which held as staunchly as the hull of a space ship.
         There were beads of moisture on Kartr’s forehead, gathering under the edge of his helmet to trickle down his cheeks and chin. Then his free hand moved in a gesture of defeat and he relaxed.
         “You need not worry about mind invasion, Smitt. Unless you get careless.

    From STAR RANGERS by Andre Norton, 1953.
    Collected in STAR SOLDIERS (2001), currently a free eBook in the Baen free library.

    (ed note: Larry Greenberg is a telepath. He has the misfortune to be near the awakening of Kzanol, a member of the Thrint race. Kzanol has been frozen in time for about two billion years. But the problem is that Thrints can telepathically enslave other beings. At least beings who do not have internal mind shields.

    If a weak telepath (like Larry) telepathically contacts a powerful telepath (like Kzanol), the weak telepath will become imprinted with the strong telepath's memories. Larry thinks that he is Kzanol. Larry cannot enslave others, but he finds that he now instinctively has a mind shield that can stop Kzanol from enslaving him. As well as all of Kzanol's memories.

    Sadly Larry is startled into briefly dropping his mind shield (when the planet Pluto caught on fire), and is enslaved by Kzanol. Who tells Larry to stay put while he goes out to get a MacGuffin.

    Larry cannot figure out how to turn on his mind shield and become unenslaved because he did it the first time instinctively. What he has to do is to search Kzanol's memories and find out how to turn on his mind shield.)

          Where was his mind shield? Two hours ago he had held an impenetrable telepathic wall, a shield that had stood up to Kzanol’s most furious efforts. Now he couldn’t remember how he’d done it. He was capable of it, he knew that, and if he could hold it.
         No, it was gone. Some memory, some thrintun memory. Well, let’s see. He’d been in Masney’s office when the thrint had screamed at everybody to shut off their minds. His mind shield had— but it had already been there. Somehow he had already known how to use it. He had known ever since.

         …Viprin race. Bowed skeletal shapes like great albino whippets seemed to skim the dirt surface of the track, their jet nacelle nostrils flaring, their skins shining like oil, racing round and round the audience standing breathless in the center of the circle. The air was thick with Power: thousands of thrintun desperately hurling orders at their favorites, knowing perfectly well that the mutant viprin didn’t have the brains to hear. Kzanol on one of the too-expensive seats, clutching a lavender plastic cord, knowing that this race, this race meant the difference between life as a prospector and life as a superintendent of cleaning machinery. He would leave here with commercials to buy a ship, or with none.

         Larry dropped it. It was too late in Kzanol’s life. He wanted to remember much earlier. But his brain seemed filled with fog, and the thrintun memories were fuzzy and hard to grasp. As Kzanol/Greenberg he had had no trouble with his memory, but as Larry he found it infuriatingly vague.
         The earliest thing he could remember was that scene of the sunflowers.

         …His finger, an oversized finger in an oversized mouth with tiny needle teeth. He was on his side, more a lump of flesh than anything else, and he sucked his finger because he was hungry. He would always be hungry.
         Something huge came in, blocking light. Mother? Father. His own arm moved, jerking the finger contemptuously away, scraping it painfully on the new teeth. He tried to put it back, but it wouldn’t move. Something forceful and heavy told him never to do that again. He never did.
         No mind shield there. Funny, how sharp that picture was, the memory of early frustration.

         …The room was full of guests. He was four thrintun years old, and he was being allowed out for the first time. Shown proudly by his father. But the noise, the telepathic noise, was too loud. He was trying to think like everybody at once. It frightened him. Something terrible happened. A stream of dark brown semiliquid material shot out of his mouth and spread over the wall. He had defecated in public.
         Rage, red and sharp. Suddenly he had no control over his limbs; he was running, stumbling toward the door. Rage from his father and shame from himself or from his father? He couldn’t tell. But it hurt, and he fought it, closed his mind to it. Father went like a blown flame, and the guests too, and everybody was gone. He was all an empty world. (mind shield) He stopped, frightened. The other minds came back.
         His father was proud, proud! At the age of four little Kzanol already had the Power!

         Larry grinned a predatory grin and got up. His vac suit—? In the lounge, on one of the seats. He got it and screwed it down and went out.

    From WORLD OF PTAVVS by Larry Niven (1965)

    (ed note: the protagonist Ben Reich wants to murder somebody, but has to find a way to make an anti-telepathy shield or the Espers working for the police will quickly discover him. Some nonsense thoughts will do, but the problem is concentrating on them 24/7. His solution is brilliant: use an ear worm. He visits his friend Duffy Wyg& {Duffy Wiggan} and asks for the most catchy, persistent jingle she's ever written.)

          "Oh. Pepsis, we call 'em."
         "Dunno. They say because the first one was written centuries ago by a character named Pepsi. I don't buy that. I wrote one once..." Duffy winced in recollection. "Hate to think of it even now. Guaranteed to obsess you for a month. It haunted me for a year."
         "You're rocketting."
         "Scout's honor, Mr. Reich. It was 'Tenser, Said The Tensor.' I wrote it for that flop show about the crazy mathematician. They wanted nuisance value and they sure got it. People got so sore they had to withdraw it. Lost a fortune."
         "Let's hear it."
         "I couldn't do that to you."
         "Come on, Duffy. I'm really curious."
         "You'll regret it."
         "I don't believe you."
         "All right, pig," she said, and pulled the punch panel toward her. "This pays you back for that no-guts kiss."
         Her fingers and palm slipped gracefully over the panel. A tune of utter monotony filled the room with agonizing, unforgettable banality. It was the quintessence of every melodic cliché Reich had ever heard. No matter what melody you tried to remember, it invariably led down the path of familiarity to "Tenser, Said The Tensor." Then Duffy began to sing:

    Eight, sir; seven, sir;
    Six, sir; five, sir;
    Four, sir; three, sir;
    Two, sir; one!
    Tenser, said the Tensor.
    Tenser, said the Tensor.
    Tension, apprehension,
    And dissension have begun.

         "Oh my God!" Reich exclaimed.
         "I have some real gone tricks in that tune," Duffy said, still playing. "Notice the beat after 'one'? That's a semi-cadence [sic]. Then you get another beat after 'begun.' That turns the end of the song into a semi-cadence [sic], too, so you can't ever end it. The beat keeps you running in circles, like: Tension, apprehension, and dissension have begun. RIFF. Tension, apprehension, and dissension have begun. RIFF. Tension, appre—"
         "You little devil!" Reich started to his feet, pounding his palms on his ears. "I'm accursed. How long is this affliction going to last?"
         "Not more than a month."

    From THE DEMOLISHED MAN by Alfred Bester (1952)

    Both boys were sitting on the edges of their beds now, wide awake, as the plan developed. They talked for an hour, checking every possible angle. At last Lars shook his head. "It's risky. If they nail us, they'll put us to sleep so fast we won't know what hit us."

    "But they sleep, don't they? There won't be many awake at this hour, and why should they bother us if we keep our minds on some innocuous thought like going for a walk, or Mother Goose rhymes, or something? For that matter, if somebody does stop us, we can tell him that the Masters ordered us to do it! That'll slow them up for a while at least, maybe long enough for us to get away with it!"

    From ROCKET TO LIMBO by Alan E. Nourse (1957)

    Psychic Laser

    The psi power Amplification allows esper Bravo to add power to the psi power being used by esper Alfa. So if Alfa is trying to find an object by clairvoyance, the power boost given by Bravo will let Alfa see about twice as far. A witch's coven or a lodge of ceremonial adepts doing a group working are basically doing the same thing, except with spell-caster Alfa getting a power boost from amplifiers Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliet, Kilo, Lima, and Mike (things get more complicated if several espers have been delegated psionic tasks for the given working, but I digress).

    But a science fiction author or two have wondered if you can do better than simple addition of powers. Consider the laser principle. One photon passing through a pumped laser medium becomes two photons, but in addition (pardon the pun) they become coherent. Which means that when it comes to getting the job done, the pair of photons have more power than just twice that of one photon.

    So some espers can start amplifying psi powers geometrically instead of arithmetically (i.e., 1+1=5).


          Also, where in the twentieth century are you going to come by swords, chalices, wands, altars, and all the other traditional "tools of the trade" so useful to the old-time magician? All this ritual equipment has always been hard to get but never more than now. It may be for these reasons that so many are switching to modern systems of symbology in their spells and incantations, especially symbology from cybernetics and electronics. The thought of a "psychic magnet" or "psychic thunderbolt" is intriguing enough; have you ever seen a "psychic laser" in action? I have; it worked quite nicely.

    by Isaac Bonewits (1989)

    (ed note: the mis-named planet Warlock has a native species colloquially called the "Wyverns". They are semi-aquatic humanoid reptilians who look vaguely like dragons. Anyway they have psionic powers, lazily called "The Power". Or at least the females of the species do, they hold the males in servitude as second-class citizens.

    Shawn Lantee is a human cadet in the Survey service who has an empathetic link with two genetically engineered wolverines named Tagi and Togi. He is the local liaison to the Wyverns due to adventures featured in the prequel Storm Over Warlock. He can use The Power to a limited extent, which was a rude surprise to the female Wyverns. They grudgingly treat him as a sort-of equal.

    Charis Nordholm winds up on the planet due to a series of misadventures. She is welcomed by the Wyverns {because she is female} and is given some training in using The Power. Charis is befriended by Tsstu, a local animal of the species "curl-cat".

    A corrupt megacorporation {but aren't they all?} has a covert operation on the planet, hoping to seize the secret of The Power. Because if the corporation obtains it, they figure the galaxy is theirs for the taking. The corporation has some sort of electronic device that acts as a defensive force field which nullifies The Power. They use this to free some male Wyverns, which enrages the female adepts.

    The female Wyverns use The Power to teleport Charis and Tsstu to a tiny stub of an island in mid-ocean putting Charis on ice, and hurl Lantee into a coma with his personality spark lost in a deep dark telepathic dimension with his wolverines mournfully guarding his body. Then the females try to figure out how to defeat the evil megacorporation, snickering behind their impenetrable psionic force field.

    Charis manages to teleport herself and Tsstu to Lantee's body. There she mentally travels into the dark telepathic dimension, and instinctively figures out how to merge the personality-sparks of herself, Tagi, Togi, and Tsstu into a composite being and use their combined power like a laser to break Lantee free from his Power induced coma. They all wake up back in the cave)

          (Lantee said) "We've been very cautious about trying to expand the base because we did want to maintain good relations. These Jacks (pirates hired by the megacorporation, term comes from "hijack") have blown the whole plan! You say they have some Wyvern (male) warriors helping them? I wonder how they worked that. From all we've been able to learn, and that's very little, the witches have a firm control over their males. That has always been one of the problems; makes it almost impossible for them to conceive of cooperation with us (male humans)."
         "The Jacks must have something to nullify the Power," Charis commented.
         "That's all we need," he said bitterly. "But if they can nullify the Power, then how can the witches go up against them?"
         "The Wyverns seem very sure of themselves." Charis had her own first doubts. With the assembly arrayed against her back at the Citadel, she had accepted their warning; her respect for their Power had not been shaken until this moment. But Lantee was right. If the invaders were able to nullify the Power to the extent of releasing the males who had always been under domination, then could the witches hope to battle the strangers themselves?
         "No," Lantee continued, "they're very sure of themselves because they've never before come up against anything which threatened their hold on their people and their way of life. Perhaps they can't even conceive of the Power's being broken. We had hoped to make them understand eventually that there were other kinds of power, but we have not had time. To them this is a threat, right enough, but not the supreme threat I believe it is."
         "Their power has been broken," Charis said quietly.
         "With a nullifier, yes. How soon do you suppose the truth of that will get through to them?"
         "But we did not need this machine or whatever the Jacks have. We broke it—the four of us!" (Charis, Tagi, Togi, and Tsstu, combining like a laser)
         Lantee stared at her. Then he threw back his head and laughed, not loudly but with the ring of real amusement.
         "You are right. And what will our witches say to this, I wonder? Or do they already know? Yes, you freed me from whatever prison they consigned me to. And it was a prison!" His smile vanished, the drawn lines in his face sharpened. "So—their power can be broken or circumvented in more ways than one. But I do not think that even that information will deter them from making the first move. And they must be stopped." He hesitated and then added in a rush of words, "I am not arguing that they should take the interference of the Jacks and not fight back. By their way of thinking their way of life is threatened. But if these witches go ahead as they plan and try to wipe us all off Warlock, supposing they are able to fight the Jack weapon or weapons, then they will have written the end to their own story themselves.
         "For if this band of Jacks has come up with a nullifier to defeat the Power, others can, too. It will just be a matter of time until the Wyverns are under off-world control. And that mustn't happen!"

    (ed note: the basic problem is the split between the male and female Wyverns is a crack in their armor that off-world corporations or star nations can use to defeat the Wyverns.)

    (ed note: Charis, Lantee, and the companion animals manage to infiltrate the base and enter the room with the nullifier. Which is guarded by Wyvern males, one with his finger on the self-destruct-and-vaporize-everything-in-a-two-kilometer-radius button. They'd rather die than be enslaved again. Lantee notes that a race where the males and females want to kill each other does not have very good long-term prospects.)

         (the lead Wyvern male said) "Kill the witch and those who are hers." He made his decision, lumping the unfamiliar with Charis. "Be free again as now we are."
         "Are you?" From somewhere Charis found the words. "Away from this room or from the base where this off-world machine cannot reach—are you then free?"
         Stark, hot hate glowing at her from yellow eyes, a snarl lifting scaled skin away from fangs.
         "Are you?" Shann took up, and Charis readily gave way to his leadership. To the Wyvern males, she was a symbol of all they hated most. But Lantee was male and so to them not wholly an enemy.
         "Not yet." The truth was hard to admit. "But when the witch ones die, then we shall be!"
         "But there may not be a need for such killing or dying."
         "What are you thinking of?" Charis asked vocally.
         Lantee did not look at her. He was studying the Wyvern leader with intensity, as if he would hold the native in check by his will alone.
         "A thought," he said aloud, "just a thought which might resolve the whole problem. Otherwise, this is going to end with a real blood bath. Now that they know what this machine can do for them, do you think the males will ever be anything again but potential murderers of their own kind? And we can destroy this machine—and them, but that will be a failure."
         "Not killing?" The Wyvern's thoughts cut in. "But if we do not kill them while they may not dream us defenseless, then they will in time break us and once more use the Power against us."
         "Upon me they used the Power and I was in the outer dark where nothing is."
         The astonishment of the Wyverns was a wave spreading out to engulf the off-worlders.
         "And how came you again from that place?" That the Wyvern recognized the site of Lantee's exile was plain.
         "She sought me, and these sought me, and they brought me forth."
         "Why?" came flatly.
         "Because they were my friends; they wished me well."
         "Between witch and male there can be no friendship! She is mistress—he obeys her commands in all things—or he is naught!"
         "I was naught, yet here I am now." Shann sought Charis. "Link! Prove it to them—link!"
         She tossed the mental cord to Tsstu, to Taggi, and then reached for Shann. They were as one and as one, Shann thrust at the Wyvern's consciousness. Charis saw the spokesman for the natives sway as if buffeted by a storm wind. Then the off-worlders broke apart and were four again.

         "Thus it is," Shann said.
         "But you are not as we are. With you, male and female may be different. True?"
         "True. But also know this: as one, we four have broken the bonds of the Power. But can you live always with a machine and those who have brought you the machine? Can they be trusted? Have you looked into their minds?"
         "They use us for their purposes. But that we accept for our freedom."
         "Turn off the machine," Shann said abruptly.
         "If we do, the witches will come."
         "Not unless we will it."
         Charis was startled. Was Lantee running his claims too high? But she had begun to understand what he was fighting for. As long as the cleft between male and female existed in the Wyvern species, there would be an opening for just such trouble as the Company men had started here. Shann was going to attempt to close that gap. Centuries of tradition, generations of specialized breeding, stood against his will. And all the terrors and fears of inbred prejudice would be fighting against him, but he was going to try it.
         He had not even asked for her backing or consent, and she discovered that she did not resent that. It was as if the linkage had erased all desire to counter a decision she realized as right.
         A crackling explosion, the stench of burning plasta-fab. The Company soldiers had turned blasters on the dome! What did Lantee propose to do about that? Charis had only time for one fleeting thought before her mind fell into place beside the others.
         Again it was Lantee who aimed that shaft of thought, sent it out past the melting wall of the dome, straight at the enemy minds, open and ill-prepared for such attack. Men dropped where they stood.
    A still-spitting blaster rolled along the ground, spraying its deadly ray in a wave pattern along a wall.
         Shann had had the courage to try that first gamble and he had won. Could he do the same again in the greater gamble he proposed?
         The Wyvern spokesman made a slight motion with his hand. Those who walled the machine with their bodies stood away.
         "That is not the Power as we know it."
         "But it was born of that Power," Shann caught him up. "Just as other ways of life may issue from those now known to you."
         "But you are not sure."
         "I am not sure. But I know that killing leaves only the dead, and the dead may not be summoned back by any Power ever known to living creatures. You will die and others shall die if you take the vengeance you wish. Then who will profit by your dying—except perhaps off-worlders for whom you do not fight in truth?"
         "But you fight for us?"
         "Can I hide the truth when we touch minds?"
         That curious quiet came down as a curtain between the off-worlders and the Wyverns as the natives conferred among themselves. At last the spokesman returned to contact.
         "We know you speak the truth as you see it. No one before has broken the bonds of the Power. That you have done so means that perhaps you can defend us now. We brought our spears for killing. But it is true that the dead remain dead, and if we make the killing we wish, we as a people shall die. So we shall try your path."
         "Link!" Again the command from Lantee. He made a motion with his hand and the Wyvern pressed a lever on the installation.
         This time they had not fashioned a spear of the mind-force but a barrier wall, and only just in time. As a wave of determined attack struck against it, Charis swayed and felt the firm brace of Shann's arm as he stood, his feet a little apart, his chin up—as he might have faced a physical fight, fist against fist.
         Three times that wave battered at them, striving, Charis knew, to reach the Wyvern males. And each time the linkage held without yielding. Then they (the leaders of the female Wyverns) were there in person—Gysmay, her brilliant body-patterns seeming to flame in her terrible anger, Gidaya—and two others Charis did not know.

         "What do you?" The question seared.
         "What we must." Shann Lantee made answer.
         "Let us have those who are ours!" Gysmay demanded in full cry.
         "They are not yours but their own!"
         "They are nothing! They do not dream, they have no Power. They are nothing save what we will them to be."
         "They are part of a whole. Without them, you die; without you, they die. Can you still say they are nothing?"
         "What say you?" The question Gidaya asked was aimed at Charis, not Shann.
         "That he speaks the truth."
         "After the manner of your people, not ours!"
         "Did I not have an answer from Those Who Have Gone Before which you could not read, Wise One? Perhaps this is the reading of that answer. Four have become one at will, and each time we so will it, that one made of four is stronger. Could you break the barrier we raised here while we were one, even though you must have sent against us the full Power? You are an old people, Wise One, and with much learning. Can it not be that some time, far and long ago, you took a turning into a road which limited your Power in truth? Peoples are strong and grow when they search for new roads. When they say, 'There is no road but this one which we know well, and always must we travel in it,' then they weaken themselves and dim their future.
         "Four have made one and yet each one of that four is unlike another. You are all of a kind in your Power. Have you never thought that it takes different threads to weave a real pattern—that you use different shapes to make the design of Power?"
         "This is folly! Give us what is ours lest we destroy you." Gysmay's head-comb quivered, the very outlines of her body seemed to shimmer with her rage.
         "Wait!" Gidaya interrupted. "It is true that this dreamer has had an answer from the Rods, delivered by the will of Those Who Have Dreamed Before. And it was an answer we could not read, but yet it was sent to her and was a true one. Can any of you deny that?"
         There was no answer to her demand.
         "Also, there have been said here things which have a core of good thought behind them."
         Gysmay stirred, none of her anger abating. But she did not render her protest openly.
         "Why do you stand against us now, Dreamer?" Gidaya continued. "You, to whom we have opened many gates, to whom we gave the use of the Power—why should you choose to turn that same gift against us who have never chosen to do you ill?"
         "Because here I have seen one true thing: that there is a weakness in your Power, that you have been blind to that which makes evil against you. As long as you are a race divided against itself, with a wall of contempt and hatred keeping you apart, then there is a way of bringing disaster upon your race. It is because you opened doors and made straight a road for me that I will to do the same for you now. This evil came from my people. But we are not all thus. We, too, have our divisions and barriers, our outlaws and criminals.
         "But do not, I pray you, Wise Ones," Charis hastened on, "keep open this rift in your own nation so that outside ill can enter. You have seen that there are two answers to the Power on which you lean. One comes through a machine which can be turned on and off at the will of outsiders. Another is a growth from the very seeds you have sown, and so it is possible for you to nourish it also.
         "Without this man I have only the Power you gave to my summoning. With him and the animals, I am so much the greater that I no longer need this." From her tunic Charis took the map sheet, holding it out so that the Wyverns could see the pattern drawn upon it (the pattern is the one Charis needs to use The Power in the standard Wyvern manner). She crumpled the sheet and tossed it to the floor.
         "This must be thought upon in council." Gidaya had watched that repudiation of the pattern with narrowed eyes.
         "So be it," Charis affirmed, and they were gone.

    From ORDEAL IN OTHERWHERE by Andre Norton (1964)

          Some of the developments were extremely exciting. The Grau brothers, Louis and Heinrich, bad always been close together, and already possessed a certain ability to communicate telepathically. They now outstripped us all in psychokinetic powers, and revealed that we might be underestimating the importance of PK. I was present in the antiquities room of the British Museum when they moved a marble block weighing thirty tons by concentrating in unison. The only others present were Iannis Lascaratos, Emlyn Jones, Georges Ribot, Kenneth Furneaux (the director of the archaeology section, whom I had ‘initiated’) and myself. The brothers explained that they did this by somehow reinforcing one another’s efforts in a pulse rhythm. At the time, we were completely incapable of understanding them.

         Before I go on to describe the first disaster that overtook us, I should say something more about PK, since it plays a part in my narrative. It was, of course, a simple and natural consequence of the new purpose given us to fight against the parasites. The first thing I realized when I started practising Husserlian disciplines was that human beings have been over looking an extremely simple secret about existence, although it is obvious enough for anyone to see. The secret is this: that the poor quality of human life—and consciousness—is due to the feebleness of the beam of attention that we direct at the world. Imagine that you have a powerful searchlight, but it has no reflector inside it. When you turn it on, you get a light of sorts, but it rushes off in all directions, and a lot of it is absorbed by the inside of the searchlight. Now if you install a concave reflector, the beam is polarized, and stabs forward like a bullet or a spear. The beam immediately becomes ten times as powerful. But even this is only a half measure, for although every ray of light now follows the same path, the actual waves of light are ‘out of step’, like an undisciplined army walking along a street. If you now pass the light through a ruby laser, the result is that the waves now ‘march in step’, and their power is increased a thousand-fold-just as the rhythmic tramping of an army was able to bring down the walls of Jericho.

         The human brain is a kind of searchlight that projects a beam of ‘attention’ on the world. But it ‘has always been like a searchlight without a reflector. Our attention shifts around from second to second; we do not really have the trick of focusing and concentrating the beam. And yet it does happen fairly often. For example, as Fleishman observed, the sexual orgasm is actually a focusing and concentrating of the ‘beam’ of consciousness (or attention). The beam of attention suddenly carries more power, and the result is a feeling of in tense pleasure. The ‘inspiration’ of poets is exactly the same thing. By some fluke, some accidental adjustment of the mind, the beam of attention is polarized for a moment, and whatever it happens to be focused on appears to be transformed, touched with ‘the glory and the freshness of a dream’. There is no need to add that so-called ‘mystical’ visions are exactly the same thing, but with an accidental touch of the laser thrown in. When Jacob Boehme saw the sunlight reflected on a pewter bowl, and declared that he had seen all heaven, he was speaking the sober truth.

         Human beings never realize that life is so dull because of the vagueness, the diffuseness, of their beam of attention—although, as I say, the secret has been lying at the end of their noses for centuries. And since 1800, the parasites have been doing their best to distract them from this discovery—a discovery that should have been quite inevitable after the age of Beethoven and Goethe and Wordsworth. They achieved this mainly by encouraging the human habit of vagueness and the tendency to waste time on trivialities. A man has a sudden glimpse of a great idea; for a moment, his mind focuses. At this point, habit steps in. His stomach complains of being empty, or his throat complains of dryness, and a false little voice whispers: ‘Go and satisfy your physical needs, and then you’ll be able to concentrate twice as well.’ He obeys-and immediately forgets the great idea.

         The moment man stumbles on the fact that his attention is a ‘beam’, (or, as Husserl put it, that consciousness is ‘intentional’) he has learned the fundamental secret. Now all he has to learn is how to polarize that beam. it is the ‘polarized’ beam that exerts PK effects.

         Now, what the Grau brothers had discovered, quite accidentally, was how to use each other’s minds as ruby lasers, to ‘phase’ the beam. They were by no means expert at it; they wasted about 99% of the beam’s power. But even the remaining 1% was enough to move thirty tons with the greatest of ease. It would have been enough to move a block weighing five hundred tons if we had had one available.

    From THE MIND PARASITES by Colin Wilson (1967)

    Stochastic Resonance

    When one is dealing with the senses, often you run into the problem of something almost too faint to detect. Like trying to hear a very soft sound or see the difference between light grey and very light grey.

    Scientists were surprised to find that with scientific instruments, counter-intuitively (i.e., weirdly) it was possible to detect otherwise indetectable faint signals by adding white noise. One would think that adding even more noise would swamp the faint signal, but that turns out not to be the case. If a careful amount of white noise is added it actually amplifies the faint signal and allows it to be detected. This was given the name Stochastic Resonance (SR).

    Later scientists discovered that quite a few organisms actually used SR in their sensory systems.

    Even later, some scientists are trying to make prostheses for physically challenged individuals using SR. The main example used is subtly vibrating shoe insoles to improve the balance of people suffering from diabetic neuropathy, stroke, or the ravages of old age.

    Be that as it may, the thought occured to me that this idea can be applied to science-fictional psionics in a science fiction story.

    One of the most popular psionic detection powers is of course foreseeing the future. Good old divination. An ESPer who could see ultraviolet might be hard put to find employment for their talent. But there is always a long customer waiting line outside the fortune teller's shop.

    Logically the signal from the precognition psi power must be really weak (or the power is ultra-rare) because only a few exalted individuals have it (or at least claim to have it). Perhaps the signal can be enhanced by stochastic resonance?

    About this time I recalled that there were a few ancient cultures where oracles obtained their prophecies by listening to the wind rustling through the leaves of a tree. Which is a pretty good approximation of white noise. According to Greek mythology, all the trees in the Dodona grove became endowed with the gift of prophecy. The rustling of the leaves on an Oak tree was regarded as the voice of Zeus. Druids were said to be able to consult Oak trees for divinatory purposes, as were the Streghe with Rowan trees.

    If you want to push the analogy even more, an author can write some baffle-gab about how the randomness of a shuffled deck of Tarot cards injects some SR into the fortune-teller's psi powers. Divination by Cleromancy involves randomness from a deck of cards, rolling dice, examining tea leaves, opening a book to a random page, casting runes, throwing I Ching coins or yarrow stalks (or even cracking turtle shells). Some augury uses the messy randomness of examinining sheep entrails and livers.

    Science fiction authors can bring this into the future with audio based white noise sleep machines and TV monitors full of random static.


    Stochastic resonance (SR) is a phenomenon where a signal that is normally too weak to be detected by a sensor, can be boosted by adding white noise to the signal, which contains a wide spectrum of frequencies. The frequencies in the white noise corresponding to the original signal's frequencies will resonate with each other, amplifying the original signal while not amplifying the rest of the white noise (thereby increasing the signal-to-noise ratio which makes the original signal more prominent). Further, the added white noise can be enough to be detectable by the sensor, which can then filter it out to effectively detect the original, previously undetectable signal.

    This phenomenon of boosting undetectable signals by resonating with added white noise extends to many other systems, whether electromagnetic, physical or biological, and is an area of research.

    Neuroscience/psychology and biology

    Main article: Stochastic resonance (sensory neurobiology)

    Stochastic resonance has been observed in the neural tissue of the sensory systems of several organisms. Computationally, neurons exhibit SR because of non-linearities in their processing. SR has yet to be fully explained in biological systems, but neural synchrony in the brain (specifically in the gamma wave frequency) has been suggested as a possible neural mechanism for SR by researchers who have investigated the perception of "subconscious" visual sensation. Single neurons in vitro including cerebellar Purkinje cells and squid giant axon could also demonstrate the inverse stochastic resonance, when spiking is inhibited by synaptic noise of a particular variance.


    SR-based techniques have been used to create a novel class of medical devices for enhancing sensory and motor functions such as vibrating insoles especially for the elderly, or patients with diabetic neuropathy or stroke.

    From the Wikipedia entry for STOCHASTIC RESONANCE

    Stochastic resonance is a phenomenon that occurs in a threshold measurement system (e.g. a man-made instrument or device; a natural cell, organ or organism) when an appropriate measure of information transfer (signal-to-noise ratio, mutual information, coherence, d', etc.) is maximized in the presence of a non-zero level of stochastic input noise thereby lowering the response threshold; the system resonates at a particular noise level.

    The three criteria that must be met for stochastic resonance to occur are:

    1. Nonlinear device or system: the input-output relationship must be nonlinear
    2. Weak, periodic signal of interest: the input signal must be below threshold of measurement device and recur periodically
    3. Added input noise: there must be random, uncorrelated variation added to signal of interest

    Stochastic resonance occurs when these conditions combine in such a way that a certain average noise intensity results in maximized information transfer. A time-averaged (or, equivalently, low-pass filtered) output due to signal of interest plus noise will yield an even better measurement of the signal compared to the system's response without noise in terms of SNR.

    The idea of adding noise to a system in order to improve the quality of measurements is counter-intuitive. Measurement systems are usually constructed or evolved to reduce noise as much as possible and thereby provide the most precise measurement of the signal of interest. Numerous experiments have demonstrated that, in both biological and non-biological systems, the addition of noise can actually improve the probability of detecting the signal; this is stochastic resonance. The systems in which stochastic resonance occur are always nonlinear systems. The addition of noise to a linear system will always decrease the information transfer rate.

    Human perception

    Psychophysical experiments testing the thresholds of sensory systems have also been performed in humans across sensory modalities and have yielded evidence that our systems make use of stochastic resonance as well.


    The above demonstration using the Arc de Triomphe photo is a simplified version of an earlier experiment. A photo of a clocktower was made into a video by adding noise with a particular variance a number of times to create successive frames. This was done for different levels of noise variance, and a particularly optimal level was found for discerning the appearance of the clocktower. Similar experiments also demonstrated an increased level of contrast sensitivity to sine wave gratings.


    Human subjects who undergo mechanical stimulation of a fingertip are able to detect a subthreshold impulse signal in the presence of a noisy mechanical vibration. The percentage of correct detections of the presence of the signal was maximized for a particular value of noise.


    The auditory intensity detection thresholds of a number of human subjects were tested in the presence of noise. The subjects include four people with normal hearing, two with cochlear implants and one with an auditory brainstem implant.

    The normal subjects were presented with two sound samples, one with a pure tone plus white noise and one with just white noise, and asked which one contained the pure tone. The level of noise which optimized the detection threshold in all four subjects was found to be between -15 and -20 dB relative to the pure tone, showing evidence for stochastic resonance in normal human hearing.

    A similar test in the subjects with cochlear implants only found improved detection thresholds for pure tones below 300 Hz, while improvements were found at frequencies greater than 60 Hz in the brainstem implant subject. The reason for the limited range of resonance effects are unknown. Additionally, the addition of noise to cochlear implant signals improved the threshold for frequency discrimination. The authors recommend that some type of white noise addition to cochlear implant signals could well improve the utility of such devices.


    Telepathic Death

    Telepathic Sending is a nice subtle way for an evil esper (or a good esper who has no choice) to kill their opponent. Granted it is not as spectacular or as satisfying as using Psychokinesis to physically rip your target's still-beating heart out of their body, but subtle that ain't. Murder by telepathy will just have the coroner shaking their head and telling the police that the victim apparently died of fright.

    Basically the technique is to telepathically implant into the victim's mind some terrifying illusion or hallucination to cause their death.

    The victim doesn't know the giant purple tiger with laser-beam eyes is an illusion, as far as they can tell the blasted thing is real. Although the fact that nobody else can see it is a dead give-away. The problem for the victim is that there really isn't any way for a person to tell the difference between the reality of what their eyes tell their brain and illusions telepathically implanted into their visual cortex.

    If the evil esper can use telepathically induced hypnosis, they can probably get the victim controlled enough that they will actually manifest on their bodies any wounds inflicted by the purple laser-beam tiger. A few wounds created this way will kill the victim. Failing that, the evil esper will have to rely upon help from external factors to accomplish the murder. Things like making the tiger illusion jump at the victim when they are standing next to an open window on the 23rd floor, terrifying the victim so they do not get any sleep for a couple of weeks and perish from exhaustion, frightening a victim with a weak heart into running, that sort of thing.

    Traditionally the deadly illusion is of some sort of beast.

    An evil esper attempting to telepathically assassinate a victim could find themselves in deep trouble if it turns out that the victim is also an esper. Such victims can probably defend themselves, and will retaliate.


    (ed note: Doctor Taverner is a virtuous sorcerer who runs a psychiatric ward. He is sort of a Victorian Occult Sherlock Holmes. The protagonist Rhodes is a non-occult type who assists Taverner. Rhodes is sort of a Doctor Watson, i.e., Holmes' side-kick. Martin and Mortimer both want Miss Hallam's hand in marriage.

    Unfortunately for Martin and Miss Hallam, Mortimer is an evil sorcerer. He is trying to kill Martin using a telepathically projected hallucination of a demonic dog, and using mental domination to force Miss Hallam to say "I Do.")

          ‘Well?’ said my patient when I had finished stethoscoping him, ‘have I got to go softly all the days of my life?’
         ‘Your heart is not all it might be,’ I replied, ‘but with care it ought to last as long as you want it. You must avoid all undue exertion, however.’
         The man made a curious grimace. ‘Supposing exertion seeks me out?’ he asked.
         ‘You must so regulate your life as to reduce the possibility to a minimum.’

         Taverner's voice came from the other side of the room. ‘If you have finished with his body, Rhodes, I will make a start on his mind.’
         ‘I have a notion,’ said our patient, ‘that the two are rather intimately connected. You say I must keep my body quiet,’—he looked at me—'but what am I to do if my mind deliberately gives it shocks?’ and he turned to my colleague.
         ‘That is where I come in,’ said Taverner. ‘My friend has told you what to do; now I will show you how to do it. Come and tell me your symptoms.’

         ‘Delusions,’ said the stranger as he buttoned his shirt. ‘A black dog of ferocious aspect who pops out of dark corners and chivvies me, or tries to. I haven't done him the honour to run away from him yet; I daren't, my heart's too dickey, but one of these days I am afraid I may, and then I shall probably drop dead.’
         Taverner raised his eyes to me in a silent question. I nodded; it was quite a likely thing to happen if the man ran far or fast.
         ‘What sort of a beast is your dog?’ inquired my colleague.
         ‘No particular breed at all. Just plain dog, with four legs and a tail, about the size of a mastiff, but not of the mastiff build.’
         ‘How does he make his appearance?’
         ‘Difficult to say; he does not seem to follow any fixed rule, but usually after dusk. If I am out after sundown, I may look over my shoulder and see him padding along behind me, or if I am sitting in my room between daylight fading and lamp lighting, I may see him crouching behind the furniture watching his opportunity.’
         ‘His opportunity for what?’
         ‘To spring at my throat.’
         ‘Why does he not take you unawares?’
         ‘This is what I cannot make out. He seems to miss so many chances, for he always waits to attack until I am aware of his presence.’
         ‘What does he do then?’
         ‘As soon as I turn and face him, he quickens his pace so as to overtake me, and if I am indoors he sets to work to stalk me round the furniture. I tell you, he may only be a product of my imagination, but he is an uncanny sight to watch.’

         The speaker paused and wiped away the sweat that had gathered on his forehead during this recital.
         Such a haunting is not a pleasant form of obsession for any man to be afflicted with, but for one with a heart like our patient's it was peculiarly dangerous.
         ‘What defence do you offer to this creature?’ asked Taverner.
         ‘I keep on saying to it “You're not real, you know, you are only a beastly nightmare, and I'm not going to let myself be taken in by you.”’
         ‘As good a defence as any,’ said Taverner. ‘But I notice you talk to it as if it were real.’
         ‘By Jove, so I do!’ said our visitor thoughtfully; ‘This is something new. I never used to do that. I took it for granted that the beast wasn't real, was only a phantom of my own brain, but recently a doubt has begun to creep in. Supposing the thing is real after all? Supposing it really has power to attack me? I have an underlying suspicion that my hound may not be altogether harmless after all.’
         ‘He will certainly be exceedingly dangerous to you if you lose your nerve and run away from him. So long as you keep your head, I do not think he will do you any harm.’
         ‘Precisely. But there is a point beyond which one may not keep one's head. Supposing, night after night, just as you were going off to sleep, you wake up knowing the creature is in the room, you see his snout coming round the comer of the curtain, and you pull yourself together and get rid of him and settle down again. Then just as you are getting drowsy, you take a last look round to make sure that all is safe, and you see something dark moving between you and the dying glow of the fire. You daren't go to sleep, and you can't keep awake. You may know perfectly well that it is all imagination, but that sort of thing wears you down if it is kept up night after night.’

         ‘Well, Rhodes, what do you make of it?’ asked my colleague after the door closed.
         ‘On the face of it,’ I said, ‘it looks like an ordinary example of delusions, but I have seen enough of your queer cases not to limit myself to the internal mechanism of the mind alone. Do you consider it possible that we have another case of thought transference?
         ‘You are coming along,’ said Taverner, nodding his head at me approvingly. ‘When you first enjoined me, you would unhesitatingly have recommended bromide for all the ills the mind is heir to; now you recognize that there are more things in heaven and earth than were taught you in the medical schools.
         ‘So you think we have a case of thought transference? I am inclined to think so too. When a patient tells you his delusions, he stands up for them, and often explains to you that they are psychic phenomena, but when a patient recounts psychic phenomena, he generally apologizes for them, and explains that they are delusions.’

         ‘His would-be-murderer?’ I questioned.
         ‘Precisely. Anyone who sends a haunting like that to a man with a heart like Martin's knows that it means his death sooner or later. Supposing Martin got into a panic and took to his heels when he found the dog behind him in a lonely place?’
         ‘He might last for half-a-mile,’ I said, ‘but I doubt if he would get any further.’
         ‘This is a clear case of mental assassination. Someone who is a trained occultist has created a thought-form of a black hound, and he is sufficiently in touch with Martin to be able to convey it to his mind by means of thought transference, and Martin sees, or thinks he sees, the image that the other man is visualizing.
         ‘The actual thought-form itself is harmless except for the fear it inspires, but should Martin lose his head and resort to vigorous physical means of defence, the effort would precipitate a heart attack, and he would drop dead without the slightest evidence to show who caused his death.’

         ‘How do you propose to handle the case?’ I asked.
         ‘The house is covered by a psychic bell jar (an anti-psionic force field created by a magic spell), so the thing cannot get at him while he is under its protection. We will then find out who is the sender, and see if we can deal with him and stop it once and for all. It is no good disintegrating the creature, its master would only manufacture another; it is the man behind the dog that we must get at.
         ‘We shall have to be careful, however, not to let Martin think we suspect he is in any danger, or he will lose his one defence against the creature, a belief in its unreality. That adds to our difficulties, because we daren't question him much, less we rouse his suspicions. We shall have to get at the facts of the case obliquely.’

         ‘Well, Rhodes, what do you make of it all?’ he greeted me.
         ‘Martin and Mortimer after the same girl,’ said I. ‘And Mortimer uses for his private ends the same methods you use on your patients.’
         ‘Precisely, ‘said Taverner. ‘An excellent object lesson in the ways of black and white occultism. We both study the human mind—we both study the hidden forces of nature; I use my knowledge for healing and Mortimer uses his for destruction.’
         ‘Taverner,’ I said, facing him, ‘what is to prevent you also from using your great knowledge for personal ends?’
         ‘Several things, my friend,’ he replied. ‘In the first place, those who are taught as I am taught are (though I say it who shouldn't) picked men, carefully tested. Secondly, I am a member of an organization which would assuredly exact retribution for the abuse of its training; and, thirdly, knowing what I do, I dare not abuse the powers that have been entrusted to me. There is no such thing as a straight line in the universe; everything works in curves; therefore it is only a matter of time before that which you send out from your mind returns to it. Sooner or later Martin's dog will come home to its master.

         A cold wind had sprung up, making us shiver in our thin clothes, for we were both in evening dress and hatless. Heavy grey clouds were banking up in the west, and the trees moaned uneasily. The man out on the moor was moving at a good pace, looking neither to right nor left. Except for his solitary figure the great grey waste was empty.
         All of a sudden the swinging stride was interrupted; he looked over his shoulder, paused, and then quickened his pace. Then he looked over his shoulder again and broke into a half trot. After a few yards of this he dropped to a walk again, and held steadily on his way, refusing to turn his head.
         I handed the glasses to Tavemer.
         ‘It's Martin right enough,’ he said; ‘and he has seen the dog.’ We could make out now the path he was following, and, descending from the hill, set out at a rapid pace to meet him.

         We had gone about a quarter of a mile when a sound arose in the darkness ahead of us; the piercing, inarticulate shriek of a creature being hunted to death.
         Taverner let out such a halloo as I did not think human lungs were capable of. We tore along the path to the crest of a rise, and as we raced down the opposite slope, we made out a figure struggling across the heather. Our white shirt fronts showed up plainly in the gathering dusk, and he headed towards us. It was Martin running for his life from the death hound.
         I rapidly outdistanced Taverner, and caught the hunted man in my arms as we literally cannoned into each other in the narrow path. I could feel the played-out heart knocking like a badly-running engine against his side. I laid him flat on the ground, and Taverner coming up with his pocket medicine case, we did what we could.
         We were only just in time. A few more yards and the man would have dropped. As I straightened my back and looked round into the darkness, I thanked God that I had not that horrible power of vision which would have enabled me to see what it was that had slunk off over the heather at our approach. That something went I had no doubt, for half a dozen sheep, grazing a few hundred yards away, scattered to give it passage.
         We got Martin back to the house and sat up with him. It was touch-and-go with that ill-used heart, and we had to drug the racked nerves into oblivion.

         Shortly after midnight Taverner went to the window and looked out.
         ‘Come here, Rhodes,’ he said. ‘Do you see anything?’ I declared that I did not.
         ‘It would be a very good thing for you if you did,’ declared Taverner. ‘You are much too fond of treating the thought-forms that a sick mind breeds as if, because they have no objective existence, they were innocuous. Now come along and see things from the view-point of the patient.’

         He commenced to beat a tattoo upon my forehead, using a peculiar syncopated rhythm. In a few moments I became conscious of a feeling as if a suppressed sneeze were working its way from my nose up into my skull (pineal gland). Then I noticed a faint luminosity appear in the darkness without, and I saw that a greyish-white film extended outside the window. Beyond that I saw the Death Hound!
         A shadowy form gathered itself out of the darkness, took a run towards the window, and leapt up, only to drive its head against the grey film and fall back. Again it gathered itself together and again it leapt, only to fall back baffled. A soundless baying seemed to come from the open jaws, and in the eyes gleamed a light that was not of this world. It was not the green luminosity of an animal, but a purplish grey reflected from some cold planet beyond the range of our senses.

         ‘That is what Martin sees nightly,’ said Taverner, ‘only in his case the thing is actually in the room. Shall I open a way through the psychic bell jar it is hitting its nose against, and let it in?’
         I shook my head and turned away from that nightmare vision. Tavemer passed his hand rapidly across my forehead with a peculiar snatching movement.
         ‘You are spared a good deal,’ he said, ‘but never forget that the delusions of a lunatic are just as real to him as that hound was to you.’

    (ed note: Miss Hallam comes to the house to escape the evil Mortimer. Who of course shows up in a bid to put her back under his telepathic domination. But Taverner and Rhodes were expecting this.)

         Towards the end of dinner that evening I was told that a gentleman desired to see the secretary, and went out to the hall to discover who our visitor might be. A tall, dark man with very peculiar eyes greeted me.
         ‘I have called for Miss Hallam,’ he said.
         ‘Miss Hallam?’ I repeated as if mystified.
         ‘Why, yes,’ he said, somewhat taken aback. ‘Isn't she here?’
         ‘I will enquire of the matron,’ I answered.

         I slipped back into the dining-room, and whispered to Taverner, ‘Mortimer is here.’
         He raised his eyebrows. ‘I will see him in the office,’ he said.
         Thither we repaired, but before admitting our visitor, Taverner arranged the reading lamp on his desk in such a way that his own features were in deep shadow and practically invisible.
         Then Mortimer was shown in. He assumed an authoritative manner. ‘I have come on behalf of her mother to fetch Miss Hallam home,’ said he. ‘I should be glad if you would inform her I am here.’
         ‘Miss Hallam will not be returning tonight, and has wired her mother to that effect.’
         ‘I did not ask you what Miss Hallam's plans were; I asked you to let her know I was here and wished to see her. I presume you are not going to offer any objection?’
         ‘But I am,’ said Taverner. ‘I object strongly.’
         ‘Has Miss Hallam refused to see me?’
         ‘I have not inquired.’
         ‘Then by what right do you take up this outrageous position?’

         ‘By this right,’ said Taverner, and made a peculiar sign with his left hand. On the forefinger was a ring of most unusual workmanship that I had never seen before.
         Mortimer jumped as if Tavemer had put a pistol to his head; he leant across the desk and tried to distinguish the shadowed features, then his gaze fell upon the ring.
         ‘The Senior of Seven,’ he gasped, and dropped back a pace. Then he turned and slunk towards the door, flinging over his shoulder such a glance of hate and fear as I had never seen before. I swear he bared his teeth and snarled.
         ‘Brother Mortimer,’ said Taverner, ‘the dog returns to its kennel tonight.’

         ‘Let us go to one of the upstairs windows and see that he really takes himself off,’ went on Taverner.
         From our vantage point we could see our late visitor making his way along the sandy road that led to Thursley. To my surprise, however, instead of keeping straight on, he tumed and looked back.
         ‘Is he going to return?’ I said in surprise.
         ‘I don't think so,’ said Taverner. ‘Now watch; something is going to happen.’
         Again Mortimer stopped and looked around, as if in surprise. Then he began to fight. Whatever it was that attacked him evidently leapt up, for he beat it away from his chest; then it circled round him, for he turned slowly so as to face it. Yard by yard he worked his way down the road, and was swallowed up in the gathering dusk.
         ‘The hound is following its master home,’ said Taverner.

         We heard next morning that the body of a strange man had been found near Bramshott. It was thought he had died of heart failure, for there were no marks of violence on his body.

         ‘Six miles!’ said Taverner. ‘He ran well!’

    From THE DEATH HOUND by Dione Fortune ()

    (ed note: The planet Khatka was settled three hundred years ago by desperate refugees escaping from the Second Atomic War. They decivilized, but gradually managed to recover to space-flight technology before being contacted by the Terran Scout Service. However, they retain the hereditary familiy of witch-doctors, who possess magic that actually works.

    Chief witch-doctor Lumbrilo is making a power-play, to become not only chief witch-doctor but also the political ruler of the planet. As far as he is concerned, separation of church and state is for losers. He is systematically using magic to assassinate all those who stand in his way. Yep, you guessed it. He telepathically inflicts the victims with hallucinations of deadly beasts, with the victim dying from the illusions.

    The current leader is Chief Ranger Asaki. To counter the threat of Lumbrilo, he contacts his old friend the free-trader Captain Jellico. Specfically to request the aid of free-trader Medic Craig Tau. It turns out that Tau has a hobby of studying what the natives call "magic" on the myriad worlds the traders have visited.)

         He (Asaki) hesitated and then spoke to Tau. "Medic, Captain Jellico has informed me that you have made a study of magic on many worlds."
         "That is so, sir."
         "Do you then believe that it is real force, or that it is only a superstition for child-people who set up demons to howl petitions to when some darkness falls upon them?"
         "Some of the magic I have seen is trickery, some of it founded upon an inner knowledge of men and their ways which a shrewd witch doctor can use to his advantage (psychological tricks). There always remains"—Tau put down his mug, "—there always remains a small residue of happenings and results for which we have not yet found any logical explanations—"
         "And I believe," Asaki interrupted, "it is also true that a race can be conditioned from birth to be sensitive to forms of magic so that men of that blood are particularly susceptible." That was more of a statement than a question, but Tau answered it.
         "That is very true. A Lamorian, for example, can be 'sung' to death. I have witnessed such a case. But upon a Terran or another off-world man the same suggestion would have no effect."
         "Those who settled Khatka brought such magic with them." The Chief Ranger's fingers still moved about (the cat) Sindbad's jaw and throat soothingly, but his tone was chill, the coldest thing in the cramped space of the mess cabin.
         "Yes, a highly developed form of it," Tau agreed.

         "More highly developed perhaps than even you can believe, Medic!" That came in a hiss of cold rage. "I think that its present manifestation—death by a beast that is not a beast—could be worth your detailed study."
         "Why?" Tau came bluntly to the point.
         "Because it is a killing magic and it is being carefully used to rid my world of key men, men we need badly. If there is a weak point in this cloudy attack shaping against us, we must learn it, and soon!"

    (ed note: the witch doctor uses telepathy to give the victim a hallucination of a ferocious beast. The beast chases the victim until the victim dies of fright or exhaustion)

    (ed note: In an unexplored swamp, where they had crash-landed due to the evil witch doctor Lumbrilo's sabotage, our heroes find a hidden camp of off-world smugglers in cahoots with the witch doctor. Lumbrilo had been trying to kill them with telepathic magic, but Tau and the rest are planning to turn the tables.)

         Tau spoke up (to Asaki), “Give me leave to flush out our other quarry (other than the smugglers), sir. I believe I can keep him (Lumbrilo) occupied. Dane, you’ll take the drum.”
         “Drum?” With his mind on blasters, it was startling to be offered a noise-maker.
         “It’s your business to get that drum. And when you get it I want you to beat out ‘Terra Bound.’ You certainly can play that, can’t you?”
         “I don’t understand,” Dane began and then swallowed the rest of his protest, knowing that Tau was not going to explain why he needed to have the hackneyed popular song of the spaceways played in a Khatkan swamp. As a Free Trader he had had quite a few odd jobs handed him during the past couple of years, but this was the first time he had been ordered to serve as a musician.

    (ed note: Asaki, his fellow ranger, and Captain Jellico will capture the smugglers. Medic Tau will deal with Lumbrilo)

         There was a wailing cry from the north, a howl of witless fear. The singers stopped in mid-note, the drummer paused, his hand uplifted. Dane darted forward in a plunge which carried him to that man. The Khatkan did not have time to rise from his knees as the barrel of the fire rod struck his head, sending him spinning. Then the drum was cradled in the spaceman’s arm, close to his chest, his weapon aimed across it at the startled natives.
         The crackle of blaster fire, the shrill whine of needlers in action, raised a bedlam from the other end of the camp. Backing up a little, Dane went down on one knee, his weapon ready to sweep over the bewildered natives, the drum resting on the earth against his body. Keeping the fire rod steady, his left hand went to work, not in the muted cadence the Khatkan drummer had chosen, but in hard and vigorous thumps which rolled across the clamor of the fight. There was no forgetting the beat of “Terra Bound” and he delivered it with force, so that the familiar da-dah-da-da droned loud enough to awaken the whole camp.
         Dane’s move appeared to completely baffle the Khatkan outlaws. They stared at him, the whites of their eyes doubly noticeable in their dark faces, their mouths a little agape. As usual the unexpected had driven them off guard. He dared not look away from that gathering to see how the fight at the other end of the camp was progressing. But he did see Tau’s advance.

         The medic came into the light of the fire, not with his ordinary loose-limbed spaceman’s stride, but mincingly, with a dancing step, and he was singing to the drum beat of “Terra Bound.” Dane could not understand the words, but he knew that they patterned in and out of the drum beats, weaving a net between singer and listeners as Lumbrilo had woven his net on the mountain terrace.
         Tau had them! Had every one of the native outlaws ensnared, so that Dane rested his weapon across his knee and took up the lower beat with the fingers of his right hand as well.
         Da-dah-da-da … The innocuous repetitive refrain of the original song which had been repeating itself in his mind faded, and somehow he caught the menace in the new words Tau was mouthing.
         Twice the medic shuffled about a circle of his own making. Then he stooped, took a hunting knife from the belt of the nearest Khatkan and held it point out toward the dark east. Dane would not have believed the medic knew the drill he now displayed, for with no opponent save the dancing firelight he fought a knife duel, feinting, striking, twisting, retreating, attacking, all in time to the beat of the drum Dane was no longer conscious of playing. And as he strove it was very easy to picture another fighting against him. So that when the knife came up in a vicious thrust which was the finish of his last attack, Dane stared stupidly at the ground, half expecting to see a body lying there. Once more Tau ceremoniously saluted with his blade to the east. Then he laid it on the ground and stood astride its gleaming length.
         “Lumbrilo!” His confident voice arose above the call of the drum. “Lumbrilo — I am waiting.”

         VAGUELY AWARE that the clamor at the other end of the camp had died away, Dane muted the sound of his drum. Over its round top he could watch the Khatkan outlaws; their heads bobbed and swayed in time to the beat of his fingers. He, too, could feel the pull of Tau’s voice. But what would come in answer? That shadowy thing which had been loosed to drive them here? Or the man himself?
         To Dane, the ruddy light of the fire dimmed, yet there was no actual dying of those flames which coiled and thrust around the wood. And the acrid scent of burning was thick. How much of what followed was real, how much the product of his tense nerves, Dane was never afterwards able to tell. In fact, whether all the witnesses there saw the same sights could be questioned. Did each man, Khatkan and off-worlder, see only what his particular set of emotions and memories dictated?
         Something swept in from the east, something which was not as tangible as the creature born of swamp mist. Rather it came as an unseen menace to the fire, and all that fire signifies to human kind — security, comradeship, a weapon against the age-old forces of the dangerous night. Was that threat, too, only in their minds? Or had Lumbrilo some power to so shape his hatred?
         The unseen was cold; it sapped a man’s strength, bit at his brain, weighted his hands and feet, weakened him. It strove to soften him into clay another could remold. Nothingness, darkness, all that was opposed to life and warmth and reality, arose in the night, gathered together against them.
         Yet still Tau fronted that invisible wave, his head high. And between his sturdily planted feet the knife gleamed bright with a radiance of its own.
         “Ahhh — ” Tau’s voice curled out, to pierce that creeping menace. Then he was singing again, the cadence of his unknown words rising a little above the pattern wrought by the drum.
         Dane forced his heavy hands to continue the beat, his wrists to rise and fall in defiance of that which crept to eat their strength and make them less then men.
         “Lumbrilo! I, Tau, of another star, another sky, another world, bid you come forth and range your power against mine!” Now there was a sharper note in that demand, the snap of an order.
         He was answered by another wave of the black negation — stronger, rolling up to smash them down, as a wave in the heavy surf of a wild ocean pounds its force against the beach. This time Dane thought he could see that dark mass. He tore his eyes away before it took on substance, concentrating on the movements of his hands against the drum head, refusing to believe that hammer of power was rising to flatten them all. He had heard Tau describe such things in the past. But told in familiar quarters on board the Queen, such experiences were only stories. Here was danger unleashed. Yet the medic stood unbowed as the wave broke upon him in full.
         And, advancing under the crest of that lick of destruction, came its controller. This was no ghost drawn from the materials of the swamp; this was a man, walking quietly, his hands as empty as Tau’s, yet grasping weapons none of them could see.

         In the firelight, as the wave receded sullenly, men moaned, lay face down upon the ground, beat their hands feebly against the earth. But, as Lumbrilo came on from the shadows, one of them got to his hands and knees, moving with small tortured jerks. He crawled toward Tau, his head lolling on his shoulders as the head of the dead rock ape had done. Dane patted the drum with one hand while, with the other, he groped for his fire ray. He tried to shout in warning and found that he could not utter a sound.
         Tau’s arm moved, raised from his side, made a circling motion.
         The creeping man, his eyes rolled up in his head until only the whites gleamed blindly in the limited light, followed that gesture. He drew level with the medic, passed beyond toward Lumbrilo, whining as a hound prevented from obeying his master might lament.
         “So be it, Lumbrilo,” Tau said. “This is between you and me. Or do you not dare to risk your power against mine? Is Lumbrilo so weak a one that he must send another to do his will?”
         Raising both hands again the medic brought them down, curling inward, until he stooped and touched them to the ground. When he straightened once again the knife was in his grasp and he tossed it behind him.

         The smoke from the fire swirled out in a long tongue, coiled about Lumbrilo and was gone. A black and white beast stood where the man had been, its tufted tail lashing, its muzzle a mask of snarling hate and blood lust.
         But Tau met that transformation with laughter which was like the lash of a whip.
         “We both be men, you and I, Lumbrilo. Meet me as a man and keep those trickeries for those who have not the clear sight. A child plays as a child, so — ” Tau’s voice came in a rumble, but Tau was gone. The huge, hairy thing which swayed in his place turned a gorilla’s beast visage to his enemy. For a breathless moment Terran ape confronted Khatkan lion. Then the spaceman was himself again.” The time for games is over, man of Khatka. You have tried to hunt us to our deaths, have you not? Therefore death shall be the portion of the loser now.”

         Lion vanished, man stood watching, alertly, as swordsman might face swordsman with a blood feud lying on their blades. To Dane’s eyes the Khatkan made no move. Yet the fire leaped high, as if freshly fed, and flames burst from the wood, flew into the air, red and perilous birds, darting at Tau until they outlined him from the ground under his boots to an arch over his head. They united and spun faster until Dane, watching with dazzled eyes, saw the wheel become a blur of light, hiding Tau within its fiery core. His own wrists ached with the strain of his drumming as he lifted one hand and tried to shield his sight from the glare of that pillar of fire. Lumbrilo was chanting — a heavy blatt of words. Dane stiffened; his traitorous hands were falling into the rhythm of that other song! Straightaway he raised both from the drum head, brought them down in a discordinate series of thumps which bore no relation to either the song Tau wanted or that which Lumbrilo was now crooning. Thump — thump — thump — Dane beat it out frantically, belaboring the drum head as he wanted to sink his fists home on the body of the Khatkan witch doctor.
         The pillar of fire swayed, fluttered as if a wind drove it — and was gone. Tau, unmarked, smiled.
         “Fire!” He pointed his fingers at Lumbrilo. “Would you try earth, and water, and air also, wizard? Call hither your whirlwind, up your flood, summon the land to quake. None of those shall bring me down!”

         Shapes came flooding out of the night, some monstrous, some human, streaming past Lumbrilo to crowd into the circle of firelight. Some Dane thought he knew, some were strangers. Men wearing space uniforms, or the dress of other worlds, women — they strode, wept, mingled with the monsters to laugh, curse, threaten.
         Dane guessed that Lumbrilo sent now against the Terran the (telepathically) harvest of the medic’s own memories. He shut his eyes against this enforced intrusion upon another’s past, but not before he saw Tau’s face, strained, fined to the well-shaped bones beneath the thin flesh, holding still a twisted smile as he met each memory, accepted the pain it held for him, and set it aside unshaken.
         “This, too, has no power any longer, man who walks in the dark.”
         Dane opened his eyes. Those crowding wraiths were fading, losing substance. Lumbrilo crouched, his lips drawn back from his teeth, his hatred plain to read.

         “I am not clay to be molded by your hands, Lumbrilo. And now I say that the time has come to call an end — “
         Tau raised his hands slowly once again, holding them away from his body, palms pointing earthward. And beneath them, on either side of the spaceman, two black shadows gathered on the surface of the ground.
         “You have fettered yourself with your own bounds. As you have been the hunter, so shall you now be the hunted.”
         Those shadows were growing as plants might issue from the packed soil of the camping ground. When his hands were shoulder high, Tau held them steady. Now on either side of his tautly held body crouched one of the black-and-white lions with which Lumbrilo had identified his own brand of magic throughout the year.
         Lumbrilo’s “lion” had been larger than life, more intelligent, more dangerous, subtly different from the normal animal it counterfeited. So now were these. And both of them raised their heads to gaze intently into the medic’s face.
         “Hunt well, brothers in fur,” he said slowly, almost caressingly. “Him whom you hunt shall grant you sport in the going.”

         “Stop it!” A man leaped from the shadows behind the witch doctor. Firelight made plain his off-world dress, and he swung up a blaster, aiming at the nearest of the waiting beasts. That flash struck true, but it neither killed nor even singed the fine fur of the animal’s pelt.
         As the blaster’s aim was swung from beast to man, Dane fired first. His ray brought a scream from the other, who dropped his weapon from a badly seared hand to reel back, cursing.

         Tau waved his hands gently. The great animal heads turned obediently, until the red eyes were set on Lumbrilo. Facing them, the witch doctor straightened, spat out his hate at the medic:
         “I do not run to be hunted, devil man!”
         “I think you do, Lumbrilo. For you must taste fear now as you have made other men drink of it, so that it fills your blood and races through your body, clouds your mind to make of you less than a man. You have hunted out those who doubted your power, who stood in your chosen path, whom you wanted removed from the earth of Khatka. Do you doubt that they wait in the last dark for you now, ready to greet you, witch doctor? What they have known, you shall also know. This night you have shown me all that lies in my past that is weak, that was evil, that I may regret or find sorrow for. So shall you also remember through the few hours left you. Aye, you shall run, Lumbrilo!”
         As he spoke, Tau approached the other, the two black-and-white hunters pacing beside him. Now he stooped and caught up a pinch of soil and spat upon it three times. Then he threw the tiny clod of earth at the witch doctor. It struck Lumbrilo just above the heart and the man reeled under what might have been a murderous blow.
         The Khatkan broke then, completely. With a wailing cry he whirled and ran, crashing into the brush as one who runs blindly and without hope. Behind him the two beasts leaped noiselessly together and all three were gone.

         Tau swayed, put his hand to his head. Dane kicked away the drum, arose from his cramped position stiffly to go to him. But the medic was not yet done. He returned to stand over the prostrate native hunters and he clapped his hands sharply.
         “You are men, and you shall act as men henceforth. That which was, is no longer. Stand free, for the dark power follows him who misused it, and fear no longer eats from your basins, drinks from your cups, or lies beside you on the sleep mats.”
         “Tau!” Jellico’s shout reached them over the cries of the rousing Khatkans. But Dane was there first, catching the medic before he slumped to the ground; but he was dragged with that dead weight until he sat with the medic’s head on his shoulder, the other’s body resting heavily against him. For one horror-filled moment Dane feared that he did indeed hold a dead man, that one of the outlaw Hunters must have struck a last blow for his discredited leader. Then Tau sighed and began to breathe deeply. Dane glanced up, amazed, at the captain.
         “He’s asleep!”

         Two days later they stood once more on the same terrace where Lumbrilo had wrought his magic and met his first defeat. This time no lightning played along the mountain ridges and the blaze of the sun was so bright and clear that one could hardly believe in the fantastic happenings of that swamp clearing where men had fought with weapons not made by hands. The three from the Queen moved away from the parapet to meet the Chief Ranger as he came down the stairs.

         “A messenger has just arrived. The hunter was hunted indeed, and his going was witnessed by many — though they did not see those which hunted him. Lumbrilo is dead; he came to his end by the Great River.”
         Jellico started. “But that is almost fifty miles from the swamp, on this side of the mountain!”

         “He was hunted and he fled — as you promised,” Asaki said to Tau. “You made strong magic, off-world man.”
         The medic shook his head slowly. “I but turned his own methods against him. Because he believed in his power, that same power, reflected back, broke him. Had I been facing one who did not believe … ” He shrugged. “Our first meeting set the pattern. From that moment he feared a little that I could match him, and his uncertainty pierced a hole in his armor.”
         “Why on earth did you want ‘Terra Bound?’” burst out Dane, still seeking an explanation for that one small mystery among the others.
         Tau chuckled. “In the first place, that blasted tune has haunted us all for so long that I knew its rhythm was probably the one you could keep to without hardly knowing that you were beating it out. And, in the second place, its alien pattern was a part of our particular background, to counteract Lumbrilo’s native Khatkan music, which was certainly a big factor in his stage setting. He must have believed that we would not find out about the drugged water and so would be prepared for any fantasy he cared to produce. When they saw us coming out over the swamp they counted us easy takings. His practice had always been with Khatkans, and he judged us by their reactions to stimuli he knew well how to use. So he failed … “

    (VOODOO PLANET is available free from Project Gutenberg)

    From VOODOO PLANET by Andre Norton (1959)

    Astral Projection

    As previously mentioned, astral projection in its basic form appears to the psi that they have left their physical body and are inhabiting an immaterial ghostlike replica of their body. They can then travel to remote locations and spy on people, while their physical body lies in a trance. Often there is a thin silvery umbilical-like cord connecting the ghost body to the physical body. The astral body may or may not have astral clothing, depending upon the psychological hang-ups of the psi. Normal people cannot see the ghostly astral body, some types of psi powers allow adepts to see or sense an astral body wandering around in the vicinity.

    Mental projection is the same thing, except the psi has no ghostly body. They feel like they are just a disembodied point of perception. This is commonly less exhausting than astral projection, perhaps because the psi is not wasting energy making an unnecessary mental illusion of a body. Again, certain psi powers allow adepts to be able to sense the presence of the disembodied point of perception, and know they are being spied upon.

    This is common enough in TV and movies that there is a TV Tropes page on the topic.

    People who try and think about things too hard often conclude that astral projection is actually the psi using one or more of the Clarisenses, accompanied with a hallucination of an astral body. But does it really matter? As Mr. Spock says "A difference that makes no difference IS no difference".

    Generally the astral body or whatever can penetrate doors and walls with little or no problem. Sometimes they have problems penetrating magnetic fields or psi powers used to make the equivalent of defensive force fields. Often other adepts object to a psi astral projecting into the adept's room like a psionic peeping-tom or occult spy. They will use such psi force fields to keep out unwanted observers.

    According to some occult traditions, astral projection can be used to trade bodies. This has many applications. An example can be found in Dion Fortune's The Subletting of the Mansion.

    • If a psi is projecting, but does not put some sort of psi protection around their entranced physical body, they run a terrible risk. An evil psi can project their astral form and enter the unprotected body. The evil psi for all intents and purposes is now incarnated in the careless psi's body, and the rightful owner is shut out.
    • Or, instead of an evil psi, it could be an intelligent pattern of psi energy, i.e., a demon. Thus "demonic possession".
    • Sometimes the body's rightful owner can return and expel the interloper. Sometimes the evil body thief can "cut the sliver cord", turning the rightful owner from an astral projecting person into a "dead person" or "ghost." The evil body thief then gains permanent possession.
    • Sometimes a psi is unaware they have any psi powers. They just unconsciously astral project while sleeping, floating a meter or two above their sleeping body. They too could be vulnerable to an evil psi or demon looking for a body to steal.
    • An evil psi or demon could temporarily take possession of person's body in order to cause that person some trouble. The evil psi could use the body to commit a crime or otherwise make it perform acts that will get the proper owner into hot water when they regain possession. The proper owner can only say "the devil made me do it!"
    • An evil psi could use this technique to obtain immortality on the installment plan. When their current body is old and decrepit, the evil psi can try and find some vital young body and steal it.

    Usually the astral body cannot move or influence any real world solid object. Occasionally the psi can use their power of telekinesis while in astral form, Sam Wheat learns how to do this in the movie Ghost, he was taught by a violent poltergeist haunting the subway.

    Astral projection is also useful for scouting or navigating primitive seagoing vessels if you have no maps and navigational gear. If a group of ancient Polynesian explorers were in an outrigger canoe looking for a new island, they would welcome a shaman who could astral project. The shaman could gain some altitude and survey the ocean to spot possible destinations. I suppose this could work with starships as well.

    Besides travelling to locations on Terra, Psis can astral project to other mystical dimensions called the "astral plane." These planes are where a shaman goes to meet their tribe's deities. From descriptions they sound like places you'll see in old Steve Ditko "Doctor Strange" comic books.

    In some traditions, the closest level of the astral plane to mundane reality is sort of a "blueprint" of the real world. It looks just like the current real world, except the objects look all dreamlike, ethereal, and glowy. As objects change in the real world, the astral plane blueprint automatically updates itself to match reality.

    The implication is a psi projecting into the astral plane can alter the astral blueprint, and reality will automatically update itself to match the blueprint. Sort of like casting a magic spell, as it were. This will take a bit of psionic energy because the astral blueprint wants to match reality. And the more improbable the alteration, the more energy will be needed to cause it.

    Say that in the real world, on the bookshelf there is a copy of the collected works of Arthur C. Clarke. Floyd astral projects and moves the glowing astral version of Clarke's book from the glowing astral bookshelf to the glowing astral kitchen table. Floyd has to expend lots of psionic energy to overcome the astral inertia. Back in the real world, things no longer match the astral blueprint. Stresses will be set up. The stress will only be resolved when the book somehow is transported to the kitchen table, thus matching the astral blueprint. Understand that the book will be transported by mundane means. For example, the dog might take a liking to the book, grab it in its mouth, run to the kitchen when it hears its dog dish being filled, the cook may grab the book away from the dog and absent-mindedly place it on the kitchen table. All by mundane means, but magically the real world has altered itself to match the astral blueprint.

    This probably sounds boring, but in Jack Williamson's classic DARKER THAN YOU THINK, powerful psis use the same technique to kill their victims. One of the reasons that Williamson is called "Dean of Science Fiction" is he managed to plausibly include probability.


    (ed note: in the novel there exists an ancient race of powerful psis who can astral project into a spirit form, alter the form into a horrific monster, and kill people. This is the basis for the legends of werewolves. The race terrorized humanity for a few thousand years but was hunted to near extinction back in cave man times when humans invented ways to fight back. Things like domesticating dogs who could see invisible astral monsters, silver weapons, and other innovations.

    Now, 15,000 years later, the werewolves think it is time to make a come-back. Protagonist Barbee is befriended by a mysterious woman named April Bell. She's a werewolf. As it turns out, so is Barbee.

    Some archeologists have discovered the secret history of the werewolfs and are alarmed. They also discovered a 15,000 year old secret weapon that can defeat the werewolfs. Sadly for the archeologists, the werewolves know this as well, and are desperate to kill the archeologists before the secret gets out.

          A being born a little different, he preferred to phrase it. He remembered reading something about the Rhine experiments, at Duke University. Some people, those sober scientists had proved, perceived the world with something beyond the ordinary physical senses. Some people, they had demonstrated, displayed a direct control over probability, without the use of any physical agency. Some did, some didn't. Had April Bell been born with that same difference, manifest in a more extreme degree?
         Probability—he recalled a classroom digression of Mondrick's on that word, back in Anthropology 413. Probability, the bright-eyed old scholar said, was the key concept of modern physics. The laws of nature, he insisted, were not absolute, but merely established statistical averages. The paper weight on his desk—it was an odd little terra-cotta lamp which he must have dug out of some Roman ruin, the black-glazed relief on the circular top of it showing the she-wolf suckling the founders of Rome—the lamp was supported, Mondrick said, only by the chance collisions of vibrating atoms. At any instant, there was a slight but definite probability that it might fall through the seemingly solid desk.
         And the modern physicists, Barbee knew, interpreted the whole universe in terms of probability. The stability of atoms was a matter of probability—and the instability, in the atomic bomb. The direct mental control of probability would surely open terrifying avenues of power—and the Rhine experiments had seemingly established that control. Had April Bell, he wondered uneasily, just been born with a unique and dangerous mental power to govern the operation of probability?
         Unlikely, he told himself. But nothing at all, old Mondrick himself had insisted, was completely impossible in this statistical universe. The remotest impossibility became merely remotely improbable. Barbee shrugged impatiently, and turned on the shower—the new physics, with its law of uncertainty and its denial of all the comfortable old concepts of matter and space and time, and its atom bombs, became suddenly as disquieting as the dark riddle of Mondrick's death.
         If April Bell were indeed a witch, his unwilling speculations ran on, there might very reasonably be others—more powerful and less charming to go dancing with. There might be other parapsychological experimenters, to phrase it differently, busy discovering their inborn gifts and developing scientific techniques for the mental control of probability. If so, they might be organized, preparing for the time to test their power, awaiting the appearance of an expected leader—the Child of Night—to lead their Saturnalian rebellion.
         And April Bell was calling to him. 
         Her voice came clearly to him, above all the subdued murmur of traffic noises. It was a ringing golden chime, more penetrating than the occasional beep of a driver's horn or the far clamor of a streetcar. It shimmered out of the dark, in waves of pure light as green as her malachite eyes. Then he thought he could see her, somehow, far across the slumberous town.
         Only she wasn't a woman.
         Her urgent velvet voice was human, still. Her long dark eyes were unchanged, with that same exotic hint of a slant. Her white-wolf coat was evidently part of her, now. For she had become a white she-wolf, sleek and wary and powerful. Her clear woman-voice called to him, distinct in the dark:
         "Come, Barbee. I need you."
         He was aware of the cracked, dingy plaster of his narrow bedroom, of the steady tick of his alarm clock and the comfortable hardness of the mattress beneath him and the sulphurous odor of the mills that came through his open window. Surely he wasn't actually asleep, yet that calling voice was so real that he tried to answer.
         "Hello, April," he murmured drowsily. "I'll really call you tomorrow. Maybe we can go dancing again."
         Strangely, the she-wolf seemed to hear. "I need you now, Barbee," her clear voice replied. "Because we've a job to do together—something that can't wait. You must come out to me, right away. I'll show you how to change."
         "Change?" he muttered heavily. "I don't want to change."
         "You will," she said. "I believe you have my lost heirloom—that white jade pin?"
         "I have it," he whispered.
         "Then take it in your hand."
         In a numbed, groping, sleep-drugged way, Barbee thought he got up and went to the chiffonier and fumbled in that box of odds and ends for the tiny jade pin. Dimly, he wondered how she knew he had it. He carried it back, and sprawled heavily on the bed again.
         "Now, Will!" Her vibrant voice called across the shadowy void between them. "Listen, and I'll tell you what to do. You must change, as I have changed. It should be easy for you, Will. You can run as the wolf runs, trail as the wolf trails, kill as the wolf kills!"
         She seemed nearer, in the misty dark.
         "Just let go," she urged. "I'll help you, Will. You are a wolf, and your pattern is the jade pin in your hand. Just turn loose, and let your body flow—"
         He wondered dimly how the mental control of probability could mold a man into the four-footed kind of wolf she clearly meant, but his brain seemed too numb and slow for thought. He clutched the pin, and made a groping effort to obey. There was a curious, painful flux of his body—as if he had twisted into positions never assumed, had called on muscles never used. Sudden pain smothered him in darkness.
         "Keep trying, Will." Her urgent voice stabbed through that choking blackness. "If you give up now, halfway changed, it may kill you. But you can do it. Just let me help, till you break free. Just let go, and follow the pattern, and let your body change. That's it—you're flowing—"
         And suddenly he was free.
         Those painful bonds, that he had worn a whole lifetime, were abruptly snapped. He sprang lightly off the bed, and stood a moment sniffing the odors that clotted the air in the little apartment— the burning reek of whisky from that empty glass on the chiffonier, the soapy dampness of the bathroom and the stale, sweaty pungence of his soiled laundry in the hamper. The place was too close; he wanted fresh air.
         He trotted quickly to the open window, and scratched impatiently at the catch on the screen. It yielded, after a moment, and he dropped to the damp, hard earth of Mrs. Sadowski's abandoned flower bed. He shook himself, gratefully sniffing the clean smell of that tiny bit of soil, and crossed the sidewalk into the heavy reek of burned oil and hot rubber that rose up from the pavement. He listened again for the white she-wolf's call, and ran fleetly down the street.
         No longer was he imprisoned, as he had always been, in that slow, clumsy, insensitive bipedal body. His old human form seemed utterly foreign to him now, and somehow monstrous. Surely four nimble feet were better than two, and a smothering cloak had been lifted from his senses.
         Free, and swift, and strong!

         "We must hurry now—the night is already too far gone."
         Barbee tried to forget that little Pat would cry.
         "The daylight?" he asked apprehensively. "Is it dangerous?"
         The white wolf turned back quickly.
         "I had forgotten to warn you," she whispered urgently.
         "But you must never try to change by day—or let the dawn find you changed. Because any strong light is painful and likely to be injurious, when we are changed; and the sun's rays are deadly."
         "Why?" he asked uneasily. "How can light be harmful?"
         "I used to wonder," she told him. "I talked about it once, to one of us who has quite a name in physics. He told me his theory. It sounds good—but we'd better look for that box."

         "So Quain's asleep!" A taut elation rang in her tone. "Quite exhausted, I imagine. It's lucky you got that nasty little cur outside—he must have counted on it to wake him, if we came (werewolves are invisible to human eyes, but dogs can easily see them. That's why dogs were originally domesticated. Archeologist Quain discovered this, and had a watchdog outside to warn him). Now for the green box—I think it's in his study."
         "I'll look for Sam's keys," he offered. "He must have them in his trousers—"
         "Wait, idiot!" He had started toward the bedroom; the she-wolf's fangs caught the scruff of his neck to stop him.
         "You'll wake him—or trip some trap. His keys are probably protected with a silver ring, that it would poison us to touch. The padlock on that box is silver-plated, I saw. And I don't know what other weapons Quain has lying by his hand—deadly relics they dug up, of that old war our people lost. But we don't need the keys."
         Barbee blinked at the locked study door, bewildered.
         "Stand still," she whispered. "I see I must tell you a little more of the theory of this change of state—if Quain stays asleep. Ours is a precious and useful power, but it has its limitations and penalties attached. If you fail to regard them, you can very easily destroy yourself—" (that's the cue for a large indigestible info-dump)
         "Why don't we need the keys?"
         "I'll show you," the white wolf said. "But first I'm going to explain a little of the theory of our free state—to keep you from killing yourself. You must understand the dangers—"
         "Silver?" he said. "And daylight?"
         "The theory joins it all together," the wolf told him. "I don't know physics enough to explain all the technical ramifications, but my friend made the main point seem simple enough. The link between mind and matter, he says, is probability."
         Barbee started a little, remembering old Mondrick's lecture.
         "Living things are more than matter alone," she continued. "The mind is an independent something—an energy-complex, he called it—created by the vibrating atoms and electrons of the body, and yet controlling their vibrations through the linkage of atomic probability—my friend used more technical language, but that's the idea of it.
         "That web of living energy is fed by the body; it's part of the body—usually. My friend is a pretty conservative scientist, and he wouldn't say whether he thinks it's really a soul, able to survive long after the body is dead. He says you can't prove anything about that."
         Her greenish eyes smiled secretly, as if she knew more than she said.
         "But that vital pattern, in us, is stronger than in true men—his experiments did prove that. More fluid, and less dependent on the material body. In this free state, he says, we simply separate that living web from the body, and use the probability link to attach it to other atoms, wherever we please—the atoms of the air are easiest to control, he says, because the oxygen and nitrogen and carbon are the same atoms that establish the linkage in our bodies.
         "And that explains the dangers."
         "Silver?" Barbee said. "And light? I don't quite see—"
         "The vibrations of light can damage or destroy that mental web," she told him. "They interfere with its own vibration. The mass of the body protects it, of course, when we are in the normal state. But the transparent air, when we are free, gives no shelter at all. Never let the daylight find you free!"
         "I won't." Barbee shivered. "But how does silver harm us?"
         "Vibration, again," the white wolf whispered. "No common matter is any real barrier to us, in this free state. That's why we don't need Quain's keys. Doors and walls still seem real enough, I know—but wood is mostly oxygen and carbon, and our mind-webs can grasp the vibrating atoms and slip through them, nearly as easily as through the air. Many other substances we can possess for our vehicles, with a little more effort and difficulty. Silver is the deadly exception—as our enemies know."
         Yet he scarcely listened, for something made him think of blind Rowena Mondrick, with her heavy silver rings and bracelets, her quaint old silver brooches and her silver beads, and the silver-studded collar she kept on her great tawny dog. Something lifted the gray shaggy fur along his spine, and something made him shudder.
         "Different elements have different atomic numbers and different periods of electronic vibration," the white wolf was saying. "My friend explained it all, but I don't remember the terms. Anyhow, silver has the wrong vibration. There is no probability linkage. We can't claim silver, to make it a path or a tool for our free minds. Instead, the electronic vibrations of silver clash with ours; they can shatter the free pattern. So silver's poison, Will. Silver weapons can kill us—don't forget!"
         She trotted back to the study door. "Now you understand," she whispered, "and I can help you pass. My friend taught me how to smooth the random vibrations from the heavier elements in the wood and the paint, that otherwise would be something of a barrier."
         Her greenish eyes fixed intently on the lower panels of the door—and Barbee remembered old Mondrick's lecture on probability. All matter was mostly empty space, he said; only the random collisions of vibrating atoms kept the little black lamp from falling through the seemingly substantial desk. Nothing in the universe was absolute; only probabilities were real. And the mind-web, according to this theory of April's unknown friend, governed probability.
         "Wait," the she-wolf whispered. "Follow me."
         Before her greenish stare, the bottom half of the study door melted into misty unreality. For an instant Barbee could see the dark screws that held the hinges, and all the mechanism of the lock, as if in an X-ray view. Then the metal faded also, and the slender wolf glided silently through the door.
         Uneasily, Barbee followed. He thought he felt a slight resistance, where the wooden panels were. He felt as if something brushed his gray fur lightly, as he stepped carefully through. He stopped inside, with a stifled growl. The white wolf cowered back against his shoulder.
         For something in that room was—deadly.
         He stood sniffing for the danger. The close air was thick with odors of paper and dried ink and decaying glue from the books on the shelves, strong with the mothball-reek from a closet, perfumed with the fragrant tobacco in the humidor on Sam's desk. It was musky with the lingering scent of a mouse that once had dwelt behind the books. But the queer powerful malodor that frightened him, came from the battered, iron-strapped wooden chest on the floor beside the desk.
         It was a piercing, musty reek, as if of something that had moldered for a very long time underground. It was alarming in a way he couldn't understand—though it reminded him of that undefinable evil scent about the Foundation tower. The white wolf stood taut beside him, frozen in her snarl, with hatred and stunned fear in her eyes.
         "It's there in that box," she whispered faintly. "The thing old Mondrick dug from the graves of our race in the Ala-shan—the weapon that destroyed our people once, and Quain plans to use again. We must dispose of it—somehow—tonight."
         "The thing in that box must be deadlier than dogs, or light, or even silver—our people could have dealt with all of them. We must get rid of it—or else our kind must die again."
         Crouching, white fur bristled, she moved toward the massive coffer. Unwillingly, sick with that unknown fetor, Barbee followed her. That lethal reek seared his nostrils. He swayed, shivering to an insidious chill.
         "Padlocked!" he gasped. "Sam must have expected—"
         Then he saw the narrowed eyes of the crouching wolf fixed upon the carved side of the green-painted chest, and he remembered her control of atomic probability. The wooden planks turned misty, revealing all the iron screws that fastened them. The screws dissolved, and the wide iron bands, and the heavy hasp. The white wolf growled, quivering to a cold ferocity.
         "Silver!" she gasped, cowering back against him.
         For inside the vanished wood was a lining, of hammered white metal, which refused to dissolve. The atoms of silver had no linkage with the web of mind. The reeking contents of the chest were still concealed.
         "Your old friends are clever, Barbee!" White fangs flashed through the she-wolf's snarl. "I knew the box was heavy, but I didn't guess it had a silver lining. Now, I suppose, we must look for the keys and try the padlock. If that fails, we must attempt to burn the house."
         "No!" Barbee shuddered. "Not while they're all asleep!"
         "Your poor Nora!" The white wolf mocked him. "Why did you let Sam take her?" Her red grin turned grave. "But fire is the last resort," she told him, "because the vibrations are so deadly to us. First we must search for the keys."

    (ed note: Later April tells Barbee that there is another vital mission they have to do. Archeologist Rex Chittum is driving to a news conference to reveal the truth of the werewolves. He must be killed before he spills the beans. April transforms into a larger version of herself, without bothering with clothing. Barbee becomes a huge sabre-tooth tiger)

         "It must be twenty miles ahead," he wheezed. "The grades are steep—I'm afraid we can't get there."
         "The grades are steeper for your old friend's car," the urgent girl called back. "And there's a reason we must catch him on Sardis Hill—or let him go unharmed."
         "What reason?" he breathed.
         "We're never quite so powerful as we feel, in this free state," she whispered in the rushing wind. "Because our usual bodies are left behind, and our moving mind complexes can draw only upon the chance energies that they happen to grasp from the atoms of the air or other substances we possess, by the linkage of probability. All our power lies in that control of probability, and we must strike where it will serve."
         He shook his immense sleek head, impatient with the intricacies of her explanation. The involved paradoxes of mathematical physics had always baffled him; now he felt content with the saber-tooth's surging might, without troubling to analyze the atomic structure of its power.
         "What probability?" he said.
         "I think Rex Chittum is quite safe from us," whispered the girl on his back, "so long as he is driving carefully along a straight, level road—Quain must have briefed him and armed him against us, and the probability of any harm to him is too slight for us to grasp.
         "So go faster!" Her slim cool fingers clutched his tawny fur. "We must catch him on Sardis Hill, because the probability of his death will be far greater when he starts down that double curve—I've a sense for such things, and I can tell. The man's afraid. He'll drive too fast, in spite of all Quain told him."
         The girl lay flat upon his wide striped shoulders.
         "Faster!" she screamed on the screaming wind. "And we'll kill Rex Chittum on Sardis Hill!"
         He shuddered beneath her, and lay closer to the black road as he ran. The dark hills wheeled beside them, as if carried on two turning platforms. They passed the first pines; he caught the clean fragrance, and his eyes could see every needle and cone, distinct in the starlight. Beyond the pines, red tail lamps winked and disappeared again.
         "There!" the white girl called. "Catch him, Barbee!"
         He stretched himself again, and the dark hills flowed. His long muscles ached and his pads were bruised and his heaving lungs breathed raw pain, but he overtook the glaring red tail lamps that fled toward Sardis Hill. He came up behind the car, grinding up the last long grade toward the saddle of the pass.
         It was the little tan convertible, he saw, that Nora had bought while Sam was away. The top was down in spite of the chill of the night—it didn't work well, he remembered. Hunched over the wheel, bundled in a black overcoat, Rex Chittum looked scared and cold.
         "Good work, Barbee," the girl purred. "Just keep up, till he starts down the curve."
         He bounded on, obediently. Gears snarled ahead as the little car labored up the grade, and the air behind it was foul with hot rubber and half-burned gasoline. Rex Chittum turned once at the wheel, to peer back apprehensively. His dark head was carelessly bare—Barbee's eyes could see every curly hair, ruffled by the cold wind. For all the gray fatigue on his face and the black stubble on his chin and the shadow of dread in his narrowed eyes, he still looked handsome as another Li'l Abner.
         Barbee growled at the girl astride him. "Must we kill Rex?" he protested. "He always was such a good kid, really. We went to school together, you know. We neither had much money—Rex as always trying to lend me his last dollar, when he needed it more than I."
         "Run, Barbee," the girl murmured. "Keep up."
         He turned to snarl with deadly sabers. "Think of poor old Ben Chittum, at the newsstand," he growled softly. "Rex is all old Ben has left. He worked at all sorts of odd jobs and went dressed like a tramp, when they first came to Clarendon, to keep Rex in school. This will break his heart."
         "Keep running, Barbee." The white girl's voice was clear and sweet and limpidly pitiless. "We must do what we must, because we are what we are." Her cool fingers scratched his mighty shoulders. "To save our own kind, and defend the Child of Night."
         She flattened against his fur.
         "Run, Barbee!" she screamed. "Keep in reach—we'll have to stand the motor fumes. Wait now—stay just behind. Wait till he's on the hairpin—till he's going a little faster. Wait till the linkage of probability is strong enough to grasp—can't you feel it growing? Wait! Wait—"
         Her long body stiffened against him. Her cool fingers tightened in his shaggy fur, and her bare, clinging heels dug deep into his heaving flanks. She was sweet against him, and the clear logic of this new life conquered the dreary conventions of that old, dim existence where he had walked in bitter death.
         "Now," she screamed. "Spring!"
         Barbee sprang, but the little car drew away from him, speeding on the down grade. His reaching claws caught only asphalt and gravel, and the hot fumes choked him.
         "Catch him!" shrieked the girl. "While the link is strong enough!"
         The fever of the chase burned away his lingering compunctions. He spurned the road, and sprang again. His extended claws scratched and slipped on enameled metal, but he managed to catch the leather upholstery. His rear feet found the bumper. He clung to the lurching car, crouching.
         "Kill him!" screamed April Bell. "Before the linkage snaps!"
         Rex Chittum turned again, below him at the wheel, peering back with dark anxious eyes. He shuddered in his bulky coat, to the bitter wind or something else. He didn't seem to see the snarling saber-tooth. A brief, stiff smile lighted his haggard, stubbled face.
         "Made it." Barbee heard his thankful murmur. "Sam said the danger was—"
         "Now!" the girl whispered. "While his eyes are off the road—"
         Swiftly, mercifully, the long sabers flashed. Rex Chittum had been a loyal friend to him, in that dead, dim world behind, and Barbee didn't want to cause him pain. The linkage of probability was still a dry technical phrase to Barbee, but he could feel the warm yielding tissues of the human throat his sabers slashed. He forgot the words, tasting the hot salty sweet of spurting blood and giddy with its odor.
         The man's lifeless hands let go the wheel. The little car had been going too fast—somehow, Barbee sensed, that fact had intensified the link that let his long fangs strike home. Tires smoked on the pavement and danced on the gravel, and the car left the road where the hairpin bent.
         Barbee flung himself away from the plunging machine. He twisted in the air, and dropped cat-like on all four pads, clinging to the slope with his claws. The girl had lost her seat as the car lurched over beneath them. She came down on the loose rocks beside him, clinging to his fur with both frantic hands. He heard her gasp of pain, and then her awed whisper:
         "Watch, Barbee!"
         The hurtling car, the motor still drumming and wheels spinning against the empty air, seemed to fly almost above them. It turned three times in empty space, and first struck the long rockslide a hundred feet below them. It flattened and crumpled and rolled until finally a boulder stopped it. The red, torn thing half under it made no movement.
         "I thought the linkage would be strong enough," the tall girl purred. "And you needn't worry over your own part, Barbee—the police will never know that the broken windshield didn't slash his throat. Because, you see, the probability that it would was all that forged the linkage to enable your fangs to do it."

    (ed note: So on the astral plane, Barbee alters the astral blueprint by taking the form of a huge astral sabre-tooth tiger ripping out Rex's throat. On the physical plane that alteration is mundanely manifested as the broken windshield slashing Rex's throat. And the alteration is only possible if it has a high enough probability.)

    From DARKER THAN YOU THINK by Jack Williamson (1948)


    This psi power makes it impossible or difficult for other people to see you. Not because you are transparent to light, more like they just do not notice you. A camera can take a snap-shot of you with no problem, but people in the room will swear you were not present.

    This is generally done with telepathic sending. You could use sending to hypnotise other people and give them the suggestion that you are not there. You can make other people turn and look the wrong way at critical moments so their eyes never point at you (remember in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope when Obi-Wan was sneaking around inside the Death Star? Storm troopers turned the wrong way and said "What was that noise?"). Or you could make everybody start thinking about a difficult problem so hard that they become self absorbed and ignore everything around them. Or you could make everybody classify your visual image as something to be ignored like a table or a chair. This is used by the Somebody Else's Problem field featured in Douglas Adam's novel Life, The Universe and Everything.

    Invisibility 1

    At Fleishman’s house, we had no alternative except to reveal our identity. The place was surrounded by reporters, and we would never have got in.

    But here we both discovered a rather useful aspect of our psychokinetic powers. In a way, we were able to make ourselves ‘invisible’: that is, we were able to intercept any attention directed towards us, and turn it aside, so that people simply did not notice us.

    We actually managed to get as far as ringing Fleishman’s front door bell before we were recognized. Then the rush started. Luckily, Fleishman’s voice spoke to us out of the intercom, and the moment we identified ourselves, the door opened. A moment later, we were inside, and the reporters were rattling the door and shouting messages through the letter box.

    From THE MIND PARASITES by Colin Wilson (1967)
    Invisibility 2

    (ed note: Miss Butts is the principle at the Quirm College for Young Ladies. Susan Sto Hilit is a sixteen year old student at the boarding school, who has ... special abilities)

          Miss Butts had asked the teachers to watch Susan carefully. They'd said that was hard, because …
         There was a tentative knock on Miss Butts's study door, as if it was being made by someone who'd really prefer not to be heard. She returned to the present.
         'Come,' she said.
         The door swung open.

         Susan always made no sound. The teachers had all remarked upon it. It was uncanny, they said. She was always in front of you when you least expected it.
         'Ah, Susan,' said Miss Butts, a tight smile scuttling across her face like a nervous tick over a worried sheep. 'Please sit down.'
         'Of course, Miss Butts.'
         Miss Butts shuffled the papers.
         'Susan …'
         'Yes, Miss Butts?'
         'I'm sorry to say that it appears you have been missed in lessons again.'
         'I don't understand, Miss Butts.'

         The headmistress leaned forward. She felt vaguely annoyed with herself, but … there was something frankly unlovable about the child. Academically brilliant at the things she liked doing, of course, but that was just it; she was brilliant in the same way that a diamond is brilliant, all edges and chilliness.
         'Have you been … doing it?' she said. 'You promised you were going to stop this silliness.'
         'Miss Butts?'
         'You've been making yourself invisible again, haven't you?'

         Susan blushed. So, rather less pinkly, did Miss Butts. I mean, she thought, it's ridiculous. It's against all reason. It's— oh, no …
         She turned her head and shut her eyes.
         'Yes, Miss Butts?' said Susan, just before Miss Butts said, 'Susan?'
         Miss Butts shuddered. This was something else the teachers had mentioned. Sometimes Susan answered questions just before you asked them …
         She steadied herself.
         'You're still sitting there, are you?'
         'Of course, Miss Butts.'
         It wasn't invisibility, she told herself. She just makes herself inconspicuous. She … who …
         She concentrated. She'd written a little memo to herself against this very eventuality, and it was pinned to the file.
         She read:
    You are interviewing Susan Sto Helit. Try not to forget it.
         'Susan?' she ventured.
         'Yes, Miss Butts?'

         If Miss Butts concentrated, Susan was sitting in front of her. If she made an effort, she could hear the gel's voice. She just had to fight against a pressing tendency to believe that she was alone.
         'I'm afraid Miss Cumber and Miss Greggs have complained,' she managed.
         'I'm always in class, Miss Butts.'
         'I dare say you are. Miss Traitor and Miss Stamp say they see you all the time.' There'd been quite a staffroom argument about that. 'Is it because you like Logic and Maths and don't like Language and History?'

         Miss Butts concentrated. There was no way the child could have left the room. If she really stressed her mind, she could catch a suggestion of a voice saying, 'Don't know, Miss Butts.'
         'Susan, it is really most upsetting when—’
         Miss Butts paused. She looked around the study, and then glanced at a note pinned to the papers in front of her. She appeared to read it, looked puzzled for a moment, and then rolled it up and dropped it into the wastepaper basket. She picked up a pen and, after staring into space for a moment, turned her attention to the school accounts.
         Susan waited politely for a while, and then got up and left as quietly as possible.

    From SOUL MUSIC by Terry Pratchett (1994)
    Invisibility 3

    (ed note: Matt has a psionic power: the ability to influence the optic nerves of anyone whose attention is focused on him. When he is excited or frightened, people focused on him are compelled to contract the pupils of their eyes, and thereby lose that focus to the point of short-term memory loss – even if he has just threatened them with a weapon. Matt does not know he has this power, yet.

    On the planet Plateau, the colony is under a police state. Matt is being chased by the cops, and is cornered)

          Four searchlights hunted him across the bare rock. The wall was lousy with police.
         A light pinned him. And another, and a third.
         From the wall came a voice. “Cease fire.” The whirr of anesthetic slivers ended. The voice spoke again, bored, authoritative, tremendously amplified. “Stand up, you. You may as well walk, but we’ll carry you if we have to.”
         Matt wanted to burrow like a rabbit. But even a rabbit wouldn’t have made headway in the pitted, dusty stone. He stood up with his hands in the air.
         There was no sound, no motion.
         One of the lights swung away from him. Then the others. They moved in random arcs for a while, crossing the protective-rock field with swooping blobs of light. Then, one by one, they went out.
         The amplified voice spoke again. It sounded faintly puzzled. “What set off the alarms?”
         Another voice, barely audible in the quiet night. “Don’t know, sir.”
         “Maybe a rabbit. All right, break it up.”

         The figures on the wall disappeared. Matt was standing all alone with his hands in the air. After a while he put them down and walked away.

         He sat at the edge of the grass on the hill above the Hospital. His eyes were fixed on its blazing windows. His heart beat softly against his knee.
         What happened? They had me. They had me!
         He had walked away. Bewildered, helpless, beaten, he had waited for the magnified voice to shout its orders. And nothing had happened. It was as if they had forgotten him. He had walked away with the feel of death at his back, waiting for the numbness of a sonic stun-beam or the prick of a mercybullet or the roar of the officer’s voice.
         Gradually, against all reason, he had sensed that they were not going to come for him.

    (ed note: Matt is back with his friends in the underground revolutionary order devoted to overthrowing the police state. They are trying to figure out what Matt's magic power is. Matt remembers that people he uses his power on have drastically contracted pupils on their eyes)

         “Too big,” said Matt. “Your pupils are too big. When somebody really isn’t interested in what’s going on around him, the pupils are smaller.”
         “What about Polly’s eyes?” Hood probed. “Dilated or contracted?”
         “Contracted. Very small. And so were the guards’ eyes, the ones who came for me this morning.” He remembered how surprised they’d been when he yanked on the handcuffs, the handcuffs that still dangled from his wrists. They hadn’t been interested in him; they’d merely unlocked the chains from their own wrists. And when they’d looked at him—“That’s it. That’s why their eyes looked so funny. The pupils were pinpoints.

         “It’s a very limited form of telepathy,” said Jay Hood. “And because it is so very limited, it’s probably more dependable than more general forms. Its target is so much less ambiguous.” He smiled. “We really ought to have a new name for it. Telepathy doesn’t apply, not quite.”
         Three people waited patiently but implacably.
         “Matt’s mind,” said Hood, “is capable of controlling the nerves and muscles which dilate and contract the iris of another man’s eye.” And he smiled, waiting for their response.
         “So what?” asked Harry Kane. “What good is that?”

         “You don’t understand? No, I suppose you don’t. It’s more in my field. Do you know anything about motivational research?”
         Three heads waggled No.
         “The science was banned on Earth long, long ago because its results were being used for immoral advertising purposes. But they found out some interesting things first. One of them involved dilation and contraction of the pupil of the eye.
         “It turns out that if you show a man something and measure his pupil with a camera, you can tell whether it interests him. You can show him pictures of his country’s political leaders, in places where there are two or more factions, and his eyes will dilate for the leader of his own. Take him aside for an hour and talk to him, persuade to change his political views, and his pupils will dilate for the other guy. Show him pictures of pretty girls, and the girl he calls prettiest will have dilated pupils. He doesn’t know it. He only knows she looks interested. In him.

         “I wonder,” said Hood, smiling dreamily at himself. Some people love to lecture. Hood was one. “Could that be the reason the most expensive restaurants are always dark? A couple comes in, they look at each other across a dinner table, and they both look interested. What do you think?”
         Harry Kane said, “I think you’d better finish telling us about Keller.”

         “He has,” said Laney. “Don’t you see? Matt’s afraid of being seen by someone. So he reaches out with his mind and contracts the man’s pupils whenever he looks at Matt. Naturally the man can’t get interested in Matt.”
         “Exactly.” Hood beamed at Laney. “Matt takes a reflex and works it in reverse to make it a conditioned reflex. I knew light had something to do with it. You see, Matt? It can’t work unless your victim sees you. If he hears you, or if he gets a blip when you cross an electric-eye beam—’
         “Or if I’m not concentrating on being scared. That’s why the guard shot me.”
         “I still don’t see how it’s possible,” said Laney. “I helped you do your research on this, Jay. Telepathy is reading minds. It operates on the brain, doesn’t it?”
         “We don’t know. But the optic nerve is brain tissue, not ordinary nerve tissue.”
         Harry Kane stood up and stretched. “That doesn’t matter. It’s better than anything the Sons of Earth have put together. It’s like a cloak of invisibility. Now we have to figure out how to use it.”

    (ed note: Pietro is the head of the secret police with near-dictatorial power. He does not know it but Matt is standing right in front of him, invisible)

         So? Pietro dumped his cold coffee, into a wastebasket, poured a fresh cup, and sipped.
         A flicking shadow somewhere at the corner of his eye. A noise. Someone was in the room. The cup jumped in his hand, searing his lip. He put it down fast and looked around.
         (*Matt Zap*) He went back to the dossier.
         Matthew Keller. What idiot whim had made him ask for this? Keller senior was dead. Crippled, crawling, he’d gone off the Void edge split seconds before— (Matt asked Pietro to get Matt's dossier. This acts as a post-hypnotic suggestion. Pietro does not remember that Matt asked, he thinks that he had the idea to get Matt's dossier)

         Pietro looked up with a start.
         (*Matt Zap*) He looked down. Treatment reports… Not good, but no disaster. Too many people had been injured in the, mass escape, but some could be saved. Luckily the organ banks were full. And could be filled again, from the vivarium, once the Surgery Section found time. Why did everything have to happen at once?

         Pietro’s chin jerked up—and he caught himself before his eyes followed. He’d done this once before, hadn’t he? There’d been a noise… and someone had called his name… and what the Mist Demons was someone doing unannounced in Pietro’s private office? He let his eyes travel to the edge of the desk—
         Crew clothing.
         But it was rumpled and dirty, and it didn’t fit, and the hands that rested flat on his desk had dirty short fingernails. A colonist in crew clothing, for sure. In Pietro’s office. Unannounced. He’d gone past Miss Lauessen, unannounced.

         “Thats right. Where is she?”
         “You’re Matthew Keller.”
         “How did you get in here?” Somehow he kept the tremor out of his voice, and was proud of it.
         “None of your business. Where is she?”
         “Don’t give me that. Where’s Polly?”
         “I can’t tell you that. Or anything else,” said Pietro. He kept his eyes fixed on the man’s stolen gold belt buckle.
         At the periphery of his vision he saw two big, none-too-clean hands reach down to his own right hand. His visitor leaned heavily on that hand, and when Pietro belatedly tried to withdraw it, he couldn’t. He saw his visitor take hold of his middle finger and bend it back.
         The pain was shocking. Pietro’s mouth came wide open, and he looked up to plead…
         (*Matt Zap*) He was reaching for Polly Tournquist’s folder when agony struck his hand. He snatched it back as if trying to get it off a hot stove. Reflex. The middle finger stuck out at right angles to the knuckles.
         Mist Demons, it hurt! How the blazes had he—

         “Well, “Pietro?”
         He remembered enough, barely enough, not to look up. Someone or something was in this room, something or someone with the power to make people forget. He made a logical connection and said, “You.”
         “Right. Where’s Polly Tournquist?”
         “You. Matthew Keller. So you came for me.”
         “Let’s not play games. Where’s Polly?”
         “Were you in the car that attacked the Hospital? The one that dove straight down?”
         “Then how?”
         “Shut up, Pietro. Tell me where Polly is. Now. Is she alive?”
         “You’ll get no information from me. How did you get back from the void?”
         “I flew back.”
         “I mean the first time.”
         Pietro, I could break every finger in both your hands. Now where’s Polly? Is she dead?”
         “Would I talk if you did?”

         There was hesitation. Then two arms converged on his right hand. Pietro yelped with the pain and reached with clawed fingers for a pair of eyes…
         (*Matt Zap*) He was halfway through a stack of reports when agony bit into his hand. He found two fingers of his right hand bent back at right angles to the palm. With his teeth clenched hard on a scream, Pietro turned on the intercom. “Get me the doctor.”
         “What’s wrong?”
         “Just get me the—” His eyes caught a flash of movement. Someone in the office with him!
         “You’re right,” said a voice. “I can’t torture anything out of YOU.”
         Faint, fading memories told him not to look up. He said, “You.”
         “Go fly a bicycle.”
         “Matthew Keller?”
         “Answer me, damn you! How did you get back?”
         Two hands slapped together on Pietro’s right hand. His whole face clamped down on the scream, and Pietro snatched up his stunner and looked wildly for a target.
         (*Matt Zap*) He looked up again when the doctor entered.

         “No point in replacing them,” said the doctor. “They’re only dislocated.” And he deadened Pietro’s arm, set the fingers, and sprinted them. “How the Mist Demons did you do it?”
         “I don’t know.”
         “You don’t know? You dislocated two fingers, and you can’t quite recall?”
         “Get off my back. I said I can’t remember what happened to my hand. But I think that infernal ghost, Matthew Keller, must have had something to do with it.”
         The doctor gave him a very peculiar look. And left.
         Pietro looked ruefully at his right arm, sprinted and dangling from a sling. Oh, fine. And he genuinely couldn’t remember anything about it.
         Which was why he kept thinking about Matthew Keller.
         But why did he keep thinking about Polly Tournquist? (Because Matt keeps saying her name, implanting it in Pietro's mind)
         It was time and past time for the next phase of her treatment. But surely she could wait? Of course she could.
         He tried his coffee. Too cool. He poured it back into the pot and started fresh.
         His arm felt like dead meat.
         Why did he keep thinking about Polly Tournquist?
         “Phut!” He stood up clumsily, because of his bound arm. “Miss Lauessen,” he told the intercom, “get me two guards. I’m going over to the Planck.”
         “Will do.”

         He was reaching for the stunner on his desk when something caught his eye. It was the dossier for Matthew Keller, senior. A crude drawing defaced its yellow cover.
         Two open arcs, joined, in black ink. Three small closed loops beneath.
         The bleeding heart. It certainly hadn’t been there before.
         Pietro opened the folder. He could smell his own fear, and feel it, in the cool perspiration that soaked his shirt. As if he’d been afraid for hours.

    From A GIFT FROM EARTH by Larry Niven (1968)
    Invisibility 4

          Lord Darcy took the key, fitted it into the long, narrow keyhole, turned the bolt, and opened the door. He and Lord Bontriomphe stopped at the threshold.
         There was no tangible barrier at the door. There was nothing they could see or touch. But the barrier was almost palpably there, nonetheless. Lord Darcy found that he had no desire to enter the room at all. Quite the contrary; he felt a distinct aversion to the room, a sense of wanting to avoid, at all costs, going into that room for any reason whatever. There was nothing in that room that interested him, no reason at all why he should enter it. It was taboo—a forbidden place. To look from without was both necessary and desirable; to enter was neither necessary nor desirable.

         Lord Bontriomphe pulled the window closed again. "What if he were invisible?" he asked, looking at the little Irish sorcerer.
         "The Tarnhelm Effect?" asked Master Sean. He chuckled. "My lord, regardless of what the layman may think, the Tarnhelm Effect is extremely difficult to use in practice. Besides, 'invisibility' is a layman's term. Spells using the Tarnhelm Effect are very similar in structure to the aversion spell you met at the door to this room. If a sorcerer were to cast such a spell about himself, your eyes would avoid looking directly at him. You wouldn't realize it yourself, but you would simply keep your eyes averted from him at all times. He could stand in the middle of a crowd and no one could later swear that he was there because no one would have seen him except out of the corner of the eye, if you follow me.
         "Even if he were alone, you wouldn't see him because you'd never look at him. You would subconsciously assume that whatever it was you were seeing out of the corner of your eye was a cabinet or a hatrack or an umbrella stand or a lamppost—whatever was most likely under the circumstances. Your mind would explain him away as something that ought to be there, as a part of the normal background and therefore unnoticeable.
         "But he wouldn't actually be invisible. You could see him, for instance, in a mirror or other reflecting surface simply because the spell wouldn't keep your eyes away from the mirror."
         "He could cast a sight-avoidance spell on the mirror, couldn't he?" Lord Bontriomphe asked. "That's a static spell, I believe."
         "Certainly," said Master Sean. "He could cast a sight-avoidance spell on every reflecting surface in the place. But a man has to look somewhere, and even a layman would get suspicious under circumstances like that. Besides, to anyone with even a half-trained Talent, he'd be detectable immediately.

         Commander Lord Ashley did not see Lord Darcy's dive from the bridge. His eyes had not for a second left the hooded figure that faced him in the tiny area of mist-filled light beneath the gas lamp. He felt confident, sure of himself. The way the other man had drawn his sword proclaimed him an amateur.
         Then, as his opponent came in suddenly, he felt an odd surge of fear. The sword in the other man's hand seemed to flicker and vanish as it moved!
         It was only by instinct and pure luck that he managed to avoid the point of the other's sword and parry the thrust with his own blade. And still his eyes could not find that slim, deadly shaft of steel. It was as if his eyes refused to focus on it, refused to look directly at it.
         The next few seconds brought him close to panic as thrust after thrust narrowly missed their mark, and his own thrusts were parried easily by a blade he could not see, a blade he could not find.
         Wherever he looked, it was always somewhere else, moving in hard and fast, with strikes that would have been deadly, had his own sword not somehow managed to ward them off each time. His own thrusts were parried again and again, for each time the other blade neared his own, his eyes would uncontrollably look away.
         He did not need to be told that this was sorcery. It was all too apparent that he was faced with an enchanted blade in the hands of a deadly killer.

         "I thank you, Sir Lyon. A question, merely to satisfy my curiosity: Lord Ashley told you, did he not, of the swordplay on Somerset Bridge?"
         "He did."
         "Am I correct in assuming that the spell Master Ewen had cast upon his own blade was in some manner a utilization of the Tarnhelm Effect?"
         "It was indeed," Sir Lyon said with a rather puzzled smile. "It was astute of you to recognize it from Lord Ashley's description alone."
         "Not at all," Lord Darcy said. "It is simply that Sean is an excellent teacher."
         "It's more than astute, Grand Master," said the Dowager Duchess. "To me, it's irritating. I know what the Tarnhelm Effect is, of course, since I have come across mention of it in my studies, but its utilization and theory are quite beyond me."

         "My Lord Commander," said Sir Lyon, "what kind of sword was Master Ewen using?"
         "A smallsword, Grand Master. A sword with a triangular cross section—no edge—about two and a half feet in length—very sharp point."
         Sir Lyon nodded. "You saw it. Then, when he began to use it, it disappeared?"
         "Not exactly disappeared, Sir Lyon," Lord Ashley said. "It … it flickered. I … I find it difficult to explain. It is simply that I couldn't keep my eyes on it. But I knew it was there."
         "Thank you, Commander," said Sir Lyon. "Now, if the Court will permit, I will give my testimony. A really powerful sorcerer, such as Master Sir James or Master Sean O Lochlainn—"
         "Or yourself?" Lord Darcy asked suddenly.
         Sir Lyon smiled. " … Or myself, if you insist, my lord Advocate. Any powerful sorcerer could have made his sword so completely invisible as to be totally undetectable."

    From TOO MANY MAGICIANS by Randall Garrett (1966)

         "Well, let's suppose a man could make himself perfectly transparent—'invisible,' in other words. The poor lad would have to be very careful, eh? In soft ground or in snow, he'll leave footprints; in a crowd, he may brush up against someone. Can you imagine what it would be like if you grabbed such a man? There you've got an armful of air that feels fleshy, smells sweaty, sounds excited, and would taste salty if you cared to try the experiment. You'll admit that such an object would be suspect?"
         "Well, yes," Sir James admitted, "but—"
         "Sir James," Master Sean continued, "you have no idea how conspicuous a psychically invisible person can be in the wrong circumstances. There he stands, visible to the eye, sensible to the touch, audible to the ear, and all the rest—but there's nobody home!

    From THE IPSWICH PHIAL by Randall Garrett (1976)

         There was another possibility, however. Did the woman have the Talent? If so, there were several ways she could have gone into that bar without attracting attention. The Tarnhelm Effect, for one. It did not, as popularly supposed, render a person invisible; it was merely a specialized form of avoidance spell. Anyone using the Tarnhelm Effect remained unnoticed because no one else looked in that direction; they would avoid the person with their eyes; they would look anywhere except at that person.

    From THE BITTER END by Randall Garrett (1978)

    Problems With The Concept

    Some science fiction authors who were more scientific than they were phantasmagorical wrote about the scientific problems inherent in the concept.

    Impediment by Hal Clement

    Hack sci-fi authors are fond of using telepathy in lieu of having the protagonists spending a couple of years learning the alien's language. Hal Clement points out that this is nonsense.

    Here on Terra, infants have ears, so their parents can audibly teach their language to the child. Telepathic aliens have infants with telepathy, so their parents can telepathically teach their telepathic language to the child.

    But the problem starts with non-telepaths like us humans. Neither Terran infants nor their parents have telepathy. So when it comes to an infant's mental language, they have to make it up themselves as if they were feral children. Everybody on Terra grows up creating their own unique mental language.

    This isn't a problem, until a telepath shows up.

    The telepath is not faced with learning, say, just English. The poor telepath has to decipher and learn a new mental language for each and every Terran the telepath wants to mentally talk to.

    In Poul Anderson's Flandry of Terra novels, secret agent Dominic Flandry's greatest enemy is the alien Aycharaych, the universe's only known xenotelepath. Aycharaych actually can read the mind of all non-telepaths, which makes him powerful enough to be a comic-book super-villain. In the Terran Empire, there is a standing shoot-on-sight order out on Aycharaych.


    The man stared back for a few moments, and then began speaking softly.

    "You know, now. I did not think of it until you had gone—but I should have, from what you told me; and you should long since have known from your own observations. When we first learned to communicate with each other, you told me that my thought-wave pattern was different from that of your race, which was natural enough, as you finally realized. You did not carry that reasoning, which told you it was natural, to its logical conclusion; nor did I. Your people all 'think' alike—so far as either of us is able to tell what thought is. The patterns you broadcast are mutually intelligible to members of your race, but not to me, because you have received those waves from others of your kind from earliest childhood, and I am a stranger. But my people do not communicate in that fashion; as you have learned, we have organs capable of impressing fine modulations on sound waves, and of detecting these modulations. The activity that occurs in our brains is never directly transmitted to other brains—it is first 'coded' and then broadcast.

    "The waves you 'hear' arise from chemical activity in your nervous systems, activity that accompanies thought. They are—must be—controlled to a vast extent by the structure of the nerve pattern in your brains; a structure which is itself controlled during your growth by the impressed waves from outside, in conjunction with whatever strange process accompanies learning"

    Kirk held out a hand to the herald.

    "Look closely at the ends of my fingers. In the skin you will see a complex pattern of ridges and hollows. That pattern, stranger, is unique in me; every one of my people has a similar, but individual, pattern—no two have identical fingerprints. They form the most positive means of identification we possess, although there are more than two billion beings on this planet.

    "And yet, friend, I think I am safe in saying that there are many times as many chances that two of us should bear identical fingerprints as there are. chances that two human brains should be exactly alike, nerve for nerve. From birth, each brain is isolated, can be reached only through the means of communication nat­ural to us; there is no reason that all should develop alike.

    "On that assumption, the tiny currents that pass from nerve to nerve and give rise to the waves that you can sense cannot possibly be the same for any two of us; and so no two sets of 'thought waves' could be identi­cal. You learned some of my pattern, and thought that you had the key to communicate with all my kind; but I tell you sincerely that you will have to learn afresh the 'thought language' of every new human being with whom you wish to converse. You have just discovered that for yourself.

    From IMPEDIMENT by Hal Clement (1942)
    Limiting Factor by Theodore R. Cogswell

    In the story a secret group of Psis called "Superiors" have been working for years to master their powers. They figure they are the next stage in human evolution, Homo Superior.

    However, the Superiors figure that when the ordinary Homo Sapiens (the "Ordinaries") learn about the Superiors, it will be open warfare. So the Superiors decide to build a spaceship and migrate to another planet.

    Being a Superior is a lot of hard work. Levitating up 80 stories leaves you exhausted. Using telepathy leaves you with a splitting headache. And moving a spaceship through hyperspace by the raw power of your mind is punishing work.

    Suddenly they encounter an alien! It must be a member of an alien group of Superiors. Or so they think since the alien is nonchalantly flying through space with no space ship nor space suit. The alien tells them that his name is Mr. Thwiskumb, and that all races produce Superiors after they liberate atomic energy, and usually all the Superiors decide to migrate to another planet. This is unfortunate, they are welome to see the miserable results on Alpha Centauri III, where they were traveling to. Meanwhile the alien says that he is late for a very important date and will check back with them soon. He vanishes.

    The Superiors find on Alpha Centauri III a pathetic dwindling tribe of cave men. The Superiors are sad. Those must be the remains of the poor Ordinaries, abandoned by the Superiors.

    Mr. Thwiskumb reappears and tells the Terran Superiors that they have it all wrong. Those miserable cave men are not the Ordinaries left behind. They are the Superiors.

    To the Terran Superior's growing horror, the alien goes on to point out that while it is cute to use psionics, flesh is weak while technology is not. Sure one can walk from place to place. But to go faster, instead of trying to breed people with bigger legs, does it not make more sense to invent an automobile?

    The same is true of psionics.


    "What about the other price?" demanded Ferdie. "What about that scrawny grimy gang down on Centauri III, sitting apathetically in the hot sun and scratching themselves? We also have no right to condemn the Ordinaries to a future like that."

    "Oh, you wouldn't be doing that," said Mr. Thwiskumb mildly. "Those people down there aren't Ordinaries."


    "Dear me, no. They weren't the ones that were left behind. They are the descendants of those who migrated. Those poor devils down there are pure-blooded Superiors. When they ran into the limiting factor, they just gave up."

    "Then what accounts for you? You're obviously a Superior.'

    "That's a very kind thing to say," answered the little man, "but I'm just as ordinary as anyone can be. We're all Ordinaries where I come from. Our Superiors left a long time ago." He chuckled. "It's a funny thing—at the time, we didn't know they were gone, so we didn't miss them. We just went about business as usual. Later, we found them, but it was already too late. You see, the big difference was that we had an unlimited area of development and they didn't. There's no limit to the machine, but there is to the human organism. No matter how much training you have, there is a limit to how loud you can shout. After that, you have to get yourself an amplifier.

    "A slight neural rearrangement makes it possible for you to tap and control certain sources of physical energy that aren't direetly available to the ordinary man of your planet, but you are still dealing with natural forces ... and natural organic limits. There is a point beyond which you can't go without the aid of the machine, an organic limiting factor. But after several generations spent in mastering what is inside your heads, rather than struggling for control of the world around you, and the time comes when your natural limits are reached, the very concept of the machine has been lost. Then where do you go from there?"

    (ed note: you become a pathetic dwindling tribe of cave men)

    He waited for an answer, but nobody offered one.

    "There is an old story in our folklore," he continued, "about a boy who bought himself an animal somewhat like your terrestrial calf. He thought that if he lifted it above his head ten times a day while it was little, he would build up his strength gradually until he would still be able to lift it over his head when it was a full-grown animal. He soon discovered the existence of a natural limiting factor. Do you see what I mean? When those people down there reached their natural limits, there was no place for them to go but backward. We had the machine, though, and the machine can always be made smaller and better, so we had no stopping point."

    He reached inside his vest and pulled out a small shining object about the size of a cigarette case. "This is hooked by a tight beam to the great generators on Altair. Of course I wouldn't, but I could move planets with it if I wanted to. It's simply a matter of applying a long enough lever, and the lever, if you'll remember, is a simple machine."

    Karl looked dazed. In fact, everyone did.

    "Yeah," he muttered, "yeah, I see what you mean." He turned to the group. "All right, let's get back to the engine room. We've got a long flight ahead of us."

    "How long?" asked the little man.

    "Four months if we push it."

    "Shocking waste of time."

    "I suppose you can do better?" Karl inquired belligerently.

    "Oh, dear me, yes," said Mr. Thwiskumb. "It would take me about a minute and a half. You Superiors dawdle so—I'm glad I'm normal."

    From LIMITING FACTOR by Theodore R. Cogswell (1954)
    The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

    In the novel, scientists discover how to teach people the technique of teleporting themselves by sheer psionic power. This is called "Jaunting."

    The power is discovered in a laboratory on Callisto when a researcher named Jaunte accidentally set fire to himself. Abruptly he teleported seventy feet to the fire extinquisher, and put out the fire. The other researchers then started intensively studying Jaunte to figure out how the heck he did it. The theory was that if it had required the threat of death to goad Jaunte into teleporting himself in the first place, they’d damned well threaten him with death again.

    After Jaunte managed to survive a few death-traps, the researchers figured out enough to try teaching others. They got some suicide volunteers, trained them, and put them in death-traps. About 20% managed to jaunt.

    Now, do you see the little flaw in the novel's reasoning?

    If a person can involuntarily jaunt when threatened with death, why in all the thouands of years of recorded history there is no record of this ever happening?

    Common Psionic SciFi Uses

    FTL Star Drive

    FTL communication is not the only bone of contention science fiction authors have with Doc Einstein, or even the largest one. The major solar-plexus blow Einstein sucker-punched the authors with is his forbidding the existence of Faster-Than-Light Starships. Again the supernatural power of psionics laughs at the puny limits of relativity.

    • Specialist by Robert Sheckley: Starships are composite creatures. Many planets are home to "wall" aliens who form the hull, some planets have "atomic engine" aliens who are the normal space propulsion system, some have "eye" aliens who are sensors, some have "network" aliens who plug into the minds of all the components for coordination, and some have food producer aliens who create chow for all the others. As it turns out, Terra is planet home to "pushers", who are the FTL drives of starships.
    • SPI's StarForce Alpha Centauri wargame by Redmond Simonsen: Starships or "TeleShips" are jumped or "shifted" instantaneously from one location to another several light-years away by teams of "telesthetic" women with psionic powers. Shifting cannot be done by a machine, it has to be done by a person (though they are assisted by a "Gnostech" or AI computer who was "initiated" by the telesthetic in question).
    • SPI's Universe RPG: using a concept borrowed from StarForce Alpha Centauri, if a starship is at a jump point and has a functional jump pod, a psionically gifted person with the "Psi Naviation" skill can instantly "jump" the starship to another star system.

    Alien Language Translator

    In early pulp-science fiction authors were faced with the problem of space explorers communicating with aliens. It really put the brakes on the plot to force their intrepid heroes to take half a year to learn Alien Pidgin. Such authors would wave their hands and say that telepathy was somehow a universal translator, then get on with the story.

    There are quite a few problems with this short cut.

    Psionic Spies

    In the world of espionage, a spy with any psionic powers is a super-spy. Just imagine the catastrophic security breach if an enemy agent with telepathic reception manages to get a cover job within range of scientists working on top-secret projects, military generals, or political leaders with high security clearance! The spy can read the target's mind and get valuable intel whenever the target thinks about classified information. And no one can detect it, at least no one who isn't a friendly psionic spy.

    In matters below national security, this talent also works well for industrial espionage of rival megacorporations, illegal securities exchange insider trading, digging up dirt to blackmail somebody, and other jobs that require discovering secrets.

    Such a development would create pressure to develop the technology for an electronic thought screen. Or at the very least some kind of mental training to cloak one's thoughts.

    Human Lie Detector

    In the real world, lie dectector do not exist. Science fiction sometimes has technological gadgets that can detect lies, but wouldn't it be real useful if an adept could use telepathy or other psi power to sense if a person was lying? In the Dune novels, the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam can do that. That's why she's the the Imperial Truthsayer. More mundanely, in the Babylon 5 TV series, when a business executive is negotiating a large contract with an untrustworthy supplier, they will sometimes hire a licensed commercial telepath as a lie detector. By law such telepath are forbidden to telepathically scan deep thoughs or memories, but scanning just surface thoughts is usually all you need to detect lies.

    Human Bloodhound

    This is an adept who uses psi powers to trail and track a target person. Very useful talent for a bounty hunter, law enforcement official, assassin, or related jobs that require manhunting.

    FTL Communication

    There are a few cases of science fiction stories postulating that telepathy can be used for interstellar communication because telepathy is faster than light and has an intragalactic range. Because that meanie Einstein may have cursed radio with a speed-of-light limit but even he must fall back helpless when faced with the awesome mystical powers of the human mind. Just ask Darth Vader.

    Stories include:

    • Across a Billion Years by Robert Silverberg: messages are sent by commercial telepaths (TPs) along a relay chain linking colonized planets. When not "on the clock" the telepaths often stay linked into the network for fun, getting interstellar gossip from other telepaths.
    • Commodore Grimes series by A. Bertram Chandler: military ships carry a telepath for FTL communication. The telepaths are assisted by a device called a psionic amplifier, which is basically a living dog's brain floating in a nutrient tank.
    • Time for the Stars by Robert Heinlein: The Long Range Foundation is mounting a series of interstellar scouting missions with slower-than-light relativistic starships. They use telepaths to keep the ships in touch with Terra. The majority of telepaths can only talk with one other person, commonly an identical twin.
    • The Tactful Saboteur, Whipping Star, and The Dosadi Experiment by Frank Herbert: Interstellar communication is by telepaths of an alien species called the "Taprisiots". They look like animated pine trees.
    • Lensman Series by E. E. "Doc" Smith: Assisted by his Lens, Kimball Kinnison can do almost anything psionic. Including telepathic communication with anybody in the galaxy, whether they are a telepath or not.

    Psionic Awakening

    In some science fiction novels, people (generally the protagonist) can be "latent" psis. They are unaware that they possess psionic powers, such powers are locked away in the depths of their minds. Certain events can cause these latent powers to awaken or unlock, the protagonist suddenly finds they have superpowers.

    Of course this can cause problems. A latent telepath undergoing an awakening will unexpectedly find they can hear a torrent of voices in their heads. And if they are not careful going to the doctor will have them diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia.

    A common awakening trigger is the protagonist going through puberty. Remember when the young Harry Potter inadvertently did magic to free the boa constrictor from the London zoo? Puberty shakes up all sorts of bodily functions in the growing person, it probably skakes up psionics as well.

    A less common awakening trigger is the protagonist being psionically attacked by a bad guy. It is sort of like the protagonist can see the bad guy's psionic energies messing inside their head, and can thus figure out how to do it themselves.

    In the movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) the protagonist Rey is a latent Jedi Knight. She is unware of this until the bad guy Kylo Ren tries to use the Force to telepathically extract information from Rey's mind. Boy, was that a mistake! This psionic attack awakens Rey's Force powers. She not only manages to turn the tables and read Kylo's mind, but later uses the Force to hypnotize a storm trooper into helping her escape. Kylo becomes angry, telling the storm troopers the longer it takes to recapture her, the stronger she will become.

    There was something akin to that trope in Novice by James H. Schmitz (the first Telzey Amberdon story) in 1962. In Keith Laumer's End As A Hero (1963) the warlike alien race known as the Gool try to use mesmerism on the protagonist Grantham to enslave him, but it only psionically awakens him. Now Grantham is suddenly psionic.


          The telephone buzzed. Calver picked up the instrument, heard, "Electronic Communications here. No signals audible on any frequency. Am transmitting on all frequencies."
          "Brentano, sir," reported Calver. "He's trying — but there are no results."
          "Drag Mr. Levine out," ordered Engels.

          Calver pulled himself through the hatchway into the officers' flat, went to Levine's cabin — which was also his place of duty. He found the Psionic Radio Officer out of his bunk, strapped into the swivel chair by the table upon which was the glass globe in which lived the psionic amplifier, below which was the complexity of tanks and pumps and piping that handled — nutrition and excretion. He looked with distaste at the gray, wrinkled thing in the globe, while his nostrils twitched at the imagined smell of dog. Like most spacemen, he accepted psionic radio intellectually but not emotionally. It was not the operator himself, the trained telepath, that he found revolting — although there were some who did — but the amplifier, the dog's brain tissue culture, without which it would have been impossible for human thought-waves to span interstellar distances. Revolting, too, was the way in which the majority of Psionic Radio Operators made pets of their organic equipment — rewarding it by visualization of trees and bones…

          He said, "Levine!"
          The little man opened his eyes, had trouble focusing them on the Chief Officer. He muttered, without much interest, "Oh, it's you, Calver…"
          "What do you receive?"
          "I hear the P.R.O. of Thermopylae… She's one of the T.G. clippers… Don't know what she's doing out here…"
          "Could it be her within sight?"
          "Oh, no. She's off Elsinore. Making arrangements for disembarkation of passengers…"
          "Do you hear anybody close?"
          "No. Why should I?"
          "There's a ship," said Calver patiently. "Within sight. Her temporal precession rate is synchronized with our own. Her velocity matches. Who is she? What is she?"

          "I don't know," replied Levine mildly. "All I can pick up at close range is the usual babble from the minds of all you people — and, as you damn well know, I never eavesdrop on my shipmates. Apart from anything else, I should be breaking my oath if I did…"
          "Then eavesdrop," said Calver, "if it's the only way that you can do any short range listening."
          "Oh, all right. But don't blame me…" Levine stiffened suddenly. "This is damned funny. First time I've ever struck anything like it. A sort of echo effect… You're thinking, Why do we have to,be at the mercy of this teacup reader, and, at not quite the same time, you're thinking, Why do we have to be at the mercy of this crystal gazer?"

    From THE RIM OF SPACE by A. Bertram Chandler (1961)

          "And we're still trying to get a replacement for Mr. Flannery's psionic amplifier. He insists that only the brain of an Irish setter will do."
           "And what happened to the old one?"
           Brabham permitted himself a small chuckle. "He thought that it should share a binge. He poured a slug of Irish whiskey into its life-support tank. And then he tried to bring it around with black coffee."
           "Gah!" exclaimed Grimes.
           "Then he blamed the whiskey for the demise of the thing. It wasn't real Irish whiskey, apparently. It was some ersatz muck from New Shannon."
           Grimes succeeded in dispelling the vision of the sordidly messy death of the psionic amplifier from his mind.

         Flannery finally put in an appearance. He looked as though he had been dragged out from a drunken slumber. He was red-haired, grossly fat, and his unhealthily pale face was almost featureless. His little eyes were a washed-out blue, but so bloodshot that they looked red. The reek of his breath was so strong that Grimes, fearing an explosion, did not relight his pipe.
           "Mr. Flannery?"
           "An' who else would it be, Captain?"
           "Mphm." The temperamental telepaths had always to be handled carefully and Grimes did not wish to provoke the man into insubordination, with its inevitable consequences. It would take much too long to get a replacement. Once the ship was up and away, however—"Mphm. Ah, Mr. Flannery, I believe that you're unable to get a suitable psionic amplifier to replace the one that, er, died."
           "An' isn't that the God's truth, Captain? Poor Terence, he was more than just an amplifier for me feeble, wanderin' thoughts. He was more than just a pet, even. He was a brother."
           "A dog from the Ould Sod, he was, a sweet Irish setter. They took his foine body away, bad cess to 'em, but his poor, naked brain was there,, in that jar o' broth, his poor, shiverin' brain an' the shinin' soul o' him. Night after night we'd sit there, out in the dark atween the stars, just the pair of us, a-singin' the ould songs. The Minstrel Boy to the war has gone. … An' ye are that Minstrel Boy, Paddy, he'd say to me, he'd think to me, an' you an' me is light-years from the Emerald Isle, an' shall we iver see her again?" Grimes noted with embarrassed disgust that greasy tears were trickling from the piggy eyes. "I'm a sociable man, Captain, an' I niver likes drinkin' alone, but I'm fussy who I drinks with. So ivery night I'd pour a drop, just a drop, mind ye, just a drop o' the precious whiskey into Terence's tank … he liked it, as God's me guide. He loved it, an' he wanted it. An' wouldn't ye want it if the sweet brain of ye was bare an' naked in a goldfish bowl, a-floatin' in weak beef tea?"
           "An one cursed night me hand shook, an' I gave him half the bottle. But he went happy, a-dreamin' o' green fields an' soft green hills an' a blue sky with little, white fleecy clouds like the ewe lambs o' God himself. … I only hope that I go as happy when me time comes."
           If you have anything to do with it, thought Grimes, there's a very good chance of it.
         "An' I've tried to get a replacement, Captain, I've tried, an' I've tried. I've haunted the communications equipment stores like a poor, shiverin' ghost until I thought they'd be callin' one o' the Fathers to exorcise me. But what have they got on their lousy shelves? I'll tell ye. The pickled brains o' English bulldogs, an' German shepherds an'—yell niver believe me!—an Australian dingo! But niver an honest Irish hound. Not so much as a terrier."
           "You have to settle on something," Grimes said firmly.
           "But you don't understand, Captain." Suddenly the heavy brogue was gone and Flannery seemed to be speaking quite soberly. "There must be absolute empathy between a telepath and his amplifier. And could I achieve empathy with an English dog?"
         Balls! thought Grimes. I'll order the bastard to take the bulldog, and see what happens. Then a solution to the problem suddenly occurred to him. He said, "And they have a dingo's brain in the store?"
           "Oh, sure, sure. But—"
           "But what? A dingo's a dog, isn't he? As a dog he possesses a dog's telepathic faculties. And he's a peculiarly Australian dog."
         "Yes, but—"
           "And what famous Australians can you call to mind? What about the Wild Colonial Boy? Weren't all the bushrangers—or most of 'em—Irish?"
           "Bejabbers, Captain, I believe ye've got it!"
           "You've got it, Mr. Flannery. Or you will get it. And you can call it Ned, for Ned Kelly."

    From THE BIG BLACK MARK by A. Bertram Chandler (1975)

    (ed note: the protagonists have been hired by the The Long Range Foundation as a telepathic pair, along with dozens of others. The director explains what the job is.)

          “Let me quote,” Mr. Howard continued, “from the charter of the Long Range Foundation: ‘Dedicated to the welfare of our descendants.’ ” He paused dramatically—I think that was what he intended; “Ladies and gentlemen, what one thing above all is necessary for our descendants?”
         “There can be only one answer—living room! Room to grow, room to raise families, broad acres of fertile grain, room for parks and schools and homes. We have over five billion human souls on this planet; it was crowded to the point of marginal starvation more than a century ago with only half that number. Yet this afternoon there are a quarter of a million more of us than there were at this same hour yesterday—ninety million more people each year. Only by monumental efforts of reclamation and conservation, plus population control measures that grow daily more difficult, have we been able to stave off starvation. We have placed a sea in the Sahara, we have melted the Greenland ice cap, we have watered the windy steppes, yet each year there is more and more pressure for more and more room for endlessly more people.”
         I don’t care for orations and this was all old stuff. Shucks, Pat and I knew it if anyone did; we were the kittens that should have been drowned; our old man paid a yearly fine for our very existence.
         “It has been a century since the inception of interplanetary travel; man has spread through the Solar System. One would think that nine planets would be ample for a race too fertile for one. Yet you all know that such has not been the case. Of the daughters of Father Sol only fair Terra is truly suited to Man.”
         “Colonize the others we have done, but only at a great cost. The sturdy Dutch in pushing back the sea have not faced such grim and nearly hopeless tasks as the colonists of Mars and Venus and Ganymede. What the human race needs and must have are not these frozen or burning or airless discards of creation. We need more planets like this gentle one we are standing on. And there are more, many more!” He waved his hands at the ceiling and looked up.
         “There are dozens, hundreds, thousands, countless hordes of them … out there. Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for the stars!”

         “Here comes the pitch,” Pat said quietly. “A fast curve, breaking inside.”
         (“Pat, what the deuce is he driving at?”)
         “He’s a real estate agent.”

         Pat was not far off: but I am not going to quote the rest of Mr. Howard’s speech. He was a good sort when we got to know him but he was dazzled by the sound of his own voice, so I’ll summarize. He reminded us that the Torchship Avant-Garde had headed out to Proxima Centauri six years back. Pat and I knew about it not only from the news but because mother’s brother, Uncle Steve, had put in for it—he was turned down, but for a while we enjoyed prestige just from being related to somebody on the list—I guess we gave the impression around school that Uncle Steve was certain to be chosen.
         Nobody had heard from the Avant-Garde and maybe she would be back in fifteen or twenty years and maybe not. The reason we hadn’t heard from her, as Mr. Howard pointed out and everybody knows, is that you don’t send radio messages back from a ship light-years away and traveling just under the speed of light. Even if you assumed that a ship could carry a power plant big enough to punch radio messages across light-years (which may not be impossible in some cosmic sense but surely is impossible in terms of modem engineering)—even so, what use are messages which travel just barely faster than the ship that sends them? The Avant-Garde would be home almost as quickly as any report she could send, even by radio.

         Some fuzzbrain asked about messenger rockets. Mr. Howard looked pained and tried to answer and I didn’t listen. If radio isn’t fast enough, how can a messenger rocket be faster? I’ll bet Dr. Einstein spun in his grave.
         Mr. Howard hurried on before there were any more silly interruptions. The Long Range Foundation proposed to send out a dozen more starships in all directions to explore Sol-type solar systems for Earth-type planets, planets for colonization. The ships might be gone a long time, for each one would explore more than one solar system.
         “And this, ladies and gentlemen, is where you are indispensable to this great project for living room—for you will be the means whereby the captains of those ships report back what they have found!”
         Even Pat kept quiet.

         Presently a man stood up in the back of the room. He was one of the oldest twins among us; he and his brother were about thirty-five. “Excuse me, Mr. Howard, but may I ask a question?”
         “I am Gregory Graham; this is my brother Grant Graham. We’re physicists. Now we don’t claim to be expert in cosmic phenomena but we do know something about communication theory. Granting for the sake of argument that telepathy would work over interstellar distances—I don’t think so but I’ve no proof that it wouldn’t—even granting that, I can’t see where it helps. Telepathy, light, radio waves, even gravity, are all limited to the speed of light. That is in the very nature of the physical universe, an ultimate limit for all communication. Any other view falls into the ancient philosophical contradiction of action-at-a-distance. It is just possible that you might use telepathy to report findings and let the ship go on to new explorations—but the message would still take light-years to come back. Communication back and forth between a starship and Earth, even by telepathy, is utterly impossible, contrary to the known laws of physics.” He looked apologetic and sat down.
         I thought Graham had him on the hip. Pat and I got good marks in physics and what Graham had said was the straight word, right out of the book. But Howard did not seem bothered. “I’ll let an expert answer. Dr. Lichtenstein? If you please—”
         Dr. Mabel stood up and blushed and giggled and looked flustered and said, “I’m terribly sorry, Mr. Graham, I really am, but telepathy isn’t like that at all.” She giggled again and said, “I shouldn’t be saying this, since you are telepathic and I’m not, but telepathy doesn’t pay the least bit of attention to the speed of light.”
         “But it has to. The laws of physics—”
         “Oh, dear! Have we given you the impression that telepathy is physical?” She twisted her hands. “It probably isn’t.”
         “Everything is physical. I include ‘physiological,’ of course.”
         “It is? You do? Oh, I wish I could be sure — but physics has always been much too deep for me. But I don’t know how you can be sure that telepathy is physical; we haven’t been able to make it register on any instrument. Dear me, we don’t even know how consciousness hooks into matter. Is consciousness physical? I’m sure I don’t know. But we do know that telepathy is faster than light because we measured it.

         Pat sat up with a jerk, “Stick around, kid. I think we’ll stay for the second show.”
         Graham looked stunned. Dr. Mabel said hastily, “I didn’t do it; it was Dr; Abernathy.”
         “Horatio Abernathy?” demanded Graham.
         “Yes, that’s his first name, though I never dared call him by it. He’s rather important.”
         “Just the Nobel prize,” Graham said grimly, “in field theory. Go on. What did he find?”
         “Well, we sent this one twin out to Ganymede—such an awfully long way. Then we used simultaneous radio-telephony and telepathy messages, with the twin on Ganymede talking by radio while he was talking directly—telepathically, I mean—to his twin back in Buenos Aires. The telepathic message always beat the radio message by about forty minutes. That would be right, wouldn’t it? You can see the exact figures in my office.”
         Graham managed to close his month. “When did this happen? Why hasn’t it been published? Who has been keeping it secret? It’s the most important thing since the Michelson-Morley experiment—it’s terrible!”
         Dr. Mabel looked upset and Mr. Howard butted in soothingly. “Nobody has been suppressing knowledge, Mr. Graham, and Dr. Abernathy is preparing an article for publication in the Physical Review. However I admit that the Foundation did ask him not to give out an advance release in order to give us time to go ahead with another project—the one you know as ‘Genetics Investigations’—on a crash-priority basis. We felt we were entitled to search out and attempt to sign up potential telepathic teams before every psychological laboratory and, for that matter, every ambitious showman, tried to beat us to it. Dr. Abernathy was willing—he doesn’t like premature publication.”
         “If it will make you feel better, Mr. Graham,” Dr. Mabel said diffidently, “telepathy doesn’t pay attention to the inverse-square law either. The signal strength was as strong at half a billion miles as when the paired telepaths were in adjoining rooms.
         Graham sat down heavily. “I don’t know whether it does or it doesn’t. I’m busy rearranging everything I have ever believed.”

         “Both members of each telepathic team will be equally well taken care of,” Howard assured us. “The starside member will have good pay and good working conditions in the finest of modern torchships in the company of crews selected for psychological compatibility as well as for special training; the earthside member will have his financial future assured, as well as his physical welfare.” He smiled. “Most assuredly his physical welfare, for it is necessary that he be kept alive and well as long as science can keep him so. It is not too much to say that signing this contract will add thirty years to your lives.”
         It burst on me why the twins they had tested had been young people. The twin who went out to the stars would not age very much, not at the speed of light. Even if he stayed away a century it would not seem that long to him—but his twin who stayed behind would grow older. They would have to pamper him like royalty, keep him alive—or their “radio” would break down.

    From TIME FOR THE STARS by Robert Heinlein (1956)

          Never mind units attached from other corps; they may not be present during a ruckus and they are not like M. I. (mobile infantry) — the special talents attached to Logistics & Communications are all ranked as officers. If it will make a memory man, a telepath, a senser, or a lucky man happy to have me salute him, I'm glad to oblige; he is more valuable than I am and I could not replace him if I lived to be two hundred.

    (ed note: Our hero is in command of a unit of powered armor soldiers. They are invading a planet infested with large insectoid aliens known as "Bugs". The bug city is all underground and none of the soldier's sensors can penetrate that far. So they call in a "special talent", a soldier with psionics.)

         Finally we had a visit from a special unit, three combat engineers in a utility air car, escorting a talent — a spatial senser. Blackie warned me to expect them. "Protect them and give them what they want."
         "Yes, sir. What will they need?"
         "How should I know? If Major Landry wants you to take off your skin and dance in your bones, do it!"
         "Yes, sir."

         I relayed the word and set up a bodyguard by sub-areas. Then I met them as they arrived because I was curious; I had never seen a special talent at work. They landed inside my right flank rear and got out. Major Landry and two officers were wearing armor and hand flamers but the talent had no armor and no weapons — just an oxygen mask. He was dressed in a fatigue uniform without insignia and he seemed terribly bored by everything. I was not introduced to him. He looked like a sixteen-year old boy … until I got close and saw a network of wrinkles around his weary eyes.

         As he got out he took off his breathing mask. I was horrified, so I spoke to Major Landry, helmet to helmet without radio. "Major — the air around here is 'hot.' (radioactive) Besides that, we've been warned that — "
         "Pipe down," said the Major. "He knows it."
         I shut up. The talent strolled a short distance, turned and pulled his lower lip. His eyes were closed and he seemed lost in thought.
         He opened them and said fretfully, "How can one be expected to work with all those silly people jumping around?"
         Major Landry said crisply, "Ground your platoon."
         I gulped and started to argue — then cut in the all-hands circuit: "First Platoon Blackguards — ground and freeze!"
         It speaks well for Lieutenant Silva that all I heard was a double echo of my order, as it was repeated down to squad. I said, "Major, can I let them move around on the ground?"
         "No. And shut up."

         Presently the senser got back in the car, put his mask on. There wasn't room for me, but I was allowed — ordered, really — to grab on and be towed; we shifted a couple of miles. Again the senser took off his mask and walked around. This time he spoke to one of the other combat engineers, who kept nodding and sketching on a pad.
         The special-mission unit landed about a dozen times in my area, each time going through the same apparently pointless routine; then they moved on into the Fifth Regiment's grid. Just before they left, the officer who had been sketching pulled a sheet out of the bottom of his sketch box and handed it to me. "Here's your sub map. The wide red band is the only Bug boulevard in your area. It is nearly a thousand feet down where it enters but it climbs steadily toward your left rear and leaves at about minus four hundred fifty. The light blue net-work joining it is a big Bug colony; the only places where it comes within a hundred feet of the surface I have marked. You might put some listeners there until we can get over here and handle it."

         I stared at it. "Is this map reliable?"
         The engineer officer glanced at the senser, then said very quietly to me, "Of course it is, you idiot! What are you trying to do? Upset him?"

         They left while I was studying it. The artist-engineer had done double sketching and the box had combined them into a stereo picture of the first thousand feet under the surface. (like those "3-d" pictures used with red-blue glasses, or a Viewmaster if you are old enough to remember them) I was so bemused by it that I had to be reminded to take the platoon out of "freeze" — then I withdrew the ground listeners from the crater, pulled two men from each squad and gave them bearings from that infernal map to have them listen along the Bug highway and over the town.
         I reported it to Blackie. He cut me off as I started to describe the Bug tunnels by co-ordinates. "Major Landry relayed a facsimile to me. Just give me co-ordinates of your listening posts."
         I did so. He said, "Not bad, Johnnie. But not quite what I want, either. You've placed more listeners than you need over their mapped tunnels. String four of them along that Bug race track, place four more in a diamond around their town. That leaves you four. Place one in the triangle formed by your right rear corner and the main tunnel; the other three go in the larger area on the other side of the tunnel."

         "Yes, sir." I added, "Captain, can we depend on this map?"
         "What's troubling you?"
         "Well … it seems like magic. Uh, black magic."
         "Oh. Look, son, I've got a special message from the Sky Marshal to you. He says to tell you that map is official … and that he will worry about everything else so that you can give full time to your platoon. Follow me?"
         "Uh, yes, Captain."

         "But the Bugs can burrow mighty fast, so you give special attention to the listening posts outside the area of the tunnels. Any noise from those four outside posts louder than a butterfly's roar is to be reported at once, regardless of its nature."
         "Yes, sir."
         "When they burrow, it makes a noise like frying bacon — in case you've never heard it. Stop your patrol sweeps. Leave one man on visual observation of the crater. Let half your platoon sleep for two hours, while the other half pairs off to take turns listening."
         "Yes, sir."

         I checked the remaining forward post, then covered the four posts bracketing the Bug village, jacking my phones in parallel with each listener. I had to force myself to listen, because you could hear them, down there below, chittering to each other. I wanted to run and it was all I could do not to let it show.

         I wondered if that "special talent" was simply a man with incredibly acute hearing.

    STARSHIP TROOPERS by Robert Heinlein (1959)

    Psionic Technology

    Legendary SF editor and author (but unfortunately total bigot) John W. Campbell Jr. seized upon the idea of psi powers, and popularized the idea they were linked to the next stage of human evolution into a higher form. This was the "psi boom" in science fiction of the early 1950s. It fizzled out by the mid 1960s.

    Campbell originally coined the term "Psionics" to be applied to machines that can augment psi powers (such as dowsing rods, radionics, and the Hieronymus machine). "Psionics" was a contraction of "Psi" and "electronics". Campbell was of the opinion that these things actually worked in the real world. The Hieronymus machine was especially egregious, the blasted thing worked equally well if it contained the electronics or if it only contained a blueprint of the electronics. Critics agreed, it worked equally well: meaning not at all.

    After the 1960's nobody took such machines seriously anymore.

    They do appear often in science fiction, however.

    In A. Bertram Chandler's Commodore Grimes series, interstellar communication is performed by telepaths whose powers are amplified by a device which includes a living dog brain in a tank.

    In Alexis A. Gilliland's The End of the Empire tractor beams are human psychokinesis experts who require a laser beam of a Mechanically Simulated Telekinesis device as a sort of crutch.

    In the game StarForce Alpha Centauri, SPI's Universe RPG, and Frank Herbert's DUNE novels, psionic humans are the starship's interstellar drives. In StarForce the telesthetics need the help of intelligent computers called "gnostechs", but no pure machine assemblage can move a starship. In DUNE the Guild Navigators need the assistance of massive doses of the drug Melange. Technically the Guild Navigators are not the FTL drive so much as they are the FTL sensors, using precognition to foresee the safe path through folded space.

    In Larry Niven's "Known Space" series, a psionic device called a mass sensor allows starship pilots to avoid gravitational concentrations that will make their hyperspace starships vanish forever. It is described as "psionic" as an excuse explaining why human starship pilots existed when it would be so easy to run them automatically by computer. It seems that in Niven's universe computers cannot use psionic devices because of Reasons.

    On the fringe of psionics and reality there is the "thought recorder." This is some sort of gizmo that connects a headset to a reel-to-reel tape, cassette, hard drive, or other recording medium. It can record your thoughts for later play back. "Thoughts" can range from one's everyday mental voice inside their head to a full audio-visual-tactile-emotional experience. Examples include the mental recorder from Skylark Three, the tape records from Rocket to Limbo, the brain scans of the Sten series, and the movie Brainstorm.


    It was at this time that the Robotic Wars began. Some say the Robots erupted from a depopulated Earth and spread their rebellion through the stars. Some say that Robotic electrical life represented the next step in evolution toward a smarter, more perfect organism. At any rate, the Robots tipped their plans too soon, and Humanity was able to fight back. For fifty years, Man was driven out of system after system by the totally superior Robotic race, which could seemingly build themselves to meet any function.

    There were, of course, millions of machines that remained loyal to their creators, and without them Man would have been snuffed out instantly. But those years of combat instilled an instinctive prejudice and distrust of mechanical life that has still not been eradicated.

    It was psionics that eventually defeated the Robots. With the aid of a completely telepathic race of nitrogen-breathing octopoids, Man developed the literally mind-freeing drug LSDX-6000 which released and amplified all the latent psionic talents of the human mind. As the drug went into distribution, the patterns of victory and defeat in space began to turn around. The Robots had never developed psychic powers, and were incapable of developing any. They found themselves unable to cope with an enemy that was precognitively aware of all their plans, or one that had the telekinetic power to mentally enter and ruin their most delicate machinery. Mothers throughout space took the drug, and human children were born with powerful psychic talents and no longer needed to take the drug. In twenty years the Robots were everywhere on the run; in thirty years they had seemingly been annihilated.

    (ed note: I was considered to do the artwork for the Starfaring game book, but they decided to go with Ernest Hogan)

    From STARFARING RPG by Ken St. Andre (1976)

    (ed note: in this pulp scifi written in 1941, Chester Wing and Farrel Henderson are exploring the swamps of Venus. The natives are not friendly and their language is too difficult for human vocal cords to handle. The earthmen use a sort of helmet gizmo which gives humans the power of telepathy. Trust stupid humans to use this paradigm-shattering power only as a stupid alien language translator.)

          “What a place to blow a rocket-tube,” he muttered, less than half to Wing.
         Wing nodded vaguely, no longer angry. “Hope to Heaven we get out of here soon,” he said fervently.
         “How much longer do you suppose it’ll actually be before the tube’s ready?” inquired Henderson.
         Wing cocked a thoughtful ear at the faint humming sound that told of the automatic repair-machines at work, extracting isotopic beryllium from the constant flow of swamp-water that passed through its pipes, plating it in layers on the steel core that was the mold for their new rocket-tube. “Maybe two days,” he pronounced finally. “At least, the tube ought to be ready then.”

    (ed note: a group of Venusians from the local village show up and start ponding on the hatch of the spaceship)

         “All right,” Henderson sighed, contemplating the mucky terrain. “Let’s both go. Here!” He tossed a wire-coiled sort of helmet at Wing, who caught it deftly and slipped it over his head. Henderson donned one also, and stepped into the airlock. The wire helmets were perceptors—what you might call telepathy-radios, allowing the explorers to converse mentally with the Venusians. No human could have spoken the Venusians’ native tongue.

    (ed note: our heroes are grabbed and disarmed by the Venusians. They are dragged to the village where they are interrogated by the village king Ch'mak)

         Why will you not admit your purpose here?” bellowed Ch’mack suspiciously. The Earthmen shrugged and didn’t answer. They had been asked that question, or a variant, a dozen times since that quiz began. And Ch’mack had refused to tell them just of what they were suspected. Nor had their perceptors been able to penetrate his will-shielded mind. “I know what you want,” he went on vindictively. “Don’t think that I do not. I know almost everything. But admit it to me!”
         “Modest cuss,” thought Wing “below the threshold”—i.e., without sufficient intensity for the thought to be telepathed.

    (ed note: As it turns out king Ch'mack thinks our heroes are there to steal the King's Eye: a red diamond the size of your fist. This is not an unreasonable suspicion because a few years back an unscrupulous exploration team actually did steal a similar diamond. The king goes to fetch the Tribune, which is the Venusian village's equivalent to the Spanish Inquisition.

    The Tribune bring a large metal basin burning with fire, but before the torture can begin, word comes that the king has been murdered. All the Venusians rush out, but our heroes know that somehow the blame for the murder will be pinned on them. They frantically work on the rope binding them to the chairs.)

         A moment later his arm was free; he shed his own bonds and quickly got to those of his companion.
         “Let’s get from here,” muttered Wing when they were both standing, trying to massage the pain from their hurt limbs.
         “If we use our perceptors occasionally, just flip them on and off, we’ll be able to catch thoughts and see if anyone is looking for us.”
         They moved quietly to the door and stood in attitudes of intense concentration as they “listened” for sentries. Their questing minds could find no trace of anyone watching, so they slipped out the door and broke for the surrounding jungle at a quick, space-consuming walk. Their perceptors they continued to use at intervals. For their purposes, the things had a great defect ; they broadcast thoughts quite as well and as far as they received them...

    (ed note: during their escape, they are suprised by a local Venusian horror similar to a velociraptor from Jurassic Park. It chases them into a large buidling which proves to contain the entire heavily-armed population of the village, doing the king's funeral. Our heros force a stand-off by threatening to dump the king's body on the ground, which is bad juju and stops the villagers in their tracks.)

         “Chet!” Henderson’s urgent cry brought the faint flicker of new hope to Wing.
         “What is it?” he asked, looking up to see Henderson removing his mind-reader, which he had already switched off.
         “I have an idea. While they were talk —wait a minute,” he interrupted himself sharply. “Forget that. I—um—I think if I go down and mingle with them, maybe I can grab a gun and we can get away. You stay by the body, and dump it if anything happens.”
         That was why Henderson had removed his mind-reader, thought Wing ; he didn’t want the Venusians to know what he was doing. Henderson was already moving toward them as Wing assented, “Okay,” cheerfulness in his voice for the first time. He prepared to transmit to the Venusians the order not to move; then realized that they’d know it already because it had been in his mind, and—
         His heart dropped again, and his stomach screwed up even tighter than before. Oh, what a fool Henderson was, he thought agonizedly. Henderson had told him the plan; therefore, it had been in Wing’s mind; therefore, by courtesy of the efficient perceptor, the Venusians knew all about it. He swore, dully.
         But what was Henderson doing? He was gesturing to one of the Venusians—the one who had spoken, the head of the Tribune.
         “Chet,” Henderson called. “Tell this guy to stop running away. I won’t hurt him. I just want to talk to him. Tell him to let me put the perceptor on him. And don’t argue!
         Though puzzled, Wing complied.
         “And you are still fools,” the Venusian sneered. “This one thinks he can surprise me, take my rifle. But look!” and he loosed his weapon-belt, handed it to another Venusian. Now openly contemptuous, he said, “Tell him he can put that thing on me !”
         Wing relayed the statement in English. Very carefully, Henderson slipped the mind-reader on the Venusian’s forehead, and snapped the switch on. Then he shouted to Wing, “Chet, for God’s sake, repeat what I say!”
         With blinding speed, he grabbed the Venusian’s pouch away from him, ripped it open, and held on high—the Eye!
         “Tell them that here is the murderer of their king!” he screamed to Wing. “Tell them !”
         But Wing didn’t have to.
         For the Venusian was wearing a perceptor; surprised by the lightning attack, for a moment his defenses were down, and every person, human or Venusian, in that chamber felt the cold impact of the thought, “Of course I killed him. But YOU will die for it!”
         He was wrong, and comprehended his error immediately, as he saw the staring faces of his compatriots around him. He saw how he had been tricked—but too late. He ripped the mind-helmet from his head, dashed it full in Henderson’s face, leaped for the door.

    (ed note: The evil head of the Tribune runs out the door, where he is instantly killed and eaten by the hungry velociraptor lurking outside)

    From THE KING'S EYE by Frederik Pohl (1941)

    (ed note: About 2.5 billion years ago lived a mercifuly extinct species called the Thrint. Humans called them the Slavers, for their habit of enslaving other species via telepathic mind control. The Thrint calls this ability The Power.

    Kzanol is a Thrint who has been in suspended animation for 2.5 billion years. Greenberg is a human telepath who has been imprinted with Kzanol's memory.)

          Briskly he (Kzanol) moved about the cabin collecting his treasures. The amplifier helmet, universal symbol of power and of royalty, which had once belonged to his grandfather. It was a light but bulky instrument which could amplify the thrint’s native Power to control twenty to thirty non-thrints into the ability to control an entire planet.

    (ed note: Kzanol and Greenberg deduce that the Thrint became extinct 2.5 billion years ago in a huge war that no race in the galaxy survived)

         (Kzanol said) “But that’s insane. Somebody has to win a war!”
         He sounded so sincere that Kzanol/Greenberg laughed. “Not so. Ask any human. Ask a Russian or a Chinese. They’ll think you’re a fool for needing to ask, but they’ll tell you all about Pyrrhic victory. Shall I tell you what may have happened?”
         He didn’t wait for an answer. “This is pure conjecture, but it makes sense to me, and I’ve had two weeks to think about it. We must have been losing the war (since Greenberg has all of Kzanol's memories, Greenberg thinks that he is a Thrint). If we were, some thraargh— excuse me. Some members of our race must have decided to take all the slaves with them. Like Grandfather’s funeral ceremony, but bigger. They made an amplifier helmet strong enough to blanket the entire galaxy. Then they ordered everything within reach to commit suicide.
         “But that’s a horrible attitude!” Kzanol bristled with moral outrage. “Why would a thrint do a thing like that?”
         “Ask a human. He knows what sentients are capable of when someone threatens them with death. First they declaim that the whole thing is horribly immoral, and that it’s unthinkable that such a threat would ever be carried out. Then they reveal that they have similar plans, better in every respect, and have had them for years, decades, centuries. You admit the Big Amplifier would have been technically feasible?”
         “Of course.”
         “Do you doubt that a slave race in revolt would settle for nothing less than our total extinction?”
         Tendrils writhed in battle at the corners of Kzanol’s mouth. When he finally spoke, he said, “I don’t doubt it.”
         “Certainly we’d take them with us into extinction! The sneaky, dishonorable lower-than-whitefoods, using our concessions of freedom to destroy us! I only desire that we got them all.”

    (ed note: The Belters do not want Earth to get their hands on the amplifier because Earth will turn it into a weapon)

         “In my opinion your first target is the amplifier, if you can find it. It’s far more dangerous than any single ET. The Belt wouldn’t want it except for research, and I know some scientists who’d hate us for giving up that opportunity, but you can imagine what Earth might do with an amplifier for telepathic hypnosis."

    (ed note: Earth does not want the Belters to get their hands on the amplifier because the Belters will turn it into a weapon)

         “Lloyd, why do you think I didn’t want the Belt to beat us to Pluto? Why did we come after them, anyway? That amplifier is a new weapon! If the Belt takes it apart and makes one that humans can use, we could see the worst and most permanent dictatorship in history. It might never end at all.”

    From WORLD OF PTAVVS by Larry Niven (1966)

    (ed note: Darell of the First Foundation is trying to find a defence against the agents of the Second Foundation. Those agents can use their mental powers to instantly telepathically brain-wash a person. )

         “All right, can you do something like this?” He sketched rapidly on the pad he held in his lap, then passed it over to the old physicist, who peered at it doubtfully, then chuckled.
         “Y’know, the brain gets calcified when you get as old as I am. What are you trying to do?”
         Darell hesitated. He longed desperately, at the moment, for the physical knowledge locked in the other’s brain, so that he need not put his thought into words. But the longing was useless, and he explained.
         Semic was shaking his head. “You’d need hyper-relays. The only things that would work fast enough. A thundering lot of them.”
         “But it can be built?”
         “Well, sure.”
         “Can you get all the parts? I mean, without causing comment? In line with your general work.”
         Semic lifted his upper lip. “Can’t get fifty hyper-relays? I wouldn’t use that many in my whole life.”
         “We’re on a defense project, now. Can’t you think of something harmless that would use them? We’ve got the money.”
         “Hm-m-m. Maybe I can think of something.”
         “How small can you make the whole gadget?”
         “Hyper-relays can be had micro-size … wiring … tubes — Space, you’ve got a few hundred circuits there.”
         “I know. How big?”
         Semic indicated with his hands.
         “Too big,” said Darell. “I’ve got to swing it from my belt”

         “But I could do something else. I could, with Semic’s help, construct what I shall describe as a Mental Static device. It is not beyond the ability of modem science to create an energy source that will duplicate an encephalograph-type pattern of electromagnetic field. Moreover, it can be made to shift at complete random, creating, as far as this particular mind-sense is concerned, a sort of ‘noise’ or ‘static’ which masks other minds with which it may be in contact.
         “Do you still follow?”
         Semic chuckled. He had helped create blindly, but he had guessed, and guessed correctly. The old man had a trick or two left—
         Anthor said, “I think I do.”
         “The device,” continued Darell, “is a fairly easy one to produce, and I had all the resources of the Foundation under my control as it came under the heading of war research. And now the mayor’s offices and the Legislative assemblies are surrounded with Mental Static. So are most of our key factories. So is this building. Eventually, any place we wish can be made absolutely safe from the Second Foundation or from any future Mule. And that’s it.”

         "And what does it matter, since Darell says we have the perfect defense?”
         Darell smiled without humor. “The perfect defense is not enough, Turbor. Even my Mental Static device is only something that keeps us in the same place. We cannot remain forever with our fists doubled, frantically staring in all directions for the unknown enemy.

         “Well, then, I don’t like it. Your Mental Static isn’t worth a thought. We can’t stay in the house forever and as soon as we leave, we’re lost, with what we now think we know. Unless you can build a little machine for every inhabitant in the Galaxy.”
         “Yes, but we’re not quite helpless, Anthor. These men of the Second Foundation have a special sense which we lack. It is their strength and also their weakness. For instance, is there any weapon of attack that will be effective against a normal, sighted man which is useless against a blind man?”
         “Sure,” said Munn, promptly. “A light in the eyes.”
         “Exactly,” said Darell. “A good, strong blinding light.”
         “Well, what of it?” asked Turbor.
         “But the analogy is clear. I have a Mind Static device. It sets up an artificial electromagnetic pattern, which to the mind of a man of the Second Foundation would be like a beam of light to us. But the Mind Static device is kaleidoscopic. It shifts quickly and continuously, faster than the receiving mind can follow. All right then, consider it a flickering light; the kind that would give you a headache, if continued long enough. Now intensify that light or that electromagnetic field until it is blinding — and it will become a pain, an unendurable pain. But only to those with the proper sense; not to the unsensed.”
         “Really?” said Anthor, with the beginnings of enthusiasm. “Have you tried this?”
         “On whom? Of course, I haven’t tried it. But it will work.”
         “Well, where do you have the controls for the Field that surrounds the house? Id like to see this thing.”
         “Here.” Darell reached into his jacket pocket. It was a small thing, scarcely bulging his pocket. He tossed the black, knob-studded cylinder to the other.
         Anthor inspected it carefully and shrugged his shoulders. “It doesn’t make me any smarter to look at it. Look Darell, what mustn’t I touch? I don’t want to turn off the house defense by accident, you know.”
         “You won’t,” said Darell, indifferently. “That control is locked in place.” He flicked at a toggle switch that didn’t move.
         “And what’s this knob?”
         “That one varies rate of shift of pattern. Here — this one varies the intensity. It’s that which I’ve been referring to.”
         “May I—” asked Anthor, with his finger on the intensity knob. The others were crowding close.
         “Why not?” shrugged DarelI. “It won’t affect us.”
         Slowly, almost wincingly, Anthor turned the knob, first in one direction, then in another. Turbor was gritting his teeth, while Munn blinked his eyes rapidly. It was as though they were keening their inadequate sensory equipment to locate this impulse which could not affect them.
         Finally, Anthor shrugged and tossed the control box back into Darell’s lap. “Well, I suppose we can take your word for it. But it’s certainly hard to imagine that anything was happening when I turned the knob.”
         “But naturally, Pelleas Anthor,” said Darell, with a tight smile. “The one I gave you was a dummy. You see I have another.” He tossed his jacket aside and seized a duplicate of the control box that Anthor had been investigating, which swung from his belt.
         “You see,” said Darell, and in one gesture turned the intensity knob to maximum.
         And with an unearthly shriek, Pelleas Anthor sank to the floor. He rolled in his agony; whitened, gripping fingers clutching and tearing futilely at his hair.

    From SECOND FOUNDATION by Isaac Asimov (1953)

          As they walked through the corridor with the viewscreens, Lars stopped short. "Hold it," he said. "I thought you told me they had no concept of science or mechanics. How did they get those things?"
         "That's a good question," Peter said. "Try one once, and see what you think."
         Lars sat down before one of the gray screens. "How do you work it?"

         Peter opened a wall slot and withdrew a small, flat cartridge. He fit this onto a spool at the side of the screen. Abruptly the screen leaped into life with the pale blue color Lars had seen before. There was a flickering geometric pattern, but no image that Lars could recognize. "Now what?"
         "It's a little tricky," Peter conceded. "That's not a 3-V screen (some kind of 3D television that is a common household device), and the tape on that cartridge doesn't work quite like a 3-V tape. You've got to—well, sort of tune in on it yourself. Watch it for a minute."
         Lars watched the screen. At first there was nothing. Then, gradually, he noticed a tingling in his fingers and toes. Images began to form on the screen, or in his mind, he couldn't tell which for sure. Not a story, just a series of impressions drifting through his mind as he stared. He felt his scalp crawl. "Say, what is this thing doing?" he said, jumping up from it angrily.
         The images on the screen blinked out.

         "It's projecting," said Peter. "Our 3-Vs depend on visual images and audible sounds to get through to us. This little gadget by-passes the eyes and ears and goes right straight in. It projects mental images instead of visual images. That's what you were picking up. The thing can be reversed so that you project to it and it records like a tape recorder."

    From ROCKET TO LIMBO by Alan E. Nourse (1957)

    (ed note: In the previous novel in the series, our hero Richard Seaton learned about the mechanical educator used on the planet Osnome. It can instantly teach somebody a skill, such as how to speak a language (author Doc Smith used it as a translator gizmo). But it is a little clunky. On a long voyage Richard decides to experiment with improving the device.)

          A few days after the bar had been reversed Seaton announced that the mechanical educator was complete, and brought it into the control room.
         In appearance it was not unlike a large radio set, but it was infinitely more complex. It possessed numerous tubes, kino-lamps, and photo-electric cells, as well as many coils of peculiar design—there were dozens of dials and knobs, and a multiple set of head-harnesses.
         "How can a thing like that possibly work as it does?" asked Crane. "I know that it does work, but I could scarcely believe it, even after it had educated me."
         "That is nothing like the one Dunark used, Dick," objected Dorothy. "How come?"

         "I'll answer you first, Dot. This is an improved model—it has quite a few gadgets of my own in it. Now, Mart, as to how it works—it isn't so funny after you understand it—it's a lot like radio in that respect. It operates on a band of frequencies lying between the longest light and heat waves and the shortest radio waves. This thing here is the generator of those waves and a very heavy power amplifier. The headsets are stereoscopic transmitters, taking or receiving a three-dimensional view. Nearly all matter is transparent to those waves; for instance bones, hair, and so on. However, cerebin, a cerebroside peculiar to the thinking structure of the brain, is opaque to them. Dunark, not knowing chemistry, didn't know why the educator worked or what it worked on—he found out by experiment that it did work; just as we found out about electricity. This three-dimensional model, or view, or whatever you want to call it, is converted into electricity in the headsets, and the resulting modulated wave goes back to the educator. There it is heterodyned with another wave—this second frequency was found after thousands of trials and is, I believe, the exact frequency existing in the optic nerves themselves—and sent to the receiving headset. Modulated as it is, and producing a three-dimensional picture, after rectification in the receiver, it reproduces exactly what has been 'viewed,' if due allowance has been made for the size and configuration of the different brains involved in the transfer. You remember a sort of flash—a sensation of seeing something—when the educator worked on you? Well, you did see it, just as though it had been transmitted to the brain by the optic nerve, but everything came at once, so the impression of sight was confused. The result in the brain, however, was clear and permanent. The only drawback is that you haven't the visual memory of what you have learned, and that sometimes makes it hard to use your knowledge. You don't know whether you know anything about a certain subject or not until after you go digging around in your brain looking for it."

         "I see," said Crane, and Dorothy, the irrepressible, put in: "Just as clear as so much mud. What are the improvements you added to the original design?"
         "Well, you see, I had a big advantage in knowing that cerebrin was the substance involved, and with that knowledge I could carry matters considerably farther than Dunark could in his original model. I can transfer the thoughts of somebody else to a third party or to a record. Dunark's machine couldn't work against resistance—if the subject wasn't willing to give up his thoughts he couldn't get them. This one can take them away by force. In fact, by increasing plate and grid voltages in the amplifier, I can pretty nearly burn out a man's brain. Yesterday, I was playing with it, transferring a section of my own brain to a magnetized tape—for a permanent record, you know—and found out that above certain rather low voltages it becomes a form of torture that would make the best efforts of the old Inquisition seem like a petting party."

    (ed note: Our heroes encounter an advanced warship of the evil Fenachrone, who want to exterminate all intelligent life so they can take over the planets. Seaton manages to defeat the warship by using a desperate trick. He captures the Fenachrone captain floating in space by using tractor and pressor beams. Seaton knows that Terra is doomed unless he can learn all the advanced technology used by the Fenachrone. He will have to use the mechanical educator on the Fenachrone captain.)

         Seaton swung the attractors holding the prisoner until they were in line with the main air-lock, then reduced the power of the repellers. As he approached the lock various controls were actuated, and soon the stranger stood in the control room, held immovable against one wall, while Crane, with a 0.50-caliber elephant gun, stood against the other.
         "Got him solid," declared Seaton, after a careful inspection of the various attractors and repellers he had bearing upon the prisoner, "Now let's get him out of that suit. No—better read his air first, temperature and pressure—might analyze it, too."
         Nothing could be seen of the person of the stranger, since he was encased in vacuum armor, but it was plainly evident that he was very short and immensely broad and thick. By means of hollow needles forced through the leather-like material of the suit Seaton drew off a sample of the atmosphere within, into an Orsat apparatus, while Crane made pressure and temperature readings.
         "Temperature, one hundred ten degrees. Pressure, twenty-eight pounds—about the same as ours is, now that we have stepped it up to keep the Osnomians from suffering."
         Seaton soon reported that the atmosphere was quite similar to that of the Skylark, except that it was much higher in carbon dioxide and carried an extremely high percentage of water vapor. He took up a pair of heavy shears and laid the suit open full length, on both sides, knowing that the powerful attractors would hold the stranger immovable. He then wrenched off the helmet and cast the whole suit aside, revealing the enemy officer, clad in a tunic of scarlet silk.
         "I didn't want to say much before the girls, but I want to check a couple of ideas with you two. Don't you think it's a safe bet that this bird reported back to his headquarters?"
         "I have been thinking that very thing," Crane spoke gravely, and Dunark nodded agreement. "Any race capable of developing such a vessel as this would almost certainly have developed systems of communication in proportion."
         "That's the way I doped it out—and that's why I'm going to read his mind, if I have to burn out his brain to do it. We've got to know how far away from home he is, whether he has turned in any report about us, and all about it. Also, I'm going to get the plans, power, and armament of their most modern ships, if he knows them, so that your gang, Dunark, can build us one like them; because the next boat that tackles us will be warned and we won't be able to take it by surprise. We won't stand a chance in the Skylark. With a ship like theirs, however, we can run—or we can fight, if we have to. Any other ideas, fellows?"

         As neither Crane nor Dunark had any other suggestions to offer, Seaton brought out the mechanical educator, watching the creature's eyes narrowly. As he placed one headset over that motionless head the captive sneered in pure contempt, but when the case was opened and the array of tubes and transformers was revealed, that expression disappeared; and when he added a super-power stage by cutting in a heavy-duty transformer and a five-kilowatt transmitting tube, Seaton thought that he saw an instantaneously suppressed flicker of doubt or fear.
         "That headset thing was child's play to him, but he doesn't like the looks of this other stuff at all. I don't blame him a bit—I wouldn't like to be on the receiving end of this hook-up myself. I'm going to put him on the recorder and on the visualizer," Seaton continued as he connected spools of wire and tape, lamps, and lenses in an intricate system and donned a headset. "I'd hate to have much of that brain in my own skull—afraid I'd bite myself. I'm just going to look on, and when I see anything I want, I'll grab it and put it into my own brain. I'm starting off easy, not using the big tube."
         He closed several switches, lights flashed, and the wires and tapes began to feed through the magnets.
         "Well, I've got his language, folks, he seemed to want me to have it. It's got a lot of stuff in it that I can't understand yet, though, so guess I'll give him some English."

         He changed several connections and the captive spoke, in a profoundly deep bass voice.
         "You may as well discontinue your attempt, for you will gain no information from me. That machine of yours was out of date with us thousands of years ago."
         "Save your breath or talk sense," said Seaton, coldly. "I gave you English so that you can give me the information I want. You already know what it is. When you get ready to talk, say so, or throw it on the screen of your own accord. If you don't, I'll put on enough voltage to burn your brain out. Remember, I can read your dead brain as well as though it were alive, but I want your thoughts, as well as your knowledge, and I'm going to have them. If you give them voluntarily, I will tinker up a lifeboat that you can navigate back to your own world and let you go; if you resist I intend getting them anyway and you shall not leave this vessel alive. You may take your choice."
         "You are childish, and that machine is impotent against my will. I could have defied it a hundred years ago, when I was barely a grown man. Know you, American, that we supermen of the Fenachrone are as far above any of the other and lesser breeds of beings who spawn in their millions in their countless myriads of races upon the numberless planets of the Universe as you are above the inert metal from which this, your ship, was built. The Universe is ours, and in due course we shall take it—just as in due course I shall take this vessel. Do your worst; I shall not speak." The creature's eyes flamed, hurling a wave of hypnotic command through Seaton's eyes and deep into his brain. Seaton's very senses reeled for an instant under the impact of that awful mental force; but after a short, intensely bitter struggle he threw off the spell.
         "That was close, fellow, but you didn't quite ring the bell," he said grimly, staring directly into those unholy eyes. "I may rate pretty low mentally, but I can't be hypnotized into turning you loose. Also I can give you cards and spades in certain other lines which I am about to demonstrate. Being superman didn't keep the rest of your men from going out in my ray, and being a superman isn't going to save your brain. I am not depending upon my intellectual or mental force—I've got an ace in the hole in the shape of five thousand volts to apply to the most delicate centers of your brain. Start giving me what I want, and start quick, or I'll tear it out of you."

         The giant did not answer, merely glared defiance and bitter hate.
         "Take it, then!" Seaton snapped, and cut in the super-power stage and began turning dials and knobs, exploring that strange mind for the particular area in which he was most interested. He soon found it, and cut in the visualizer—the stereographic device, in parallel with Seaton's own brain recorder, which projected a three-dimensional picture into the "viewing-area" or dark space of the cabinet. Crane and Dunark, tense and silent, looked on in strained suspense as, minute after minute, the silent battle of wills raged. Upon one side was a horrible and gigantic brain, of undreamed of power; upon the other side a strong man, fighting for all that life holds dear, wielding against that monstrous and frightful brain a weapon wrought of high-tension electricity, applied with all the skill that earthly and Osnomian science could devise.
         Seaton crouched over the amplifier, his jaw set and every muscle taut, his eyes leaping from one meter to another, his right hand slowly turning up the potentiometer which was driving more and ever more of the searing, torturing output of his super-power tube into that stubborn brain. The captive was standing utterly rigid, eyes closed, every sense and faculty mustered to resist that cruelly penetrant attack upon the very innermost recesses of his mind. Crane and Dunark scarcely breathed as the three-dimensional picture in the visualizer varied from a blank to the hazy outlines of a giant space-cruiser. It faded out as the unknown exerted himself to withstand that poignant inquisition, only to come back in, clearer than before, as Seaton advanced the potentiometer still farther. Finally, flesh and blood could no longer resist that lethal probe and the picture became sharp and clear. It showed the captain—for he was no less an officer than the commander of the vessel—at a great council table, seated, together with many other officers, upon very low, enormously strong metal stools. They were receiving orders from their Emperor; orders plainly understood by Crane and the Osnomian alike, for thought needs no translation.

         At this point Seaton made the captain take them all over the ship. They noted its construction, its power-plant, its controls—every minute detail of structure, operation, and maintenance was taken from the captain's mind and was both recorded and visualized.
         He resumed his place at the educator, turned on the power, and a shadow passed over his face.
         "Poor devil, he's conked out—couldn't stand the gaff," he remarked, half-regretfully. "However that makes it easy to get what we want, and we'd have had to kill him anyway, I guess—Bad as it is, I'd hate to bump him off in cold blood."
         He threaded new spools into the machine, and for three hours, mile after mile of tape sped between the magnets as Seaton explored every recess of that monstrous, yet stupendous brain.
         "Well, that's that," he declared finally, as, the last bit of information gleaned and recorded upon the flying tape, he removed the body of the Fenachrone captain into space and rayed it out of existence. "Now what to do?"

    (ed note: By sheer deductive reasoning and a little luck, Seaton discovers the planet Norlamin. The inhabitants are kind benevolent people who have a technology even higher than the evil Fenachrone. They cannot leave their planet due to a total lack of the wonder element Rovolon, the atomic catalyst. Happily Seaton brought along a few tons of the stuff. )

         "A little explanation is perhaps necessary," replied Orlon. "First, you must know that every man of Norlamin is a student, and most of us are students of science. With us, 'labor' means mental effort, that is, study. We perform no physical or manual labor save for exercise, as all our mechanical work is done by forces. This state of things having endured for many thousands of years, it long ago became evident that specialization was necessary in order to avoid duplication of effort and to insure complete coverage of the field. Soon afterward, it was discovered that very little progress was being made in any branch, because so much was known that it took practically a lifetime to review that which had already been accomplished, even in a narrow and highly specialized field. Many points were studied for years before it was discovered that the identical work had been done before, and either forgotten or overlooked. To remedy this condition the mechanical educator had to be developed. Once it was perfected a new system was begun. One man was assigned to each small subdivision of scientific endeavor, to study it intensively. When he became old, each man chose a successor—usually a son—and transferred his own knowledge to the younger student. He also made a complete record of his own brain, in much the same way as you have recorded the brain of the Fenachrone upon your metallic tape. These records are all stored in a great central library, as permanent references.
         "All these things being true, now a young person may need only finish an elementary education—just enough to learn to think, which takes only about twenty-five or thirty years—and then he is ready to begin actual work. When that time comes, he receives in one day all the knowledge of his specialty which has been accumulated by his predecessors during many thousands of years of intensive study."

         "You have sufficient brain capacity; it is merely undeveloped. There are two reasons why you must be as familiar with the operation of this mechanism as you are with the operation of one of your Earthly automobiles. The first is that a similar control is to be installed in your new space-vessel, since by its use you can attain a perfection of handling impossible by any other system. The second, and more important reason, is that neither I nor any other man of Norlamin could compel himself, by any force of will, to direct a ray that would take away the life of any fellow-man."
         "Hm—m—m. Never thought of that. It's right too," mused Seaton. "How're you going to get it into my thick skull—with an educator?"
         "Exactly," and Rovol sent a beam of force after his highly developed educational mechanism. Dials and electrodes were adjusted, connections were established, and the beams and pencils of force began to reconstruct the great central controlling device. But this time, instead of being merely a bewildered spectator, Seaton was an active participant in the work. As each key and meter was wrought and mounted, there were indelibly impressed upon his brain the exact reason for and function of the part, and later, when the control itself was finished and the seemingly interminable task of connecting it up to the output force-bands of the transformers had begun, he had a complete understanding of everything with which he was working, and understood all the means by which the ends he had so long desired were to be attained. For to the ancient scientist the tasks he was then performing were the merest routine, to be performed in reflex fashion, and he devoted most of his attention to transferring from his own brain to that of his young assistant as much of his stupendous knowledge as the smaller brain of the Terrestrial was capable of absorbing. More and more rapidly as the work progressed the mighty flood of knowledge poured into Seaton's mind. After an hour or so, when enough connections had been made so that automatic forces could be so directed as to finish the job, Rovol and Seaton left the laboratory and went into the living room. As they walked, the educator accompanied them, borne upon its beam of force.

         "Your brain is behaving very nicely indeed," said Rovol, "much better than I would have thought possible from its size. In fact, it may be possible for me to transfer to you all the knowledge I have which might be of use to you. That is why I took you away from the laboratory. What do you think of the idea?"
         "Our psychologists have always maintained that none of us ever uses more than a minute fraction of the actual capacity of his brain," Seaton replied after a moment's thought. "If you think you can give me even a percentage of your knowledge without killing me, go to it—I'm for it, strong!
         "Knowing that you would be, I have already requested Drasnik, the First of Psychology, to come here, and he has just arrived," answered Rovol. And as he spoke, that personage entered the room.

         When the facts had been set before him, the psychologist nodded his head. "That is quite possible," he said with enthusiasm, "and I will be only too glad to assist in such an operation."
         "But listen!" protested Seaton, "You'll probably change my whole personality! Rovol's brain is three times the size of mine."
         "Tut-tut—nothing of the kind," Drasnik reproved him. "As you have said, you are using only a minute portion of the active mass of your brain. The same thing is true with us—many millions of cycles would have to pass before we would be able to fill the brains we now have."
         "Then why are your brains so large?"
         "Merely a provision of Nature that no possible accession of knowledge shall find her storehouse too small," replied Drasnik, positively. "Ready?"

         All three donned the headsets and a wave of mental force swept into Seaton's mind, a wave of such power that the Terrestrial's every sense wilted under the impact. He did not faint, he did not lose consciousness—he simply lost all control of every nerve and fiber as his entire brain passed into the control of the immense mentality of the First of Psychology and became a purely receptive, plastic medium upon which to impress the knowledge of the aged physicist.

         Hour after hour the transfer continued, Seaton lying limp as though lifeless, the two Norlaminians tense and rigid, every faculty concentrated upon the ignorant, virgin brain exposed to their gaze. Finally the operation was complete and Seaton, released from the weird, hypnotic grip of that stupendous mind, gasped, shook himself, and writhed to his feet.
         "Great Cat!" he exclaimed, his eyes wide with astonishment. "I wouldn't have believed there was as much to know in the entire Universe as I know right now, and I know it as well as I ever knew elementary algebra. Thanks, fellows, a million times—but say, did you leave any open spaces for more? In one way, I seem to know less than I did before, there's so much more to find out. Can I learn anything more, or did you fill me up to capacity?"
         The psychologist, who had been listening to the exuberant youth with undisguised pleasure, spoke calmly.
         "The mere fact that you appreciate your comparative ignorance shows that you are still capable of learning. Your capacity to learn is greater than it ever was before, even though the waste space has been reduced. Much to our surprise, Rovol and I gave you all of his knowledge that would be of any use to you, and some of my own, and still theoretically you can add to it more than nine times the total of your present knowledge."

    (ed note: Meanwhile the villainous Dr. Duquesne is trying to find enough technology so he can eliminate Seaton, the only person keeping Duquesne from taking over the world. Duquesne brings along his henchman, the mobster "Baby Doll" Loring)

         (Duquesne said) "Well, on one trip I was fifteen miles or so from the city when an airship crashed down in a woods about half a mile from me. It was in an uninhabited district and nobody else saw it. I went over to investigate, thinking probably I could find out something useful. It had the whole front end cut or broken off, and that made me curious, because no imaginable fall will break an arenak hull. I walked in through the hole and saw that it was one of their fighting tenders—a combination warship and repair shop, with all of the stuff in it that I've been telling you about. The generators were mostly burned out and the propelling and lifting motors were out of commission. I prowled around, getting acquainted with it, and found a lot of useful instruments and, best of all, one of Dunark's new mechanical educators, with complete instructions for its use. Also, I found three bodies, and thought I'd try it out...."
         (Loring said) "Just a minute. Only three bodies on a warship? And what good could a mechanical educator do you if the men were all dead?"
         "Three is all I found then, but there was another one. Three men and a captain compose an Osnomian crew for any ordinary vessel. Everything is automatic, you, know. As for the men being dead, that doesn't make any difference—you can read their brains just the same, if they haven't been dead too long."

    (ed note: Using an atomic energy detector, Duquesne stumbles over the Fenachrone chief engineer from the ship Seaton defeated. Duquesne does not have a five-kilowatt transmitting tube like Seaton did, but Duquesne does have enough pentobarbital in his bag of tricks to drug the engineer into submission. Duquesne uses the mechanical educator to learn all the engineer's knowledge and then formulates a plan to capture a Fenachrone scout ship. The drugged Fenachrone enters the scout ship unknowingly carrying a hidden tank of poison gas. Duquesne pushes the button that releases the gas into the scout ship, killing everybody inside.)

         Can you open the airlocks of that scout ship from the outside, doctor?" asked Loring, as the two adventurers came out of the armory into the control room, where DuQuesne, by means of the attractors, began to bring the two vessels together.
         "Yes. I know everything that the engineer of a first-class battleship knew. To him, one of these little scouts was almost beneath notice, but he did know that much about them— the outside controls of all Fenachrome ships work the same way."
         Under the urge of the attractors the two ships of space were soon door to door.
         DuQuesne set the mighty beams to lock the craft immovably together and both men stepped into the Violet's airlock. Pumping back the air, DuQuesne opened the outer door, then opened both outer and inner doors of the scout.

         As he opened the inner door the poisoned atmosphere of the vessel screamed out into space, and as soon as the frigid gale had subsided the raiders entered the control room of the enemy craft. Hardened and conscienceless killer though Loring was, the four bloated, ghastly objects that had once been men gave him momentary pause.
         "Maybe we shouldn't have let the air out so fast," he suggested, tearing his gaze away from the grisly sight.
         "The brains aren't hurt, and that's all I care about." Unmoved, DuQuesne opened the air valves wide, and not until the roaring blast had scoured every trace of the noxious vapor from the whole ship did he close the airlock doors and allow the atmosphere to come again to normal pressure and temperature.

         With no sign of distaste DuQuesne coupled his brain to that of the dead lieutenant of the Fenachrone through the mechanical educator, and quite as casually as though he were merely giving Loring another lesson in Fenachrone matters did he begin systematically to explore the intricate convolutions of that fearsome brain.
         Thus for days each man devoted himself to his task. Loring rebuilt the power plant of the short-ranging scout patrol into the terrific open-space drive of the first-line battleships and performed the simple routines of their Spartan housekeeping. DuQuesne cut himself short on sleep and spent every possible hour in transferring to his own brain every worthwhile bit of knowledge which had been possessed by the commander and crew of the patrol ship which he had captured.
         The change-over finished, Loring went in search of DuQuesne, whom he found performing a strenuous setting-up exercise. The scientist's face was pale, haggard, and drawn.
         "What's the matter, chief?" Loring asked. "You look kind of peaked."
         "Peaked is good—I'm just about bushed. This thing of getting a hundred and ninety years of solid education in a few days would hardly come under the heading of light amusement. Now we'll get ready to take that battleship. But this detailed instruction by word of mouth takes altogether too much time. Put on this headset and I'll shoot you the whole scheme, together with whatever additional Fenachrone knowledge you will need to put the act across."
         Loring, now impersonating the dead commanding officer of the scout ship, sat down at the manual sender (Fenachrone equivalent to a Morse code key), which had not been seriously damaged, and in true Fenachrone fashion laid a beam to the mother ship.
         "Scout ship K3296, Sublieutenant Grenimar commanding, sending emergency distress message," he tapped out fluently. "Am not using telemental recorder, as required by regulations, because nearly all instruments wrecked."

    From SKYLARK THREE by E. E. "Doc" Smith (1930)

    Psionic Shield Helmets

    In Doc Smith's Lensman series, bad guys could wear "thought screens" to prevent their thoughts from being telepathically read (at least as long as the battery lasts, or until the Lensman can mentally control a spider or worm to craw up and turn the screen off). In Poul Anderson's Flandry novels, Flandry also uses a mind screen to deal with the dangerous telepathic agent Aycharaych. In the Traveller RPG they have "Psionic Shield Helmets." In The Witches of Karres by James H. Schmitz the pirate haven leader wears a special skullcap to keep Klatha waves from taking over his mind.


    "Threbus and Toll know Sedmon, Captain. They visited his place four, five times before I was born. They told me about him. He's got a sort of skullcap he uses that keeps klatha (psionic) waves out of his mind. You can bet he'll wear it tomorrow! But he still doesn't want trouble with witches. He knows too much about them."...

    ...Uldune's lord wore a long black robe and a helmet-like cap of velvet green which covered half his forehead and enclosed his skull to the nape of his neck. The last must be the anti-klatha device Goth had mentioned.

    From THE WITCHES OF KARRES by James H. Schmitz (1949)

    (ed note: Flandry is a secret agent much like James Bond, except that Poul Anderson invented Flandry years before Ian Fleming invented Bond. Flandry's arch enemy is Aycharaych, an enemy secret agent who is the only known xenotelepath. )

          Ruethen cocked an eye at Flandry. And suddenly the man sensed tautness in that massive frame. Just for a moment, then Ruethen's whole body became a mask. "We have met now and then," said the Merseian dryly. "Welcome, Sir Dominic. The cloakroom slave will furnish you with a mind-screen."
         "What?" Despite himself, Flandry started.
         "If you want one."...
         ...Flandry led her on into the ballroom. His mind worried Ruethen's curious offer, like a dog with a bone. Why—?
         He saw the gaunt black shape among the rainbow Terrans, and he knew. It went cold along his spine.
         He wasted no time on excuses but almost ran to the cloakroom. His feet whispered along the crystalline floor, where Orion glittered hundreds of light-years beneath. "Mind-screen," he snapped.
         The slave was a pretty girl. Merseians took pleasure in buying humans for menial jobs. "I've only a few, sir," she said. "His lordship told me to keep them for—"
         "Me!" Flandry snatched the cap of wires, transistors, and power cells from her hesitant fingers. Only when it was on his head did he relax. Then he took out a fresh cigarette and steered through lilting music towards the bar. He needed a drink, badly.
         Aycharaych of Chereion stood beneath high glass pillars...
         ...Lady Diana approached. She seemed uncertain whether to be indignant or intrigued. "Now I know what they mean by cavalier treatment." She pointed upward. "What is that thing?"
         Flandry tossed off his drink. The whisky smoked down his throat, and he felt his nerves ease. "I'm told it's my face," he said.
         "No, no! Stop fooling! I mean that horrible wire thing."
         "Mind-screen." He held out his glass for a refill. "It heterodynes the energy radiation of the cerebral cortex in a random pattern. Makes it impossible to read what I'm thinking."
         "But I thought that was impossible anyway," she said, bewildered. "I mean, unless you belong to a naturally telepathic species."
         "Which man isn't," he agreed, "except for rare cases. The nontelepath develops his own private ‘language,' which is gibberish to anyone who hasn't studied him for a long time as a single individual. Ergo, telepathy was never considered a particular threat in my line of work (secret agent), and you've probably never heard of the mind-screen. It was developed just a few years ago. And the reason for its development is standing over there."
         She followed his eyes. "Who? That tall being in the black mantle?"
         "The same. I had a brush with him, and discovered to my... er... discomfiture, shall we say?... that he has a unique gift. Whether or not all his race does, I couldn't tell you. But within a range of a few hundred meters, Aycharaych of Chereion can read the mind of any individual of any species, whether he's ever met his victim before or not."
         "But—why, then—"
         "Exactly. He's persona non grata throughout our territory, of course, to be shot on sight. But as you know, my lady," said Flandry in a bleak tone, "we are not now in the Terrestrial Empire. Jupiter belongs to the Dispersal of Ymir."
         "Oh," said Lady Diana. She colored. "A telepath!"...
         ...Aycharaych chuckled and took the man's arm. "Come, let us find a more peaceful spot. But I pray you, do not waste so amusing an occasion on me. I own to visiting Terra clandestinely, but that part of it was entirely for the easement of my personal curiosity. I had no intention of burgling the Imperial offices—"
         "Which are equipped with Aycharaych alarms anyway."
         "Telepathizing detectors? Yes, so I would assume."...

    From WE CLAIM THESE STARS! by Poul Anderson (1959)

          Psishield Helmets Set New Fashion Trend
         The war scare in the marches has provided an unexpected bonus for the local electronics firm of Currothers-Aljein. Psionic shields have become items of popular fashion.
         Psionic shield helmets have been on the market for centuries, reported Auges Currothers, senior partner of the firm. " They were popular for a brief time during the psionics suppressions back in the 800's, but they were considered to be something of an embarrassment after that," Currothers said. "Pretty soon, nobody wore them, even during the Third and Fourth Frontier Wars, but for some reason we can't keep them in stock now,"
         Local Imperial authorities are pleased with the trend and suggest that it reflects a patriotic response of the population to the threat posed by mind-reading enemy spies.

         Psionic Shield
         Psionic shield helmets, or psishields, come in a variety of designs, but all work on the same general principles. All models completely encase the wearer's head. A battery powered generator located over the back of the neck creates a weak electrical field at human brain-wave frequencies which psionicalIy endowed individuals perceive as static.
         Psionic shields are available on worlds of tech level 12 or better with a roll of 9+. Chances for finding them are better (DM +3) where the population is suspicious or fearful of psionic activity or on worlds caught up in the current war scare along the Zhodani frontier. On some worlds, they have become fashionable among the well-dressed upper classes, although they are too expensive (and, indeed, unnecessary) for most civilians. They are sometimes issued to individuals working at installations or secret projects which, for various reasons, cannot themselves be shielded.
         Psishield electronics are relatively simple. but prone to breakdown from lack of maintenance or sabotage; therefore, a small meter is provided with the unit for periodic testing of the device's effectiveness. Any character with access to the helmet can disable it temporarily; individuals with electronics -3 can disable it in such a way that even test meters will not reveal tampering.
         The on/off switches of most models are equipped with psi-proof locks to prevent telekinetics from turning the helmet off. Many have chinstraps or other methods of securing the helmet in place. At tech level 14, advanced models are available which are powered from the wearer's body heat, and need no on/off switch.
         Psishields provide little physical protection, but give the wearer an automatic psionic strength rating of 15 (for the purposes of defense against assault only). Shielded individuals cannot be detected by characters possessing life detection , nor can they receive telempathetic or telepathic suggestions. They cannot be probed or have their thoughts read.
         Psionic shielding is built into many large installations and military or scout bases where secrecy is required. Military ships, vacc suits, and armor generally have psionic shield circuits built into them to prevent enemy telepaths picking up battle strategy during combat. The shield circuitry for ships and buildings is considered a prime target for enemy saboteurs and is heavily guarded during times of crisis.

    From PSISHIELD HELMETS SET NEW FASHION TREND by William H. Keith jr. (1980)
    The Journal of the Traveller's Aid Society No. 9

    (ed note: Our hero, Lensman Kimball Kinnison, has spent months covertly tracing to find the heart of the dread Boskonian pirate empire. He is currently in the sewers under the Boskonian prime base, the prime base in the Milky Way galaxy at least. Kim wants to find the location of the grand prime base, in the adjacent galaxy. Unfortunately all of his telepathic powers are blocked by the thought screens worn by the Boskonians. )

          The connection was broken, and the Lensman's brief thrill of elated self-satisfaction died away.
         "No soap," he growled to himself in disgust "I've got to get into that guy's mind (Jalte, commander of the base), some way or other!"
         How could he make the approach? Every man in the base wore a screen, and they were mighty careful. No dogs or other pet animals. There were a few birds, but it would smell very cheesy indeed to have a bird flying around, pecking at screen generators. To anyone with half a brain that would tell the whole story, and these folks were really smart. What, then?

         There was a nice spider up there in a corner. Big enough to do light work, but not big enough to attract much, if any, attention. Did spiders have minds? He could soon find out.

         The spider had more of a mind than he had supposed, and he got into it easily enough. She could not really think at all, and at the starkly terrible savagery of her tiny ego the Lensman actually winced, but at that she had redeeming features. She was willing to work hard and long for a comparatively small return of food. He could not fuse his mentality with hers smoothly; as he could do in the case of creatures of greater brain power, but he could handle her after a fashion.
         At least she knew that certain actions would result in nourishment.
         Through the insect's compound eyes the room and all its contents were weirdly distorted, but the Lensman could make them out well enough to direct her efforts. She crawled along the ceiling and dropped upon a silken rope to Jalte's belt. She could not pull the plug of the power-pack—it loomed before her eyes, a gigantic metal pillar as immovable as the Rock of Gibraltar—therefore she scampered on and began to explore the mazes of the set itself. She could not see the thing as a whole, it was far too immense a structure for that; so Kinnison, to whom the device was no larger than a hand, directed her to the first grid lead.
         A tiny thing, thread-thin in gross; yet to the insect it was an ordinary cable of stranded soft-metal wire. Her powerful mandibles pried loose one of the component strands and with very little effort pulled it away from its fellows beneath the head of a binding screw. The strand bent easily, and as it touched the metal of the chassis the thought-screen vanished.

         Instantly Kinnison insinuated his mind in Jalte's and began to dig for knowledge. Eichmil was his chief—Kinnison knew that already. His office was in the Second Galaxy, on the planet Jarnevon. Jalte had been there… coordinates so and so, courses such and such… Eichmil reported to Boskone…
         The Lensman stiffened. Here was the first positive evidence he had found that his deductions were correct—or even that there really was such an entity as Boskone!
         He bored anew.
         Boskone was not a single entity, but a council… probably of the Eich, the natives of Jarnevon… weird impressions of coldly intellectual reptilian monstrosities, horrific, indescribable… Eichmil must know exactly who and where Boskone was. Jalte did not.

         Kinnison finished his research and abandoned the Kalonian's mind as insidiously as he had entered it. The spider opened the short, restoring the screen to usefulness.
         Then, before he did anything else, the Lensman directed his small ally to a whole family of young grubs just under the cover of his manhole. Lensmen paid their debts, even to spiders

    From GRAY LENSMAN by E.E. "Doc" Smith (1951)

    Notable Psionic Fiction

    The LENSMAN series by E. E. "Doc" Smith
    A major part of the power of the Lensmen was their psi powers, amplified by wearing a customized Lens from the planet Arisia. This is another example of an SF universe where psi powers were a characteristic of the next stage of human evolution.
    Subspace Explorers by E. E. "Doc" Smith
    Another example of psi power being the touchstone of the next stage of evolution, but with the twist that just because you are more highly evolved does not mean you are automatically a nice person. Also the telepaths find it impossible to read the minds of non-Psi people, until they realize that non-Psis are basically thinking in three dimensions while Psi do it in four.
    The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
    The discovery that allows pretty much everybody to teleport ("Jaunting") totally disrupts the economy of the solar system. Since one can only jaunt to a place whose location you know, buildings are rendered jaunt proof not by thick walls, but by being located in the center of elaborate disorienting mazes. And since you also have to know where you are starting your jaunt from, prisons are located inside mazes as well. Trying to jaunt to or from a maze is a good way to do a "blue jaunt": dying in an explosion caused by the jaunter materializing inside a wall or other solid object.
    The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
    The novel takes place in a society of telepaths. But the level of ability one has determines what telepathic powers one is capable of.
    Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke


    This novel too equates psionic powers with the next stage of evolution. Humanity is right at the cusp of evolving into bodiless psionic hyperintelligent hive-mind energy creatures, just like all races do. The Overmind is a composite of all the other races who have made the transition.

    The trouble is that if a race does not do the transition properly, they will become sort of a telepathic cancer whose inevitable decay will poison the Overmind.

    The Overmind sends their servants the Overlords to Terra. They are tasked with halting all human research into parapsychology, making humanity march in place while the Overmind mentally molds the next generation so as to safely make the transition.

    Second Dawn by Arthur C. Clarke


    The Atheleni and the Mithraneans are two alien races with high intelligence, incredibly developed mathematics, telepathic powers, but no hands. They have no artifacts at all, and constant wars because with no agriculture there is not enough food.

    In the last war, the Atheleni only managed to avoid defeat from the Mithraneans by starting a telepathic "Manhattan Project" and inventing the telepathic equivalent of a nuclear weapon. The weapon telepathically burns the intellect of the target, leaving them with the mental capacity of a one-year old.

    But the agriculture problem remains.

    In a breakthrough, one Atheleni makes contact with a third race on the planet, the Phileni. They are somewhat limited in IQ, but they do have hands. With the Atheleni as the head and the Pheleni as the hands, they start mastering the physical sciences. Including agriculture.

    The story ends by noting that they of all the races of the universe had reached the second crossroads, but had never passed the first. They had safely passed the crossroad of telepathic weapons and telepathic armageddon, but hand not yet faced the crossroad of nuclear weapons and nuclear armageddon.

    Time for the Stars by Robert Heinlein
    The Long Range Foundation has torchships capable of relativistic starflight. But communication is a problem. In a breakthrough, they discover that some identical twins can communicate telepathically. Such communication is instantaneous and has interstellar range. They recruit sets of such twins to serve as interstellar radios. Of course things get complicated as relativity alters the relative ages of each pair of twins. Though if you think about it, the fact that telepathy is instantaneous kind of knocks relativity into a cocked hat anyway.
    Voodoo Planet by Andre Norton

    The planet Khatka was settled three hundred years ago by desperate refugees escaping from the Second Atomic War. They decivilized, but gradually managed to recover before being contacted by the Scout Service. However, they retain the hereditary familiy of witch-doctors, who possess magic that actually works.

    Chief witch-doctor Lumbrilo is making a power-play, to become not only chief witch-doctor but also the political ruler of the planet. He is systematically using magic to assassinate those who stand in his way.

    The current leader is Chief Ranger Asaki. To counter the threat of Lumbrilo, he contacts his old friend the free-trader Captain Jellico. Specfically to request the aid of free-trader Medic Craig Tau. It turns out that Tau has a hobby of studying what the natives call "magic" on the myriad worlds the free-traders have visited.

    (available free from Project Gutenberg)

    Psionics was popularised by John W. Campbell jr., A. E. van Vogt ("Slan"), Larry Niven, James H. Schmitz, Andre Norton, Alan E. Nourse, and many many others. Not to mention the telepathic Vulcans of Star Trek, the Jedi Knights from the Star Wars movies, and the nasty Psi Corps of Babylon 5.

    In space opera a person seldom has all the psionic abilities, they generally only have two or three. Some have limitations for dramatic reasons: your evil overlord's ability to use apportation to teleport your protagonist's still-beating heart into their hand is just a little too overwhelming.

    Telepathic receiving was popular in early space operas, when the authors didn't want their characters wasting dramatic tension by taking months learning an alien language. Hal Clement pointed out a little flaw in that idea.


    (ed note: Deston and the other members of the Psionic Institute are faced with the problem that a psionic cannot read the mind of a non-psionic. They try to figure out a method. The problem turns out to be that non-psionic people have three-dimensional minds while psionics have four dimensional minds.)

    “Could be—we’re in a jam,” Deston said, and told them what the jam was. “So you see, to get anywhere at all, we’ve got to do some really intensive spying, and the only way to do that is to learn how to read non-psionic minds, and the poop is that if anybody in total space can deliver the goods on that order, you four are most apt to be the ones.”

    The four linked up and went to work, and the Destons tuned themselves in; very slowly at first; more as observers than as active participants in the investigation. The subject this time was a middle-echelon executive, the traffic manager of one division of far-flung Warner Oil.

    The four were getting a flash of coherent thought once in a while, but that was all.

    “That’s right,” Deston said. “Now as to what this engine does. Postulating a two-dimensional creature, you could pile a million of him up and still have no thickness at all. Similarly, no three-dimensional material body can be compressed to zero thickness. The analogy holds in three and four dimensions. However, there are discontinuities, incompatibilities, and sheer logical impossibilities. Hence, ordinarily, a four-dimensional mind, which all psionic minds are, cannot engage any three-dimensional, non-psionic mind at all. All possible points of contact are of zero dimensions……

    “That’s about it. Now, another analogy. Consider transformation of coordinates—polar into Cartesian, three-dimensional into two-dimensional, and so on. What a competent operator in the Fourth actually does is manipulate non-space-non-time attributes in such a way as to construct a matrix that is both three-and four-dimensional. Analogous to light-particle and/or wave. You follow?”

    “Perfectly,” the Frenches said in unison. “Four on our side, three on the non-psi’s side, with perfect coupling.”

    “Close enough,” Deston said. “Now. Thought patterns are as individual as fingerprints or the shape of one snowflake or one instantaneous pattern in a kaleidoscope. What two telepaths do is not tune one mind to the other. Instead, each one of a very large number of filaments of thought—all under control, remember—touches its opposite number, thus setting up a pattern that has never existed before and will never exist again… .”

    “I get it!” French exclaimed. “Reading a non-psi’s mind will be a strictly one-way street. Well have to go through the matrix—which doesn’t exist in telepathy—and match whatever pattern we find on the other side—which won’t change.

    “That’s right-we hope! Now you can go.”

    They went; and this time the traffic-manager’s mind was wider open to inspection than any book could possibly be. To be comparable, every page of such a book would have to be placed in perfect position to read and all at once!


    And until now, there was another fact that made the matter of no more than long-term philosophical interest. Though we could — at great expense — build radio transmitters capable of sending signals to these creatures, the nearest supercivilization is seven thousand light-years away. Even if it bothered to reply, it would be fourteen thousand years before we could get an answer. In these circumstances, it seemed that our superiors could be neither a help to us nor a threat.

    But now all this has changed. We can send signals to the stars at a speed that cannot yet be measured, and that may well be infinite. And we know that they are using such techniques — for we have detected their impulses, though we cannot begin to interpret them.

    These impulses are not electromagnetic, of course. We do not know what they are; we do not even have a name for them. Or, rather, we have too many names….

    Yes, gentlemen, there is something, after all, in the old wives’ tales about telepathy, ESP, or whatever you care to call it. But it is no wonder that the study of such phenomena never made any progress here on Earth, where there is the continuous background roar of a billion minds to swamp all signals. Even the pitiably limited progress that was made before the Space Age seems a miracle — like discovering the laws of music in a boiler factory. It was not until we could get away from our planet’s mental tumult that there was any hope of establishing a real science of parapsychology.

    And even then we had to move to the other side of the Earth’s orbit, where the noise was not only diminished by a hundred and eighty million miles of distance, but also shielded by the unimaginable bulk of the Sun itself. Only there, on our artificial planetoid Antigeos, could we detect and measure the feeble radiations of mentality, and uncover their laws of propagation.

    In many respects, those laws are still baffling. However, we have established the basic facts. As had long been suspected by the few who believed in these phenomena, they are triggered by emotional states — not by pure will-power or deliberate, conscious thought. It is not surprising, therefore, that so many reports of paranormal events in the past were associated with moments of death or disaster. Fear is a powerful generator; on rare occasions it can manifest itself above the surrounding noise.

    Once this fact was recognized, we began to make progress. We induced artificial emotional states, first in single individuals, then in groups. We were able to measure how the signals attenuated with distance. Now, we have a reliable, quantitative theory that has been checked out as far as Saturn. We believe that our calculations can be extended even to the stars. If this is correct, we can produce a … a shout that will be heard instantly over the whole galaxy. And surely there will be someone who will respond! Now there is only one way in which a signal of the required intensity can be produced. I said that fear was a powerful generator — but it is not powerful enough. Even if we could strike all humanity with a simultaneous moment of terror, the impulse could not be detected more than two thousand light-years away. We need at least four times this range. And we can achieve it — by using the only emotion that is more powerful than fear.

    From LOVE THAT UNIVERSE by Arthur C. Clarke (1961)

    (ed note: The Terran galactic empire has grown old and decadent, and the upstart alien Mersian empire seeks to conquer. Things would be quite awkward for Terra if, for instance, the Terran world Aeneas would suddenly be swept by religious extremism and embarked on a holy war that carved the Terran empire in half.

    A Mersian secret agent, the dreaded xenotelepath Aycharaych sees a possibility, and embarks upon a decades-long evil plan. As it turns out, Aeneas is one of the many planets infested with a Chereionite telepathic animal called a slinker. The tinerans keep slinkers as pets. It also has six thousand year old ruins from some forerunner race called "The Builders." All Aenean revere and venerate the Builders. This is important to the plan. Aycharaych captures a simple villager named Jaan and telepathically programs him to become a prophet. Jaan hears Aycharaych's telepathic voice inside his head, calling itself "Caruith". Who tells Jaan that the Builders are returning, and to start preaching the word.

    One holy war, coming up!

    Erannath is a alien Ythri, but works for the Terran empire. Ivar is the somewhat naive heir to the Aenean throne.)

         Erannath studied her. At length he said: "Very well, for I hear your deathpride." He was still during a heartbeat. "The breath of tineran life is that creature they call the luck, keeping at least one in every wagon. We call it the slinker."
         "Hoy," broke from Ivar, "how would you know—?"
         "Ythrians have found the three-eyed beasts on a number of planets." Erannath did not keep the wish to kill out of his voice; and his feathers began to stand erect. "Not on our home. But on several worlds like it, which naturally we investigated more thoroughly than your race normally does—the lesser terrestroid globes. Always slinkers are associated with fragments of an earlier civilization, such as Aeneas has. We suspect they were spread by that civilization, whether deliberately, accidentally, or through their own design. Some of us theorize that they caused its downfall."
         "Wait a minute," Ivar protested. "Why have we humans never heard of them?"
         "You have, on this world," Erannath replied. "Probably elsewhere too, but quite incidentally, notes buried in your data banks, because you are more interested in larger and moister planets. And for our part, we have had no special reason to tell you. We learned what slinkers are early in our starfaring, when first we had scant contact with Terrans, afterward hostile contact. We developed means to eradicate them. They long ago ceased to be a problem in the Domain, and no doubt few Ythrians, even, have heard of them nowadays."
         Too much information, too big a universe, passed through Ivar.
         "Besides," Erannath went on, "it seems humans are more susceptible than Ythrians. Our two brain-types are rather differently organized, and the slinkers' resonate better with yours."
         "Resonate?" Captain Riho scowled.
         "The slinker nervous system is an extraordinarily well-developed telepathic transceiver," Erannath said. "Not of thoughts. We really don't know what level of reasoning ability the little abominations possess. Nor do we care, in the way that human scientists might. When we had established what they do, our overwhelming desire was merely to slay them."
         "What do they do, then?" Ivar asked around a lump of nausea.
         "They violate the innermost self. In effect, they receive emotions and feed these back; they act as amplifiers." It was terrifying to see Erannath where he crouched. His dry phrases ripped forth. "Perhaps those intelligences you call the Builders developed them as pets, pleasure sources. The Builders may have had cooler spirits than you or we do. Or perhaps they degenerated from the effects, and died.
         "I said that the resonance with us Ythrians is weak. Nonetheless we found explorers and colonists showing ugly behavior. It would start as bad dreams, go on to murderously short temper, to year-around ovulation, to—Enough. We tracked down the cause and destroyed it.
         "You humans are more vulnerable, it appears. You are lucky that slinkers prefer the deserts. Otherwise all Aeneans might be addicted.
         "Yes, addiction. They don't realize it themselves, they think they keep these pets merely because of custom, but the tinerans are a nation of addicts. Every emotion they begin to feel is fed back into them, amplified, radiated, reamplified, to the limit of what the organism can generate. Do you marvel that they act like constitutional psychopaths? That they touch no drugs in their caravans, but require drugs when away, and cannot survive being away very long?"

    (ed note: Idiot Ivar and secret agent Erannath go to the Prophet's village. Erannath is thrown into Aycharaych's dungeon where he is tortured. Ivar doesn't notice Erannath is missing. Later Ivar gets a letter from his girlfriend. He realizes he's been had. Just to check, he asked the Prophet what Caruith looks like in his visions. Birdlike humanoid. OhCrap! Just like it says in the letter. Ivar goes looking for Erannath and finds him in the dungeon.)

         "What got me wonderin' was letter today from my girl. She'd learned of Merseian secret agent at large on Aeneas, telepath of some powerful kind. His description answers to Jaan's of Caruith." (none other than the dreaded Aycharaych)
         Erannath saw, and warned: "You cannot afford indignation either. Listen. Aycharaych has talked freely to me. I think he must be lonely, shut away down here with nothing but his machinations and the occasional string he pulls on his puppet prophet. Or is his reason that, in talking, he brings associations into my consciousness, and thus reads more of what I know? This is why I have been kept alive. He wants to drain me of data."
         "What is he?" Ivar whispered.
         "A native of a planet he calls Chereion, somewhere in the Merseian Roidhunate (Empire). Its civilization is old, old—formerly wide-faring and mighty—yes, he says the Chereionites were the Builders, the Ancients. He will not tell me what made them withdraw. He confesses that now they are few, and what power they wield comes wholly from their brains." (actually Aycharaych is the last of his species)
         "They're not, uh, uh, super-Didonians, though … galaxy-unifyin' intellects … as Jaan believes?"
         "No. Nor do they wage a philosophical conflict among themselves over the ultimate destiny of creation. Those stories merely fit Aycharaych's purpose." Erannath hunched on the claws of his wings. His head thrust forward against nacre and shadow. "Listen," he said. "We have no more than a sliver of time at best. Don't interrupt, unless I grow unclear. Listen. Remember."
         The words blew harshly forth, like an autumn gale: "They preserve remnants of technology on Chereion which they have not shared with their masters the Merseians—if the Merseians are really their masters and not their tools. I wonder about that. Well, we must not stop to speculate. As one would await, the technology relates to the mind. For they are extraordinary telepaths, more gifted than the science we know has imagined is possible.
         "There is some ultimate quality of the mind which goes deeper than language. At close range, Aycharaych can read the thoughts of any being—any speech, any species, he claims—without needing to know that being's symbolism. I suspect what he does is almost instantly to analyze the pattern, identify universals of logic and conation, go on from there to reconstruct the whole mental configuration—as if his nervous system included not only sensitivity to the radiation of others, but an organic semantic computer fantastically beyond anything that Technic civilization has built.
         "No matter! Their abilities naturally led Chereionite scientists to concentrate on psychology and neurology. It's been ossified for millions of years, that science, like their whole civilization: ossified, receding, dying. … Perhaps Aycharaych alone is trying to act on reality, trying to stop the extinction of his people. I don't know. I do know that he serves the Roidhunate as an Intelligence officer with a roving commission. This involves brewing trouble for the Terran Empire wherever he can.
         "During the Snelund regime, he looked through Sector Alpha Crucis. It wasn't hard, when misgovernment had already produced widespread laxity and confusion. The conflict over Jihannath was building toward a crisis, and Merseia needed difficulties on this frontier of Terra's.
         "Aycharaych landed secretly on Aeneas and prowled. He found more than a planet growing rebellious. He found the potential of something that might break the Empire apart. For all the peoples here, in all their different ways, are profoundly religious. Give them a common faith, a missionary cause, and they can turn fanatic."
         "No," Ivar couldn't help protesting.
         "Aycharaych thinks so. He has spent a great deal of his time and energy on your world, however valuable his gift would make him elsewhere."
         "But—one planet, a few millions, against the—"
         "The cult would spread. He speaks of militant new religions in your past, religions which brought obscure tribes to world power, and shook older dominions to their roots, in a single generation.
         "I must hurry. He found the likeliest place for the first spark was here, where the Ancients brood at the center of every awareness. In Jaan the dreamer, whose life and circumstances chanced to be a veritable human archetype, he found the likeliest tinder.
         "He cannot by himself project a thought into a brain which is not born to receive it. But he has a machine which can. That is nothing fantastic; human, Ythrian, or Merseian engineers could develop the same device, had they enough incentive. We don't, because for us the utility would be marginal; electronic communications suit our kind of life better.
         "Aycharaych, though—Telepathy of several kinds belongs to evolution on his planet. Do you remember the slinkers that the tinerans keep? I inquired, and he admitted they came originally from Chereion. No doubt their effect on men suggested his plan to him.
         "He called Jaan down to where he laired in these labyrinths. He drugged him and … thought at him … in some way he knows, using that machine—until he had imprinted a set of false memories and an idiom to go with them. Then he released his victim."
         "Artificial schizophrenia. Split personality. A man who was sane, made to hear 'Voices.' " Ivar shuddered.
         Erannath was harder-souled; or had he simply lived with the fact longer, in his prison? He went on: "Aycharaych departed, having other mischief to wreak. What he had done on Aeneas might or might not bear fruit; if not, he had lost nothing except his time.
         "He returned lately, and found success indeed. Jaan was winning converts throughout the Orcan country. Rumors of the new message were spreading across a whole globe of natural apostles, always eager for anything that might nourish faith, and now starved for a word of hope.
         "Events must be guided with craft and patience, of course, or the movement would most likely come to naught, produce not a revolution followed by a crusade, but merely another sect. Aycharaych settled down to watch, to plot, ever oftener to plant in Jaan, through his thought projector, a revelation from Caruith—"

    (ed note: Ivar escapes, Aycharaych evil plot is foiled. Later Ivar talks to the kindly Imperial temporary Governor Desai.)

         Bleakness: "What about Aycharaych?"
         "He has vanished, and his mind-engine. We're hunting for him, of course." Desai grimaced. "I'm afraid we will fail. One way or another, that wily scoundrel will get off the planet and home. But at least he did not destroy us here."
         Ivar let go of his girl, as if for this time not she nor anything else could warm him. Beneath a tumbled lock of yellow hair, his gaze lay winter-blue. "Do you actually believe he could have?"
         "The millennialism he was engineering, yes, it might have, I think," Desai answered, equally low. "We can't be certain. Very likely Aycharaych knows us better than we can know ourselves. But … it has happened, over and over, through man's troubled existence: the Holy War, which cannot be stopped and which carries away kingdoms and empires, though the first soldiers of it be few and poor.
         "Their numbers grow, you see. Entire populations join them. Man has never really wanted a comfortable (religion), a reasonable or kindly one; he has wanted a faith, a cause, which promises everything but mainly which requires everything…
         …"Aeneas was in the forefront of struggle for a political end. When defeat came, that turned the dwellers and their energies back toward transcendental things. And then Aycharaych invented for them a transcendence which the most devout religionist and the most hardened scientist could alike accept.
         "I do not think the tide of Holy War could have been stopped this side of Regulus. The end of it would have been humanity and humanity's friends ripped into two realms. No, more than two, for there are contradictions in the faith, which I think must have been deliberately put there. Yes, heresies, persecutions, rebellions … states lamed, chaotic, hating each other worse than any outsider—"
         Desai drew breath before finishing: "—such as Merseia. Which would be precisely what Merseia needs, first to play us off against ourselves, afterward to overrun and subject us."

    From THE DAY OF THEIR RETURN by Poul Anderson (1974)

    Psionic Organizations

    In science fiction there are often organizations that help psionic individual reach their full potential. Such organizations can be above-board or underground, depending upon whether being a Psi is illegal or not.

    In the Traveller RPG there is the Psionics Institute, a public organization dedicated to research and training in the psionic sciences.

    In Richard McEnroe's The Shattered Stars there is also a Psionics Institute, but undercover since in that universe Psionics is illegal, and Psis are to be captured and imprisoned. The Institute is sort of a psionic parasite on society, because their SOP is to do telepathic corporate espionage, insider trading, and stealing trade secrets. In the novel they coerced one of the protagonists to try and neutralize a rogue psi that the Institute is afraid of. Because this psi is a predator.

    Psionics and Society


    (ed note: in the role playing game Traveller, the galactic empire known as the Imperium all but outlaws psionics. Meanwhile the galactic empire known as the Zhodani Consulate is a full psionic society. There is some friction between the two empires about that.)

    Editors Note: This article was written by Brienshqlorieshsv. (press attache for the Zhodani diplomatic mission to the Imperium) shortly before the news of the recent war reached Capital.

    The editor of this publication has requested that I compose a short article explaining the philosophies and motivations of my people. In the interests of improved understanding between us, especially in view of the tensions which have almost always existed between the Imperium and the Consulate, I have cheerfully undertaken this task.

    The physical differences between our two peoples are well-known, and have been fully dealt with in many fine reference works. I will, therefore, pass over our physical appearance except to correct a few of the more blatant misrepresentations. Firstly. your literature hes a disturbing tendency to depict us with heavy eyebrows, a thick beard and either a sinister leer or a scowl, as if we were perpetually contemplating some heinous outrage. Let me assure you, the natural variation in the patterns and length of our facial hair is as great in the Consulate as it is in the Imperium. I admit there is a marked tendency of our nobles to sport beards, but not all of us do so. Among us, too, the class you call Intendants (and a great many of our Nobles as well) wear their head hair longer as a mark of distinction. Secondly, contrary to what many of your holographic film directors seem to think, we smile (and even laugh) as often as Imperials. The Consulate is not the gloomy, humorless place which your entertainments seem always to show.

    Contrary to what most Imperials believe, we are not robots. Creativity, divergence of opinion, freedom of expression...we have all of these within the Consulate. Our government is not oppressive...rather it is wholly concerned with the well-being of our citizens, both as a whole and individually. In return, our citizens respect, obey, and freely criticize their rulers (as is their duty).

    (ed note: in reality because of their psionic abilities, the Zhodani have the most effective authoritarian rule in the history of empires)


    I shall turn now to the major difference between our peoples: psionics. It is the possession of psionic abilities which is the root cause of all tension between us. I have dwelt in the Imperium for years, and I believe I have an understanding of Imperials as great as any of my people, yet even I have only begun to understand the depths of the distrust Imperials feel for us. Most of your populace seems to fear psi powers, even though they have brought our society nothing but benefits (and could yours, if you would but embrace them).

    For example, psionics permit us to advance the science of behavioral psychology far beyond the Imperial efforts. Where your scientists must guess what occurs in a subject's mind, our observers can know. Our doctors can be certain of the precise effects of a particular course of treatment, instead of stumbling about in the dark, as yours do. Since such disorders as greed can be cured, there is no need for a Zhodani to steal. Since our citizens learn to be open and free in their opinions (and to respect and accept those of others), there is no need for a Zhodani to lie. Since most anti-social tendencies can be detected and corrected early, there is almost no violent crime within the Consulate.

    The idea that we constantly monitor our citizens' thoughts is ludicrous. Privacy is not an unknown and alien concept to us. A citizen's privacy ... his personality, his dreams, his thoughts ... are his own, and no one In the Consulate will violate a citizen's right to privacy without good and compelling reasons. In any case, not all of us have the ability to "read minds" as you phrase it. However, many of us are trained in "reading" subtleties of body language, speech and behavior, but these are talents anyone can learn, with or without psionic abilities (a great number of your own psychiatric and behavioral scientists study and use our techniques, so they can hardly be considered " evil" by your intelligentsia).

    Of course, a citizen's right to privacy does have certain limitations. Our Teverchedle patrols occasionally monitor the general state of certain minds (more or less at random), but this is no more a violation of their privacy than when Imperial police stop and question an imperial citizen. It is done to detect the beginnings of mental illness, that such illness may be uncovered and treated as early as possible.

    Which brings us, in a rather roundabout fashion, to another basic difference between our citizens and yours ... their fundamental honesty. In conversations, I have noticed that many Imperials will signal that they are about to speak the truth with a phrase such as "believe me" or "to be perfectly frank." There are no such phrases in our language. They are not needed. Indeed, while we have an intellectual understanding of the concept of "lie," contact with the actual fact that people exist who willingly convey information that they know to be untrue disgusts those of us without special training. Naturally, some of us are often misinformed, and thus convey falsehoods, but these are accidental, and we all strive to be as truthful as possible. Our people believe that the truthful expression of opinion cannot be harmful if it is sincerely and constructively expressed.

    Just as the average Imperial citizen would be uncomfortable in the midst of the Consulate, the average Consulate citizen would be uncomfortable in the midst of the Imperium. He can trust no one. He believes himself to be completely surrounded by liars and thieves. Even if he has no psi abilities, no Imperial will believe him, and he will be shunned as if he has some terrible disease. For these reasons, only those of us with the highest motivations towards peace and mutual understanding can remain long in the Imperium, and even we require special training and education.

    It is, of course, understandable that Imperials should fear the exposure of their innermost thoughts. Because of the structure of your society, anti-social thoughts are allowed to form, and grow without hindrance. An Imperial often grows to adulthood without ever receiving the help he needs to properly adjust himself to society, and make the greatest possible contribution to the common good (and to himself, by doing so). Criminal behaviors grow and fester In his mind ... greed, acquisitiveness, violence, hatred, prejudice ... and come to dominate his behavior. Consider what could happen in your society if the energy, the inventiveness that is channelled into criminal pursuits were instead directed to the benefit of all. What a wonderful place the Imperium could be!

    - Brienshqloriashav

    Psionic Master Race

    The question arises: if there exists people possessing these amazing powers of the mind, what is preventing them from taking over? How can non-psionic people possibly compete? In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king, and all that.

    There are lots of answers, each of which opens up to the science fiction author vast possibilities for story backgrounds. Including the answer: non-psionic people cannot compete, they will either be second-class citizens or extinct.

    Possibilites include:

    • Psis are rare enough that they lack the numbers to control every non-psi in the entire world

    • Psis would control the world, except they are far too busy fighting other psis for power

    • Psionic powers also give the user such love and empathy for all people that the thought of controlling the world never even occurs. Yeah, I know, highly unlikely. Tell that to Darth Vader. But I had to mention it for completeness

    • Psionic powers are not quite as powerful as generally believed

    • Non-psis have access to enough psionic technology to defend themselves. Defensively by wearing psionic shield helments, or offensively with a mind static device

    • There is nothing that non-psis can do to prevent being enslaved or exterminated by psis. I, for one, welcome our new psionic overlords

    One famous example of media scifi demonstrating that psionics is not all butterflies and rainbows is the old TV show Babylon 5 and the scary Psi Corps. Or "Gestapo that can read your innermost thoughts".

    In Babylon 5, people who are born as telepaths must either join the Psi Corps and submit to their discipline, or be given a weekly dose of a drug that suppresses their telepathic power (and also gives you the thorazine shuffle). This is because non-telepathic humans are rightly somewhat terrified of telepaths, and they vote. Any telepaths who do neither option are rogue telepaths on the run. These are hunted by the Psi Cops, the enforcement branch of the Psi Corps. Regardless of whether the rogue telepaths were actually using their powers to commit crimes or not.

    The motto of the Psi Corps is "The Corps is Mother, the Corps is Father", which is exactly as creepy as it sounds.

    However, the Babylon 5 Psi-Corps suffers from the Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? problem. When the Psi Corps was set up, it was under the control of a select group of non-telepathic senators (the Metasensory Regulation Authority) who in theory kept the Corps on a short leash. In practice that didn't last long. You cannot become a senator without accumulating blackmail-grade political skeletons in your closet. It took very little time before the corrupt Psi-Corps illegally used telepathy to discover enough dirt to blackmail everybody in the Senate. To the man on the street the Corps appears to be safely under control of the senators, but in reality the Corps own the senators in body and soul.

    The Corps also has access to large sums of money because telepaths are the ultimate Wall Street insider traders. Not to mention being past masters of industrial espionage. Past masters of all types of espionage for that matter.

    And the Corps has the advantage of having a legal monopoly on Psi powers. By law all Psis must be members of the Psi Corps or hunted down like a dog by Psi Cops. There ain't no independent psi around to keep the corps honest.

    If the Psi Corps does anything illegal, the only ones who will immediately know are other members of the Corps. If somehow a non-Psi discovers Psi Corps malfeasance their choices are [A] asking enslaved senators who are owned in fee simple to punish their owners, [B] ask the Psi Corps to investigate itself, or [C] keep your blasted mouth shut and maybe not suffer a tragic fatal accident. Though [C] is not really an option because the Corps will rapidly know that you know, and the Corps knows that Dead Men Tell No Tales.

    Since the Psi Corps is functionally free of oversight it can continue with their simple plan of becoming the Master Race and taking over the world.

    The main problem of the Psi Corps is the psis who are forced to join the corps or join the shuffle are quite angry. They have formed the Telepathic Resistance. They want freedom from the Psi Corps AND from non-psis alike.

    Another example of dystopian psionics in media science fiction is the short-lived TV series Prey. Things go down-hill really quickly if the psis are also sociopathic serial killers.

    In Norman Spinrad's The Iron Dream (1972) the "novel inside the novel" features dystopian psionics after global thermonuclear war contaminates the planet with radioactive fallout. Mutants called "Dominators" have the power of mesmerism which they used to telepathically enslave weak minded people.


          If the Federation of the Hub is the common setting of the stories in these four volumes, psi is the thread weaving together Schmitz's entire literary works. The idea of psi (psychic abilities) and the Psychology Service appears throughout his writing, even in non-Hub stories.

         In his Agent of Vega series (all of which predate the Hub writings) Schmitz based his Vegan Agents on E. E. "Doc" Smith's Lensmen, except that psi was the advantage held by the agents of the Vegan Confederation instead of Arisian Lenses. Many of Schmitz's non-series stories, such as The Witches of Karres, "Gone Fishing," and "Beacon to Elsewhere," have similar psi agencies. However, Schmitz really hit his stride with the invention of the Psychology Service.

         From a surface reading of Schmitz's work, he seems to have little to say about the origin of the Psychology Service. At least, there is little expository material about it in the stories. But if we dig deeper, we can find that background material.

    "At one time I made an extensive investigation of this subject in the Federation. My purpose was to test a theory that the emergence of a species from its native world into space and the consequent impact of a wide variety of physical and psychic pressures leads eventually to a pronounced upsurge in its use of Uld powers [psi]." (Lord Gulhad, The Demon Breed)

         This is exactly what we find in "Blood of Nalakia," the very first story that mentions the Hub. At first, it appears that Frome is using hypnosis and conditioning to an ultrasonic signal to control his captives. But Frome was only using "mechanical means" to enhance his psi talent. When he attacks Frazer, we learn that there is real psi involved. The Elaigar were bred for psi abilities, and at the end of the story, Lane is headed back to the Hub Systems carrying Frome's child.

    Not much more than two centuries ago the Hub still had been one of the bloodiest human battlegrounds of all time. It was the tail end of the War Centuries. A thousand governments were forming and breaking interstellar alliances, aiming for control of the central clusters or struggling to keep from being overwhelmed. (The Demon Breed)

         One thing that happened during the War Centuries is that entire planets died, including Earth—though Schmitz never explicitly states this. Prior to that period, stories such as "Blood of Nalakia" and "Grandpa" contain people from Earth. In all the later stories, Earth is only mentioned as the source of species that were "preserved in the Life Banks on Maccadon." Every human in the Hub is aware of Man's planet of origin, but nobody mentions its fate.

         The War Centuries intervene between "Blood of Nalakia" and "Sour Note on Palayata." The Federation of the Hub has been founded, and it is significant that the first Federation story written is about the Psychology Service. If it weren't for the details hidden in this story, we probably would never know what caused the War Centuries.

         There is a trick involved in understanding the background in "Sour Note on Palayata"—you have to realize that it's essentially the same story as "The Illusionists" from the Agent of Vega series. Laying these two stories side-by-side clarifies all sorts of cryptic references.

         The War Centuries were caused by the rise of psi power in human beings. Pre-war human societies had no defense against psis—they had not yet developed an organization or institution to control them.

         A Class Two psi (telep-2) such as Telzey is a serious danger to an unprepared society. In fact, "catastrophic" would be a better word. Consider the first thing Telzey does with her newfound power in "Novice." As soon as the Baluit crest cat crisis is over, she starts experimenting with her Aunt Halet's mind. Halet has no defense and doesn't even know she is being controlled.

         The next step for a psi as powerful as Telzey would be to take control of the people around her. She would soon find that she can only control a handful of the billions of people on a planet, so she would try to find a way to extend her control. Schmitz calls these "telepathic amplifiers" or "psychimpulse-multipliers." Using such devices, a sufficiently skilled telepath could start a chain-letter of control called the "Pyramid Effect" in the Agent of Vega series. A single telep-2 could end up controlling the entire planetary population.

         The controlled population would have no more defense than Aunt Halet. Those with strong minds that might be able to resist would be destroyed. The average IQ then falls. Eventually, any psychoses in the ruling mind would be transferred to and amplified in the population, leading to ritualized serial murder and mass suicide. When the controlling mind died, the entire planet would die as well. That's what the Psychology Service was worried might be happening on Palayata. It's hard to believe that Schmitz wrote all this before Jim Jones founded Jonestown in Guyana.

         In the War Centuries, this happened not once, but hundreds of times. It kept several thousand planets in turmoil not for years, but for centuries. Finally, a defense was found against the psis. It consisted of an organization of both psis and non-psis protected by mind shields. With a defense in hand, physical force was sufficient to defeat the psis.

    Wars had been fought to prevent the psychological control of Hub citizens on any pretext; and then, when the last curious, cultish cliques of psychologists had been dissolved, it had turned out to be a matter of absolute necessity to let them resume their activities. So they were still around — Of course, they were limited now to the operations of the Psychological Service. ("Sour Note on Palayata")

         With the end of the War Centuries, the group that won the war founded the Federation. To prevent another psi war, they created the Psychology Service. Their number one job was to prevent rogue psis from causing trouble in the Hub.

         One thing that bothers many people about the Federation is the autocracy of the Psychology Service. They censor the news. They spy on the citizens. They even have a policy to mind-wipe any Federation official who finds out what they are doing and disagrees with it. The rest of Hub society is so libertarian, how does Schmitz justify the actions of the Service? In fact, he never explicitly defends it. It is left to the reader to realize that the Psychology Service is fighting a plague that threatens the entire human race.

    "You make that child sound rather dangerous!" ("Undercurrents")

         Let's return to the case of Telzey Amberdon. On the trip back to Orado, she discovers "tele-hypnosis" and uses it to take control of her Aunt Halet. As soon as she steps off the ship, she's spotted, hooked, tagged, and tracked by the Psychology Service. This girl is a danger and they know it. So what do they do? Do they kidnap or murder her? No, they implant a suggestion that she limit her psi activity and seek out the proper authorities.

         This is the true Schmitz touch. The Psychology Service is not out to protect society by eliminating psis. Quite the contrary. They will protect the Federation by immunization. To eliminate psis would leave the Federation defenseless against external threats (such as the Elaigar), and internal threats such as undetected psis. Instead, Telzey is left free to find her own way of handling her new abilities. She will be tracked, and harsher means will be used only if she becomes a problem. If she can control herself and fit into society, she will be left alone.

         Because of this, the Psychology Service is not presented as some dark repressive Gestapo-like organization hiding behind the friendly façade of the Federation. They are instead controlling a serious problem as nondestructively as possible. More than that, they are trying to turn this serious problem into a strength.

    "I think the Overgovernment prefers the species to continue to evolve in its own way. On the record, it's done well. They don't want to risk eliminating genetic possibilities which may be required eventually to keep it from encountering some competitive species as an inferior." (Ticos Cay, The Demon Breed)

         The Service is also pushing the use of psionic machines in the Federation. People with no psi talent of their own will be empowered to deal with psis. Mind shields are available for defense, and powerful mind-reading machines, such as the ones at the Orado City Space Terminal or Transcluster Finance, will provide the advantages of psi to ordinary people.

         As part of their plan to introduce psi to the Hub on a larger scale, one job of the Psychology Service is to control the fear of psis. We see them doing this in several ways. They clean up after psis (like Telzey) by providing believable ordinary explanations for extraordinary events (such as in "Resident Witch"). If a psi won't keep under cover, they arrange to ship them off to someplace like Askanam ("Glory Day"), or the psis disappear into rehab—as happens to Wakote Ti and Alicar Troneff.

         The Service also disseminates false stories, minimizing the effectiveness of psi. For example, Assistant Secretary Duffold believes that "the psi boys had produced disturbing effects in various populations from time to time, but in the showdown the big guns always had cleaned them up very handily."

         The psis themselves have a different point of view. "The way the Alattas have worked it out, the human psis of the time, and especially the variations in them, had a good deal to do with defeating the Elaigar at Nalakia."

    "The function of the Overgovernment is strategy. In part its strategies are directed at the universe beyond the Federation. But that is a small part." (Lord Batras, The Demon Breed)

         Only a small part of the Psychology Service's attention is directed outward—toward possible enemies beyond the Hub. We'll see more of those in Volume 4 of this series. But you've already read about the top-secret Service Group called Symbiote Control, whose job is to watch over aliens living among the Hub population. With typical Service attitude, symbiotes are left alone as long as they don't make trouble—after all, some of them are actually useful. The Service is watchful, but only takes action when they find a harmful parasite instead of a symbiote.

    "We can say in general now that the Federation is a biological fortress armed by the nature of its species." (Lord Batras, The Demon Breed)

         This attitude pervades the top level of the Federation Overgovernment. They treat the human species as an evolving animal and the Federation as an ecology. They aren't out to create perfection. If survival is a good enough goal for nature, it's good enough for the Federation and the Psychology Service.

         What kind of animal does the Overgovernment want man to be? Aggressively competitive, but intelligently aggressive. Anything less, and they will be swamped from the outside. Anything more, and they risk a return to the War Centuries. Their solution is to give men an outlet for their aggression within the bounds of society. Private wars are allowed. Crime is only lightly controlled, and local governments are encouraged to handle crime themselves. Nile Etland suggests this is a substitute for open warfare.

    "It's really more than a substitute," Ticos said. "A society under serious war stresses tends to grow rigidly controlled and the scope of the average ndividual is correspondingly reduced. In the kind of balanced anarchy in which we live now, the individual's scope is almost as wide as he wants to make it or his peers will tolerate." (The Demon Breed)

         External threats are met with a very Hub-centric view. While the threat itself is handled expeditiously, the Overgovernment is more worried that such attacks will upset this carefully maintained balance. The Hub is deliberately being kept at the very edge of exploding into violence.

    The Overgovernment has shown it is afraid of the effects continuing irritations of the kind might have on its species. We too should be wise enough to be afraid of such effects. (Lord Batras, The Demon Breed)

    " . . . Well, why didn't anybody know?" Pagadan's voice came, muted but crackling. "That Department of Cultures investigator has been on Ulphi for over a month now, and others just as long! You get copies of their reports, don't you? You couldn't put any two of them together without seeing that another Telep-Two thinks he's invented the Pyramid Effect out here—there isn't a thing on the crummy little planet that doesn't show it! And I'll be the daughter of a C-Class human," she added bitterly, "if it isn't a type-case in full flower, with all the trimmings! Including immortalization and the Siva Psychosis.

    "Pyramid Effect," Psych-Library Information instructed Linky gently a minute later. "Restricted, Galactic Zones. Result of the use of an expanding series of psychimpulse-multipliers, organic or otherwise, by Telepaths of the Orders Two to Four, for the transference of directional patterns, compulsions, illusions, et cetera, to large numbers of subjects.

    "The significant feature of the Pyramid Effect is its elimination of excessive drain on the directing mentality, achieved by utilizing the neural or neural-type energies of the multipliers themselves in transferring the directed impulses from one stage to the next.

    "Techniques required to establish the first and second stages of multipliers are classified as Undesirable General Knowledge. Though not infrequently developed independently by Telepaths above the primary level, their employment in any form is prohibited throughout the Confederacy of Vega and variously discouraged by responsible governments elsewhere.

    "Establishment of the third stage, and subsequent stages, of impulse-multipliers involves a technique-variant rarely developed by uninstructed Telepaths below the Order of Five. It is classified, under all circumstances, as Prohibited General Knowledge and is subject to deletion under the regulations pertaining to that classification.

    (ed note: With each new person the Telep-Two enslaves, the more psychic energy they have to spend. They will run out of energy way before they manage to enslave the entire planet.

    The answer is delegation. The Telep-Two enslaves, say, ten people, ten Psionic people. Then each of those ten enslaves ten more Psionics, and so on. The Telep-Two only has to spend energy on the original ten, the rest take care of themselves.

    It is sort of a telepathic Pyramid scheme to enslave the entire planet.)

    "Psychimpulse-multiplier," the gentle voice came back. "Restricted, Galactic Zones. Any person, organic entity, energy form, or mentalized instrument employed in distributing the various types of telepathic impulses to subjects beyond the scope of the directing mentality in range or number—Refer to `Pyramid Effect'—"

    (ed note: the enslaved Psionics are psychimpulse-multipliers. The directing Telep-Two can use the pyramid of enslaved Psionics to receive data and to send commands.)

    That seemed to be that. What else was the Z.A. crying about? Oh, yes!

    "Siva Psychosis," the gentle voice resumed obligingly. "Symptom of the intermediate to concluding stages of the Autocrat Circuit in human-type mentalities—Refer to `Multiple Murder: Causes'—"

    Linky grimaced.

    "The over-all pattern on Ulphi," the general stated, "is obviously that produced by an immortalized A-Class human intellect, Sub-Class Twelve, variant Telep-Two—as developed in planetary or small-system isolation, over a period of between three and five centuries."

    "In that time," he went on, "the system of general controls has, of course, become almost completely automatic. There is, however, continuing and fairly intensive activity on the part of the directing mentality. Development of the Siva Psychosis is at a phase typical for the elapsed period—concealed and formalized killings cloaked in sacrificial symbolism. Quantitatively, they have not begun as yet to affect the population level. The open and indiscriminate slaughter preceding the sudden final decline presumably would not appear, then, for at least another century.

    "Of primary significance for the identification of the controlling mentality is this central grouping of formulae. Within the historical period which must have seen the early stages of the mentality's dominance, the science of Ulphi—then practically at Galactic par—was channeled for thirty-eight years into a research connected with the various problems of personal organic immortality. Obviously, under such conditions, only the wildest sort of bad luck could prevent discovery and co-ordination of the three basic requirements for any of the forms of individual perpetuation presently developed.

    "Well, that's it, I think," the general remarked at last. "How the old explorers used to wonder at the frequency with which such little lost side-branches of civilization appeared to have simply and suddenly ceased to exist!"

    The general hesitated. "The population on Ulphi hasn't been too badly debased as yet," he pointed out. "Various reports indicate an I.Q. average of around eleven points below A-Class—not too bad, considering the early elimination of the strains least acceptable to the controlling mentality, and the stultifying effect of life-long general compulsions on the others.

    "They're still eligible for limited membership—capable of self-government and, with help, of self-defense. It will be almost a century, of course, before they grow back to a point where they can be of any real use to us. Meanwhile, the location of the planet itself presents certain strategic advantages—"

    From AGENTS OF VEGA & OTHER STORIES by James Schmidt (2001)

    Blink now, and man is creeping along the galactic rim, in those areas which were later to be regarded as the home of mutants and pirates—but which, significantly, were and remain the only areas where interstellar ships have been built by human beings. (Human Empire ships not made by humans, they are xenopaleotechnology inherited from a long extinct Forerunner race)

    “From me you won’t get the full story,” Vix countered. “I guess no one knows it except those devils on Asconel—Bucyon, and the witch Lydis, and maybe that monster Shry!” He shot a keen look at Spartak. “You flinched when I said ‘witch,’ and ‘devil’ too—don’t you hold with such terms?”

    Spartak looked at the table before him, choosing his words carefully. “There are certainly records of mutations developing possessed of what are generally called supernormal talents,” he granted. “Indeed, it was part of Imperial policy for some millennnia to maintain the stability of the status quo by locating such mutations and—if they hadn’t already been put to death by supersititious peasants or townsfolk— transporting them to the lonely Rim worlds. There are said to be whole planets populated by such mutations now. But words like, ‘witch’ have—ah—unfortunate connotations.”

    (ed note: Our heroes head back to their homeworld, to free it from the tyranny of Bucyon and Lydis. But they decide to head to the planet Delcadoré to try and find their brother. Of course the unexpected occurs )

         The shadow of that incredible death still lay over them when they gathered in the control room to watch the planet Delcadoré grow beyond the main ports. To break the intolerable silence between them, Vineta—recovered almost completely from her treatment at the hands of Korisu—spoke up.
         “What sort of a world is this one, now?”
         “Well,” Spartak commenced, “this was formerly one of the main garrison systems for the Imperial fleet, and when the Empire began to lose its outer reaches this was one of the—the foci, so to speak, on which retrenchments were made. I think it’s now effectively a frontier system. The Empire hasn’t: vanished, of course, but only shrunk to a fraction of its former size.”
         At that moment a light sprang up on the communicator panel, and Vix reached over to activate the circuit. A voice boomed out with a ring of crude authority. “Identify yourself and your ship!”
         “See what I mean?” Vix muttered wryly, and added more loudly, for the benefit of the distant challenger, “Vix of Asconel piloting my own vessel, on private business and landing on Delcadoré.”
         “Vix of Asconel, you’re under Imperial requisition. Do you hear and understand? Your ship is under Imperial requisition. Do not attempt to evade this order, or it will be the worse for you!”
         Now, like a monstrous fish swimming leisurely to intercept smaller prey, there loomed the gigantic shape of an Imperial ship of the line, the ancient Argian symbols blazoned at prow and stern, for all the galaxy as though Argus could still issue orders to a million planets, and prepared to back this false contention with the all-too-real support of fire-power equal to the output of a minor sun.
         The shadow of an idea crossed his mind, and was dispelled immediately by the arrival alongside their own vessel of officials from the port controller’s staff.
         Vix vented his anger on them in a single blast of abuse and complaint. They ignored him as they might have ignored a breath of wind. Spartak, urging Vix aside, attempted to tackle them on a more rational basis, inquiring the authority for “Imperial requisition” and contesting the legality of giving orders to non-Imperial citizens.
         The officials sighed and produced guns. It seemed that this had become the standard substitute for argument on Delcadoré.

         Gloomy beyond description, he found he had followed Vix and Vineta into the adjacent office, and there confronted a podgy, gray-haired woman in a uniform encrusted with meaningless decorations and ostentatious badges of rank.
         “Sit down,” she said tonelessly. “Which of you is Vix, the alleged owner of the ship we’ve requisitioned?”
         “Alleged!” Vix purpled again. “I have clear title—”
         “I’m not arguing,” the woman sighed. “If you want to go into legalisms, starships are by definition Imperial property and only leased to corporations, trading companies or—save the mark—individuals.” Her mouth twisted as though in disgust. “But where would it get me to rely on a thin argument like that? I imagine you’re competent to handle the ship, and if I wanted to commandeer it I’d have to pick someone equally skillful, and that’s not easy because next thing you know he’d be headed for the great black yonder…”
         Spartak found himself suddenly pitying the woman, for she had defined herself instantly by what she had said: a weary official trying to keep things going while chaos battered at the structure of law, order and principle by which she had to be guided. He signaled Vix to be quiet, and leaned forward.
         “May we know your authority?”
         The woman blinked heavy lids at him. “Frankly, I’m not sure which capacity I’m acting in right now—I have so many jobs I sometimes lose track. I sit in this room as assistant immigration supervisor, Delcadoré West/North Sector. I have the requisition on your ship as Acting Transport Director, Imperial space, Delcadoré volume. And I’m under orders from the Planetary Government, Department of Public Order, and legally empowered to represent them. So swallow this, and digest it at leisure.
         “We have a girl here who can apparently read minds—a mutant, obviously. We could have let her be stoned to death, I guess; things are nearly that bad already, even on Delcadoré. But when we can we cling to the Imperial rules, because they’re better than anything else we have, and the Imperial rules say we keep the status quo by putting her out of the way on some habitable planet off towards the rim.
         “In the old days we could have assigned her passage on regular liner-routes, under Imperial guard and protection to make sure some superstitious knothead didn’t assassinate her before she reached where she was sent. According to my best information—which I’ll share with you since you’re from way out anyway—there isn’t a single commercial routing left which would get her to a rim system in less than a year. Coordination had gone to hell, schedules aren’t reliable, and pirates are picking off so much traffic the lines are closing down or flying only in armed convoy.
         “So you’ll have to do. I’m having this girl brought here from wherever the blazes she’s been kept, and the moment she arrives you’re going to take off and head for—what’s the name of that place?” She pushed a stud on the arm of her chair and consulted a small screen set at an angle beside her. “Ah yes—Nylock. I picked it because it’s comparatively close: a straight-line route from here to the rim.”
         Vix was half out of his chair with rage. “You can’t do this!” he thundered.
         “Be grateful,” the woman said stonily. “I could have sent you anywhere—out the far side of the Big Dark, come to that! How do you fancy your chances with the pirates in that volume, hey? Used to take three Imperial battleships to get across there safely!”
         Spartak, controlling himself better than Vix but nonetheless white-hot inside, forced out, “What right have you to make the requisition anyway?”
         “Argian decree,” the woman said. “If you want the number and text I’ll get it for you, but it runs to seventy figures and two full recording crystals, and seeing it won’t make a grain of difference. I don’t care for your business on Delcadoré, I don’t care for your complaints and objections—all I care about is getting shut of one irritating problem.”
         She stabbed another stud on her chair-arm, and the doors of the room slid back. “And don’t think, either, that there’s an easy way to avoid doing as you’re told—dumping the girl in space when you get out of our jurisdiction, for instance, and trying to sneak back here. You’ll be welcome to conduct your business when you’ve finished ours. And to make sure you do—”
         Soft footfalls sounded behind Spartak’s chair, and he half-turned to see menacing uniformed figures there.
         “We condition you,” the woman said. “You won’t be able to be comfortable or happy or sexually potent or even sleep properly from now on unless you’re directing all your efforts to the completion of the mission on which you’re sent.”

         THE EFFICIENCY of the conditioning process was flawless: impersonal as a mechanical repair, thorough as the work of a first-rate surgeon. Spartak, who knew something of this and related psychological techniques from his wide researches on Annanworld, had hoped to offer at least token resistance to the drugs and hypnotic instructions employed on him. But it was useless. As though a shutter had snapped down over his brain, he blanked out, and on re-awakening he found he could recall nothing of what had happened except at the two extreme levels of his awareness. Consciously he knew he had been conditioned; subconsciously he was disturbed, as it were by an itch, that was already intense and would grow to be unbearable if he did not at once comply with the Imperial order.
         And perhaps worst of all was the fact that they were so confident of the reliability of the conditioning that they permitted him, Vix and Vineta to return to the ship without escort, knowing that until the telepathic girl was delivered to them they would sit and wait, and once she arrived they would helplessly depart for Nylock, the only place in the galaxy where they could be sure of release from the imprinted command.
         “Is there nothing we can do?” Vix pleaded for the tenth time. His courage in regular combat, his habitual assertive self-confidence availed him not at all when faced by a weapon as subtle as this conditioning. It had perhaps been an inspiration on the part of the gray-haired woman to cite sexual impotence as one of the consequences of failing to comply with her decree; in any case, Spartak was reminded of a theory he had once formed about this red-haired half-brother of his—that his insatiable demand for women was a way of compensating for the fact that he was youngest of three brothers, much alike—he needed women’s attention to reassure him about his own individuality.
         For a long moment Spartak didn’t reply. All he would have said would have amounted to the same as he had already repeated over and over. He knew of nothing that could be done without psychological assistance as skilled as what the Empire could draw on, and it couldn’t be obtained without putting the ship into space for some other friendlier world—and once in space, the compulsion compulsion would be far too strong to withstand.
         He was interrupted by a bang on the outer door of the lock. Hardly stopping to draw breath, he charged away on a new line of complaint: “Now our time’s up—they’ve brought this telepathic mutant along and the moment she’s aboard we’ve lost our last chance to figure out a way of staying on Delcadoré and tracking down Tiorin!”
         The idea struck Spartak that having a mind-reader close to him frightened Vix as much as being sent far away from Asconel. Superstitition, merely—or the fear of having some secret misdeed revealed? For himself, he knew he would welcome thin consolation in this opportunity to find out the truth behind all the rumors which he had heard; the policy of deportation which the Empire had instituted to insure itself against wild factors in the peoples it ruled by imposing statistical averages on them had worked well, but it had also fed the imaginations of the ignorant.
         It was the pudgy woman with gray hair, accompanied by a squad of uniformed guards and the mutant girl—presumably—laid out on a stretcher on the back of the ground car in which they had all ridden over to the ship.
         “You there!” she roared at Spartak’s appearance. “If you fight our conditioning much longer, you won’t be in a state to fly space! If that’s how you think you’re going to evade my orders, I tell you straight you won’t get away with it! I’ll condition one of my own pilots and drag you out to jail, and Delcadoré will be the only planet you see for the rest of your lives!”
         A cloud of formless terror due to the conditioning enveloped Spartak’s brain. He was unable to speak, Ignoring him, the woman turned to the guards with her.
         “Get that girl off the car and put her aboard!”
         Slowly, the terror retreated as Spartak called on every trick of self-discipline taught him on Annanworld. He found his voice again, could see clearly as the guards awkwardly sought to get the girl-laden stretcher up the ladder to the lock at which he stood.
         A shocking possibility crossed his mind, and everything else, conditioning included, fled from his awareness. He leaned forward on the rail, peering down at the girl. From her face, and the slightness of the body under the blanket in which she was wrapped, he deduced that she was scarcely more than a child—fifteen or sixteen, perhaps
    .      But that wasn’t what transfixed him. He had assumed her to be unconscious, perhaps injured by the peasants or whoever had tried to stone her to death—the gray-haired woman had mentioned something about that. However, he had seen without a shadow of doubt that her eyes were open.
         “What’s wrong with that girl?” he called.
         The guards, busy trying to get her up the ladder, didn’t answer. The woman on the car merely scowled.
         Behind him in the lock, Vix appeared, clutching his gun but somehow unable to find the trigger, so that his hands wandered absurdly over the stock and barrel, like jointed insects with minds of their own.
         “Is she sick, or hurt?” he inquired feverishly.
         “I don’t think so,” Spartak rapped.
         “Get back!”—from one of the guards manhandling the stretcher up to them. Despite himself, Vix obeyed instantly. Spartak heard him cursing under his breath.
         The stretcher grated over the edge of the platform and was slammed flat. Blue eyes in a face which would normally have been ruddy and healthy, but had turned sallow, stared at the sky, not even turning to see into whose care she had been committed.
         “Catatone!” Spartak thundered, and rage so great that it overcame the force of the conditioning stormed into his limbs.
         “What did you say?” Vix cried.
         “She’s under catatone! It’s a paralyzant—they first got it from the poison of the Loudor ichneumon.” He stamped to the guardrail and stared down at the gray-haired woman.
         “Correct!” she applauded mockingly.
         Vix plucked at his arm. “Isn’t it as well?” he whispered. “After all, to have her—”
         Spartak brushed aside the other’s hand. “It’s the cruelest thing in the galaxy!” he blazed. “Because it only paralyzes! It doesn’t dull pain! How’d you like to be unable even to moisten your eyes by blinking—or move to relieve a cramped leg—or control your bowels?”
         He heard Vix draw his breath in sharply, and from the corner of his eye saw that the redhead was staring with dismay at the girl’s taut body.
         “And don’t you know why they did it?” Spartak raged on. “Because there’s so much lying and deceit going on in this once-proud Empire they’re afraid a mind-reader could tell a few unpleasant truths to the people they’re duping—like the man we met earlier, shy of his arm and his leg!”

         He saw, as clearly as through a telescope, that his taunt had made the gray-haired woman wince. Without conscious intent, he shot out his arm and seized the energy gun from Vix’s fumbling grasp. Trying desperately to stretch this moment of not-thinking to its utmost, he leveled the weapon and found the trigger.
         “Where’s the antidote?” he shouted, “Get me the antidote or I’ll burn you where you sit!”
         There was a dreadful silence. Incredulous, the guards turned at the foot of the ladder and stared up at him, shaking with the effort of keeping the gun sighted on the gray-haired woman, but somehow finding the resources to go on.
         “We—we haven’t got it!” the woman quavered.
         “Then get it!” Spartak told her. “No, not you—you’re my hostage. Send one of these bullyboys for it. And tell him to run both ways!”
         Vix put his hands on the guardrail, clamping them till the knuckles were white. Seeming to draw strength from his brother’s example, he cried, “And tell that man below not to pull any tricks—I saw him move for his sidearm!”
         The guard who had tried to get at his gun jerked his hand back from his waist, holding it out at his side.
         “Hurry!” Spartak rasped. “Your conditioning is good. I might decide I have to give in—but I’ll burn you first!”
         The woman shrieked terrified orders, and the guards broke as one to dash back to the port control building and fetch what was required.

    (ed note: The antidote arrives, along with their brother Tiorin. The ship blasts off as Spartak goes unconsious. Shortly afterwards he wakes up.)

         “The girl!” Spartak said, and swung his feet to the floor. “Did you give her the antidote?”
         “We thought we’d better not,” Tiorin admitted. “Obviously you knew something about medicine in general and catatone in particular, and I’m afraid I’ve learned little about anything in the years we’ve been apart.”
         “Wise of you, I guess, but…” Spartak stood up, swaying, and had to close his eyes briefly as empathic agony stabbed him at the thought of the torment the mutant girl was undergoing. “Where is she?”
         “I told Vineta to make her comfortable in the other cabin,” Vix muttered.
         Spartak hesitated. Then he spoke his mind, as his training on Annanworld had accustomed him to do. “Listen, Vix! It’s painfully obvious that you hate the idea of having a mind-reader aboard. I guess you’d rather leave her the way the Empire liked to have her—incapable of speech, so she can’t give away any secrets she picks up. But mutant or not she’s a human being, and sheer chance decreed that she should be gifted with abnormal talents rather than you or I or Tiorin. If she’s survived into her teens, she’s bound to have learned discretion and foresight. She won’t reveal the things you want to keep private.”
         “I hope not,” Vix shrugged. But he seemed ashamed of himself, and turned away without further comment.
         “Here’s the phial of antidote,” Tiorin said, fumbling in his belt-pouch. “I hope it’s the real stuff, not some fake they palmed off on us to make us leave the planet.”
         “We’ll soon find out,” Spartak answered grimly.

         Vineta looked up, startled, as he entered the lower cabin, then gave him one of her quick shy smiles. He nodded in response before dropping to his knees alongside the mutant girl and reaching for his medical case.
         “She doesn’t move at all!” Vineta exclaimed. “She is alive, isn’t she? But how does she breathe?”
         It was an astute question. Not for the first time Spartak found himself suspecting that this self-effacing girl was the exact opposite of Vix: where he talked much and thought rather too little, she probably thought a great deal despite speaking very seldom.
         “You haven’t looked under this covering?” he suggested. Vineta nodded.
         “She’s clothed in some thick garment—I couldn’t see how it fastened, so I left it.”
         Spartak drew the blanket aside. The girl’s body was revealed completely enclosed in a suit that glistened as if wet. A bulging hump showed across her bosom; another made her belly rise as though she were pregnant.
         “Yes, I’ve seen that technique before,” he said—more to himself than Vineta. “Turn her head on the side, please. I shall have to put the antidote into the neck arteries; if I take the suit off she’ll suffocate before I save her.”
         If Tiorins ghastly suspicion is correct, she’ll die anyway…But he drove down that thought and administered the antidote with deft fingers.
         Seconds dragged away like hours—and she moved. Spartak realized he had been holding his breath; he exhaled gustily. “Now we must get the suit off, quickly. See, it fastens on the shoulders and at the hips. Open that side.”
         With a sucking noise the wet-looking material let go. The skin revealed was pallid and unhealthy, somewhat swollen with accumulated fluids and here and there wrinkled up into ugly white ridges.
         “That’s how she breathed—see?” he explained, as the mound on her bosom was exposed, and proved to be a machine in a metal casing. “That drives air in and out and acts as a pacemaker for her heart. And this”—the similar device on her belly—“takes care of bodily wastes, but not very well.”
         Now the mutant girl had sufficiently recovered for an expression to come to her face, and at the sight of it Vineta could not stifle an exclamation of horror. It was the worst look of pain Spartak had ever seen.
         “Can you do massage?” he demanded, stacking the prosthetic machines anyhow on a handy shelf. “Space knows how long she’s been kept from moving—the return of normal sensation will be pure torture!”
         Vineta’s hands flew to the pale stiff limbs and began to rub.

         “Thank you.” The words came on breath alone, barely audible. “Thank you. You can stop now. The pain’s gone.”
         Spartak sat back, exhausted, and stared at the girl. “Are you sure?”
         “Quite sure.” A small tongue slipped out to moisten her lips, which were chapped. “You are Spartak, yes? And you are Vineta?”
         Spartak’s eyebrows drew together. So far as he could recall, he hadn’t addressed Vineta by name, nor been addressed, since entering the cabin. He said, “Did you read names from our minds?”
         A smile came and went on the mutant girl’s face. She said, a trifle louder as her vocal cords came under control, “Yes. And it feels very good. I have felt so much fear in people who knew what I am, but in your mind I feel—what to call it? Curiosity, I think. And in hers, much kindness. I am so glad to be here.”
         “Then you also know what’s going to happen to you?” Spartak suggested.
         “Yes. And I see why you ask. Frankly, I don’t care where I go so long as it’s away from—from the past.” The small sharp-featured face clouded.
         “I’ll let you rest now,” Spartak said. “Vineta, perhaps you should bring her some of that broth you made for me—it seems to have brought about my recovery from shock very quickly.” A thought struck him, and went unvoiced by deliberate decision as his eyes returned to the mutant girl.
         She gave a thin chuckle. “My name’s Eunora,” she said. “You have a clear mind, Spartak—it’s like looking into a deep transparent pool of pure water, and I can see all the way to the rocks at the bottom except in one place. And that’s where you’ve been conditioned to take me to Nylock.”
         “I imagine,” Spartak said with difficulty, “that you can make allowances for my brothers. I don’t think they feel as I do about—about people like you.”
         “No, I can sense them—just barely.” Eunora shut her eyes and seemed to be listening to distant noises. “They are both full of resentment; the conditioning lies on all their thoughts like dense fog, and one of them can’t help thinking that I’m responsible for the delay in your mission.”

         "Is there no means whereby we could get around the conditioning imposed on you? I’m not conditioned—could you give me a course of instruction and let me fly the ship to Asconel?”
         “No, for two reasons.” Spartak slid the door aside and stepped into their view. “First, conditioning of this order of efficiency turns your own mind against your wishes—if Vix were to try and teach you how to pilot the ship, he’d so instruct you as to insure that you set course for where we’re commanded to go. Or, if by some miracle he avoided that trap, he and I and probably Vineta would conspire to take the controls away from you again. And secondly, even if you did succeed in getting us to Asconel, we’d arrive there in the sort of state I was in when they finally brought the antidote for Eunora. Only worse. The strain might literally kill us; I’d certainly expect us to be incurably insane.”
         “The girl!” Reminded of his other omnipresent anxiety, Vix tensed. “Did you—uh—cure her?” “And what was the name you used?” Tiorin added.
         “Eunora.” Spartak combed at his beard with agitated fingers. “I guess you could say she’s cured—she’s released from the paralysis, at least. But I’m astonished at how normal and level-headed she seems. It’s not what you’d expect from someone of her age—still very young—treated in such an abominable fashion.” He paused and frowned. “Oh—maybe I’m being overly suspicious. Maybe she’s just so glad to get free of the Imperials and the people who were apt to stone her…”

    (ed note: They suddenly notice that the conditioning has been removed from their minds. Eunora the mind-reading mutant girl walks in the door)

         “Eunora! Did you take the conditioning off us?” Spartak blurted.
         The girl gave a grave nod.
         “Then I can’t begin to tell you how grateful we are!”
         “That’s right!” Vix confirmed. His face was alight with enthusiasm. “Why, you may have saved a whole planet’s people by saving us that trip to Nylock!”
         Eunora didn’t answer at once. She walked into the control room with careful, mincing steps, seeming still to be finding out how her unparalyzed legs should support her. Behind her, a trifle nervous, but looking calm enough, came Vineta, who had presumably tried to dissuade her from leaving her cabin and failed.
         “I didn’t know about this—this conditioning,” the mutant girl said at last. “It was only when I felt the pain and twisting in your mind”—nodding to Vix—“that I decided I had to find out about it. It’s… interesting.”
         A nameless premonition filled the air.
         “It’s difficult being a mutant,” the soft voice went on. “Hardly daring to use the gift—afraid all the time that it will leak out and then there’ll be… killing. But it’s grown without my noticing. I have more talents than I ever realized. I was able to work on your minds like a locksmith picking locks, locating and releasing all the implanted orders.” She gave a little crazy giggle. “And when you see how it’s done, it’s so simple!”
         Spartak’s whole body had gone cold as ice. He waited numbly for her to make the point which he foresaw with terror.
         “Asconel. That’s where you want to go. But I don’t think I like the idea much. It’s an Imperial world—or was. So they don’t tolerate my kind of people. Also it’s going to be a place of fighting. I can see that in your mind, Vix. You want to go there and fight against these priests and this man called Bucyon, and because you’re so frightened of having your mind probed you’ll probably be glad if something bad happens to me. Spartak perhaps not—I don’t know. But even he&hellip”
         She hesitated. Then she giggled again. “Well, I’ve found out about conditioning now. I see how it’s done. I think I can probably make you do what I want. There’s only one question that remains: it’s such a big galaxy, so where shall I make you take me?”

    (ed note: However, binding four adults to her will is a task incapable of a fifteen-year old inexperienced mutant girl. Spartak manages to cure the girl of her megalomania, with the help of psychotherapy medication and the fact she knows the hell that Spartak suffered on her behalf to get the bureaucrat to cough up the antidote. This means she knows she can trust Spartak. She understandably had a lot of hatred for the human race given what she had been through in her short life, but Spartak cleansed it out of her mind.)

    From THE ALTAR ON ASCONEL by John Brunner (1965)

    (ed note: Rojers is a biochemist, who has worked at the The Project of the Galactic Oligarchy for a decade. But every single one of his attempts to genetically engineer a superior human have ended in failure. He goes to see his boss, Herban the Chief of Biochemistry for The Project. To his surprise, he finds that Herban is planning to retire, and wants Rojers to take his place. )

          "I don’t understand," said Rojers slowly. "I mean, the thing was a freak, just like all the rest. Minimal intelligence, low reaction to stimuli, legs quite stunted. What exactly are you trying to tell me?"

         "The truth. With a capital T, not the small t they use around here. It took me more than half a lifetime to stumble upon it, probably because it’s so bloody simple. And, of course, all of my predecessors figured it out as well, and kept their mouths shut for the same reason I do. But you’re the brightest lad around here, even though you’re only in your thirties, and since I plan on retiring in the next few years and blowing my pension on fat cigars and fatter women, it seems only logical that you’ll be taking my place—if you decide to withdraw your resignation, that is. Which is why we’re having this little talk. No reason to let you stumble around in the dark for years the way I did."

         "I assume," said Rojers coldly, "that there is some part of the Project that I fail to understand."

         "Some part!" Herban laughed. "Why, boy, you don’t understand the whole damned thing! Now, don’t give me a sour expression like that. You’re in good company. Nobody else in the galaxy does either, except me. And even though I’m a goddamn genius, I took almost thirty years to figure it out myself. I often marvel that it didn’t dawn on me after the third or fourth experiment." He took a deep drag on his cigar, opened his mouth slightly, and allowed the smoke to trickle out at its own speed. "But hell, I was young and idealistic and all that sort of nonsense. I suppose I couldn’t be blamed for believing in the Project any more than you can."

         "Are you trying to tell me that the Project is a fraud?" demanded Rojers, a sense of moral outrage beginning to creep across his mind.
         "Well, yes and no," said Herban. "Yes and no."
         "Just what is that supposed to mean?"
         "Exactly what I said," said Herban. "Let’s see if we can’t get you to use a little of that brain of yours. After all, if you’re going to become the next Chief Biochemist of the Oligarchy and points north, nobody should have to spoon-feed conclusions to you. Tell me what you think the Project is all about."
         "Every schoolboy knows what it’s all about," said Rojers irritably. "What I’m trying to figure out is what you’re driving at."
         "Bear with me for a little while." The older man grinned, relighting the cigar. "And tell me about the Project."
         "I feel like an idiot," said Rojers. "Okay. The Project is attempting to hasten the course of evolution by artificially developing Homo superior."
         "A fair enough description. And, in that, the Project is absolutely legitimate. Well, ‘legitimate’ is a misleading word; let me say, rather, that in that respect the Project is sincere. Its motives are of the purest nature, and its virtue—if not its efficacy—is beyond question."
         "Then I still don’t understand what you mean."
         "Well, let’s begin at the beginning, shall we, boy?" said Herban. "Do you know when the Project began?"
         "Not exactly. About four hundred years ago," said Rojers.

         "Try four thousand." Herban grinned. "You’ll be much closer to the truth. It began, secretly to be sure, in the waning days of the Republic. Originally, only four men worked on it, and the number always remained under a dozen until about four centuries ago—388 years, to be exact—when the Oligarchy decided to make it public because of political expediency."

         "Four thousand?’’ mused Rojers. "But why was it kept secret?"

         "For reasons of utmost necessity," said Herban. "You see, originally the idea was to create a true race of Homo superior, a race that would supersede Man. Well, not really supersede him, since no one was all that anxious to bring about our own extinction; but to, shall we say, represent Man among the myriad worlds, to take and conquer huge new domains for us, and then to move on while we took over the fruits of their labor. Nifty idea, that. They must have dreamed of making a race of men with the intellect of a Robelian, the physique of a Torqual, the ESPer abilities of a Domarian, and, with all that, total loyalty to humanity." He shrugged. "Well, the science was young then, so I suppose they can be excused for their dreams. And the need for secrecy was twofold: to avoid alarming good old Homo sap, and to avoid giving advance warning to the various other races that we were planning to spring our little surprise on. And it stood to reason, naturally, that with limited funds and a minuscule number of trained biochemists, they made so little progress for thirty-six hundred years as to make no difference at all.

         "Then came the Setts. Everybody knows about them now, but originally it was all hush-hush. After all, they were the first race ever to defeat us in anything resembling a major battle. It happened something like five centuries ago, and, since it occurred so far out on the Rim, the Oligarchy managed to cover it up for more than a century without much difficulty. Then the news finally got back to Deluros VIII, Sirius V, and some of the other major worlds, and all hell broke loose. The people demanded that the Oligarchy do something. For a decade or so the whole damned government racked its collective brain to come up with an answer before they were overthrown, and then some pigeonholer remembered the Project. Overnight, we were given a staff of two hundred men, which gradually increased to three thousand, and our budget was absolutely astronomical. The science of biochemistry learned more in the next ten years than it had in the past seventy centuries, and the Oligarchy had sold the public on a pipedream: we were going to create a race of supermen that would blast the Setts to kingdom come. Worked out beautifully all the way around. Of course, we found out a little while later that the Setts were terribly vulnerable to measles, and they surrendered without any trouble once we sprayed their home world with about a million tons of the virus. But the people had bought the dream of a super race, and the government found it politically expedient to keep up work on the Project."

         "Is that what you meant when you implied it was all a fraud?" asked Rojers hotly. "That the Oligarchy really doesn’t want to come up with Homo superior ?"

         "Not at all," said Herban. "They probably don’t want any supermen knocking about—and, if they thought about it, neither would the populace at large. But no one has tried to hinder us in any way. If God Himself popped out of one of our incubators, there’s no way anyone could make us put Him back. Nor," he added with a chuckle, "could they make Him go back if He decided He didn’t want to. But that’s not the case. God isn’t about to crop up around here. At least not as a direct result of our experiments."

         "You keep saying that," said Rojers, feeling more lost than ever. "Why?"

         "It should be obvious," said Herban. He pressed a series of buttons on his desk computer, waited for a moment, then glanced at the readout. "As of this minute, we have made 1,036,753 experiments involving human genes. We have tried to force evolutionary patterns on DNA molecules, we have tried to create out-and-out mutations, we have bombarded genes and chromosomes with preset patterns and at random. We have tried well over three thousand approaches, and hundreds of thousands of variations on these approaches. In the process, we’ve done a hell of a lot for the science of parthenogenesis, but we haven’t come up with our supermen yet. Did it ever occur to you to ask why?"

         "No more than once an hour or so."
         "Well, the problem is too simple for a bright young feller like yourself to solve. Now, if you asked some savage descendant of one of the Delphini II colonists, he’d probably tell you right away."
         "Since I don’t know any aborigines on a first-name basis," said Rojers, "I’ll have to put the question to you. With no comparison intended."
         "No offense taken." Herban smiled. "The solution to the problem is simply one of definition, which is doubtless caused by our somewhat more sophisticated background."

         "I don’t follow you, sir," said Rojers. "Let’s put it this way. Our idea of a racial superman would differ considerably from an aborigine’s, wouldn’t it? I mean, his ideal would be a man who could kill a large herbivore with his bare hands, survive under extremes of temperature, have the sexual potency to father a whole world, and so forth. Agreed?"

         "I suppose so."
         "Our idea, however, reflects the needs we seem to feel. What qualities, in your opinion, might a superman reasonably be expected to possess?"

         "First of all, an intellectual capacity far beyond our own. And," Rojers went on, scratching his head thoughtfully, "a number of ESP qualities: telepathy, telekinesis, and the like. And, as his brain power increased, his physical performance would diminish proportionately, since he’d have less need of his body. But hell, that’s basic. We all know that."

         "Not quite all of us," said Herban with a small smile. "Our aborigine would disagree . . . always assuming he had the intelligence to follow your argument. Otherwise, he’d probably interrupt you in midsentence and throw you into a handy cooking pot. And the really interesting part of it is that for all his lack of intelligence and sophistication, he’d be right and you’d be wrong."

         "You don’t sound like you’re kidding," said Rojers dubiously, "and yet it has to be a joke."

         "Oh, it’s a joke, all right," said Herban. "But it’s on us. You see, Man has evolved mentally as far as he’s ever going to. From a standpoint of intellect, Homo sapiens and Homo superior are one and the same. I’ll qualify that in a moment, but it’s essentially correct as it stands." Rojers was staring in disbelief, making no move to interrupt with a protest, so Herban took another long puff on his cigar and continued. "What, my bright young man, is the most basic cause of natural evolution?"

         "Environmental need," said Rogers mechanically.

         "Correct. Which is the precise reason why we’re not about to create a mental superman. Man has never used much more than thirty percent of his potential intellect; as long as the remaining seventy percent is there, waiting to be tapped, there is absolutely no cause for any evolutionary process which would increase our basic intelligence. Ditto for telepathy. Man originally had no need for it, because he had the power of speech. Then, as he became separated from his companions by distances too great for speech to carry, he made use of radio waves, video, radar, sonar, and a dozen other media for carrying his words and images. Why, then, is there any need for telepathy? There isn’t.

         "Telekinesis? Ridiculous. We have machines that can literally destroy stars, that can move planets out of their orbits. What possible need can we have for the development of telekinesis?

         "Take every single trait of our hypothetical superman, and you’ll find that there is absolutely no environmental need for it. Now, as I said before, I’ll qualify the statement to this extent: Telepathy and even mild telekinesis can be induced under laboratory conditions, at least on occasion. But to do so we must so totally change the gene pattern and environment of the fetus and child that it is literally cut off from the world: no sensual receptors of any kind. In such cases, the brain will usually come out totally dulled or quite mad. On occasion, the insane brain will draw on some of its reserve potential and develop telepathic traits, but of course the mind is so irrational that any meaningful contact with it or training of it is quite impossible.

         "On the other hand, it’s not at all difficult to develop our aborigine’s superman, because we can control the physical environment and tamper with the DNA molecules. We turn them out every day in the incubators. We can create hairy supermen, giant supermen, three-eyed supermen, aquatic supermen, and if we worked on it, I’ve no doubt that we could even create methane-breathing supermen. In fact, we can create damned near every type of superman except supremely intelligent ones."

         "Then it’s a dead end?" asked Rojers.

         "Not at all. You’re forgetting our untapped seventy percent. Even before space travel in the ancient past, there were numerous documented laboratory experiments dealing with telepathy, prescience, and many other ESPer abilities and talents. Every human body undoubtedly has the potential to perform just about every feat we ask of our hypothetical and unattainable superman, but we’ve no way to tap that potential. It’s the same problem: You, if the need arose, would have the potential to send out a telepathic cry for help, and possibly even teleport yourself out of danger. However, you’ll never do it if you can scream and run or press an alarm button and hop into a spaceship. And even if no means of aid were available to you, you simply have a storehouse of special effects; what you lack—what we all lack—is any rational means of getting the key into the storehouse door. Poor Homo superior!"

         "Then why the facade of trying to develop supermen?" asked Rojers.
         "To hide our greater purpose, of course," said Herban.
         "Our greater purpose?" repeated Rojers. "You make it sound positively sinister."
         "It all depends on your point of view," said Herban. "I think of it as extremely beneficial. But come along, and you can make up your own mind."

         With that, the little man put out his cigar, swung his feet off his desk, arose, and gestured Rojers to follow him out the door. They proceeded farther down the corridor to a horizontally moving elevator, and took it about halfway around the massive biochemical and genetics complex. From there they transferred to a vertical elevator and plunged down at a rapid speed.

         Rojers had no idea how fast they were going, but estimated that they were at least seven hundred feet below ground level before the elevator showed any sign of slowing up. At least, he decided, whatever was going on here wasn’t too well hidden. But then, he continued, why should it be? After all, the Oligarchy was paying for it, and the politics of the Project demanded that everything be aboveboard and open. In fact, the Project had been created and maintained solely because of the demands of the populace.

         The doors opened, and Herban led Rojers past two security checks, and into still another horizontally moving enclosure. There were three more changes of direction, all accompanied by increasingly rigid security inspections, until at last they arrived before a massive lead portal, which slowly slid back before them when Herban inserted his identification card into a small practically invisible wall slot.

         "This is it," grunted the Chief of Biochemistry as he walked through the doorway.

         Rojers looked around and was unimpressed. It didn’t seem all that different from the portion of the complex he was familiar with: corridors going every which way, numerous doors with signs indicating the departments and subdepartments contained within, and what seemed to be a fair-sized auditorium at the far end of the largest corridor. An occasional technician in a lab smock walked out of one door into another, and once Rojers thought he saw a woman scurrying down a corridor in a lead body suit. By and large, however, there didn’t seem to be any of the frantic hustle and bustle and frenzied activity that marked the huge incubator room and its surroundings.

         Still, there were a couple of oddities. Like the woman in the lead suit, and the fact that two of the doors he passed as he followed Herban seemed to be made of lead, while the others covered a whole range of plastics.

         They came to a corridor marked MAXIMUM SECURITY and turned down it. Herban nodded to a couple of technicians who were speaking in low tones outside one of the doors, then stopped at a large, unmarked panel. Another insertion of his identification card was followed by another sliding of the barrier, and the two men walked into what gave every indication of being an extremely sophisticated laboratory, though it was filled with equipment that was, for the most part, totally unfamiliar to Rojers. There were far fewer pieces of apparatus for working on genetic structures, but considerably more devices which seemed, on the surface at least, to bear some resemblance to encephalographic and cardiographic machines. Unlike the sterile laboratory atmosphere Rojers had become used to working in during the greater portion of his adult life, this place seemed built for comfort as much as efficiency. All around him were padded chairs, ashtrays (though that could simply be an offshoot of Herban’s assumption that everyone—but everyone—should smoke cigars), food-dispensing machines, books and tapes of popular fiction, and the facilities for bathing the room in music, light images, or both.

         "Have you any idea where you are?" asked Herban pleasantly, seating himself by an ashtray.
         "No," said Rojers.
         Herban chuckled and lit up another cigar. "Boy, you’re in one of our basic testing rooms."
         "Who do you test here," asked Rojers, "and for what?"
         "We test people," said Herban. "And we test them to see if they’re your hypothetical supermen."
         "Now I’m thoroughly confused," said Rojers. "I thought you said we couldn’t create supermen, and you sounded damned convincing. Are you telling me now that you were lying?"
         "Not at all."
         "Then how do these so-called supermen come to be? What lab produces them?"
         "No lab does. When I said Man will not evolve into a mental superman, I wasn’t lying to you. I did not, however, say that a mental superman cannot exist."
         "I feel as if I were back in school," said Rojers in exasperation. "Every time I think I know what you’re talking about, you stick another stone wall in front of me."

         "Well, I’ll admit you’ve had to discard a lot of wrong assumptions," said Herban, "but everything I’ve told you today is both true and noncontradictory. For example, I said that we cannot evolve into mental supermen. That’s true. Now I’m telling you that there are indeed mental supermen, and that we work with them down here. That’s also true."

         "If we didn’t create them, how did they get here?" persisted Rojers.

         "Pretty much the same way you and I got here: natural selection, natural conception, and very likely natural childbirth as well." Rojers just stared at him. "You see,’’ continued Herban, "these supermen aren’t mutations—or at least, not in the sense that you’ve been working on mutations. I’ll make it simple for you. Possibly a million human mutations are conceived every day. Probably half of them are reabsorbed within hours. Of the others, most are such minor mutations as to go virtually unnoticed: a child born with a yellow spot in a head of otherwise red hair, or maybe with a weird-looking birthmark. Some get minor attention, like a baby with six fingers, or with a thin layer of flesh over its anal outlet, or with the potential for only twenty-six teeth at adulthood. Usually they’re so minor we don’t even notice them. And, to be sure, very few mutations breed on. We still have the appendix, we still have tonsils, we still have hair on our bodies. Despite the fact that there have been some families where no mother has nursed her baby in eighty or ninety generations the female children still develop breasts. No, as I said, mutations rarely breed on, and no mutation has yet produced a superman with any more mental capacity than you or I possess.

         "However," he said, stabbing the air with his cigar, "no mutation is needed to produce a mental superman. As I mentioned upstairs, all that’s required is for a man or a woman to use one hundred percent—or even fifty percent—of the potential he or she is born with."

         "And you’ve found such people and test them down here?" asked Rojers. "We’ve been finding such people for four millennia or more," said Herban. "And yes, we test them here."

         "And what talents have you found?"

         "Oh, a little bit of everything. Except for prescience. Usually the hunchers, as we call them, can sense impending events, but never the details. Most often it’s simply a feeling of almost unbearable expectation, and rarely does it apply or relate to anyone but themselves. But we’ve gotten telepaths who can send, receive, or both. We’ve gotten levitators. We’ve found teleporters, though there have been only three of them, and two of the three had to be threatened irreversibly with death before they could find the wherewithal to teleport themselves. We’ve found far more people who are adepts at telekinesis. And, of course, we’ve gotten some intelligences that have gone right off the scale, brainpower so high that we’ve still no real way of measuring it."

         "Fantastic!" said Rojers. "And wonderful!"
         "Fantastic, at any rate," said Herban dryly. "Still, most of them go home intact."
         "What do you mean, go home intact?" demanded Rojers.
         "Just what I said. Why do you think we’re doing all this testing?"
         "I assume for the same reasons we’ve been trying to force evolution in the incubator rooms: to create a superman."
         "But these supermen have already been created," pointed out Herban.
         "Then I would imagine you’d want to train them to use their talents to the best of their abilities, for the good of the Oligarchy."

         "What an absolutely childish answer!" Herban laughed. "If enough of them used their abilities to their maximum potential, the Oligarchy—and Man—would be finished within fifty years or so. No, my idealistic boy, we definitely do not help them become supermen and then turn them loose on society."

         "You mean you kill them all?" demanded Rojers.

         "Don’t look so damned horrified," said Herban. "Let’s not forget that you have killed just about every single life you’ve created. However, if it’ll put your mind at ease, we don’t bring them down here for the express purpose of killing them. We have a galaxy-wide structure set up to spot every human with what you might call a wild talent. And considering how many trillions of humans there are, we don’t miss very many. Anyway, once they’re found—and adolescence is usually the earliest that such traits can be determined by outside observers—they’re either brought here or to one of seven similar labs scattered throughout the galaxy.

         "Once here, they’re tested thoroughly. Before we’re done, we know the absolute limits of their abilities; quite often, we find talents even they didn’t know they possessed. We also run a comprehensive analysis of their genetic structure, DNA code, sperm, ovum, everything that could possibly influence their offspring, though I must admit we’ve found nothing unusual as yet. That done, we are free to reach one of three decisions. If there is any chance that the talent will breed on—and since we can’t determine it genetically, we simply assume it is possible if anyone in the past five generations has displayed any odd talent—they are sterilized. Without their knowing it, of course. And if it seems pretty certain that the talent will not breed on, we’ll usually let them return to society, especially if it isn’t too spectacular a talent, such as mild telepathy. If it’s something really interesting, something that might lead people to demand that we find a way to unleash it, such as levitation, we usually ship the subject off to a frontier world."

         "That’s two decisions," said Rojers. "You mentioned three."
         "The third should be obvious."

         "Quickly and painlessly, if the talent warrants it," said Herban. "And, in answer to your next question, it warrants it if it can ever, in any way, prove inimical to Man. For example, if a man’s intelligence is so great that no device in our technologically oriented culture can measure it, he’s too dangerous to live. Admittedly, that intelligence could conceivably make meaningful communicative contact with some of the races we just can’t seem to get through to, or possibly cure every disease known to us . . . but it could also mount a navy and a political following that would overthrow the existing order of things. And it’s not just intelligence. A man who possesses the power of telekinesis to the ultimate degree can manipulate elements within the core of a star and cause it to go nova. This could be a boon if we get into another war with the Setts; but what if he decides that the government of his own system is totally corrupt? And the same goes for other talents. A legitimate case of prescience—and we haven’t come across one yet—could destroy the economic structure of any world that deals heavily in financial speculation. Teleportation? More than half our economy is bound up in interplanetary and interstellar transportation. The ability to master involuntary hypnosis? It would lead to absolute control of a system, possibly of the entire galaxy.

         "No, boy, these talents can’t be allowed to survive. We don’t destroy every highly intelligent man, or every man capable of telekinesis, or every telepath. Only those that can be considered a clear danger. And notice that I didn’t say a clear and present danger; clear and future dangers are no damned better. And if we can discover the outer limits of a dangerous man’s abilities before he does, it’s a lot harder for him to erect defenses, mental or otherwise, against us."

         "About how many people do you destroy?" asked Rojers.

         "We bring in about a million a year to each lab center," said Herban. "There are far more, but most of them are eliminated from further consideration at lower levels. We just get the stinkers. Of that million, we’ll return about eight hundred thousand intact, and another hundred and eighty thousand sterilized. As for the other twenty thousand . . . well, we potentially save the galaxy a million times every half century or so."

         "Save it from what?" said Rojers disgustedly.

         "We don’t save it from anything," said Herban very slowly, very seriously. "We save it for something: for Man. Don’t look so morally outraged, boy. I know you’re thinking about all the poor innocent supermen who have gone to their deaths down here, all those fine talents who could have made Paradise happen right here and now, and maybe they could have. But I think of three trillion Men who aren’t about to give up their birthright to anyone, including their progeny."

         "And what about the incubators?" demanded Rojers.
         "They serve their purpose," answered Herban. "And their purpose is only partially to train you fellers and further develop the subscience of parthenogenesis."
         "Oh?" Rojers was still suspicious.

         "Absolutely. The talents we deal with down here are very rare sports, even those that might possibly reproduce their traits. But if you ever find a genetic method of unlocking that seventy percent, the human race will happily advance as a whole. It’s just that no member of it is going to let his neighbor move up ahead of him."

         "But we haven’t found a way to do that in four thousand years!"

         "And you may not for another four thousand," agreed Herban. "But it’s worth trying. And, in the meantime, Man isn’t doing all that badly with his cunning, his sticks, and his stones, is he?" He arose abruptly. "I’ll leave you here to think about what I’ve said; I’ll be back in a few hours."

         Herban stopped at the doorway and turned to Rojers. "You now have the power to expose a secret that’s been kept for quite a few centuries. So consider all aspects of it very carefully." He left, and the panel slid shut behind him.

    From BIRTHRIGHT: THE BOOK OF MAN by Mike Resnick (1982)

    Magic Spells

    Some science fiction authors use psionics to explain how wizards and witches use magic spells. Which is sort of like using astrology to explain how alchemy works.

    The way Isaac Bonewits figures it, you postulate that [1] psi powers exist and [2] they can only be controlled by the subconscious mind, not the conscious.

    This throws a big monkey wrench into using psi powers because the subconscious is pre-literal. This means it is useless to try to tell the subconscious what to do with words, since it doesn't understand them. The best you can do is attempt to communicate with images, which are sadly lacking in precision and often includes dangerous ambiguities.

    As if that was not bad enough, there is the matter of supplying energy to the psi powers being used. According to Bonewits, they are energized by emotions. Strong ravening foaming-at-the-mouth emotions.

    Which means the magic-user has to work themselves into an emotional frenzy while simultaneously sending crystal-clear images to the subconscious in the proper sequence. Nobody said magic was easy, but this is ridiculous.


    Enter the magic spell. It is a way of dealing with the above mentioned problems: to make using ones psi powers less an impossible task and to make them operate with more reliability.

    Parts of the spell are to help inflame the appropriate emotions, the rest are messages in mnemonics to help tell the subconscious who is the target of the spell and what exactly the spell is going to do to them. These are multi-media: chants, gestures, symbols, scents, tastes, dancing, etc. The spell is scripted much like a play. And, just like a play or a good bread recipe, it does not always come out the way you intended it.

    The mnemonics are there because ones rational thinking mind does not work very well when it is busy frothing at the mouth. It is easier to look at a physical symbolic image instead of to trying to form a clear image in your mind's eye. But to work properly your conscious mind and subconscious mind has to have been trained to use the various symbols as sort of a common language. This is why the magic user has to spend their apprenticeship memorizing "Mars is for Combat and War", "Venus is for Love and Hanky-panky", "Mercury is for Swiftness and Mad Hats", and so on. This teaches both the conscious and subconscious the lingua franca. Unless you have learned the lingo, trying to perform a spell you found in some grimore is not going to do much.

    Ceremonial magicians (e.g., the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn) have huge complicated mnemonic symbol sets based on whatever magical tradition they come from (e.g., Chaos Magic). And of course symbols from different traditions are mutually incompatible, on purpose (different occult groups hate each other). The technical term is "Table of correspondences". An example is Liber 777 by Aleister Crowley.

    Other magicians (e.g., Neopagan Witches) are more basic and folksy. They use symbols that most human beings (and their subconscious) instinctively know already. If the spell includes a little doll that looks like the target which you proceed to use as a pincushion; well, your subconscious has a pretty good idea what you are trying to say. This is the basis of Sympathetic magic. Such magic uses the two magical laws described by Sir James George Frazer in The Golden Bough: the Law of Similarity, the Law of Contagion. Both laws are understood by anybody older than about two years. The Law of Similarity is why long curving rhino horn is considered to be a cure for impotence (because of what it looks like), the Law of Contageon is why some men become very angry if you touch their special golf clubs, hunting rifles, or tool box (giving it cooties).

    Ceremonial is much more structured and ritualistic. Folksy magic is much more improvisational, with spells sometimes being made up on the spot.

    Little rituals can aid in the control of the raw use of a psi power. Which is important when lack of control can lead to madness. In the movie Dune, the mentats are human computers who use a drug called sapho juice to put their brain into high gear (akin to pouring an entire box of chocolate covered espresso beans into your mouth). Uncontrolled, this can cause insanity. To avoid this, mentats do a little ritual, chanting the mentat mantra: "It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the juice of sapho that thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains, the stains become a warning. It is by will alone I set my mind in motion."

    In the movie Inception, a dream stealer can determine if they are inside another's dream by using their totem.

    Ceremonial magicians sometimes summon demons, which may be actual creatures from another dimension, or may be mental creations inside the mage's head in a sort of self-induced split personality. Whatever they are, it exposes the mage to a very dangerous Monster from the ID problem. Not only are demons hyperresponsive to the mage's idle thoughts and ironic process theory, but demons are also quick to exploit any personality flaws in the mage to breach the defenses and enslave the mage (the split personality becomes permanent and dominant). To avoid this unhappy state of affairs, mages are advised to undergo a sort of occult psychoanalysis to purge their subconscious of mental imbalance before trying to summon demons (Aleister Crowley somewhat tongue-in-cheek called this process the attaining the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel).

    As always there are some notes on the topic in TV Tropes.


    We will now begin to list different types of magic, by color. After each one will come those areas of activity, normal and magical, which would come under the heading of that “color” magic. Naturally, magic itself has no color; these are merely associational devices.

    Red Magic
    Has to do with matters of the body, both human and animal. The association is obviously derived from the color of blood and therefore involves both healing and killing. Thus, this color includes: the medical sciences and the military sciences, blessings and curses, matters of physical strength and power, and the zoological sciences.
    Orange Magic
    Deals with matters of ego-strength and materialism, of pride and self-confidence, of courage and security, and of the physical and economic sciences. The derivation of these associations is not clear, until we note that orange stands between red and yellow in the spectrum.
    Yellow Magic
    This is the magic of the mind and nervous system. It includes, therefore, matters of the mental sciences, such as mathematics, logic, and philosophy. Also included are learning, organization, and theorizing (now you finally understand why this book is an introductory treatise to Yellow Magic). It is the color of Thaumaturgy.
    Green Magic
    Now almost obsolete in America, it was originally the magic of agricultural fertility, and we are no longer a rural nation. It includes, naturally, the botanical sciences, fertility and creativity, beauty and art. I'm sure we all know at least one person with a “green thumb”; they are often unconscious practitioners of Green Magic.
    Blue Magic
    We all know what “having the blues” means, and this is the basic association of this color: emotions. Therefore, we logically and traditionally include religion, ESP, other psychic phenomena, spiritualism, fortune-telling, theology, and the social sciences. This is the color of theurgy.
    Indigo Magic
    This is at once one of the oldest and newest of all the colors of magic. Originally it was the color of rain-making and weather control, and thus of meteorology. It has since been extended to other sciences of the sky, including astronomy, astrophysics—ruled by the Angel Nasa, remember?—and matters of space and time travel.
    Purple Magic
    This color of magic is rarely, if ever, referred to as “Violet Magic,” perhaps because violet just does not coincide with this color's main association: violent and physical passions. Remember the phrase “purple passion”? Well, the color purple is a mix of red and blue, so we could expect physical emotions to be the result. Thus, we have matters of love, lust, hate, fear, anger, and ecstasy. Strangely enough, matters of power and the political sciences are also traditionally linked with this color. Is it only because of the purple cloaks of royalty? Not necessarily, for purple is the only way we can normally view. …
    Ultraviolet Magic
    This is the traditional color for the crackling flashes of pure power in the psychic realms. Often the color is confused with black (you've seen “black lights”?) and since power is often considered evil, here was yet another reason for calling evil magic Black. Thus, this is the proper color for matters of power and politics, yet we will normally let them retain their attribution of Purple Magic. Additional support for our theories comes, though, from the fact that the color of strong emotions is also the color of psychic power. Ultraviolet Magic by itself is somewhat useless, not to say suicidal.
    Brown Magic
    Brown is not technically a hue, neither is it an achromatic. It is, instead, a mixture of red and yellow with medium to low value and chroma. In short, a dark orange. Remember the attributes of Orange Magic—well, brown is even more materialistic. As we mentioned before, in “auric readings,” brown indicates a sensual nature. For our purposes we can consider it the primitive and animal color. Brown Magic then easily earns its traditional place: the magic of the woods and glens, of animals and hunting, of the wilderness, and of the ecological sciences.
    From REAL MAGIC by Isaac Bonewitz (1971)

    Scientific Magic

    There has always been sort of a dichotomy between magic and science, they are common seen as "do not play well with each other" if not actually engaged in open warfare. This seems partially because magic is perilously close to religion, and partially because illogical haphazard emotional magic is the antithesis of logical precise emotion-less science. This isn't helped by the common impression that psionic or magical phenomenon always seem to disappear when you try to study them in a laboratory. TV Tropes calls this Magic Versus Science and has lots of examples.

    Since science fiction authors are all about "What If?", there are a few novels set in a world where:

    • all technology is based on magic and science is seen as quaint superstition
    • science and magic have merged to make a combination more powerful than the sum of the parts (ρ=Σ+Ψ)

    Magic Instead Of Science

    Lord D'Arcy novels by Randall Garrett
    These are set in an alternate history where magic was developed and science ignored. Society is very Victorian and ruled by the aristocracy. On the one hand items like a common flashlight are considered ultra high-tech. On the other hand since diseases like cancer can be cured by magical laying on of hands, it is not uncommon for people to live to the age of 125. Scientific research is looked upon the way we regard the Flat Earth Society: crack-pots.
    Operation Chaos by Poul Anderson
    Magic has been harnessed ever since people figured out how to degauss cold iron. The protagonist uses his commercial Polaroid "Were-flash" to give him the burst of polarized light required to initiate werewolf form. During World War II, US Air Force combat brooms battled invading Islamic flying carpets. The Petrological Warfare division uses basilisks to turn enemy soldiers into stone, but when human carbon is turned to silicon you have a radioactive isotope. Petro handlers might get a bad dose of radiation sickness and have to be treated with St. John’s Wort plucked from a graveyard in the dark of the moon. Which is why cremation is illegal, graveyards are needed to keep up the supply of the herb.
    Star Winds by Barrington J. Bayley
    In the far future it is discovered that most of modern-day science is as wildly inaccurate as Phlogiston theory. Magic and alchemy are a much closer paradigm and give better results. Spacecraft resemble sailing vessels, using "ether-cloth" to lift into orbit and travel between planets.
    Magic, Inc. by Robert Heinlein
    Set in an alternate history where magic is the basis for technology, everything else is much like a 1950's private-eye novel set in California.
    The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump by Harry Turtledove
    Again, magic spells are used instead of technology. Otherwise the novel seems set in modern day Los Angeles. Magic spells have undesirable side-effects so there is a need for magical toxic waste disposal site.
    Master of the Five Magics by Lyndon Hardy
    This is a "hard" fantasy novel. It is set in a standard medieval world where magic works, but the details of the various branches of magic are set down with hard precision and adhered to. There are five branches of magic and generally a wizard only learns one, there is sort of a caste system. The protagonist manages to get a smattering of learning in each, and manages to make unusually potent spells by combining elements of different branches.

    Magic And Science Merged (ρ=Σ+Ψ)

    Merging the two will be a challenge if Bonewits' theory is true. If magic is psionics and psionics can only be controlled by one's pre-literate illogical emotional subconscious, science is going to hate that. There will be no metrics, no precise measurements, no perfect repetition, or any of the other things that science holds near and dear.

    So pretty much all the authors who write about this postulate that Bonewits' theory does not hold true.

    Elemental by Geoffrey A. Landis
    In the story, magic is discovered to be an outgrowth of quantum field theory. So they use it for things like antimatter containment in spacecraft.
    Jack Of Shadows by Roger Zelazny
    This takes place on a planet which is tidally locked. On the side permanently facing the Sun, science rules and the civilization is protected from solar heat by nuclear powered force fields. On the side permanently facing the night, magic rules and the medieval civilization is protected from the bitter cold by a magic powered occult barrier. The protagonist, Jack of Shadows, is the only entity who is at home in both worlds, that is, the shadow between light and dark. He is looking for the primal all powerful magic spell, The Key That Was Lost, Kolwynia. He obtains it by sneaking into the science side and programming some computers to do some prolonged calculations.
    The Magic Engineer by L. E. Modesitt Jr
    A large group of starship using people crash land on a planet where magic works. Over the centuries they learn how to use both magic and technology.
    The Incomplete Enchanter Series by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt
    Psychologist Harold Shea and his colleagues Reed Chalmers, Walter Bayard, and Vaclav Polacek travel to various parallel worlds where ancient myths or old literature are reality. They project themselves to these parallel worlds by using a system of symbolic logic.
    Shaman by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff

    Rhys Llewellyn is a trade negotiator for the interstellar trading corporation Tanaka. He arrives on the planet Pa-Loana, hoping to secure a lucrative trade deal from the tribal-level aliens. Unfortunately a negotiator from the rival Bristol-Benz corporation arrives at the same time.

    Since the natives will only negotiate with the equivalent of tribal shamans, both Rhys and his rival pretend that they are. The difference is that Rhys really gets into it, and becomes friends with the Pa-Loana shaman.

    Much to his surprise, Rhys discovers that the Pa-Loana magic actually works.


         “My work here Is nearly ended,” said Karellen’s voice from a million radios. “At last, after a hundred years, I can tell you what it was.
         “There are many things we have had to hide from you, as we hid ourselves for half our stay on Earth. Some of you, I know, thought that concealment unnecessary. You are accustomed to our presence: you can no longer imagine how your ancestors would have reacted to us. But at least you can understand the purpose of our concealment, and know that we had a reason for what we did.
         “The supreme secret we kept from you was our purpose in coming to Earth—that purpose about which you have speculated so endlessly. We could not tell you until now, for the secret was not ours to reveal.
         “A century ago we came to your world and saved you from self-destruction. I do not believe that anyone would deny that fact—but what that self-destruction was, you never guessed.
         “Because we banned nuclear weapons and all the other deadly toys you were accumulating in your armouries, the danger of physical annihilation was removed. You thought that was the only danger. We wanted you to believe that, but it was never true. The greatest danger that confronted you was of a different character altogether—and it did not concern your race alone.
         “Many worlds have come to the crossroads of nuclear power, have avoided disaster, have gone on to build peaceful and happy civilizations—and have then been utterly destroyed by forces of which they knew nothing. In the twentieth century, you first began to tamper seriously with those forces. That was why it became necessary to act.
         “All through that century, the human race was drawing slowly nearer to the abyss—never even suspecting its existence. Across that abyss, there is only one bridge. Few races, unaided, have ever found it. Some have turned back while there was still time, avoiding both the danger and the achievement. Their worlds have become Elysian islands of effortless content, playing no further part in the story of the universe. That would never have been your fate—or your fortune. Your race was too vital for that. It would have plunged into ruin and taken others with it, for you would never have found the bridge.
         “I am afraid that almost all I have to say now must be by means of such analogies. You have no words, no conceptions, for many of the things I wish to tell you—and our own knowledge of them is also sadly imperfect.
         “To understand, you must go back into the past and recover much that your ancestors would have found familiar, but which you have forgotten—which, in fact, we deliberately helped you to forget. For all our sojourn here has been based on a vast deception, a concealment of truth which you were not ready to face.
         “In the centuries before our coming, your scientists uncovered the secrets of the physical world and led you from the energy of steam to the energy of the atom. You had put superstition behind you: Science was the only real religion of mankind...Science, it was felt, could explain everything: there were no forces which did not come within its scope, no events for which it could not ultimately account. The origin of the universe might be forever unknown, but all that had happened after obeyed the laws of physics.
         “Yet your mystics, though they were lost in their own delusions, had seen part of the truth. There are powers of the mind, and powers beyond the mind, which your science could never have brought within its framework without shattering it entirely. All down the ages there have been countless reports of strange phenomena—poltergeists, telepathy, precognition—which you had named but never explained. At first Science ignored them, even denied their existence, despite the testimony of five thousand years. But they exist and if it is to be complete any theory of the universe must account for them.
         “During the first half of the twentieth century, a few of your scientists began to investigate these matters. They did not know it,but they were tampering with the lock of Pandora’s box. The forces they might have unleashed transcended any perils that the atom could have brought. For the physicists could only have ruined the Earth: the paraphysicists could have spread havoc to the stars.
         “That could not be allowed. I cannot explain the full nature of the threat you represented. It would not have been a threat to us, and therefore we do not comprehend it. Let us say that you might have become a telepathic cancer, a malignant mentality which in its inevitable dissolution would have poisoned other and greater minds.
         “And so we came—we were sent—to Earth. We interrupted your development on every cultural level, but in particular we checked all serious work on paranormal phenomena. I am well aware of the fact that we have also inhibited, by the contrast between our civilizations, all other forms of creative achievement as well. But that was a secondary effect, and it is of no importance.

    From CHILDHOOD'S END by Arthur C. Clarke (1953)

    (ed note: Rhys Llewellyn is a trade negotiator for the interstellar trading corporation Tanaka. He arrives on the planet Pa-Loana, hoping to secure a lucrative trade deal from the tribal-level aliens. Unfortunately a negotiator from the rival Bristol-Benz corporation arrives at the same time. Since the natives will only negotiate with the equivalent of tribal shamans, both Rhys and his rival pretend that they are.

    The difference is that Rhys really gets into it, and since he is also a Professor of Anthropology, he has actually studied shamanism in various cultures. He becomes friends with the Pa-Loana shaman Pa-Lili (who mispronounces his name "Reeslooelen").)

         She (Shaman Pa-Lili) patted his hand. "You wear my gift spirit bag," she noted.
         "Oh, yes. Thank you, Many Hued Pa-Lili. Your gifts were most generous. My medicine pouch is full."
         "What spell do you weave—or is it a secret one?"
         Rhys mind went blank except for the entirely irrelevant thought that no one had ever asked him that before and was this what it was like to attend a Sorcerer's Convention.
         "I would like to weave a spell of good will and complete honesty," he said. That sounded innocuous enough and seemed to please Pa-Lili.
         "And what, then, are the contents of your bag?"
         "I, uh.... It's empty." He knew that was wrong and gritted his teeth, waiting for Pa-Lili to register her offense at his ineptitude.
         She merely shook her head and clucked at him from somewhere deep in her throat, her long face saying, Poor baby. "No spell may be drawn from an empty bag," she told him with the air of one repeating ageless advice. "You must place the spell weaver within."
         Rhys blinked, sensing his apprentice's eyes hot on the side of his perspiring face.
         "A spell-weaver?" he asked limply.
         Pa-Lili clucked again. "What do they teach you on your world, Reeslooelen?" She began a rhythmic recitation: "Within the bag must live/the fetish that will power give. Within the bag must dwell/the talisman that weaves the spell." She raised a long finger. "If a thing is to be tagged, a piece of it goes in the bag. If a person is to be touched, a bit of their life will serve as such."
         She finished the musical little chant and nodded once, then turned her eyes to Rhys. "They do not teach you this?"
         "Not exactly, but I think I understand."
         "I don't," said Yoshi unexpectedly. She colored as both Rhys and Pa-Lili turned to look at her. She pressed her hands together before her chest and bowed her head deferentially. "Pardon me, Most Wise Ones, but what does it mean—'a bit of their life?' How can you put a bit of someone's life in a bag?"
         Pa-Lili deferred to Rhys. "Will you explain to your apprentice, Reeslooelen?"
         Rhys nodded. "Certainly." He turned to Yoshi and crossed his fingers under the billow of his cape, hoping that Pa-Kai Shamanism followed the same rules as the ancient Earth cultures he'd studied—his own included. "What the Sagacious Pa-Lili means is that something pertaining to the person for whom the spell is intended must be placed in the bag to—ah—to bind the spell and to ... point it in the right direction."
         Out of the corner of his eye, Rhys could see Pa-Lili twitching the end of her camelid nose in agreement. He heaved a mental sigh of relief.
         "Well spoken," said the Pa-Kai Shaman. "The bag contains the pointer to the spell, for the spirits/angels must know where the spell is to go—to what or whom it must be bound. So, you give them a twist of hair, a drop of blood, a slice of skin. If many people are involved—many bits of life go into the bag."
         Yoshi looked queasy. "Blood and skin?"
         Pa-Lili gave an artless Pa-Kai shrug. "Eh, those things are needed only for the most potent of healing or educational spells."
         "Educational spells?" Rick echoed.
         Pa-Lili looked at him sternly down the length of her nose. "You don't know about educational spells?"
         "They are very young apprentices," Rhys defended them. "Also, on our world Shamanistic apprentices tend to—um—specialize."
         "A serious mistake, Reeslooelen," remonstrated Pa-Lili. "If everyone specializes, there will soon be no masters of the total discipline. A Shaman is by nature a General Practitioner—a Knower of All Knowledge. How else are we to intelligently advise our Chieftains?"
         "So true," said Rhys with a Sigh face barely hiding a smile. "I have often felt that on our worlds the knowledge of each successive generation of Shaman is narrower than the one before. These children would benefit much by your knowledge, O Flamboyant Pa-Lili."
         Pa-Lili's crest danced. She raised her elongated head and gazed fondly at the "children" through her sweet eyes. "An educational spell is used when the student is too dense to learn the normal way. It is a great restorer of law and order for those who cannot control their behavior."
         "You mean, um...." Yoshi began, then stopped in bemusement. She turned to Rhys. "How do they say 'criminals?'" she asked in Standard.
         "Actually, they don't seem to have a word for them." Rhys made the "How surprising!" face at Pa-Lili. "Do you mean that when people, er, misbehave or do wrong things you put a spell on them to ... instruct them?"
         "To instruct and enlighten, yes. These are our educational spells."
         "Do they work?" asked Rick incredulously—for which Rhys would have cheerfully kicked him, if he could have reached that far.
         "Of course, they work!" hooted Pa-Lili. "What good is a spell that doesn't work?" She turned to Rhys and murmured, "This apprentice needs much remedial work. You might consider using a bit of an educational spell on him."
         Rhys chuckled. "You may be right, O Wise Pa-Lili."

    (ed note: Later, Rhys actually tries putting a spell into his bag...)

    From SHAMAN by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff (1990)

    (ed note: The planet Khatka was settled three hundred years ago by desperate refugees escaping from the Second Atomic War. They decivilized, but gradually managed to recover before being contacted by the Scout Service. However, they retain the hereditary familiy of witch-doctors, who possess magic that actually works.

    Chief witch-doctor Lumbrilo is making a power-play, to become not only chief witch-doctor but also the political ruler of the planet. He is systematically using magic to assassinate those who stand in his way.

    The current leader is Chief Ranger Asaki. To counter the threat of Lumbrilo, he contacts his old friend the free-trader Captain Jellico. Specfically to request the aid of free-trader Medic Craig Tau. It turns out that Tau has a hobby of studying what the natives call "magic" on the myriad worlds the traders have visited.)

         "I hear they have poachers, too," Dane remarked.
         "Yes, that naturally follows. You know what a glam skin brings on the market. Wherever you have a rigidly controlled export you're going to have poachers and smugglers. But the Patrol doesn't go to Khatka. The natives handle their own criminals. Personally, I'd cheerfully take a ninety-nine-year sentence in the Lunar mines in place of what the Khatkans dish out to a poacher they net!"
         "So that rumor has spread satisfactorily!"
         Coffee slopped over the brim of Tau's mug and Dane dropped the packet of steak concentrate he was about to feed into the cooker. Chief Ranger Asaki loomed in the doorway of the mess as suddenly as if he had been teleported to that point.
         The medic arose to his feet and smiled politely at the visitor.
         "Do I detect in that observation, sir, the suggestion that the tales I have heard were deliberately set to blast where they would do the most good as deterrents?"
         A fleeting grin broke the impassive somberness of the black face.
         "I was informed you are a man skilled in 'magic,' Medic. You certainly display the traditional sorcerer's quickness of wit. But this rumor is also truth." The quirk of good humor had gone again, and there was an edge in the Chief Ranger's voice which cut. "Poachers on Khatka would welcome the Patrol in place of the attention they now receive."

         He hesitated and then spoke to Tau. "Medic, Captain Jellico has informed me that you have made a study of magic on many worlds."
         "That is so, sir."
         "Do you then believe that it is real force, or that it is only a superstition for child-people who set up demons to howl petitions to when some darkness falls upon them?"
         "Some of the magic I have seen is trickery, some of it founded upon an inner knowledge of men and their ways which a shrewd witch doctor can use to his advantage. There always remains"—Tau put down his mug, "—there always remains a small residue of happenings and results for which we have not yet found any logical explanations—"
         "And I believe," Asaki interrupted, "it is also true that a race can be conditioned from birth to be sensitive to forms of magic so that men of that blood are particularly susceptible." That was more of a statement than a question, but Tau answered it.
         "That is very true. A Lamorian, for example, can be 'sung' to death. I have witnessed such a case. But upon a Terran or another off-world man the same suggestion would have no effect."
         "Those who settled Khatka brought such magic with them." The Chief Ranger's fingers still moved about Sindbad's jaw and throat soothingly, but his tone was chill, the coldest thing in the cramped space of the mess cabin.
         "Yes, a highly developed form of it," Tau agreed.
         "More highly developed perhaps than even you can believe, Medic!" That came in a hiss of cold rage. "I think that its present manifestation—death by a beast that is not a beast—could be worth your detailed study."
         "Why?" Tau came bluntly to the point.
         "Because it is a killing magic and it is being carefully used to rid my world of key men, men we need badly. If there is a weak point in this cloudy attack shaping against us, we must learn it, and soon!"

    (ed note: the witch doctor conjures up a ferocious beast that only exists inside the victim's mind. The beast chases the victim until the victim dies of fright or exhaustion)

         "Tomorrow my men make hunting magic." Asaki's voice was expressionless.
         "Your chief witch doctor being?" questioned Tau.
         "Lumbrilo." The Chief Ranger did not appear disposed to add to that but Tau pursued the subject.
         "His office is hereditary?"
         "Yes. Does that make any difference?" For the first time there was a current of repressed eagerness in the other's tone.
         "Perhaps a vast amount of difference," Tau replied. "A hereditary office may carry with it two forms of conditioning, one to influence its holder, one to affect the public-at-large. Your Lumbrilo may have come to believe deeply in his own powers; he would be a very remarkable man if he did not. It is almost certain that your people unquestionably accept him as a worker of wonders?"
         "They do so accept." Once more Asaki's voice was drained of life.

         Da—da—da—da… Voices took up the thud-thud of the drums, the heads of the squatting men moved in a slow swing from side to side. Tau's hand closed about Dane's wrist and the younger man looked around, startled, to see that the medic's eyes were alight, that he was watching the assembly with the alertness of (ship's cat) Sindbad approaching prey.
         "Calculate the stowage space in Number One hold!"
         That amazing order, delivered in a whisper, shocked Dane into obeying it. Number One hold ... there were three divisions now and the stowage was—He became aware that for a small space of time he had escaped the net being woven by the beat of the drum, the drone of voices, the nodding of heads. He moistened his lips. So that was how it worked! He had heard Tau speak often enough about self-hypnotism under such conditions, but this was the first time the meaning of it had been clear.
         Two men were shuffling out of nowhere, wearing nothing on their dark bodies but calf-length kilts of tails, black tails with fluffy white tips, which swayed uniformly in time to their pacing feet. Their heads and shoulders were masked by beautifully cured and semi-mounted animal heads displaying half-open jaws with double pairs of curved fangs. The black-and-white striped fur, the sharply pointed ears, were neither canine nor feline, but a weird combination of the two.
         Dane gabbled two trading formulas under his breath and tried to think of the relation of Samantine rock coinage to galactic credits. Only this time his defenses did not work. From between the two shuffling dancers padded something on four feet. The canine-feline creature was more than just a head; it was a loose-limbed, graceful body fully eight feet in length, and the red eyes in the prick-eared head were those of a confident killer. It walked without restraint, lazily, with arrogance, its white-tufted tail swinging. And when it reached the mid-point of the terrace, it flung up its head as if to challenge. But words issued from between those curved fangs, words which Dane might not understand but which undoubtedly held meaning for the men nodding in time to the hypnotic cadence of that da—da—da....
         "Beautiful!" Tau spoke in honest admiration, his own eyes almost as feral as those of the talking beast as he leaned forward, his fists on his knees.
         Now the animal was dancing also, its paws following the pace set by the masked attendants. It must be a man in an animal skin. But Dane could hardly believe that. The illusion was too perfect. His own hands went to the knife sheath at his belt. Out of deference to local custom they had left their stun rods in the palace, but a belt knife was an accepted article of apparel. Dane slid the blade out surreptitiously, setting its point against the palm of his hand and jabbing painfully. This was another of Tau's answers for breaking a spell. But the white and black creature continued to dance; there was no blurring of its body lines into those of a human being.
         It sang on in a high-pitched voice, and Dane noted that those of the audience nearest the stools where Asaki and the captain were seated now watched the Chief Ranger and the space officer. He felt Tau tense beside him.
         "Trouble coming...." The warning from Tau was the merest thread of sound. Dane forced himself to look away from the swaying cat-dog, to watch instead the singers who were now furtively eying their lord and his guest. The Terran knew that there were feudal bonds between the Ranger and his men. But suppose this was a showdown between Lumbrilo and Asaki—whose side would these men take?
         He watched Captain Jellico's hand slide across his knee, his fingers drop in touching distance of knife hilt. And the hand of the Chief Ranger, hanging lax at his side, suddenly balled into a fist.
         "So!" Tau expelled the word as a hiss. He moved with sure-footed speed. Now he passed between the stools to confront the dancing cat-dog. Yet he did not look at that weird creature and its attendants. Instead his arms were flung high as if to ward off—or perhaps welcome—something on the mountain side as he shouted:
         "Hodi, eldama! Hodi!"
         As one, those on the terrace turned, looked up toward the slope. Dane was on his feet, holding his knife as he might a sword. Though of what use its puny length would be against that huge bulk moving in slow majesty toward them, he did not try to think.
         Gray-dark trunk curled upward between great ivory tusks, ears went wide as ponderous feet crunched volcanic soil. Tau moved forward, his hands still upraised, clearly in greeting. That trunk touched skyward as if in salute to the man who could be crushed under one foot.
         "Hodi, eldama!" For the second time Tau hailed the monster elephant and the trunk raised in silent greeting from one lord of an earth to another he recognized as an equal. Perhaps it had been a thousand years since man and elephant had stood so, and then there had been only war and death between them. Now there was peace and a current of power flowing from one to the other. Dane sensed this, saw the men on the terrace likewise drawing back from the unseen tie between the medic and the bull he had so clearly summoned.
         Then Tau's upheld hands came together in a sharp clap and men held their breath in wonder. Where the great bull had stood there was nothing—except rocks in the sun.
         As Tau swung around to face the cat-dog, that creature had no substance either. For he fronted no animal but a man, a small, lean man whose lips wrinkled back from his teeth in a snarl. His attendant priests fell back, leaving the spaceman and the witch doctor alone.
         "Lumbrilo's magic is great," Tau said evenly. "I hail Lumbrilo of Khatka." His hand made the open-palmed salute of peace.
         The snarl faded as the man brought his face under control. He stood naked, but he was clothed in inherit dignity. And there was power with that dignity, power and a pride before which even the more physically impressive Chief Ranger might have to give place.
         "You have magic also, outlander," he replied. "Where walks this long-toothed shadow of yours now?"
         "Where once the men of Khatka walked, Lumbrilo. For it was men of your blood who long, long past hunted this shadow of mine and made its body their prey."
         "So that it now might have a blood debt to settle with us, outlander?"
         "That you said, not I, man of power. You have shown us one beast, I have shown another. Who can say which of them is stronger when it issues forth from the shadows?"
         Lumbrilo pattered forward, his bare feet making little sound on the stones of the terrace. Now he was only an arm's-length away from the medic.
         "You have challenged me, off-world man." Was that a question or a statement? Dane wondered.
         "Why should I challenge you, Lumbrilo? To each race its own magic. I come not to offer battle." His eyes held steady with the Khatkan's.
         "You have challenged me." Lumbrilo turned away and then looked back over his shoulder. "The strength you depend upon may become a broken staff, off-worlder. Remember my words in the time when shadows become substance, and substance the thinnest of shadows!"

         "You are truly a man of power!"
         Tau shook his head in answer to that outburst from Asaki.
         "Not so, sir. Your Lumbrilo is a man of power. I drew upon his power and you saw the results."
         "Deny it not! What we saw never walked this world."
         Tau slung the strap of a trail bag over his shoulder. "Sir, once men of your blood, men who bred your race, hunted the elephant. They took his tusks for their treasure, feasted upon his flesh—yes, and died beneath the trampling of his feet when they were unlucky or unwary. So there is that within you which can even now be awakened to remember eldama in his might when he was king of the herd and need fear nothing save the spears and cunning of small, weak men. Lumbrilo had already awakened your minds to see what he willed you to see."
         "How does he do this?" asked the other simply. "Is it magic that we see not Lumbrilo but a lion before us?"
         "He weaves his spell with the drums, with the chant, by the suggestion his mind imposes upon yours. And, having woven his spell, he cannot limit it to just the picture he suggests if ancient racial memories raise another. I merely used the tools of Lumbrilo to show you yet another picture your people once knew well."

    (VOODOO PLANET is available free from Project Gutenberg)

    From VOODOO PLANET by Andre Norton (1959)

    (ed note: On the planet Klor, the arrogant aliens of the Styor galactic empire have enslaved the primitive Ikkinni natives. The Terran traders want to free the Ikkinni, but have to grit their teeth and do nothing. Our Hero Kade travels into the outback with the half-breed Styor named Lik who controls a group of Ikkinni wearing electronic slave collars. Kade gets an idea for a bit of psychological warfare.)

         Close to sundown the hunting party reached a plateau where a stunted vegetation held tenaciously against the pull of the mountain winds to afford a pocket of shelter as a spring. Kade, kneeling beside the small pool that spring fed, was startled when he raised his eyes to the rock surface facing him. Carved there in deeply incised strokes into which paint had been long ago splashed, was the life-size representation of a kwitu, its broad nose-horned head bent until the pits which marked the nostrils were just above the surface of the lapping water. The unknown artist, and he had been truly an artist of great ability, had so poised his subject that the kwitu was visibly drinking from the lost mountain pool.
         Kade sat back on his heels, held up his wrist so that he could catch the image, as it was now suitably lighted by the setting sun, on the lens of his picture recorder. Surely this was not Styor work; the aging and erosion of the stone on which it had been carved argued a long period of time, maybe centuries, since the figure had been completed. Yet who climbed to this inaccessible place to spend hours, days, perhaps months scraping into a natural wall of stone an entirely naturalistic representation of a plains animal drinking?
         "Who made that?" His usual dislike for Lik's company did not hold now. The Terran asked his question eagerly as the Overman came down to pour water over his head and shoulders.
         The other regarded the drinking kwitu indifferently. "Who knows? Old, of no value."
         "But the Ikkinni—"
         Lik scowled. "Maybe the animals make hunt magic. This is of no value. Phaw." He pursed his lips, spat. The drop of moisture carried across, to spatter on the rump of the kwitu. Then he grinned at Kade. "No value," he repeated mockingly.
         Kade shrugged. No use trying to make the Overman understand. Filling his canteen the Terran tramped back to their camp. He watched the natives, apparently not one of them noted the carving. In fact that blindness was a little too marked. Once again his fighter's sixth sense of warning stirred. Suppose that drinking beast had some symbolic religious meaning? Kade's memory provided bits of lore, that of his own race and others, Terra born and bred. Far back in the mists of forgotten time were the men of his world who had wandered as free hunters, tribesmen who had drawn on the walls of caves, painted on hides, modeled in elastic clay, the shapes of the four-footed meat they wished to slay. And then they had made powerful magic, sending the spears, the arrows, the clubs later to be used in the actual hunting, crashing against the pictures they had fashioned, believing their gods would give them in truth what they so hunted in ritual.
         He would not have credited the Ikkinni with the artistic ability to produce the carving he had just seen. But what did the off-worlders know of the free Ikkinni anyway? Their observations were based on the actions of cowered and spirit-broken slaves; on the highly prejudiced comments of masters who deemed those slaves no better than animals. Suppose that practices of that ancient hunting magic would linger on in a remote spot such as this, where perhaps no alien had ever walked? Lik had mocked such a belief in as filthy a fashion as he knew. But sometimes it was not a good thing to challenge the power inherent in things once venerated by another people. Kade had heard tales—
         The Terran smiled quietly. An idea, an amusing idea was born from that point of imagination. He would have to know more of those Overman personally. Lik had mocked an old god thing. Kade began to fit one idea to another.
         It was Lik himself who gave the Terran the first opening. They had eaten and were sitting by the fire, the Ikkinni banished to a suitable distance. The Overman belched, dug a finger into his mouth to rout out a shred of food eluding his tongue. Having so asserted himself, he stared at Kade.
         "What matter old things to you, off-world man?" he demanded arrogantly.
         "I am a trader, to a trader all things which are made with hands are of interest. There are those on other worlds who pay for such knowledge. Also …" he broke his answer with a calculated space of hesitation. "Such things are worth knowing for themselves."
         "How so?"
         "Because of the Power," Kade spoke with a seriousness gauged to impress the other.
         "The Power?"
         "When a man makes a thing with his hands," Kade held his own into the light of the fire, flexing his fingers slightly so that the flames were reflected from the rings which encircled the fore digit of either hand, "then something of himself enters into it. But he must shape it with his own flesh and not by the aid of a machine." A flicker of glance told him that he had Lik's full attention. The Overman was of Tadder and Tadder was one of the completely colonized worlds long held by the Styor. However, a remnant of native beliefs could still linger in a half-breed and Kade knew Tadder only too well.
         "And because this thing has been made with his hands, and the idea of it first shaped in his mind, it is a part of him. If the fashioner is a man of Power and has made this work for a reason of Power, then it must follow that a portion of the Power he has tried to put into his work exists, at least for his purpose."
         "This you say of those scratches on a rock?" demanded Lik incredulously, aiming a thumb at the shadows which now enveloped the spring and the carved wall behind it.
         "So it might be said, if the fashioner of that carving intended it to be used as I believe he might have done." Because there was a measure of belief in Kade's own mind, his sincerity impressed the alien and the other's scoffing grin faded. "A man is a hunter and he wishes meat to fall before his spear. Therefore he makes an image of that meat, as well as he can envisage it, setting his choice of prey beside a pool where there is good water. And into this picture he puts all the Power of his mind, his heart, and his hands, centering upon his work his will that that prey come to where he had made such a carving, to fall beneath his weapon. So perhaps that happens. Wiser men than we have seen it chance so."
         Lik played with his belt. His grin was quite gone. Perhaps he had a thinking mind as well as a driver's callous heartlessness. A bully was not necessarily all fool. But inducing uneasiness was a delicate and precise bit of action. Kade had no intention of spoiling this play by too much force at the start.
         "It remains," he yawned, rubbed two fingers across his chin, "that there are those who have a liking for the records of such finds. And I am a trader." He returned the matter to the firm base of a commercial transaction, sure Lik would continue to think of the carving, consider its possibilities, in more than one field.
         Kade succeeded so well that the next morning when he went to the pool to rinse and fill his canteen he discovered Lik standing there, studying the carving. In the brighter light of day the kwitu was less impressive, more weatherworn, but the artistry of the conception was still boldly plain.

    (ed note: Lik tries to have Kade killed by "accident", but the trap backfires. Instead, Lik is ironically killed by a wild kwitu, the same animal as the carving which Lik spat upon.

    When Kade returns home with the surviving Ikkinni slaves, the story spreads. The half-breed Styor Overman Buk visits Kade, clearly unnerved by the story.)

         To Kade's surprise, the Overman, hesitating on the threshold, made no attempt to look about the room. If he had come hunting a missing slave he did not disclose that fact. Instead his attitude was uneasy and Kade's confidence grew.
         "The Overman wishes?" the Terran demanded with chill crispness.
         "Information, starwalker," Buk blurted out with little of his usual assumption of equality with the Traders. He slid one booted foot into the room and Kade guessed that he did not want to state his business in the open. The Terran stood aside and Buk oozed in, shut the door panel and set his plump shoulders against it as if to stave off some threatened invasion.
         "There is a story," he began, looking none too happy. "Now there are those who say that Lik saw a certain thing by the water and mocked that thing openly, then he was slain by that which he mocked."
         Kade leaned back against the end of the bunk. "There was an old, old carving on a rock by the pool," he spoke gravely, "which Lik spat upon and mocked, yes. Then with the next dawn the kwitu which was like unto that pictured by the pool, came and rent him. This is no story, for with my two eyes I saw it."
         "And the thing by the pool. Who made it so?" Buk persisted.
         "Who live in the mountains, Overman?" (the Ikkinni natives who have not yet been enslaved)
         Buk's tongue, thick and a brownish red, moistened his blubbery lips. His fat rolls of fingers played a tattoo on either side of the control box at the fore of his ornate belt. His uneasiness was so poorly concealed that Kade's half plan, shelved at Lik's death, came to life again. Now he decided upon a few embellishments. If Buk was superstitious the Terran could well add to his growing fears.
         "I have been asking myself," Kade said, as if he were musing aloud and not addressing Buk, "why it was that the kwitu did not turn horn and hoof on me, for I was easy meat when the sonic failed us. However the hunt was not for me, but for Lik, and he was not the nearest nor the first that the bull sighted. It is true I had not mocked that which was carved beside the pool, rather did I speak well of it, since such old things are revered among my people."
         "But to believe so is the foolishness of lesser creatures," Buk's tongue made its nervous lip journey a second time. "Such thinking is not for masters."
         "Perhaps so," Kade made polite but plainly false agreement to that sentiment. "Yet among the stars many things come to pass which no man can explain, or has not found a proper explanation to fit the circumstances. All I know is that I breathe and walk, and Lik does not, where Lik mocked and I did not. Perhaps this adds to something of meaning, perhaps not. But while I am on Klor I shall be careful not to mock what I do not understand."

    From THE SIOUX SPACEMAN by Andre Norton (1960)

    Analyzing Magic

    We place no reliance
    On virgin or pidgeon;
    Our method is science,
    Our aim is religion.

    The process of applying the scientific method to magic is what TV Tropes calls Sufficiently Analyzed Magic.

    An early proponent of this was To Mega Therion aka Aleister Crowley. The cover of his publication The Equinox proclaimed "The Method of Science, the Aim of Religion", which more or less meant applying the scientific method to magic and occultism in order to make it a little more reliable.

    The most basic technique Crowley advocated was the keeping of a "magical diary" or "magical record." The main purpose is so that the budding young mage can keep track of their spiritual development. But relevant to our interests is the secondary function of recording the details about any magic spell the novice performs.

    The mage is to record anything that seems relevant: time of day, date, astrological portents, spell performed, spell target, spell substitutions of ingredients or methodology different from standard, mages emotional state, odd occurrences, spell success level, effect on spell, target, etc. As the mage develops year after year, the magical record will become more and more valuable. Re-reading it will allow the mage to find what works, what doesn't, what has no effect, and otherwise refine their spells.

    In other words it is an occult version of Adam Savage's aphorism "Remember kids, the only difference between screwing around and science is writing it down"

    In terms of the scientific method it corresponds to carefully documenting all the particulars of a given run of an experiment, so a scientific analysis can be run on the results and so other researchers can see if you screwed up examine your methodology to discover possible sources of error.

    1. It is absolutely necessary that all experiments should be recorded in detail during, or immediately after, their performance.
    2. It is highly important to note the physical and mental condition of the experimenter or experimenters.
    3. The time and place of all experiments must be noted; also the state of the weather, and generally all conditions which might conceivably have any result upon the experiment either as adjuvants to or causes of the result, or as inhibiting it, or as sources of error.
    4. The A∴ A∴ will not take official notice of any experiments which are not thus properly recorded.
    5. It is not necessary at this stage for us to declare fully the ultimate end of our researches; nor indeed would it be understood by those who have not become proficient in these elementary courses.
    6. The experimenter is encouraged to use his own intelligence, and not to rely upon any other person or persons, however distinguished, even among ourselves.
    7. The written record should be intelligently prepared so that others may benefit from its study.
    8. The Book John St. John published in the first number of the “Equinox” is an example of this kind of record by a very advanced student. It is not as simply written as we could wish, but will show the method.
    9. The more scientific the record is, the better. Yet the emotions should be noted, as being some of the conditions.
    From LIBER E VEL EXERCITIORUM SUB FIGURÂ IX by Aleister Crowley (1909)

    “In this book it is spoken of the Sephiroth and the Paths; of Spirits and Conjurations; of Gods, Spheres, Planes, and many other things which may or may not exist."

    “It is immaterial whether these exist or not. By doing certain things certain results will follow; students are most earnestly warned against attributing objective reality or philosophic validity to any of them."

    From MAGICK IN THEORY AND PRACTICE by Aleister Crowley (1929)

    (ed note: this is from an article for fantasy novel writers, giving advice about worldbuilding the ground rules for a "rational" magic system. As opposed to an eclectic magic system)

    Magic systems vary from colorful bears with tummy badges to ritual blood sacrifices. Magic isn’t real, so it can be anything we want. But that doesn’t mean all magic systems work equally well for stories. Some feel cohesive; others feel random. Some are carefully planned; others contradict themselves and lead to plot holes. Creating a rational magic system allows you to add realism and depth to your world while still leaving room for new and interesting changes.

    What Is a Rational Magic System?

    A rational magic system is one where every spell is guided by the same metaphysical laws. To the audience it will feel like every part fits together, even if they’re not precisely sure how.

    Not Rational: Harry Potter

    In the Harry Potter universe, magic works in several different ways:

    1. Wizards cast spells by waving wands and saying incantations. But once characters learn about the spell to disarm and the spell to block, they can’t extrapolate that there’s also a spell to dodge. Students learn all of the spells by memorization, because there’s no logic underpinning how they operate.
    2. Some plants and animals have magic inherently inside them, creating a variety of results. Wizards aren’t included in this; as far as we know, you can’t just simmer a wizard in a pot for a few days and end up with a magic potion. However, you can mix pieces of magic plants and animals in a pot and get powerful effects. While characters can invent some potions, it appears they only do it by trial and error, not through a formula that guides what goes into a potion to create specific effects.
    3. Old magics can occur without any intent. Harry’s mother inadvertently casts a protective spell on him by dying for him. It’s unclear whether there are any other self-casting old magic spells besides this one.

    These three sets of rules don’t appear related to each other. Learning about one doesn’t give a better understanding of another. Even within one category, there’s no way to extrapolate new spells because the rules are so eclectic. That means the stories can’t foreshadow spells prior to their explicit introduction, and when a protagonist has to face a tough problem, they can’t get out of it by inventing new spellwork. The audience has no idea what they can do other than what they’ve been directly told, so if they do anything new in a crisis, it will look like a deus ex machina.

    For instance, the Patronus Charm is a spell that is critical to the plot of multiple Harry Potter books. It worked well, but it had to be named before it became important to the plot. Readers could not have guessed that Harry might create something like a Patronus, so if it hadn’t been explained in depth, using it at pivotal moments would have felt cheap.

    In addition, there are no boundaries on what magic could theoretically do in the Potterverse. That means Rowling doesn’t have any guidelines to keep her from contradicting something she’s already invented or from creating a spell that makes the plot pointless.

    Rational: Avatar

    In the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender, magic (called bending) is embodied by the four elements of air, water, fire, and earth, plus spiritual energy. With the exception of the Avatar, people who cast magic are only attuned to one of the four main elements. By adopting a specific mentality and pairing that with martial art forms, they can move and manipulate their element.

    It’s easy to extrapolate all the basic uses of this magic system. When an earthbender is blocked by a mountain, we know that with enough effort, they could create a tunnel through it. This is true even if we’ve never seen anyone craft a tunnel before. We’ve seen them move and break rock, so it follows that they could make a hole through a mountain.

    In The Last Airbender storyline, Waterbending, Firebending, and Earthbending all have elite applications that not all benders can achieve, while air doesn’t. However, we can only identify that it’s missing because the system is logically consistent as a whole, even if it isn’t perfect in every depiction.

    Almost all of the magic in Avatar: The Last Airbender is clearly linked to the same rules. For instance, some animals can also cast magic, and they do it pretty much the same way people do. The main exception is “the avatar state,” which isn’t clearly linked to bending. It’s no surprise the avatar state causes plot holes during Avatar: The Legend of Korra.

    The Difference

    The magic of Avatar feels like the natural result of a different set of physics, whereas the magic of Harry Potter feels like the arbitrary inventions of an author. Occasionally you may want an arbitrary system – it adds humor and entertainment to Harry Potter. However, in most cases a rational magic system works better.


    On further thought, actually, the thing that really stands out to me about the Pliocene Exile/Galactic Milieu books is that they're perhaps the one example I've seen of psionics that are actually well-integrated with the underlying physics in the worldbuilding process...

    Said underlying physics in this case being "dynamic-field theory", the local GUT, which presents the mechanisms unifying mind and matter — with explored implications, including the ability to build mechanical psionic devices and enhancers, that all the other SFnal handwavium runs off the same underlying effects as the psionics with consequences fully explored, etc., etc. Which makes it a very refreshing change from all the universes where psionics seems to be this awkward grab-bag of effects hung off the side a ways.

    by Alistair Young (2015)

    In this fashion did Turjan enter his apprenticeship to Pandelume. Day and far into the opalescent Embelyon night he worked under Pandelume's unseen tutelage. He learned the secret of renewed youth, many spells of the ancients, and a strange abstract lore that Pandelume termed "Mathematics."

    "Within this instrument," said Pandelume, "resides the Universe. Passive in itself and not of sorcery, it elucidates every problem, each phase of existence, all the secrets of time and space. Your spells and runes are built upon its power and codified according to a great underlying mosaic of magic. The design of this mosaic we cannot surmise; our knowledge is didactic, empirical, arbitrary. Phandaal glimpsed the pattern and so was able to formulate many of the spells which bear his name. I have endeavored through the ages to break the clouded glass, but so far my research has failed. He who discovers the pattern will know all of sorcery and be a man powerful beyond comprehension."

    From THE DYING EARTH by Jack Vance (1950)

    (ed note: In the medieval fantasy land where magic works, the few remaining people living under the protection of the Council have their backs to the wall. The occult creatures living in the enchanted wilderness kill any who are foolhardy enough to live close by, and the League of evil sorcerers (living in the local equivalent of Mordor) will soon have the entire world under their iron control. The population shrinks. And if you ask parents how many children they have, the number they respond with does not include the children who did not live long enough to become adults.

    A good wizard named Patrius sacrifices his life to cast a spell bringing a creature from another world who could save them all. A Unix programmer from California named Wiz Zumwalt.

    There is an old joke. A father's child is in the first grade. They ask for help with their arithmetic homework. Father says "Ok, if you have two apples and you add one more apple, how many apples do you have?". Their child says "I'm so confused! At school we use oranges!"

    The point being that the child cannot generalize arithmetic to include all fruits and objects, not just oranges.

    Wiz Zumwalt attempts to explain a QuickSort algorithm to a local witch. And runs into the same failure to generalize.)

          "You just don't understand," Wiz said despairingly.
         "You're right," the red-headed witch agreed. "I don't understand why a grown man would waste his time on this foolishness. Or why you would want to sort straws at all." With that she turned away and went about her business.
         "It's not foolishness," Wiz said to her back. "It's . . ." Oh hell, maybe it is foolishness here. He slumped back in the chair. After all, what good is an algorithm without a computer to execute it on?
         But dammit, these people were so damn literal-minded! It wasn't that Moira didn't understand the algorithm—although that was a big part of it, he admitted. To Moira the method was just a way to sort straws. She didn't seem to generalize, to see the universality of the technique.
         Come to that, most of the people here didn't generalize the way he did. They didn't think mathematically and they almost never went looking for underlying common factors or processes. This is what it must have been like back in the Middle Ages, before the rise of mathematics revolutionized Western thought.

    (ed note: At first Wiz Zumwalt (called "Sparrow") is totally useless. He cannot use a sword or bow-and-arrow. His woodcraft is non-existent. He has to be watched constantly to prevent him from walking into deadly traps. Patrius gave his life to summon this worthless person?

    But one fine day Wiz figures out how to use magic like it was a computer program. He just plays with it until the evil League kidnaps his true love, so they can torture information out of her.

    Don't ever make a computer hacker angry at you.

    He has already written a magic spell interpreter, a spell source-code editor, a cross-reference generator and even a syntax checker. He has made magic spell code libraries of important spell components. He knows how to use modular programming in spell creation. He knows how to write spells that spawn child spells, exponentially. He knows how to write spell malware that will fatally distort enemy spells. And he has a large supply of the super-high-caffeine black moss tea.

    He single-handedly destroys the entire League.)

         "Your real problem was that you had a magical problem that couldn't be solved by magic. Every great spell was vulnerable to an even greater counterspell and as the League waxed you inevitably waned. Individually, the League's magicians were stronger than the Council's, they had to be because they didn't care about the consequences of their actions. Patrius knew that a conventional solution, a bigger magician, would only make matters worse in a generation or so when the League learned the techniques."
         "That is common knowledge in the council," Bal-Simba rumbled. "Indeed one of the reasons it was so easy to get agreement to attempt to return you is there is a strong faction which wishes to be rid of you. Go on, Sparrow."
         "Okay, take it one step further. Patrius must have. He realized what you needed was a completely new approach. He had the genius to see that despite everything you believed, everything your experience showed you, somewhere behind all your magic there had to be some kind of regular structure. He realized that if he could find that formalism you could control magic."
         "Eh?" said Bal-Simba. "Forgive a fat old wizard, but I was under the impression that we do control magic."
         "No," Wiz said emphatically and then caught himself. "Forgive me Lord, but it is true. Each magician can use the spells or demons he or she stumbles upon and masters, but none of you—Council or League—controls magic. You don't deal with magic as a whole. You have no coherent theory of magic and you usually can't generalize from what you do know to what you don't. That was the root of your problem. The League and the Wild Wood were just symptoms."
         Wiz could see Bal-Simba rolling that idea around in his mind. Obviously he didn't like it, but he was not going to reject it out of hand. "Go on," he said neutrally.
         "In my world we have a saying that Man is a creature who controls his environment. You're in trouble because there's an important part of your environment you can't control: magic. Patrius didn't go looking for a wizard to beat the League. He wanted someone who understood abstract formalisms and how to apply them to complex problems in the hope he could learn to control magic. He needed a computer programmer or a mathematician. Magical ability wasn't in the job description."
         "It appears that he got more than he bargained for," Bal-Simba said.
         Wiz shook his head. "No. He got exactly what he bargained for. I'm not a magician in the way you mean.
         "I've told you about computers, the non-living thinking machines I used to work with? Well, back when they were very new we worked with them the way you work your spells. Every new program was written by cut-and-try and every program was unique. Anyone who wanted to use a computer had to be an expert and it took years of work and study to master a machine.
         "Later we realized it didn't have to be that way. We found the computer could do a lot of the work. We could write programs that would take care of the tiresome, repetitive parts and we could design programs whose parts could be used over and over in many different programs.
         "Finally we figured out that you didn't even have to have a programmer for every computer. You could write programs that anyone could use to do common jobs like word processing or accounting.
         "So today anyone can use a computer. Even children use them regularly. You still need programmers, but we work at a higher level, on more difficult or unusual problems—or on writing the programs that those children use."
         Bal-Simba frowned. "Well and good for your world, Sparrow, but I am not sure I see what use it is to us."
         "Patrius did," Wiz told him. "He hoped he could do the same thing with magic we do with computers. And he was right.
         "In the long run the important thing wasn't that I beat the League with magic. It wasn't even that I was able to rescue Moira." Although I'll be damned if I'll take that long a view, he thought. "The important thing was programs—ah, the 'structure'—I had to build to do it." He leaned forward intensely.
         "Don't you see? With my system you don't need to be a wizard to work spells. You need programmer-wizards to create the spells, but once they are set up anyone can use them. All you have to do is understand how those spells work and anyone can make magic. Good, controllable magic."
         "Magic in the wrong hands is dangerous," Bal-Simba said dubiously.
         Wiz smiled. "Don't worry. Where I come from we have a lot of experience in keeping our systems secure and users' fingers out of the gears. If the spells are properly designed just about anyone can use them safely.
         "And it goes beyond that. I can teach someone to do what I do. It's not hard, really. It takes an organized mind and a knack for thinking logically, but jut about anyone can learn it. If your magicians have the knack I can show them the tools and teach them how to use them.
         "Don't you see?" he repeated. "It means humans don't have to walk in fear any more." He thought of a small cabin deep in the Wild Wood and the four carefully tended graves behind it. Of a burned farm near the Fringe and the mound of raw earth among the cabbages. "People don't have to be afraid."

    From WIZARD'S BANE by Rick Cook (1989)

    (ed note: In the Babylon 5 universe, the Technomages use science to create the appearance of magic. Technmages are implanted with alien technology called "The Tech" which they use for their most powerful "spells." Apprentices use a training wheel version of the Tech called a "chrysalis"

    Techomages have to create their own customized "spell language" that is used to communicate with The Tech. Some use words as incantations, some use gestures, some use music, one even uses knitting and weaving of cloth

    Galen is a novice apprenticed to Elric the Technomage. As part of the graduation ceremony, an apprentice is to demonstrate a new spell of their own devising. Galen is having trouble thinking of something original.)

          He’d studied those great spells extensively. One difficulty every mage faced, though, was translating the work of other mages into his own spell language. Each mage had to discover and develop his own spell language, because a spell that worked for one mage would not work for another. Elric had explained that the tech was so intimately connected with one’s body and mind that conjuring became shaped by the individual. Since each person’s mind worked differently, mages achieved the best results in different ways. An apprentice trained to achieve clarity of thought, and his preferred method of thought formed his spell language. His chrysalis learned to respond to the spell language, and when he received his implants, this knowledge was passed to them through the old implant at the base of his skull.
         Galen’s spell language was that of equations. Elric had been concerned at first as Galen’s language had developed. Most spell languages were more instinctive, less rigid, less rational. But Galen wasn’t a holistic, lateral thinker who jumped from one track to another, drawing instinctive connections. His thoughts plodded straight ahead, each leading logically and inexorably to the next. Elric had expressed fear that Galen’s language would be cumbersome and inflexible. Yet as Elric had worked with Galen on the language and seen how many spells Galen had been able to translate, his reservations had seemed to fade.
         Translation was one of the most difficult tasks facing any mage. It was only after looking at many spells that Galen was able to understand how another mage’s spell language related to his, then translate those conjuries. He had managed to translate most of Wierden’s and Gali-Gali’s spells, as well as many spells of other mages. With different levels of success, he had translated spells to create illusions, to make flying platforms, to conjure defensive shields, to generate fireballs, to send messages to other mages, to control the sensors that would soon be implanted into him, to access and manipulate data internally, to access external databases, and much more.
         He had memorized them all.
         But since each spell language possessed its own inherent strengths and weaknesses, he found it impossible to translate some spells, such as those for healing. Others, such as the spells used to generate defensive shields, he believed he had translated correctly, yet when he cast them, the results he achieved were weak, inferior.
         Galen wondered, and not for the first time, if his spell language hampered his attempt to conjure something original. As his thoughts plodded straight ahead, so did his spells, equation after orderly equation. In his language, it made no sense to simply make up a spell. An equation must be sensible in order to work; all the terms must possess established identities and properties. So how could he discover an equation that somehow reflected him, revealed him? He had been uncomfortable with the idea of revealing himself, but now that hesitance faded to insignificance beside the undeniable necessity: he could not disappoint Elric.
         Galen brought up a different section of text on the screen, his translations of some of the spells of Wierden. They varied in complexity and involved many different terms, some of which were used in multiple spells, others used only once. Again it seemed to him that there could be no truly original spells, only more complicated ones. Frustrated, Galen started to reorder the spells on the screen, from simplest to most complex. As he did, he noticed that some of the spells formed a progression. A spell with two terms conjured a translucent globe. A spell with those same two terms, and one more, conjured a globe with energy inside. A spell with those same three terms, and yet another, conjured a globe with the energy given the form of light. Add another term, and it conjured a globe filled with light and heat. And on it went.
         Several of Gali-Gali’s spells furthered the complexity. If he could work his way to the last spell in the progression, could he think of one that would go beyond it?
         But wasn’t this just what others were doing, building ever more elaborate spells without really creating something new? He didn’t know if the other mages thought of it this way; since they didn’t formulate their spells as equations, their spells didn’t have multiple terms in them. Elric, he knew, simply visualized what he wanted to happen, and if it was within his power, it happened. One simple visualization for any spell.
         Galen’s eyes went back to the top of the list, to the spell containing only two terms. Why was there no spell with only one term? No such spell existed in Wierden’s work, or, as he thought about it, in any of the mages’ conjuries he’d yet translated. Most of them had many, many terms. In fact, he couldn’t even remember another equation with only two.
         Perhaps spells had to have more than one term. But why? He stared at the two terms that began the progression. If there was an initial spell in the series, a spell with only one term, which term was it?
         The first of the two terms was common, used in this progression and elsewhere. Galen had come to think of it as a sort of cleanup term, necessary for everything to balance, but having negligible impact.
         The second term, on the other hand, existed only within the spells of this progression. As far as he knew, at least. That seemed very odd. Surely it could have other uses.
         That second term, then, seemed the defining characteristic of the progression, and the obvious choice for the first equation in it. But what would the term do when used alone?
         Perhaps it would have the same effect as the second equation, conjuring a translucent sphere. If the cleanup term truly was negligible, that’s what would happen. The sphere itself, as he’d discussed it with Elric, was an odd construct, not a force field as it first had seemed. It didn’t really hold things in, or keep things out. It simply demarcated a space within which something would be done.
         If removing the cleanup term did have an effect, what might it be? Perhaps the sphere wouldn’t form at all. Perhaps it would be opaque or have some other property. Or perhaps it would be deformed in some way. In any case, it wouldn’t be very impressive.

         Carvin’s spell language was that of the body; specific, precise movements and their accompanying mental impulses comprised her spells.

    (ed note: As part of his apprentice demonstration, Galen tries doing a one-term spell. To everybody's surprise, it starts to make a planet-devouring sphere of force. The one-term spell is far more powerful than any other known spell. Galen's teacher Elric manages to shut down the spell. Later in private they talk.)

         Elric set a mug of water on the table in front of Galen, which at last brought him to life. He looked up at Elric with large, hungry eyes. “What was it?” he asked.
         “I do not know.”
         “It was dangerous.”
         “So it seemed. With a power greater than any I’ve sensed from a conjury.”
         “I didn’t lose control.”
         “That,” Elric said, “is the most troubling aspect of it.” At the beginning of their training, chrysalis-stage apprentices often lost control and generated violent bursts of energy. But that wasn’t what Elric had observed today. Galen’s spell had been focused, controlled. This hadn’t been some outburst of undisciplined violence. It had been a carefully crafted, directed, outpouring of huge power. Elric had barely been able to stop it in time.
         Galen shook his head. “I didn’t know… what it would do.”
         “I realize that. Tell me how you arrived at this spell.”
         Galen brought his screen from his bedroom and led Elric through a progression of equations that he had derived from translating the works of Wierden and Gali-Gali. As Galen spoke, Elric was glad to see him become more animated.
         “I realized there was no first equation in the progression, with only one term. That is what I conjured.”
         Elric sat beside him. “The idea of a first equation in the progression. It makes perfect sense in your spell language. Yet there is no equivalent in mine.” Galen was a genius for coming up with it. Although Elric had helped Galen formulate and develop his spell language, it was vastly different from Elric’s: much more complex, much more regimented. Elric had thought this would limit Galen’s abilities; he had never imagined it would lead to new discoveries.
         “I thought it might be a fluke of my language, that it might do nothing. But it did… do something.”
         A spell like this might explain some of the mysteries in techno-mage history. But the implications disturbed Elric. “It gathered great energy and instability.”
         Galen’s hands tightened around the screen. He was still troubled about what he had done, and how he had come to do it. “The second term must stabilize the first. Perhaps it creates an opposing force of some kind.”
         “The result of the spell could not have been anticipated,” Elric said.
         Galen turned to him, brilliant blue eyes needy, unblinking. “How is it that my spell language led to this?
         “The same way that the study of the atom led to the atomic bomb, or the study of light to the laser. The potential was there. You discovered it.”

    (ed note: As it turns out, Galan has discovered one of the five primal root spells encoded into the Tech by the creators of the Tech. The point is that no other technomage in history had discovered these, due to the nature of their spell languages. Galan's spell language had revealed an interesting hole.)

    From CASTING SHADOWS by Jeanne Cavelos (2001)

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