Stasis Field

Tagged: Theme

A variation on the traditional sf Force Field which provides an advanced form of Suspended Animation, first introduced in Robert A Heinlein's Beyond This Horizon (April-May 1942 Astounding as by Anson MacDonald; 1948). Time does not pass within such a field and its living contents will emerge, when the field ceases to operate, without any perception of duration. In the comic Utopia of Robert Sheckley's "A Ticket to Tranai" (October 1955 Galaxy), wives are placed in stasis when not required – a seeming oppression upon which the women insist, since they remain young and have prospects of rich widowhood and further marriages (see Feminism). James White characteristically reveals that the "Stopper" stasis field of his story "Tableau" (May 1958 New Worlds), though adapted as a Weapon, is normally used in hospitals (see Medicine).

Larry Niven speculates further on a stasis field's properties in World of Ptavvs (1966), arguing that it would be necessarily impenetrable and perfectly reflective. With characteristic ingenuity Niven develops the notion into a deadly Weapon, the "variable-sword" of Ringworld (1970), consisting of a very fine wire which is made utterly rigid by a surface stasis field and can thus cut through virtually anything – except another stasis field. Vernor Vinge explores the military use of such fields, here termed bobbles, in The Peace War (1984); the thematically related Marooned in Realtime (1986) brings together characters from various future eras who have been enclosed in bobbles and flung across a Time Abyss into futurity. A still more ambitious journey to the future is planned in Hank Davis's "To Plant a Seed" (in Orbit 11, anth 1972, ed Damon Knight), where stasis-field travel to the next cycle of the universe proves to be futile in the light of new understanding of Cosmology.

In Damon Knight's black comedy Why Do Birds (1992), much of humanity enters a frozen, impervious time-stasis which our own technology is incapable of undoing but which (it is hoped) helpful Aliens may reverse. Other authors have given their own names to the device: Peter F Hamilton, for example, uses "zero-tau field" in The Reality Dysfunction (1996) and other tales set in his Confederation universe.

The perhaps misnamed "stasis field" of Christopher Anvil's "Gadget vs. Trend" (October 1962 Analog) makes materials totally impervious via Force Field strengthening but has no effect on the flow of Time within. Another thus-named field in Joe Haldeman's The Forever War (fixup 1974) is a spherical region within which electromagnetic radiation cannot exist and the maximum allowed speed is 16.3 metres per second; inside this battle arena, effective weaponry is restricted to swords, spears, bows and arrows, etc. [DRL]

see also: End of Time; Thorne Smith.

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