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Zap Gun

Entry updated 12 September 2023. Tagged: Fan, Theme.

A usually facetious term for the sf Blaster, Ray Gun or Stunner. Its first recorded appearance in print, according to the online Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction, was in an October 1934 US newspaper ad for a Buck Rogers spinoff Toy: "Buck Rogers Zap Gun 35¢". Brian W Aldiss's essay "Judgement at Jonbar" (Spring 1964 SF Horizons) lamented the Pulp Cliché whereby "the opposition, armed with raysprays, zap guns, and telepathic mind destroyers, is mopped up by a hero armed only with a rubber band and Good Old National Know-How"; Philip K Dick titled his Weapons-centered arms-race spoof novel The Zap Gun (1967); Kurt Vonnegut made tongue-in-cheek use of the term in one of the sf sequences in Slaughterhouse-Five (1969); Phil Foglio has another unserious titular use in Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire (graph 1986).

In Fandom the term was frequently applied to the water pistols whose deployment and use was a fad at UK Conventions from the early 1950s. One appeared in the BBC coverage of the 1957 London Worldcon. [DRL]

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