What 1970s sci-fi was closest to this scenario in an old kids' book
January 12, 2021 2:39 AM   Subscribe

When I was a kid in the '80s I was horrified/fascinated by this panel from the Usborne Book of the Future. It suggested we might travel virtually to faraway planets by building temporary copies of ourselves from vats. Who did the authors get this idea from? Were there sci-fi authors around that time who were popularizing this concept?
posted by johngoren to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This is how the transporters in Star Trek were supposed to work, though with TV-friendly sparkles instead of vats.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:45 AM on January 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In the short story Rogue Moon (1960) by Algis Budrys, a “matter transmitter” sends explorers to the moon by replicating their bodies there. “The earthbound copy is placed in a state of sensory deprivation which allows him to share the experiences of the doppelgänger.”

In the Star Trek shows (1966–), transporter beams supposedly teleport the matter making up subject’s body, rather than copying it. Nevertheless, the shows had a few episodes where “transporter accidents” created duplicate people.

In the Cuckoo Saga by Frederik Pohl and Jack Williamson, starting with the novella Doomship (1973), matter duplication transporters send copies of people to explore interstellar space. The original subjects and the copies are not connected in any way, and go on to lead separate lives. In some of the stories, I think, some of the transported copies make further copies of themselves.
posted by mbrubeck at 6:45 AM on January 12, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Frank Herbert, The Dosadi Experiment, has crews of vat grown clones if I remember correctly.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:18 AM on January 12, 2021

Best answer: I was also going to mention 'Doomship', which talks about the psychology of using self-replicators, and is a swell catastrophe-opera.
posted by ovvl at 8:24 AM on January 12, 2021

I want to say that I saw it in a comic book as a kid, but I don't have name / details for you, just vague memories.

I would have been seeing it in the early-mid 80s, but the comics were all well-used hand-me-downs, probably from the 60s? Maybe older. I know there were superhero comics, along with - horror, I guess? I just have a vague image of villains, probably, cloning people by pulling them out of vats. Possibly a warehouse-style image, y'know, with a catwalk up above, stairs down to the floor, that sort of thing.

I know that's not very helpful, but maybe it will ring a bell with someone else who knows more about comics.
posted by stormyteal at 9:25 AM on January 12, 2021

Best answer: "Call Me Joe", by Poul Anderson, used this idea in 1957. Humans explore the surface of Jupiter (it had a surface back then, don't you know) using artificial bodies.
posted by zompist at 9:52 AM on January 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: All links have spoilers: William F. Temple's The 4-Sided Triangle (1939 short story, 1949 novel, 1953 film) features a Reproducer machine which creates exact duplicates of objects; the machine is eventually used on a person. (Some details change from story to novel to film, but basically the woman character is "copied" to provide a partner for a male character. No neato-keen interstellar travel that I can remember.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:03 PM on January 12, 2021

Best answer: Wasn't this like a Twilight Zone episode? There were aliens that provided interstellar transport but by their rules. They would put you in the thing, press the button, and when they got confirmation that the duplicate had been made then they would vaporize you. A problem arose once when the confirmation got mangled for a while so they kept the guy locked up thinking he had a failed trip. Then after a while the copy they sent came back from his trip... then they had to drag the original kicking and screaming to be vaporized. The aliens will copy you back and forth across the galaxy but they destroy the original.
posted by zengargoyle at 3:31 PM on January 12, 2021

Best answer: zengargoyle, you might be thinking of the Think Like a Dinosaur episode of the 90's The Outer Limits TV series. Does "balance the equation" ring a bell?
posted by BrashTech at 4:15 PM on January 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Alfred Slote, My Trip to Alpha I, may be what you and other people are thinking of. It was a Scholastic book so probably appeared in many book fairs.
posted by metabaroque at 6:05 PM on January 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

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