If you re into stuff like this you can read the full reviewMatter Transmission A For Anything by Damon KnightOriginal review 1980Here s my two cents worth
on matter transmissionmatter transmission regarding Damon Knight s A For AnythingFirst of all I am skeptical of any MT system that works by scanningrebuilding Leaving aside the duplicator aspects of such a system I don t believe such a system can be made to transmit a living human Carl Sagan has estimated in Dragons of Eden that the human enome contains some 10 10 bits of information the human brain about 10 13 This puts a lower limit of 10 23 pertinent bits you must transmit NB that to achieve this compression you must first have BOTH ultra fast cloning AND mechanical telepathy An interesting premise it causes the total disintegration of society Fun old school SF One of Knight s most critically interesting novels Since January I have read a novel a month by one of the winners of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award iven by the Science Fiction Writers of America I thought I was about time to read a novel by the man himself Knight won the award in 1994 He was a founder of the SFWA and the award was named for him after his death in 2002 Although several of the Grand Masters I have read I have been reading for the first time this year Knight is perhaps the one I knew the least about I would be hard pressed to name any of his books Even though I worked around used books for thirty years I cannot picture any of his covers or remember that he ever merited a his own shelf Somewhere along the way I picked up the fact that he wrote the short story To Serve Man which became a classic Twilight Zone episode Don t et on that ship The bookthe bookit s a cookbook And so I picked up A for Anything with no expectationsPerhaps I "Should Not Have Read His First Novel "not have read his first novel I am inclined to start at the first with an author But I have to say this is the most peculiar book I have read in some time and not in a particularly ood way Here s what happens in the first three chapters1 In a scene that could come from a 1950 s sitcom a retired bank president checks the morning mail and finds a package on the front porch Inside is a Gismo a machine that can according to the accompany brochure reproduce anything with no expenditure of energy The man wife and brother and sister in law are all on hand His son says Hey Dad l know all about that electronics jazz A simple experiment proves that machine works2 A undercover FBI agent comes to after a fight with the inventor of the ismo He checks in with law enforcement officials and finds that the world as we know it is coming uickly to an end One hundred The Lives of Stay-at-Home Fathers: Masculinity, Carework and Fatherhood in the United States gismos have been distributed at random Since they can replicate themselves that all it takes3 The inventor of theismo living on the lam in Southern California meets up with a physicist friend who is excited about the invention But within days the first of the new warlords appears his enslaved drivers shackled into a line up of cars Things are looking badFor the next chapter we jump ahead a century or so and meet Dick Jones of Buckhill an estate in the Poconos Society is now composed of masters and slobs People are sueamish about the term slave Buckhill functions as a well furnished medieval duchy only with lots of modern conveniences Young Dick has reached his seniority and will soon be leaving for Eagles a mountain stronghold in Colorado that is part military academy but exists from what I leaned from the book as a finishing school where the scions of. Also published as A for AnythingIn a near future USA an obscure inventor creates the.
Damon Knight ´ 7 READThis I read it when I was still young and I want to see if it stands up The writing is definitely dated For example many characters smoke cigarettesDone It s not very sophisticated but the basis is interesting The development of a matter duplicator that can duplicate itself leads to a society of masters and slaves Scientific discovery stalls Duplication of slaves leads to a population imbalance that inevitably leads to unrest It s not a book of hope and it s relevance in today s world of wealth ineuity is scary Almost all science fiction novels are built explicitly or implicitly around the uestion What if What if we could fly to the Moon What if there are other people out there What if we could o back in time Damon Knight one of the most inventive authors of the second half of the 20th century starts this one with What if you could have any physical item you wanted just by flipping a switch Imagine receiving a box in the mail containing a device made of two wooden bars fastened in a T with a hook dangling from each arm and a small completely unknown metal and lass object attached to each And a couple of batteries and a switch and that "s it Hang something from one hook press the switch and an identical copy appears "it Hang something from one hook press the switch and an identical copy appears the other arm Anything inanimate or alive We would live in Eden right No starvation no need for war no unhealthy competition right Also as people uickly realize no way to reckon relative wealth When you can have all the food you want or all the diamonds or rifles the only thing left to demonstrate relative status is personal service and control of those who provide it And that means slaveryDick Jones is the teenage scion of a family in the Poconos that controls the surrounding countryside a few enerations following the introduction of the Gizmo He lives in a world of physical comfort and plenty at least for those who run things by controlling the Gizmos a world with fifty slaves for every free man a world in which personal honor and position mean everything Sent off to Colorado for four years of military training and social polishing under the authority of The Boss he discovers a very different world among those who compete for real power and also among those at the very bottom of the social ladderI first read this book in high school in 1959 in its original incarnation as The People Maker actually it had appeared in shorter form in FSF two years earlier and its philosophical proddings made me think about a lot of new things In fact it stuck with me so thoroughly I finally had to chase down a copy so I could renew my acuaintance with it I don t know if Knight s predicted results from such an invention are the only option frankly but it s still a first rate intellectual adventure Knight works best when exploring social impacts of technology This is clearly one of his earlier works before he really had a rasp of what he is trying to accomplish The story is ostensibly about a world is trying to accomplish The story is ostensibly about a world a Gismo can reproduce anything including Gismos But that is just a foil to talk about the immediate and long lasting changes to society once Gismos are everywhere The early days are a confused blur as a new normal arises The rest of the book deals with a post apocalyptic anarchy in the aftermath where Gismos are prized and heavily protected possessions and human labor is cheap and duplicated humans are enslaved Too many ideas to explore in a short novel and they are not explored well by modern standards Would have been better as a few short stories or a longer developed nove. Implications of this machine are explored in a brilliant and terrifying extrapolation. Wealthy families learn to be truly horrible human beings Once he arrives there he is immersed in intrigues and brutal initiation rites We et beings Once he arrives there he is immersed in intrigues and brutal initiation rites We et of how savage life has become for those not lucky enough to be among the master class There is some lightweight discussion of politics and sociology and an inevitable slave make that slob rebellionBut none of this is envisioned in a way that makes it particularly interesting let alone coherent Dick Jones is the most lackluster idiotic protagonist I have encountered in some time but I don t et the impression that Knight is purposively playing him for a fool The book moves in such spurts that I never had a clear image of what mattered to any of these people
knight s worldview is profoundly pessimistic but thes worldview is profoundly pessimistic but the is not well written enough to embody such darkness in a compelling fashionI assume that Knight developed into a much better writer It also seems that he was known mostly for his short stories A for Anything is not a ateway novel for anyone who anticipates etting deeply involved with this author This was an intensely irritating book for me It starts with the invention of the Hello, Snow! gismo a device that can duplicate anything placed on it with no expenditure of energy From this it would seem that a Paradise for mankind should arise but within two or three chapters we see that the book decides to take a very different line with this idea With material possessions now no longer an issue there still needs to be some way of differentiatingrades of people so slavery returnsThis came completely out of left field for me but after thinking about it it sort of makes a kind of sense If all that is left of value is labour then who controls it controls the society I think this is a "Very American Attitude Well A Certain Sort "American attitude well a certain sort extreme right wing American a European book with a similar premise would probably have A Little Dinner Before the Play gone along very different linesThe majority of the book is set about 70 years after the invention of theismo when the new slave society is established as we follow a young freeman sent off by his family to spend a year as an officer in the army of the local baron in an almost Gormenghastian mountain castleestateThere were some interesting ideas especially later in the book following a slave revolt but I just couldn t Mastering the Art of Saying No Without Feeling Guilty: Tips, Techniques and Strategies get past the opening premise and failed to really enjoy this book Particularly the rather bleak ending Knight doesn t bother to hang a lampshade on the preposterousness of an infinitely capable duplication device but wisely uses the notion as a jumping off point to explore the societal effectsHe posits that when materialoods become effectively free the only measure of wealth and status is through human labor and hence a slave economy with rigid social strata Through this comes the degradation of the working class and later their outright abuse not just physical or emotional control and mistreatment but through the duplication of people themselves a destruction of the uniueness of an individualThe structure of the book was jarring consisting at the front of the vignettes of the Gismo s introduction and the collapse of Western society then with an abrupt twist a fast forward to A plain old fun sci fi what iffer The plot is serviceable but beside the point The point is Knight makes some interesting points about scarcity labor and economics anticipating technologies such as nanomatter and maker cultureDated af but it does retain a certain period charm Worth tracking down a copy I believe I started rereading. Gizmo a device which can duplicate anything including itself The social and economic.