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Old 06-05-2017, 09:39 AM   #1
thrash
 
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Default Literary source for anti-psionics prejudice?

I've been digging into the source literature that inspired Traveller (see, inter alia, Deciphering the Text Foundations of Traveller). I've found some interesting insights, which I'm still digesting.

One thing I haven't found, however, is an antecedent for Traveller's public prejudice against psionics. Some works (e.g., Andre Norton's) have criminals with psionic abilities. It also seems to be widely accepted in these sources that a crime is a crime, whether it is committed by a psychic or by mundane means. The idea that the mere use of psionics is objectionable and may result in lobotomy or death has not appeared in anything I've read so far.

Is this original to Marc Miller and company? It makes sense from a game balance perspective: it's a fairly simple way to keep the game from revolving around developing and using psionic abilities (unless that's what you want to do).

If not, what are the literary sources or inspirations for this feature? Remember, the source would have had to be available prior to 1977, since the section on "public prejudice" appears in the first edition (and, indeed, pre-dates the OTU).
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Old 06-05-2017, 10:10 AM   #2
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Default Re: Literary source for anti-psionics prejudice?

Slan (AE van Voght), perhaps .
Cat the Psion (Vinge) is slightly more recent.
X-men, sort of.
Some of Campbell era pulp short stories , I would bet, but no title come to mind immediately .
Carrie (King) was published and filmed right before that time. May have contributed.

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Old 06-05-2017, 11:03 AM   #3
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Default Re: Literary source for anti-psionics prejudice?

Itīs not psi, but Heinleinīs Methusalahīs Children covers prejudice against longlived humans. It wouldnīt be that big a stretch to assume similar problems for psis.
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Old 06-05-2017, 12:44 PM   #4
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Default Re: Literary source for anti-psionics prejudice?

Zenna Henderson is a plausible source, though there's not a huge amount of evidence for that influencing Traveller. I think I first ran into the concept in Escape to Witch Mountain (novel 1968), but Key was likely influenced by Henderson.
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Old 06-05-2017, 01:41 PM   #5
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Default Re: Literary source for anti-psionics prejudice?

I read Alexander Key's books growing up, but I've never run across Zenna Henderson before. Either one sounds plausible, especially as GDW's staff was more your age (as I recall it) than mine.

On a side note, I wonder if Zhodani commandos were influenced by Andrew J. Offutt's Galactic Rejects (1973).
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Old 06-05-2017, 04:25 PM   #6
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Default Re: Literary source for anti-psionics prejudice?

I do think Slan is probably the root of the theme in science fiction, and it's been a handy trope to allow you to address themes of racism or religious bigotry without actually quite saying so ever since. Though it's not as if prejudice against witches has no antecedents elsewhere. The attitude of the characters in Foundation toward mutants might play a role too.
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Old 06-05-2017, 06:52 PM   #7
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Default Re: Literary source for anti-psionics prejudice?

Psychic abilities appear in much of the explicitly identified Traveller source material -- it was as much a part of the Known Galaxy as neofeudalism.

In Traveller, anyone could potentially be a psionic with some luck and the right training. Adventure 0 suggests (p. 7) that seeking out a psionic institute is a common early goal for player character groups. The "public prejudice" rules have some echoes of witchcraft trials, but the stigma is about what psionics do rather than what they are or how they look. It's analogous to intolerance for sexual deviance (perceived as a choice), say, versus racism.

I'm resisting Van Vogt as the source because the Slan were overtly superhuman and physically identifiable as a separate subspecies. The Henderson and Key alien psychics were also genetically distinct, but at least physically indistiguishable.

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Old 06-05-2017, 07:57 PM   #8
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Default Re: Literary source for anti-psionics prejudice?

Ubik? The initial premise is that Joe Chip's company protects clients from psychic abilities.
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Old 06-05-2017, 08:22 PM   #9
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Default Re: Literary source for anti-psionics prejudice?

Anne McCaffrey's "To Ride Pegasus" [Followed by "Pegasus in Flight" "Get off Unicorn" and "Pegasus in Space" collectively know as her Talents Series] cover the Societal arch from Psi first being Verifiable Documented, and the Journey to go from prejudice to just one more accented minority in security.

as such it goes into the reason why the anti-psionics prejudice would exist.

Sidenote: Despite being published in the early 70s unlike many of her contraries she guess right about computer ministration and communication interrogates and the effects of what having a cell phone like device would have on story plots. (thorough two of the chapters date back to shorts stories she wrote in 1969)

Footnote: Get off the Unicorn was meant to be Get of the Unicorn and the printer [not the publisher] not recongizing that meaning of Get, though they were catching a typo and changed the Title to Get off the Unicorn at the last moment.
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Old 06-05-2017, 08:43 PM   #10
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Default Re: Literary source for anti-psionics prejudice?

There's some possibility of influence from Witches of Karres though the psi "Klaatha magic" is very high powered there. Also, Schmitz' Telzey Amberdon series.

Another possibility would be Niven's Known Space series. It at least has psis and has to have had some influence on Traveller.

There was some occaisional psi in the Van Rijn/Flandry universe of Poul Anderson and that's influence on Traveller would be difficult to deny.

Oh, forgot Alfred Bester's Demolished Man which may have had some influence on what Zhodani society would be like.
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