First Shields in Sci-Fi?

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First Shields in Sci-Fi?

Postby Esquire » 2017-01-31 03:08am

Basically, the title - has anybody got any idea when the first depiction of a shield - that's to say, a non-corporeal protective field/plane/etc. - was recorded? It seems like it ought to have been fairly recent; shields are a reasonably non-intuitive idea as opposed to very good point defense and the like.

I don't have a great reason for the curiosity, it just occurred to me for some reason. Thanks in advance!
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Re: First Shields in Sci-Fi?

Postby Lord Revan » 2017-01-31 03:21am

IIRC War of the worlds had the marsian with something akin to an energy shield in concept so it dates as far as the 1800s at very least and Forbidden Planet has a clear barried type energy shield. The thing is that conceptually energy shields are just a a scifi version of magical wards that old fables had, instead of saying the bad guys lair has curses and wards protecting it so you have to sneak in, you have the bad guys lair protected by an energy shield.
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Re: First Shields in Sci-Fi?

Postby Crazedwraith » 2017-01-31 03:24am

I think War of the worlds only had shields in the film versions not the book?

Foundation books though had shields iirc.
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Re: First Shields in Sci-Fi?

Postby Lord Revan » 2017-01-31 03:34am

the book had some sort of magnetic technobabble that made cannon balls bounce of the walkers so energy shields in story concept and role even if they were not literally called that.
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Re: First Shields in Sci-Fi?

Postby Starglider » 2017-01-31 03:38am

Crazedwraith wrote:I think War of the worlds only had shields in the film versions not the book?


Correct; three years earlier than the Forbidden Planet version.

Foundation books though had shields iirc.


Yes, in the 1940s. Lensman had the equivalent in the 1930s stories.
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Re: First Shields in Sci-Fi?

Postby Lonestar » 2017-01-31 05:38am

Theodore Sturgeon had shields in the short story The Microcosmic God in 1940.
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Re: First Shields in Sci-Fi?

Postby Elheru Aran » 2017-01-31 10:14am

Yeah, I was gonna say EE Smith probably came up with the general popular concept of an invisible energy field projected about a vehicle in his Lensman or Skylark stories.

Of course, those had some other things that made the whole 'invisible energy field' seem pretty marginal by comparison like the original Green Lantern Ring... excuse me, Lens, planet-sized battleships, and eventually wasn't it something like using planets as weapons or eradicating galaxies at a fell swoop?
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Re: First Shields in Sci-Fi?

Postby Q99 » 2017-01-31 01:27pm

The first Skylark book had energy screens, so it may be the first. Things took awhile before getting really over the top!

Before Skylark, wikipedia notes this story had something of a proto force field: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Night_Land

But Skylark may be the first ship mounted one.

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Re: First Shields in Sci-Fi?

Postby Simon_Jester » 2017-02-01 05:27pm

You have to remember, Skylark of Space WAS over the top by 1920s standards. It was repeatedly turned down by science fiction magazines for being too far-out during the '20s.

Lord Revan wrote:the book had some sort of magnetic technobabble that made cannon balls bounce of the walkers so energy shields in story concept and role even if they were not literally called that.
No they didn't. Cannonballs would routinely hit the Martian tripods, it was basically the only thing that actually damaged them. The problem was physically aiming cannons at them when they were such rapidly moving targets; with 1900-era field artillery this is a challenge.

Starglider wrote:
Foundation books though had shields iirc.
Yes, in the 1940s. Lensman had the equivalent in the 1930s stories.
Doc Smith also used the "zone of force" (a shield that blocks everything other than exotic made-up rays) in Skylark Three, which enabled his ships to do this:

Image

That was published in 1930. There were other examples of shields appearing in other work Smith published later in the '30s (including Lensman). But Smith's only earlier publication, the founding space-opera story The Skylark of Space, did not have shields so far as I can remember. Not in the modern sense, though it DID have tractor beams, and plugging those in backwards had some of the same effects we might call "deflector shields." That was 1927.

Can we beat that?

Elheru Aran wrote:Yeah, I was gonna say EE Smith probably came up with the general popular concept of an invisible energy field projected about a vehicle in his Lensman or Skylark stories.

Of course, those had some other things that made the whole 'invisible energy field' seem pretty marginal by comparison like the original Green Lantern Ring... excuse me, Lens, planet-sized battleships, and eventually wasn't it something like using planets as weapons or eradicating galaxies at a fell swoop?
The Lens inspired the Green Lantern rings but isn't the same- it grants a lot less in the way of overt powers to most of its users, serving mainly as a universal translator and telepathic contact aid. Basically, if you have a Green Lantern ring, you don't actually need a spaceship, a personal shield generator, or a blaster to play space cop. If you have a Lens, you do.

The planet-sized battleships were planets, just with FTL drives, shield generators, and beam weapons bolted on. This did in fact permit you to ram one planet with another planet. Ramming things with planets was just about the ultimate weapon in the Lensman setting, because while they had engines that could move a planet they didn't have any weapons capable of destroying a planet in a timely manner. So you couldn't really stop such an attack once it got moving.

The 'wipe out all life in a galaxy' thing happened in another series. Well, actually evacuating half the life in the galaxy (the pleasant kind) and wiping out the other half (the icky and malevolent kind).

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Re: First Shields in Sci-Fi?

Postby Q99 » 2017-02-01 06:22pm

Simon_Jester wrote:You have to remember, Skylark of Space WAS over the top by 1920s standards. It was repeatedly turned down by science fiction magazines for being too far-out during the '20s.


Oh yea. It had them shoot far beyond the solar system, almost get sucked into a black hole, meet 'pure intellectuals' (precursors to Q type energy beings), and end up in a system at the center of the galaxy. All in one book.

No they didn't. Cannonballs would routinely hit the Martian tripods, it was basically the only thing that actually damaged them. The problem was physically aiming cannons at them when they were such rapidly moving targets; with 1900-era field artillery this is a challenge.


Right. The Martians were a metaphor for colonial armies vs natives. Sure, you could fight back, you could even hurt them, but they were better enough that you couldn't really win despite the small victories.

That was published in 1930. There were other examples of shields appearing in other work Smith published later in the '30s (including Lensman). But Smith's only earlier publication, the founding space-opera story The Skylark of Space, did not have shields so far as I can remember. Not in the modern sense, though it DID have tractor beams, and plugging those in backwards had some of the same effects we might call "deflector shields." That was 1927.


They even called that effect 'force fields' at times in the first book.

By the second book, they had both Screens, which are the normal 'shields against beams that could be battered down,' type stuff you see nowadays, and then as a newer innovation, Zones of Force as higher-level defenses, which isolated a ship from effects entirely, both ways, so if you were blocking rays you couldn't fire rays, if you blocked gravity you flew off into space, etc.! Pretty unusual and plays a bit more like stasis fields in that they're real globes of invulnerability... until they get Fifth Order stuff, Zones of Force were only beaten by running the batteries out. They're fancy even by modern standards ^^

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Re: First Shields in Sci-Fi?

Postby Simon_Jester » 2017-02-01 06:42pm

"Force field" is actually very descriptive. In physics it means "a region within which, if you put an object in that region, that object will experience a force." That is ALL it means, and it's meant that since the early 20th century.

If you put an object anywhere near the Earth, it will experience a gravitational force pointing toward the Earth. In other words, Earth projects a gravitational field of force.

Once this concept is accepted and understood, "force field generators" simply become exotic mechanisms by which unusual fields of force can be created, in 'convenient' geometries like 'affects only a spherical bubble around the outside of my spaceship' or 'forms a wall blocking this corridor I don't want the Klingons running through.'


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