Friday, October 10, 2008

Camp Concentration 016 - The Electrical Wizard

(David Bowie as Nikolas Tesla, in The Prestige)

From Wikipedia:
In 1891, Telluride's L.L. Nunn joined forces with
Nikola Tesla (Nunn's home can be found at the corner of Aspen and Columbia Streets, next door is the home he purchased for the "pinheads" to study hydro-electric engineering) and George Westinghouse and built the Ames Hydroelectric Generating Plant, the world's first commercial-grade alternating-current power plant, near Telluride. The hydro-powered electrical generation plant supplied power to the Gold King Mine 3.5 miles away.

Writing about Telluride, Disch couldn’t ignore the relationship between that city and Nikolas Tesla, and I am sure that “The Alpha Pickup”, the electrical device to which Mordecai and General Haast submit themselves, is inspired as much by Tesla as by the alchemist Nicholas Flamel.

Tesla has become a sort of Electrical Wizard in recent science fiction. In Christopher Priest’s novel (and later Philip Nolan’s film) The Prestige Tesla makes a brief appearance as a sort of wizard. The plot revolves around a feud between two stage magicians, Alfred Borden and Rupert Angier, in 19th century London. They become enemies and do what they can to sabotage each other’s shows. When Borden seems to have perfected a trick to teleport himself from one point of the stage to another, Angier travels to the US and goes to Colorado Springs in order to meet Nikolas Tesla and ask him: “If electrical energy may be transmitted, could physical matter also be sent from one place to another?” Then, they join forces to accomplish this.

Disch’s question to himself, while writing the novel, may have been: “Couldn’t they have someone like Tesla, doing some Tesla thing in order to build a mind reciprocator?…”

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