OSC Answers Questions
I am curious about the origin of the Philotic Parallax Instantaneous
Communicator, or the ansible. Did Mr. Card simply create this by himself or did
he get it elsewhere? I would be very thankful if you responded to my question.
-- Submitted by Anonymous
The "ansible" is a longtime device in science fiction. In the broadest sense,
many stories have needed to take place in a universe where travel is limited by
lightspeed, but communication is not. Specifically, calling the communication
device an "ansible" originated with Ursula K. LeGuin, or at least that's where I
first encountered the word; if she had a source for it, I am unaware of it.
I used LeGuin's word for the same reason that we all use "robot" and "waldo"
today -- when somebody defines a concept, even if we can never build it, we use
their word for it (if it's a good word, as "ansible" is). That way writers get to live
on in the language, even for people who never read their work. Thus Capek has
"robot" even with people who've never heard of "R.U.R.," and Heinlein has
"waldo" even for people who've never read "Waldo the Magnificent." LeGuin
is entitled to ansible, even though I suspect she'd rather be remembered for other
However, the frou-frou surrounding the ansible in my novels is my own
invention -- i.e., the Philotic Parallax Instantaneous Communicator stuff, the
mechanism, the metaphysics, etc. Each science fiction writer gets to make up
his own underpinnings and his own elaborations on the common devices.