Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle

Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle

Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How do you know, in 1911, how to describe something that won’t be invented until 1969?

It is why I, and generations before and since me, have loved science fiction.

Science fiction authors, like Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, and Gene Roddenberry, of Startrek fame, predicted much of the technology we find common today, wrapped inside exciting adventure stories.

These authors had the gift of extending what was known to describe what was possible, as though it had already happened.

I once attended a lecture by Isaac Asimov in which he explained this process.

Shortly before the end of World War II, Azimov, then the editor of a science-fiction short story magazine, was approached by the FBI.

“We want to have all the copies of the short story you just published about what the world will be like after an atom bomb goes off, setting off World War III.”

He opened his drawer.

“I’m happy to give them to you.

“Do you also want the other two dozen short stories on the same topic by various authors that I haven’t published yet?”

They were taken aback and left his office, without the stories.

He knew then that the speculation among science fiction authors about an atomic bomb was much closer to reality than they had suspected.

The Tom Swift books, published in the early 1900s, provided a similar look into the future, as the author, Edward Stratemeyer, writing under the pseudonym, Victor Appleton, wrote engaging adventure stories for young people.

The adventures weren’t just about travel to exciting places like Africa (Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle ), Central America (Tom Swift in the Land of Wonders) and the Artic (Tom Swift and the Caves of Ice).

They were also about traveling using transportation that Tom Swift, an inventor like his father in the series, developed.

Like the combination airplane and hot-air balloon Tom Swift built and piloted in the book, Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle.

If necessary, he could take off straight up, without a runway.

This book was written three years before the 1914 outbreak of World War I,  and only a few years after the 1903 invention of the airplane.

But, far-seeing, scientifically-minded people were already seeing the potential for airplanes during war.

What Was an Electric Rifle?

Tom Swift, who in the 1911 book, Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle, had already earned enough money from his patents to be comfortable, though still young, had been working on the invention of an electric rifle.

As our story opens, he is about to perform the final testing before taking it on an elephant hunt in Africa.

“How does it work?” asked Ned as he looked at the curious gun.

“It works by electricity,” explained Tom.

“That is, the force comes from a powerful current of stored electricity.”

“Oh, then you have storage batteries in the stock?”

“Not exactly. There are no batteries, but the current is a sort of wireless kind. It is stored in a cylinder, just as compressed air or gases are stored and can be released as I need it.”

“And does it shoot lead bullets?”

“Not at all. There are no bullets used.”

“Then how does it kill?”

“By means of a concentrated charge of electricity which is shot from the barrel with great force.

“It’s just as if you concentrated a charge of electricity of five thousand volts into a small globule the size of a bullet. That flies through space, strikes the object aimed at and – well, we’ll see what it does in a minute.”

Tom goes on to say that he can regulate the size of the electrical charge, the distance the electricity travels and light up a target to pinpoint it at night.

How Does a Taser Work?

Tasers work by delivering concentrated electricity to the body.

There are two kinds. One requires contact with the body, closing an electrical connection and stunning the person.

One works by shooting electrodes from up to 20 feet away and inflicting pain, but not death.

A NASA researcher started developing tasers in 1969.

They were designed to disable people but be less lethal than guns.

Jack Cover, the NASA researcher, named his electric gun Taser, after his childhood hero.

Thus, Tom A. Swift’s Electric Rifle.

The initial “A” is made up. Tom Swift didn’t have a middle initial.

Steve Wozniak, of Apple fame, and Isaac Asimov both say that Tom Swift inspired them when they were children.

Inspire your grandchildren with the fun and exciting adventures of Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle.

He makes it all seem possible.

And, eventually, with your grandchildren’s help, it will be.

You may not have the original 1911 version of this Tom Swift book that I have, because it was my father-in-law’s when he was a boy and a favorite of my husband’s when he was a boy.

But, you can start a new tradition by reading it to your grandchildren.

Click on the title to order Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle from amazon.

Or, click on the title to download a free copy of Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle.

To you and inspiring the next generation.

Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers


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