The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman
All the world’s a phase
In every capacity of life, we find markedly clear divisions between art and science. For example, an advisor will attempt to steer an academic career in accordance to strengths in one of two degree-producing fields. One or the other will be designated on that final sheet of pedantic paper…but very rarely both.
Studies show the ability to absorb information directly correlates to having a creatively centered right brain or a more analytical left. One hemisphere sees pictures, diagrams, visual representations and symbolism befitting an art film. The other processes numbers, graphs, logical parameters and formula-driven problem-solving.
Societal boundaries can be every bit as monolithic. Author Ned Beauman makes this allusion in his 1930s-and-onward Teleportation Accident, but the author paints here a much different picture through protagonist Egon Loeser, an almost painfully artistic archetype making a living as a Berlin-based theater set designer.
Loeser makes a point to go “out of his way not to socialize with people with real careers.” He considers them “impossible to talk to.” Yet even though this starving artist’s hobbies, interests and livelihood may be pigeonholed, Beauman makes it his point to obscure the lines between an art/science union as much as possible.
“If Loeser could ever get his Teleportation Device working, then in future productions it might sling actors not just through space but through time.”
Loeser’s passion lies in a Teleportation Device invented centuries before, in the 1600s, by luminary set designer Adriano Lavicini. (The Teleportation Device manipulates and moves props, backdrops and actors during a play to change a scene as quickly as possible.) It’s only when Loeser meets Professor Franklin Bailey at the tail end of this novel that he gains a more scientific perspective, this through the professor’s own similarly (and aptly) named Teleportation Device. The more modern device successfully transports a physical object from place to place. The working theory Bailey provides for his creation? Simple…and intentionally vague. To send an object to another place, you must exchange it with an equal amount of physical representation from its intended destination.
Throughout The Teleportation Accident, Loeser treks the globe. He occupies a new social stratum in each new location, once working a respected theater in Berlin, next keeping the barrel-scraping company of confidence men in Paris, then holding a place as a revered—and manipulated—socialite in Los Angeles. Loeser’s tumultuous travels differ little from the effects of both Teleportation Devices, new and old: rapid-fire scenery changes take place with multiple moving pieces and personalities. These exchange old sensibilities for new, previous supporting casts and physical surroundings for more recent.
The theory of balance plays a role in both devices—it’s a law of nature that overrules and effortlessly unites art and science. Each pendulum swing in Lavicini’s Teleportation Device, for instance, exchanges a handful of brightened clouds for an equally weighted series of luminescent stars, or a dining room table for a tandem of chairs. Each object must quantify directly with the object it replaces; otherwise the device refuses to work. With Bailey’s device, transporting a human being across the delicate space-time continuum involves constructing on the opposite end a pile of discarded makeup canisters in the person’s shape and weight.
What motivates Loeser through these ceaseless relocations? A love interest, Adele Hitler.
We meet Adele as a trusted assistant of Professor Bailey; she helps with governmentally funded research involving the professor’s Transportation Device. Socially awkward, Bailey views Adele as a sort of muse to inspire fact-findings. He falls for the reckless whimsy of Adele; she fancies his processor-like predictability.
“Here, location was a meaningless and arbitrary property,” Bailey says. "All spatial coordinates were equivalent. And that was how teleportation would function.”
But…Adele is very much an artistic type, like Loeser, and far removed from Bailey’s literal musings. So naturally when Adele and Loeser meet, a relationship blossoms. We end up with a love triangle. Art and science form two sides. The third side remains sheer mystery.
In the spirit of this novel, an open can of Schlitz and a discarded banana peel can fuel a DeLorean through time. If that’s so, then the ecstasies of science and invention lie inherently available to the creative class. Nothing is off limits; everything interrelates.
The Teleportation Accident isn’t exactly a revelation, but more an intellectually engrossing reminder that only a suggesting hyphen separates the not-so-opposite concepts of science and fiction.
Adam Fox is a freelance writer based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. When not tapping away at a too-worn keyboard, he enjoys covering the beat for a handful of sports teams. You can follow him at @lefoxtrott.