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"The death of teleportation"

By Vick Tannigan, Underground Correspondent

_Boston Underground_, Cover Story, Oct. 22, 1997
	It's a sad truism that the dustbins of history are littered with 
great ideas because the good ones are easier to implement.
	Last December, we were handed an incredible gift.  We stood at a 
crossroads.  Everywhere we looked, great ideas presented themselves.  The 
future was suddenly limitless, and all that remained was how we would 
define ourselves.  But as we watch this miracle collide with human nature, 
all our great ideas are disappearing one by one.
	To be fair, an immense number of good things have come out of The 
Changes.  But to glimpse greatness, then have it ripped away and 
discarded, leaves rather a bitter aftertaste.
	For me, nowhere is this more obvious than in the world's brief 
fling with teleportation.
	For a brief, shining moment, it handed us the future on a silver 
platter.  For a brief, shining moment, magic became science fiction, 
became grounded in reality here on Earth.  For a brief, shining moment, it 
even took center stage in shaping the terms of debate for a world.  Dennis 
Redwing's meeting owed much to his leadership, to be sure, and to the vast 
amount of networking that he'd built up in the intervening years, but it 
would have been flatly impossible without teleportation.
	Throughout history, advances in transportation have revolutionized 
society.  From the horse to the railroad, from the railroad to the 
automobile, from the automobile to the airplane, every step has been a 
quantum leap in terms of what's been possible and what our society has 
looked like.  I don't need to tell you what teleportation could have done 
for us; your imagination will suffice for that.
	And we were right there, on the verge of it.  But then, earlier 
this year, it all started to collapse.
	Ironically, and sadly, magic itself holds much of the blame for 
	The Changes coalesced when Redwing walked through the background 
of that news broadcast, and ever since then, all of the magic that we've 
gotten back has been by reminding the public of what's possible.  But in 
the same way, that double-edged sword can turn around and bite us in the 
	*	*	*
	Teleportation died when Denny Brogi got rushed to the hospital.
	I wouldn't blame you for not recognizing his name.  As news 
stories go, that one was rather a footnote.  Denny Brogi was never a 
household name in the same way that Tom Valdine(1) or Matthew Gold(2) are.  
But his story ended up having far deeper implications.
	Brogi was a high school senior in a suburb of Seattle, a kid by 
all accounts disenchanted with mundane life who was studying magic as a 
way out.  One day in late January while he was cutting class, the world he 
tried to escape caught up with him.  In a very isolated area of his high 
school, he got involved in (or started) an altercation.  What happened 
next depends on whose story you listen to, but one thing is clear: He 
tried to teleport to his hand a sword he kept at home as one of his 
magical tools.  When teachers arrived, his attacker was unconscious 
against the wall (although apparently unharmed), and Brogi's sword was 
embedded through his arm -- cleanly displacing flesh, muscle, and bone.
	As magical mishaps go, Brogi's accident could have been far worse.  
But, socially, it was the breach in the dam.
	As far as anyone could determine, it was the first reported 
teleportation accident.  It may have even been an accident of an entirely 
separate nature -- toxicology results never were any better than 
inconsistent, and there's lingering suspicion that evidence may have been 
magically tampered with in order to cover up the true details of Brogi's 
	But, regardless, what little attention the story did get raised 
the question of whether there were problems with teleportation -- and, of 
course, when one goes looking for problems, they're everywhere to be 
	Consider Jeff Sullivan.  He was in a car with some friends in 
Seattle the day after the accident, and their discussion turned to 
teleportation.  Sullivan emphatically asserted to his friends that there 
was nothing unsafe about magical teleportation, and volunteered to 
	Investigators have concluded that he failed to take into account 
the motion of the car, and appeared on the nearby sidewalk still 
travelling at a speed of approximately 30 mph, careening into a nearby 
building and eventually being rushed to the hospital with a concussion and 
several broken bones.
	The Seattle Times smelled a story, and quickly printed an in-depth 
investigative piece on teleportation.  We'll never know for certain, but 
that's probably what gave Matt Gutierrez his idea.
	Once they pieced together his identity through missing-person 
reports and dental records, the police searched his apartment.  Right next 
to the farewell letter he left his recent ex-fiancee was a copy of the 
Seattle Times, folded open to the teleportation article.  But that 
groundwork took long days; and by the time the media figured out that it 
was merely an elaborately staged suicide, the notion of teleportation 
flaws had taken on a life of its own.
	There were the "ping timeouts," as mages called them -- borrowing 
terminology from some computer programmer geek humor -- in which 
mysterious and unpredictable time lapses appeared between a mage's 
departure and their arrival somewhere else.   More ominously, there were 
the suggestions -- never verified -- of disappearances along the way.  
And, of course, more teleportation accidents -- albeit of the Sullivan 
variety rather than the Gutierrez variety.  The media coverage generated 
fears, and the fears became self-fulfilling.
	All things considered, it amounted to an enormous, and quite 
scary, mess.
	*	*	*
	Like many magical trends, this one would have died back down if 
mages had been given some time for emotions to cool -- but meanwhile, the 
world had sat up and taken notice.
	After The Changes, a handful of far-sighted venture capitalists
caught the notion of magic as big business, and started funding an equally
small handful of firms with ideas about how to bring magic to the public.  
Several were experimenting with teleportation.  In the wake of the string
of accidents and panics above, the most prominent of these -- Logos Dei --
unceremoniously dumped its teleportation research and announced that it
was focusing on other aspects of magic.  A second, Raven's Head
Technologies, boldly insisted that it would continue with its work -- but
got embroiled in the flap over safety statistics, and ended up getting its
funding pulled.
	Other, smaller, firms followed suit in one of these two camps.  If 
any companies have actually carried on in that field, it has been outside 
public notice, and certainly no results have come of their efforts yet.
	In other troubled industries, the government has at times stepped 
in when it wanted that industry's work to continue -- for example, the 
Savings & Loans bailouts of the previous decade.  And with a more 
magic-friendly government, even if all of the above had occurred, there 
still might have been a way to salvage the entire thing.  But I don't even 
need to mention Matt's Act(3) to point out that this was hardly going to 
be the case.
	So the life-changing idea of teleportation was stillborn at the 
legal level.  It died very quickly at the institutional level.  And for 
lack of competent defenders, it was bludgeoned to death at the individual 
level.  You'll excuse me if I'm still bitter over Redwing's galling 
"teleportation is completely safe; however, we urge mages to use it with 
caution" doublespeak.
	Despite this, some will argue that it's premature to call 
teleportation dead -- that no amount of worry can stop every individual 
mage from from practicing it.  That it can survive in an underground until 
it's ready to become broadly relevant again.  I wish this were the case, 
but I see no reason for optimism.
	It's true that many mages are still practicing teleportation; 
however, there has been no coherent movement to explore the safety issues.  
The collective efforts of scattered, individual researchers can do no good 
if those researchers mysteriously disappear one by one.
	To be made safe, teleportation must be relevant enough to study; 
but to be made relevant, teleportation must be safe enough to study.  I 
see little way out of this Catch-22.
	So get the dustbins ready ... great idea coming through.
	Vick Tannigan, who runs Satyr's Tincture Herbal Supply in Jamaica 
Plain, is a Boston Underground magical issues writer.  He can be reached 
c/o this periodical or at the store, (617) 555-0229.

FOOTNOTES for non-TTU readers:

      (1) Tom Valdine, a mage, was arrested in early 1997 after he turned himself in for violating the Air Travel Protection Act, which had an amendment inserted and passed to outlaw any use of magic for any purpose on commercial air flights or in airports -- and was one of the first pieces of magic-restricting legislation in the U.S. Valdine had saved the life of a fellow passenger through magical healing after they suffered a heart attack in midair and defibrillation failed. As a mage-rights activist, he saw this as an ideal test case to attack the ATPA with, and agitated for his own prosecution, ultimately mounting a defense solely on common-sense and constitutional issues.
      After being smeared on the stand (among other things, the prosecution all but asserted that he caused the heart attack in order to gain sympathy and challenge the law on more favorable grounds), Valdine was found guilty on a technicality and given the 5-year mandatory minimum sentence. The Justice Department -- aided by a sudden swing of popular attention away from the case to the Gold murders -- began a long-term campaign to silence him and obstruct appeals in order to brush the issue away into a corner. Valdine remains in jail; many mages see him as a martyr, and "Free Valdine" movements have gathered tepid but widespread grassroots support among theris and on college campuses.

      (2) The Rev. Matthew Gold was a North Carolina preacher from a virulently anti-theri fundamentalist denomination. He was notorious, if not widely respected, for being the most vocal proponent of the theory that theris' appearance was the beginning of the End Times. He was very vocal in saying "we are at war" with therianthropes. He was too sharp to ever be caught actively suggesting killing them, but he talked approvingly of their deaths to a national audience.
      On August 22, 1997 -- the day after the Valdine verdict was announced -- his country estate near Rockledge, N.C., became a bloodbath. All seven people on the premises were killed in cold-blooded shooting or execution-style murders: two private security guards, a gardener, Gold himself, his chauffeur, his wife, and his three-month-old son. The brutality of the killings, and the senseless death of the baby especially, shocked humans and theris alike -- and is the origin of the extreme-reactionary epithet "baby-killers" to refer to therianthropes. Fur samples and other evidence of theri involvement were immediately found, although many found it too convenient and questioned whether they were a plant to throw blame on the obvious suspects. Ultimately, no suspects were ever named or apprehended, and the case remains one of TTU's most infamous -- and unsolved -- murders.

      (3) Matt's Act was a measure pushed through Congress in March 1997 imposing even tighter restrictions on teleportation than had been previously placed on magic in general -- nearly outlawing it anywhere for any practical purpose. The name was an acronym for Making America's Teleportation and Transportation Safer, but also a blatant reference to Matt Gutierrez's death. Never mind that by then all evidence strongly suggested that said death, in which Gutierrez essentially appeared inside-out in the middle of a street and met an explosive and messy end, was a suicide.

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