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Psion--the novel

Psion is the first book in Joan D. Vinge's Cat series. Please read no further if you have not read this book and you don't wish to be exposed to mild spoilers.

The book is a distant future science fiction novel, set on a planet called Ardattee, the new hub of human civilization. In their settling of the galaxy, humans have encountered only one alien race, called the Hydrans, and they are similar enough to humans on the genetic level that they can have children together. The first contact happened well before this book took place, though; their initial peaceful intermingling and later deadly clashing is in the distant past, with the humans "winning" over the aliens in the same way that settlers killed off, absorbed, or sentenced Native Americans to reservations. Ancient history for the present-day characters.

This book is about the character Cat, who's at this time in his mid to late teens. Cat is caught by the police after one of his many crimes (trying to stay alive on the streets of Oldcity is not easy), and is taken into custody after a chase and almost escaping. He is offered the chance to participate in a government-run experimental program rather than serve his sentence by becoming a prisoner, and he takes that chance, not knowing that they offered the position to him because they could tell he must have Hydran blood.

He had no idea that he was half Hydran; he never knew his parents. But it became clear quickly that he was a halfbreed and a freak, which of course bothered him because for most of his life he'd been around humans who hated the aliens and some of it had sunk into him too. He learned he was supposed to be telepathic but had "psionic dysfunction," caused apparently by a telepathic shock when he was very young. The therapists set about unraveling the knot his mind had become and releasing his "Gift." And soon enough, with the help of a corporate telepath named Derezady Cortelyou, he learns to use his talent. And when he joins the group, Cat bonds with Jule taMing, a girl who can teleport and feel others' emotions, and she helps give him a chance in an often tough environment. He has to learn to read and write when before he was illiterate, and he has to deal with the fact that the group's leader, a telekinetic named Ardan Siebeling (and also Jule's lover), hates his guts.

But soon enough, he finds the group is doing quite a bit more than just learning to get better with their different psionic talents and learning what it means to have all the normal people hate and fear them. They are actually training to fight against a psionic criminal named Rubiy, known as Quicksilver, who has committed numerous crimes with his multi-faceted psionic talent. And Cat ends up thrown all over the universe because of it; Rubiy personally comes and tries to scout him to his side; Cat ends up in the Mines as a slave and only escapes an accident with the unexpected aid of a group of full-blooded Hydrans; he faces Quicksilver with Jule and Siebeling and has to stop him himself. And when it's all over . . . Cat is no longer just a street punk thief. He is a complex person who's been through a lot and learned the value of love, only to seemingly lose everything.

This is an absolutely stunning character-oriented novel written in the first person, and it's amazing how much it influenced my writing. Please do yourself a favor and read this.

Other books by Joan D. Vinge: Catspaw and Dreamfall

The D&D class

In the 3rd Edition Psionics Handbook, published by Wizards of the Coast, the psion and the psychic warrior are introduced. These two psionic classes use the new rules and can be integrated into standard D&D games, at the discretion of the Dungeon Master.

The psion is a psionic specialist, as opposed to the psyhic warrior's blend of psionics and fighting. Psions specialize in one discipline of psionics, choosing from psychometabolism, psychoportation, psychokinesis, metacreativity, clairsentience, and telepathy. Psions are weak in combat, and function similarly to sorcerers in terms of game mechanics. The key difference is that psionics uses power points, as opposed to spell slots.

I highly recommend the Psionics Handbook to anybody who likes D&D. It seems much more balanced than previous versions, so it can be integrated fairly easily into existing campaigns.

The Psionics Handbook and D&D are published by Wizards of the Coast

A Brief History of the Psion PDA

The Organiser

Created in about 1984. It had an alaphabetic keyboard (non QWERTY) and a one line LCD display. It had sliding plastic cover to protect the keyboard.

The Organiser II

An updated version of the Organiser. Typicaly it had 64k of memory and a 4 line display, although some versions had a 2 line display. Famed for being rugged they are still in use in some places for data collection. (For example within Psion I've seen them used within their repair and service depot to keep track of items)

The Series 3

Released in 1991 it was the first clam shell shaped organiser. It had 128k or 256k of memory and a full GUI which was driven by the keyboard. It had a full set of cut down office applications, such as a word processor and spreadsheet. It is also known as the 'Classic'.

The Series 3a

Launched in 1993, the 3a is a major update of the Series 3. It was made in several variants with 256k, 512k and then 1Mb and 2Mb of memory. It had a 480x160 screen and a multi-tasking operating system called SIBO.

The Series 3c

A further refinment of the 3c it came in 1Mb and 2Mb models. It also had a 57k serial port, a non-standard IR Port and, on some versions, a back light.

The Series 3mx

The last of the 3 Series range. The 3mx was released in 1998. It had a 115k serial port and came with 2Mb of memory as standard. It was discontinued in 1999.

The Series 5 'classic'

The Series 5 wasn't really much more than an overhaul of the Series 3. It was available from 1997. It had a touch screen, a new type of keyboard (real keys vs. the Series 3's rubber keys), a mutli-tasking 32bit OS and a standard IrDA port for connecting to computers and mobiles. It came with lots of software and had wireless internet access.

The Series 5mx

Released in June 1999. The 5mx had optimised software and an enhanced OS (EPOC v5). It came with 16mb of memory and had a faster processor. It also had a Java Virtual Machine (JVM) for browsing java-enabled web sites.

The Series 7

The Series 7 was launched in September 1999. It was aimed at the different market of sub-notebooks. It has a touch screen, CF and PC-Card slots and 16Mb of memory, expandable to 32Mb.

The Revo

Released in October 1999, four months after the 5mx. The Revo is similar to the 5 Series. The main differences are that it is smaller, with a lower-res screen and smaller keys. It also featured built in rechargable batteries and no CF card slots. It has 8mb of RAM and a IrDA port for browsing the internet over a mobile phone.

The Revo Plus

The Revo Plus was launched in September 2000. It is the same as the Revo except that it came with 16Mb of memory, a port of the Opera browser and a Psion WAP browser.

Parts of this are based on information from http://3lib.ukonline.co.uk/historyofpsion.htm
The majority of it, however, is based on my experience of working with Psions and having worked (briefly) for Psion.

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