"Does it open a new horizon for my thinking? Does it lead me to think new kinds of thoughts, that I would not otherwise perhaps have thought at all? These qualities are what [make] science fiction ...unique."
- Frederik Pohl
||A small, hovering device that hounds debtors.
Note that in the following quote the word "tropic" is pronounced with a long "o" and derives from the Greek root word tropos for "turns".
|A creditor balloon.
"Oh, there you are!" the balloon piped at the amorphous mass of living tissue confronting Rachmael; it descended, tropic to the eye-eating creature. Obviously, it had located its target.
"Ugh," the eye-eater mumbled in disgust; with its pseudopodia it batted irritably at the invader.
"You must keep your credit standing up and in good repute!" the balloon squealed as it bobbed and descended...
"As a matter of fact..." it drifted very slowly toward Rachmael. "I think I personally hounded you not too long ago, sir. You are -" It considered as, within, electronic circuits linked to its agency's central computer banks. "ben Applebaum!" it shrilled in triumph. "Zounds! I've caught two deadbeats AT THE SAME TIME!"
|From Lies, Inc.,
by Philip K. Dick.
Published by Fantastic in 1964
Additional resources -
Earlier in the novel, Rachmael ben Applebaum is described as "A man pursued by those monster creditor balloons that bellow all your personal defects and secrets."
Over Rachmael ben Applebaum's head floated a creditor jet-balloon, and from within its articulation-circuit a flat but handsome, masculine-artificial, however-voice boomed, magnified so that not only Rachmael but everyone else crowding the ped-runnels heard it. The amplification was designed this way; you were singled out and simultaneously exposed; public ridicule, the jeers of the always-present crowds, was brought into play as a force working at you . . . and, Rachmael reflected, for the creditor, free.
"Mr. Applebaum!" The hearty, rich but machine-sponsored voice echoed, rolled and boomed, and a thousand human heads rotated in expectation, glanced up with amused interest, saw the creditor jet-balloon and spied also its target: Rachmael ben Applebaum trying to get from the parking lot where he had left his flapple and into the offices of Lies Incorporated, a distance of only two thousand yards-but enough to make him visible so as to become the creditor balloon's target.
"Okay," Rachmael grated, and strode on, not breaking gait; he made for the fluoron-illuminated entrance of the private police agency and did not look up; he pretended-as if this were possible-to ignore a sight which, in the last three years, he had learned to know fully.
"Mr. Applebaum," the balloon boomed. "As of this Wednesday, November 8, 2014, you owe, as inheritor of your late father's assets and debts, the sum of four million poscreds to Trails of Hoffman Limited, a major backer in your late father's-"
"Okay!" Rachmael said violently, halting, peering up in futile anguish . . . the desire to puncture, deflate and bring down the balloon was overwhelming-yet what could he do? By UN ordinance, a creditor could hire such harassment; this was legal.
And the grinning crowd knew it. Saw in this for them a brief but amusing ent-show: entertainment. However, he did not blame them; it was not their fault because they had over the years been trained this way. All the info and edu media, controlled by the "disinterested" UN public affairs bureaus, had tinkered with this facet of modern man's complex character: his ability to enjoy the suffering of someone else whom he did not even know.
"I cannot," Rachmael said, "pay. And you know it." Above, the jet-balloon heard; it had exceeding marvelous aud receptors. But it did not believe him or care if what he said was true; its job was to hound him, not to seek the truth. Standing on the runnel as it automatically carried him along, Rachmael said, as reasonably as possible, "At present I have no funds, because continuously up to now, one by one, I've paid off as many of Applebaum Enterprise's creditors as I can."
Tauntingly, the mechanical voice from above boomed, "At three sigs on the poscred. Some settling of accounts."
Rachmael said, "Give me time."
Dick was fascinated by the idea of robotic devices that somehow were able to home in on human beings; see this description of the homotropic news vending machine from his 1963 novel The Game Players of Titan.
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