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"I don't know why I write science fiction. The voices in my head told me to!"
- Charles Stross

Magnet Grapnel  
  Used to pull another vessel closer when boarding in space.  

If you don't have a tractor beam, this is a doable alternative.

The big battle sphere was drawing close alongside. Magnet grapnels shot across the narrow space between the two craft and gripped the side of the freighter, followed by the cable bridge along which the boarding party presently came wavering their way to the air-lock of the freighter.
From The Space Rover, by Edwin K. Sloat.
Published by Astounding Stories in 1932
Additional resources -

Compare to the MagnaPoon from Neal Stephenson's 1992 novel Snow Crash.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Space Rover
  More Ideas and Technology by Edwin K. Sloat
  Tech news articles related to The Space Rover
  Tech news articles related to works by Edwin K. Sloat

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