"the [science fiction] writer should be able to convince the reader (and himself) that the wonders he is describing really can come true...and that gets tricky when you take a good, hard look at the world around you."
Okay, tell the truth: when you first watched Star Wars, did you carefully scrutinize the area underneath the landspeeder? It looked distorted, like heat waves on a hot pavement.
This device is one of the simple ways (although it wasn't so simple to film in those pre-CGI days) that Lucas establishes that you really are in a galaxy far, far away.
(Model landspeeder from Star Wars movie parked in suburbia)
If you are interested in the subject of hovercraft, be sure to see the entry for hovercraft from Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson. He didn't invent hovercraft, but he did make them look cool.
Finally, check out the original idea for this kind of craft - the flitter from 'Doc Smith's 1941 story Vortex Blaster.
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'My cars talk to one another.'
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'Across the ground something small and metallic came, flashing in the dull sunlight of midday.'
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