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"It's hard to tell stories about critters that are not human. John W. Campbell tried it, in "Twilight," and everybody says it's a wonderful story, and nobody ever reads it twice."
- Jerry Pournelle

Force-Field Penknife  
  A pocket-sized knife, the blade of which is a force-field.  

In this part in the story, the Traders are trying to get their goods into "closed" planets; that is, planets whose rulers are suspicious of technology that is backed by the Foundation.

Gorov shrugged. "...The point is that they will not innovate and their internal economy is entirely non-nuclear. That is what we must change."

"How were you going to do it?"

"By breaking the resistance at one point. To put it simply, if I could sell a penknife with a force-field blade to a nobleman, it would be to his interest to force laws that would allow him to use it. Put that baldly, it sounds silly, but it is sound, psychologically. To make strategic sales, at strategic points, would be to create a pro-nucleics faction at court."

From Foundation, by Isaac Asimov.
Published by Doubleday in 1951
Additional resources -

This item is interesting not just because a force-field "blade" could never bend back and cut your fingers. The force-field penknife is arguably the first reference to a cutting blade made of energy; it may be the inspiration for the lightsaber of Star Wars fame. The planet Coruscant, the central planet for the Empire, was certainly inspired by Trantor, the center of government in the first Foundation book. So Lucas had read the book.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Foundation
  More Ideas and Technology by Isaac Asimov
  Tech news articles related to Foundation
  Tech news articles related to works by Isaac Asimov

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