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"I suspect that religion is a necessary evil in the childhood of our particular species. And that's one of the interesting things about contact with other intelligences: we could see what role, if any, religion plays in their development."
- Arthur C. Clarke

Hawking Mat  
  About two meters long and one meter wide, made of shielded monofilaments, with a bright textile design - okay, it's a flying carpet.  

Pure fun. This is a great treatment of an ingenious idea - a technological implementation of a pure fantasy. The mats are used to great effect in the novel, neatly coinciding with the themes of carefree youth explored.

It had been more than a century since old Vladimir Sholokov... had handcrafted the first hawking mat for his beautiful young niece on New Earth... Over the decades the toys had become almost absurdly popular - more so with rich adults than with children - until they were outlawed on most Hegemony worlds. Dangerous to handle, a waste of shielded monofilaments, almost impossible to deal with in controlled airspace, hawking mats had become curiosities reserved for bedtime stories, museums, and a few colony worlds.

"...The old dealer in Carvnel Marketplace thought it was worthless. It was... for him. I brought it back to the ship, charged it up, reprogrammed the inertia chips and voila!." Mike palmed the intricate design and the mat stiffened and rose fifteen centimeters...

I crawled on the hovering hawking mat behind Mike. He stuffed the backpack between us, told me to hang on, and tapped at the flight designs.

From Hyperion, by Dan Simmons.
Published by Doubleday in 1989
Additional resources -

In a particularly nice touch, the controls for a Hawking mat are actually part of the design of the "carpet."

Here's what it feels like to fly on one:

"Hang on, I'm going to take control." The hawking mat lurched again, dipped once and then fell steadily. I held on with both hands and resisted the urge to scream...

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Hyperion
  More Ideas and Technology by Dan Simmons
  Tech news articles related to Hyperion
  Tech news articles related to works by Dan Simmons

Hawking Mat-related news articles:
  - Princeton's Magic Carpet

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