"[Science fiction] has become big business, where books are merchandised and promoted and distributed and placed on sale like slabs of bacon or cans of soup."
I'm assuming that Niven and Pournelle got this idea from NASA's minimalist Personal Rescue Enclosure:
The ball was 36 inches (86 cm) in diameter and had a volume of 0.33 cubic meters. The structure was comprised of three fabric layers and incorporated a window and a zipper to allow the astronaut to enter and exit the ball. The ball enabled one crew member to curl up inside and don an oxygen mask and hold a carbon dioxide scrubber/oxygen supply device with one hour worth of oxygen.
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'...a sound tape to supply the noise of a soi-disant "[internal combustion]" engine...'
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'You said you wanted him to be able to distinguish between laugh-power in different gags...'
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'With one fluid motion, it surged forward, plunged, and was gone.'
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