Andy Weir (author of The Martian) on why Stun-Settings on weapons would be cooler than lightsabers
“The absolute best technology in sci-fi is arguably the most mundane concept in the genre’s arsenal: stunners.
From Star Trek’s “phasers on stun” to that one (and only one) time in Star Wars when the stormtroopers used a stun setting to subdue Princess Leah, stunners are such a staple of science fiction that no one even questions them. As a literary device, they allow the protagonists to get into gunfights without being mass murderers. But if stunners existed in real life, they would change the world.
And don’t talk to me about tasers. Those are one-shot, very close-range weapons that can do long-term physical harm. I’m talking about fictional stunners, which are as effective at range as handguns, and render the target unconscious without hurting them.
We could all just carry them around. They’re not like real guns. If someone gets mad or loses their temper, worst that happens is someone gets harmlessly knocked out. But if somebody tries to rob a bank, everyone stuns him. If somebody decides to go on a killing spree, everyone stuns him.
What’s that? There’s a hostage situation? The police come and stun everyone. Riot? Stun everyone. Worried about the new stun powers turning your country into a police state? Well, you outnumber the police and you all have stunners. Whatever your political leanings, stunners downgrade potential conflicts to a non-lethal arena.
Even criminals would get in on the action. There’s no longer any need to threaten the life of the 7-11 clerk. Just stun him and take the cash drawer. No one has to die. Of course, the clerk will probably have a stunner, too, so there’s a 50-50 chance you’ll just wake up in jail.
If there was an area-of-effect version (why wouldn’t there be?) the military could deal with conflicts in civilian areas much better. “Sorry we knocked you out. There were terrorists on your roof so we blitzed the whole block to be safe. Here’s your hat, it fell off when you laid down. Have a nice day.
Yeah. You can keep flying cars and lightsabers. I’ll take stunners.”