By Miss Cellania
Contributing Writer, [GAS]
Keith Hendershot wrote Better than Drugs: Nine Spiny Ideas for the html times. The article is a detailed list of some jumping-off points that he hints someone should take off with and write a science fiction story about. There are some good ideas, and I don’t know if any of them have been done already or not. See, I have a confession to make. I don’t read science fiction. I don’t read fiction at all anymore. Somewhere in my forties, I noticed that I hadn’t read any fiction in quite some time. Sure, I read plenty of books, magazines, newspapers, and a ton of web content, but it’s all nonfiction. And I have barely started watching TV again just this past year. So I’m no authority on science fiction. But that’s not what grabbed me about Hendershot’s article. It’s the sex, drugs, and great literary experience.
This quote from the article is what stayed with me:
This is sort of why I like science fiction–it angles toward the drug kick rather than the sex kick. After all, sex can be a lot like reading a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novel–essential, immediate, and a little bit too below the neck for me enjoy it as much as I should. I’m a cerebral guy by default; the purpose of reading is often to leave my head; not mull in it. Sex and American pastorals aren’t escapist activities. I can only be enthralled by the antique verities of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawphans or moved by the Oedipal omnipotence of Great American Literature for so long before I feel pinned like J. Alfred Prufrock to the reflection of my own inadequate life measured in coffee spoons.
Now, tell me a book is like taking drugs and you’ll have an impulse buy. Years after dropping my last hit of acid, I still want something that twists my head out of it’s three-dimensional box. I want eyeball kicks, cerebral fireworks, paradigm shifts wrapping around other paradigm shifts, and a galaxy of self-transforming jeweled basketballs pounding along sheets of ice.
Listen: do we really want to change the standard description of something wonderful from “better than sex” to “better than drugs”? I’m no authority on science fiction, but since I am one of the dreaded Baby Boomers, let’s assume that I’ve had more experience with sex and drugs than most of the readers of this site. Both make you feel good, take you to a different place, and make you crave more. Then the differences start. Sex can be used for either good or evil. The same can be said for drugs, except the legal use of drugs for medicinal reasons will not get you high enough to make you want more. Drug use for most people is something they do a little when they’re young. Then they give it up for various reasons, they are expensive, take up your valuable time, cut into your responsibilities as a parent or at your job, or they make you sick. You can’t say that of sex. No one gives up sex on purpose, except as a sacrifice for religious reasons. Just about everyone who gives up sex temporarily (because of the loss of a partner or something) will take it up again as soon as the opportunity presents itself. The pharmaceutical companies are making a ton of money on elderly people who want the ability to engage in such activities back. That’s where sex and drugs intersect, but the end goal is sex, not a high.
A quick Google search brings up 35 million results for “better than drugs”, while entering “better than sex” brings up 948 million. So far, “better than sex” is the winner, and I think it should stay that way. That said, good science fiction will always be good, no matter how you describe it.