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Old 05-21-2010, 01:08 AM   #1
Randolphlalonde
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Does alcohol still make sense in futuristic fiction? A question from an eBook author.

After writing several novels set in the distant future and quietly drifting from one side of this topic to the other, I'm finally asking science fiction fans: How common will alcohol be in the distant future when alternatives are becoming more and more common?

Right now there are several companies working on everything from alcohol substitutes that don't give you a hangover, to synthetic recreational substances that are designed to just barely pass FDA approval. Other interest groups are trying to legalize marijuana and still more are trying to de-popularize the use of alcohol as well as its consumption on television and film. It seems to me that within my lifetime there may be other legal recreational options, so why not in the distant future?

Battlestar Galactica call their booze Ambrosia, while Star Trek the Next Generation came up with the hangover free Synth-Ale. The reboot takes things back to basics, going as far as to use brand names like Budweiser. I'm a little surprised science fiction hasn't already diversified to be honest.

The question I ask on my web page boils down to this:

So, what do you think of social consumption of mood altering substances (besides alcohol) in science fiction?

Please add your two cents one way or the other. Your thoughts may help shape a science fiction universe once and for all on this topic.

You can find the rest of this discussion and the original article here: http://randolphlalonde.blogspot.com/...in-future.html
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Old 05-21-2010, 01:59 AM   #2
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Mama Don't Take My Alcohol A-Waaaaay!

I think I'm less disturbed by the idea of additional recreational drugs in the future than I am at the idea that you (or any author for that matter) are self-censoring your characters to eliminate the use of alcohol. Shades of Prohibition!

Alcohol, it's production, consumption, appreciation - and abuse - has been around for millennia and will be around for millennia in the future. While no one doubts that it is possible to abuse alcohol, far too many people choose to imbibe without suffering immediate or long-term negative effects. In my mind, to 'white-out' the use of alcohol is to buy into the idea that we have a 'duty' to control the exposure of our readers to what some might feel uncomfortable reading. We wouldn't want to 'offend' the prudes out there now would we?

Me, after reading the post, I have this intense desire to start building a still in my backyard (It's near midnight where I am.) in order to make a batch of 'shine.

Derek
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Old 05-21-2010, 02:29 AM   #3
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I agree. There will be alternatives but alcohol won't be going away, I think. It will always be a cheap and easy-to-produce common drug if nothing else.
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Old 05-21-2010, 02:42 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by delphidb96 View Post
I think I'm less disturbed by the idea of additional recreational drugs in the future than I am at the idea that you (or any author for that matter) are self-censoring your characters to eliminate the use of alcohol. Shades of Prohibition!

Alcohol, it's production, consumption, appreciation - and abuse - has been around for millennia and will be around for millennia in the future. While no one doubts that it is possible to abuse alcohol, far too many people choose to imbibe without suffering immediate or long-term negative effects. In my mind, to 'white-out' the use of alcohol is to buy into the idea that we have a 'duty' to control the exposure of our readers to what some might feel uncomfortable reading. We wouldn't want to 'offend' the prudes out there now would we?

Me, after reading the post, I have this intense desire to start building a still in my backyard (It's near midnight where I am.) in order to make a batch of 'shine.

Derek
Actually, I didn't censor the use of alcohol, I replaced the use of other substances WITH the use of alcohol as to keep the hyper-militant anti-drug folks away. It's the use of alcohol in fiction that these people don't have much of a problem with, even with a book series that often crosses over into the YA crowd like mine.

So, as it stand in the books now, alcohol is the substance of choice, and designer substances are what's been muted and substituted out.
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Old 05-21-2010, 03:06 AM   #5
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A long time ago the only way to get nice soft spreadable cheese was to let it "spoil" in a very specific way - for example by white mould. See Camembert.
Today we have technology to make luxurious, tasty, creamy spreadable cheese in factory by melting it and adding various Exxxx substances to it. Yet, "good old", smelly, mouldy original Camembert still sells for outrageous prices.

I think that a good wine, or a distillate of an the actual fermented fruit/honey/[insert organic product grown on distant planet here] will still be considered very appealing. And do not get me started on beer ;-)

Today we can make great photographs, we can make screens flat enough to hang on the wall, and yet people are still buying oil paintings.

A cheap gin - industrially manufactured alcohol imbibed with the aim of altering your state of perception - will be probably replaced by something else. A bioengineered drug, direct stimulation of brain, or even perhaps music (remember Dune?)

Also, consider that alcohol can be manufactured by anybody, using a few plastic bags, leftover juice, a bit of sugar, rice, grain (almost ANY food) and teeeeny bit of smuggled yeast. So if there are a dozen bored guys on a interplanetary vessel that have nothing better to do for weeks and months ... Combine that with lack of any drugs or other "forbidden", mind altering stuff on board and production of alcohol doesn't seem that far-fetched.

Just my 0.02Eur

[edit]
In my corner of the world some people [mostly prisoners, sometimes enlisted men in army] also drink extremely strong tea to get intoxicated. You would be very surprised how effective that could be.
Look up Chifir.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chifir%27

Last edited by kacir; 05-21-2010 at 03:12 AM.
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Old 05-21-2010, 07:28 AM   #6
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To be pedantic, in TNG, it was ``synthohol'', w/ Synth-Ale being a specific drink which used it.

That said, there'll be people fermenting/brewing/distilling and drinking alcohol for so long as there are people.

Now if only I could find some Syrian Panther Sweat....

William
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Old 05-21-2010, 07:58 AM   #7
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Hmmmm, assuming other substances are available in the future I suppose in a cosmopolitan setting filled with pretentious space yuppies they might go for the alternative, in the backwater wretched hive of scum and villainy? Booze.

Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to hope a space freighter to the first place that serves a good stiff drink.
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Old 05-21-2010, 10:03 AM   #8
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Quote:
Does alcohol still make sense in futuristic fiction?
It doesn't make much difference to me whether I'm reading futuristic fiction or historic novels as I always have a whisky at hand in the winter or a gin and tonic in the summer. If the characters wish to remain teetotal then that's up to them.
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Old 05-21-2010, 11:03 AM   #9
L.J. Sellers
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I suspect drugs and alcohol will always be around in some form. I'm writing a futuristic thriller now and I'm glad you brought this up. I often forget to give some of my characters these habits (because they haven't been part of my life in a long time). I'm thinking about eliminating nicotine-based cigarettes in my future world...just because.
L.J.
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Old 05-21-2010, 11:13 AM   #10
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Michael Moorcock made tobacco illegal, while marijuana was legal in _The Shores of Death_ --- Walter Jon Williams had a group of characters who smoked ``Xanadus'' which were cigarettes made w/ a blend of tobacco and marijuana in his _Voice of the Whirlwind_.

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Old 05-21-2010, 11:38 AM   #11
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Good question.

Considering alcohol has been around since prehistoric times, some date it back as far as 10,000BC, I don't see it losing any more significance in our culture. Alchol has only gotten more proflic in human dependency for this prodcut. You find it in hair products, lotion, preservatives, medical field.


But getting back to your question of human consumption. From the perceptive of just getting "wasted", there has always been alternatives to alcohol, and there will always be alternatives. But alcohol is rooted in our culture, it is cheap to product and is interweaved in products we consume as part of our culture such as wine, mead, ale, beer.

There might be variants of alcohol, or even alternatives, but culture wise, I don't see alcohol disappearing

Anyhow my two cents.
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Old 05-21-2010, 02:08 PM   #12
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I'm going to take H. Beam Pipers stand, that alcohol will be one of the things we take with us from earth when the exodus happens. That "Cocktails before dinner" will be one of the hallmarks of civilized society.

Various drugs, herbs, and pharmaceuticals will rise and fall depending on location, and whats "in" with current culture. But I don't see Alcohol ever being totally replaced.
Its too easy to make for anyone who wants to take the time to learn how. And can be made from an incredibly wide variety of fruits, grains, starch's.

All it really needs is a truly effective "morning after" pill.
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Old 05-21-2010, 03:08 PM   #13
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Alcohol is here to stay! Or it better be since I'm a huge beer snob!

But yeah, it's been around for a heck of a long time, I don't see it going anywhere. It's just became a central part of human culture.
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Old 05-21-2010, 04:08 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Randolphlalonde View Post
Actually, I didn't censor the use of alcohol, I replaced the use of other substances WITH the use of alcohol as to keep the hyper-militant anti-drug folks away. It's the use of alcohol in fiction that these people don't have much of a problem with, even with a book series that often crosses over into the YA crowd like mine.

So, as it stand in the books now, alcohol is the substance of choice, and designer substances are what's been muted and substituted out.
IOW, you self-censor to avoid criticism from narrow-minded prudes. If one of your characters needs to jack out with heroin, let him jack out. If another is addicted to crystal meth, then we need to read that he's hyper without his latest hit.

Derek
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Old 05-21-2010, 06:12 PM   #15
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While science fiction stories may be set in the future, they're written in the present, and there's no getting away from that. When I see a majority of characters people smoking centuries from now, I know the story was probably written decades ago. While I think social drinking is more likely to be common than widespread smoking in societies descended from ours, what people will be drinking is up for grabs, and whatever you decide is likely to seem dated decades hence. Unless it's structurally important to the plot, is there any need to make it specific exactly what people are drinking, if such is even included? After all, humans go to the bathroom several times a day, but it's the rare story that makes a point of noting each occasion.
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