This is a kind of old piece of writing of mine that somehow hadn’t seen the light of day, so I’m fixing that.
Three years or so ago, a bunch of prolific freelance writers that had worked together in the Cracked forums got together to form a publishing company called Wordplague. For some reason they let me play along. A book for charity was published (that I illustrated rather than wrote for, still worth checking out), with plans for several others. Then shit went sour in a ton of irreconcilable ways and the whole thing crumbled to pieces.
Old news, bummer news, anyway this is one of my unpublished pieces from that project:
12 Infamous Sci-Fi Drugs (Rated By Likeliness I’d Have Consumed Them As A Teenager).
Part of the fun of losing yourself in a good sci-fi narrative is reading fantastic accounts of what people of the future do to entertain themselves. Invariably in the realms of cyberpunk and dystopia, this will include descriptions of drugs of the future. Sometimes these descriptions are embarrassing, some are kind of hamfisted attempts at social commentary, and some are just completely out there. With that in mind, I propose this list, presented in order of increasing desirability, of the sci-fi drugs I would have likely experimented with had they been available.
12) Substance D – A Scanner Darkly
I came of age in the mid-to-late 1990s during the time of heroin chic. Interestingly enough, A Scanner Darkly takes place in roughly the same time period. It’s not entirely unreasonable to think, had I lived in that universe, that I’d have seen Ewan McGregor and John Travolta on the big screen dropping a couple of caps of Slow Death before looking at trains or accidentally shooting that guy who played the twitchy UPS guy on MadTV in the face, respectively. It’s also not unreasonable to think that I would have probably tried Substance D once as a poorly-conceived romantic notion.
That said, it’s disconcerting that the book hardly mentions the effects in a pleasurable context, and speaks mostly of the horrible, debilitating side effects. Makes it kind of a hard sell. Also, it seems a prohibitively expensive habit. Not to mention the negative effects on your sex drive. Can’t imagine making a habit of it, but I’d have tried to see what the fuss was about.
11) Glitterstim – Star Wars
Though never mentioned in the movie; this drug was part of the infamous shipment Han Solo was smuggling for Jabba The Hut that he had to jettison; thus getting himself on the gangster’s shit list. Who wouldn’t try this? I mean, with celebrity endorsements like Han Solo himself and that weird dome-headed hyper-clarinet player at Mos Eisley, as well as rumors of telepathic enhancement… sounds like a fun party drug around the right crowd. However, the fact that I’d have to make a conscious effort to not think about the fact that it’s produced by a species of giant, cave-dwelling spiders is a large reason this appears so low on this list. Because seriously, fuck spiders. Especially giant, cave-dwelling ones. That and, again, the price.
You could say I’m a cheap bastard when it comes to drugs, but my concerns are more pragmatic. Basically, the more expensive the drug, the higher likelihood you have to deal with serious criminals to get it. There’s a huge difference between dealing with a misdemeanor drug dealer and a felony drug dealer, if you get my drift. And the less chance I have to make deals with, say, Jabba The Hut to have a good time, the better time I’m gonna have. Also, fuck spiders.
10) Droud – Death By Ecstacy
Okay, first of all there’s this:
“A small black cylinder protruded from the top of his head. An electric cord trailed from the top of the cylinder and ran to a wall socket.”- Death By Ecstacy, Larry Niven
We’ve got to stop right there. The plug’s at the top of the head? Yeah, not happening. Maybe augmented with a cute wig, having an actual braided extension cord in the mix could look pretty sweet. But otherwise, it’d just be an expensive operation that would seriously limit your fashion options.
To be fair, I’m sure concerns about never getting to wear a dapper hat or having to shape a chic post-punk hairdo around a metal implant on your head would probably take a back seat as you starve to death, sustained only on electrically stimulated bliss. All I’m saying is I’d have probably held out for the wireless Tasp model, if at all.
9) Vraxoin – Dr. Who
There’s a wide array of narcotics available in the land of the Tardis, including marvels like Spectrox, which actually extends your life. However, this essay isn’t about practicality, it’s about me being a teenager and wanting to get fucked up. So I’m going with Vraxoin: the ketamine of the Dr. Who universe. Getting wobbly and spaced out for an evening only to get right surely and pissed off as I’m forced to return to reality wouldn’t be much different from the way I spent much of my late teens and 20s anyway.
8/7) Can-D and Chew – ZThe Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch
Approaching the middle of the list, these two hallucinogens are interchangeable, depending on mood. Can-D allows you any friends you decide to invite along to join in a shared hallucination, augmented by dolls and dollhouses you’ve collected and meticulously arranged. While you’re under the influence you live out what amounts to a real-life version of The SIMS. On drugs. Of course were I to do so, besides Perky Pat, her boyfriend and their late-60s chic wardrobe, I’d be tempted to include Optimus Prime and a couple of Thundercats. Because awesome.
Chew-Z, on the other hand, sends you to someplace else, able to travel as you wish across both time and space. You could spend personal eternities in this other place before being deposited in the real world, minutes after you embarked. You’re allowed to revisit your past, to relive your best moments and correct your worst regrets, all at the expense of widening the rift that allows Palmer Eldritch to manifest in this universe. So, it really depends on how much you give a shit about that. I’d have to say as a snotty teenager, I might wind up making some pretty shady rationalizations about the latter to experience the former. To tell the truth, at an age where I’ve accumulated even more regrets and glories, I can’t say I wouldn’t still take the risk now.
6) Soma – Brave New World
Despite being an opiate, Soma ranks high on the list for one reason and one reason only: it’s guaranteed hangover-free. You can’t really beat that. Also, it’s the first on this list that not only does not depress your sexual function, but by most accounts augments it. So, you know, bonus. Never really been much of an orgy person, but having Soma available when I was a teenager might have changed that. Plus, you have the option of consuming it with coffee or ice cream, and who doesn’t want a little extra kick in their latte? I’d have gladly brave a manipulative, corrupt society in order to get the chance at taking a couple of tabs; especially considering the manipulative, corrupt society I deal with here everyday anyway, sober.
5) Red Eye/Bloody Eye – Cowboy Bebop
This is the last entry on the list that is neither a hallucinogen or type of booze. And yes, this one comes from an anime universe. Shut up.
In any case, Red Eye is a compound applied directly to the eyes that speeds up reception. It causes the user to perceive that everything them is going in slow motion, giving you more than ample time to react to anything coming your way. Considering I was in my 20s by the time The Matrix came out, it would have been kinda funny to watch it and be able to say to myself “I’ve done that,” based on my teenage adventures on Bloody Eye. I mean, I probably wouldn’t be weaving in and out of a hail of bullets or something, but damn you could rock at skateboarding, or video games. Totally shred at guitar. The possibilities for fun would be endless.
4) AUM – Illuminatus! Trilogy
At different times in the series AUM is used as a weapon, a prank, an experiment, and as a tool for enlightenment, so I could definitely see myself using this. Given my propensity to take virtual vacations, immersing myself in reality-tunnels different than my own and attempting to understand the subsequent motivations; I doubt people would be able to tell the difference between the way I act normally and me enjoying the benefits of this drug.
3) Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster – Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy Series
“Take the juice from one bottle of that Ol’ Janx Spirit.
Pour into it one measure of water from the seas of Santraginus V
Allow three cubes of Arcturan Mega-gin to melt into the mixture (it must be properly iced or the benzene is lost).
Allow four litres of Fallian marsh gas to bubble through it (in memory of all those happy Hikers who have died of pleasure in the Marshes of Fallia).
Over the back of a silver spoon float a measure of Qualactin Hypermint extract, redolent of all the heady odours of the dark Qualactin Zones.
Drop in the tooth of an Algolian Suntiger. Watch it dissolve, spreading the fires of the Algolian suns deep into the heart of the drink.
Add an olive.
Drink…but very carefully.”
This, of course, would have been more for bragging rights than anything else. Never was able to back down from a booze-based challenge and you have to admit, that’s one hell of a recipe.
2) Merge – Wetware
A high powered hallucinogen that allowed sexual partners to merge together pleasurably into a single entity for the duration? Yes, please.
1) Melange – Dune
C’mon now. Did anyone not expect this to be number one? Okay sure, there’s the whole “withdrawal = death” thing. There’s the whole “I huffed too much of the aerosol form and now I’m some sort of giant tadpole in a David Lynch movie, and not even one of the good ones” thing. Also, I’m rather partial to having hazel eyes and the blue on blue look isn’t really going to work for me.
But still, this is one very impressive drug. One, it’s tasty. Two, it extends your lifespan and tosses in greater vitality as a free gift. Three, it ramps up your cognitive functions. Four, telepathy. Know of any other drug that guarantees you’ll be able to eavesdrop on other peoples’ thoughts? Didn’t think so. Five, you can predict the future. Six, you wind up riding giant sandworms. Seven, your name is a killing word. All that on top of getting you fucked up. Do I need to go on?
I mean, when your choice of drug has a side effect of messiah, it’s gonna be hard to Just Say No. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to call my sponsor.