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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
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2014 Reads > DADOES: Drugs in Sci-Fi

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message 1: by Alex (last edited Oct 30, 2014 12:42AM) (new) - added it

Alex (asato) Do these 60s SF guys like their drugs or what? Farenheit 451 has mood-altering drugs. Oh well, even before that there's soma.


message 2: by David (new)

David (dbigwood) And Dune has the spice drug. Alice has the drink and cake to change sizes, so it does go back a ways. Confessions of an English Opium Eater and Kubla Khan involve drugs quite some time back.

I think in more recent stories, cyberpunk for instance, human-machine interaction fills the place of drugs.


Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Seems like an appropriate choice for a podcast where the hosts begin every episode by saying what drug they're using while recording.


message 4: by Alex (new) - added it

Alex (asato) David wrote: I think in more recent stories, cyberpunk for instance, human-machine interaction fills the place of drugs.


That's a pretty interesting observation, but Case still uses drugs and it's not like he breaks his habit at the end.

However, in all the cited cases, I wouldn't say that drug use is looked upon in a terribly positive light.


message 5: by Matt (last edited Oct 31, 2014 04:21AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Matt Chapman | 1 comments Mood-altering drugs are definitely still a thing in SF. Doctor Who had most of a future city's population using a 'Bliss' drug in Gridlock (aired in 2007).

It's not really surprising it's such a popular trope, as the scenario is so believable; we will probably have this as a real dilemma in the not-too-distant-future. You have the choice of always feeling great, with no side-effects- what is the counter-argument? Perhaps you don't want to lose 'what it is to be human'; but this would be an increasingly muddled concept as more and more people take on the new drug.


message 6: by Sky (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sky | 665 comments Alex wrote: "Do these 60s SF guys like their drugs or what? Farenheit 451 has mood-altering drugs. Oh well, even before that there's soma."

And doesn't current America love theirs? Seems like the the vision of the 60's sci-fi writers has come true when half the population is already on SSRIs like prozac, paxil, celexa, zoloft, ..., anti-anxiety medication like benzos, xanax... AFAIK these didn't come out until the late 80's, early 90's. In the 50s/60s most people were doing psychedelics and amphetamines. The licit amphetamines are as popular but have been re-branded as ADHD medication. Don't get me going on back-door legalization for the franchised ;)


message 7: by David (new)

David (dbigwood) One of my favorite Star Trek episodes involves a video game beamed directly to the eye that was on the sly using subliminal suggestion to take over the crew. In the old days it may have been a drug added to the sugar. If I remember right, Cybermen tried that in their attack on the Moon during the run of the 2nd Doctor. The video game was more subtle and creepier, it was addictive and was more specific.


Joe Informatico (joeinformatico) | 888 comments Drugs are all over cyberpunk. That genre took off as the War on Drugs became a major social issue. Cyberpunk 2020: The Roleplaying Game of the Dark Future had a whole chapter devoted to rules on making and taking them.

Even James S.A. Corey has them: there's all the pharma the crash couches of spacecraft inject into passengers when pulling heavy G-forces, and the Gods of Risk novella is all about the future version of a meth-baking operation on Mars.

It's a recurring theme in Dick's work though, because he was a heavy recreational drug user. E.g., A Scanner Darkly is drawn from his personal experiences, and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch makes a metaphor between drug use and religious ritual/spirituality--well, that's my interpretation, anyway.


message 9: by Alex (new) - added it

Alex (asato) Matt wrote: "It's not really surprising it's such a popular trope, as the scenario is so believable; we will probably have this as a real dilemma in the not-too-distant-future. You have the choice of always feeling great, with no side-effects- what is the counter-argument? Perhaps you don't want to lose 'what it is to be human'; but this would be an increasingly muddled concept as more and more people take on the new drug.

that's a pretty wild idea. what would happen if everyone took this 'happy' drug that had no side-effects? then you'd want to get terribly depressed? is that how being human would get muddled? but that is the human condition--w/o being sad, how would you know what it is to be happy?


John (Nevets) Nevets (nevets) | 1556 comments I know based on the group context I should have gotten it earlier, but based on the title and first post, I thought this was talking about drug use in San Francisco, not Sci Fi.


Joanna Chaplin | 1175 comments I think it's interesting that in the first chapter, the one character seems to reject the idea that dialing up a mood to avoid feeling things is good, only to dial up an equally artificial depressive spat. As a person with a borderline depressive history myself, the idea of doing that to myself on purpose seems idiotic to the point of being suicidal. I can see the appeal of dialing up some optimism, though.


message 12: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 3964 comments We now have Prozac, in use by many people. And drugs that manage manic/depressive conditions that leave some people feeling that they'd rather have the disease than the cure. We have by chemicals what Dick suggested we'd have by machine.


message 13: by Nick (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nick (whyzen) | 1295 comments Well I thought the motto of the 50's through the 80's was "Better living through chemistry". A lot of early SciFi thought that we'd be at the point of "dial-a-mood" by now with pharmaceuticals. And as others have pointed out earlier in this thread it really is almost a reality. One of the Dean Koontz (yes I've read some Koontz, please don't judge) novels is about a company that puts drugs in the water to control a town. While there are some interesting ideas with this in other novels, it feels that by this time in science fiction that PKD was putting it in as part of a check list of the things you are supposed to have in a science fiction novel ( assuming what I've read so far in the book holds through the rest of the novel).


message 14: by kvon (new)

kvon | 562 comments Fact check, benzos like Valium came out in the 60s ('mother's little helper'); Prozac and the SSRIs came out early 90s. Per the CDC, 11% of Americans were on an SSRI in the mid 00's.

SF usually is reflecting the society it's written in more than any actual future.


message 15: by Sky (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sky | 665 comments And benzos replaced barbituates which replaced opiates...Substance use/misuse is nothing new, and granted I wasn't alive in the 60s, but I do think the pervasiveness of these medications in the media has increased dramatically since that time, with saturday morning cartoon commercials like

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twhvt...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGymr...

I like your statement that SF is written to reflect the society is written in more than the actual future.


message 16: by Buzz (new) - rated it 5 stars

Buzz Park (buzzpark) | 345 comments It's true that there seems to be a lot of drugs in these 50's and 60's SciFi books. Definitely Fahrenheit 451 as mentioned earlier. Wasn't there also drug use in The Demolished Man?

Regardless, that generation of SciFi definitely tends towards the psychedelic. Maybe it's because all the authors were TAKING drugs while writing these books. :-)


message 17: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 3964 comments We could go back to Soma in Brave New World. I'm not sure there is anything different about this particular period.


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