Science Fiction Dictionary
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

 

Fictional Foodstuffs: The Snacks Of Science Fiction

A recent paper by Jean P. Retzinger titled Speculative visions and imaginary meals: Food and the environment in (post-apocalyptic) science fiction films (published in Cultural Studies) has gotten me thinking about science-fictional food. Helpful Pasta&Vinegar has offered three short quotes (under the "fair use appetizer" clause, no doubt).

Unfortunately, this essay costs serious money to download (I could easily purchase take-out for the family with that much cash), so I decided to prepare my own article out of the ingredients at hand in my own little database.

Here's the first excerpt:

"Familiar foods serve as an anchor in an altered world (evoking both nostalgia and parody), whereas unfamiliar food may become one of the clearest measures of how far we have journeyed from the present."

No one went further for food than Lazarus Long and the Howard Families. In Heinlein's Methuselah's Children, mysterious aliens offer genetically modified plants with incongruously familiar flavors:

Lazarus was exploring alone some distance from the camp. He came across one of the Little People; the native greeted him .. and led Lazarus to a grove of low trees still farther from base. He indicated to Lazarus that he wanted him to eat.

Lazarus was not particularly hungry but he felt compelled to humor such friendliness, so he plucked and ate.

He almost choked in his astonishment. Mashed potatoes and brown gravy!

". . . didn't we get it right? - . ." came an anxious thought.

"Bub," Lazarus said solemnly, "I don't know what you planned to do, but this is just fine!"
(Read more about genetically modified food)

And nothing demonstrates tongue-in-cheek "unfamiliar food" better than this image from Galaxy Quest, in which the eager-beaver engineers of Thermia have created foodstuffs for the different crew members based on the "historical documents," which turn out to be episodes of a television show.


("Are you enjoying your Kep-mok blood ticks, Dr. Lazarus?")

Here's another bit from Retzinger's article:

In nearly every instance where food is prepared, shared, and eaten in science fiction films, it aids in what Vivian Sobchack (1988) describes as science fiction’s central theme: a ‘poetic mapping of social relations as they are created and changed by new technological modes of ‘‘being-in-the-world’’ ’

Douglas Adams remaps corporate-wise with the Nutri-Matic:

He had found a Nutri-Matic machine which had provided him with a plastic cup filled with a liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. The way it functioned was very interesting. When the Drink button was pressed it made an instant but highly detailed examination of the subject's taste buds, a spectroscopic examination of the subject's metabolism and then sent tiny experimental signals down the neural pathways to the taste centers of the subject's brain to see what was likely to go down well.
(Read more about Adam's Nutri-Matic)

Fans of course recall that the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation, which manufactures the Nutri-Matic, has a complaint department which "now covers all the major landmasses of the first three planets in the Sirus Tau Star system."

Here's a radical remapping of social relationships:


(Soylent Green wafers from Soylent Green)

The last of the Retzinger vintage:

"The presence of food at the critical junctures in which the familiar and the strange, the past, present, and future all collide lends materiality to the answers being worked out on screen. (…) Science fiction food scenes help obscure, expose, perpetuate, and challenge the divisions of culture and nature. “

I'm not entirely sure what this passage means; however, I think it would go down better with a nice glass of cold, blue milk from the original Star Wars film.


(Bantha Milk from the original Star Wars film)

The only conclusions that I can draw from looking at my Food in Science Fiction section is that 1) sf fans are a carnivorous bunch who would frankly prefer to grow their own protein. ChickieNobs (Atwood, 2003), Pseudoflesh (Herbert, 1969), Carniculture Factories (Piper, 1961) and Butcher Plants (Simak, 1961) - it's a long list.

And 2) convenience is very important, viz. Automated Restaurants (Burroughs, 1912), Autonomic Food-Processing (Dick, 1964), Food Brick dispensers (Niven, 1970), Synthetic Food Dispensers (Campbell, 1934) and more.


(Star Trek food synthesizer)

I'm curious if readers have any favorite sfnal foods - let me know.

Thanks to Pasta&Vinegar for bringing Retzinger's SPECULATIVE VISIONS AND IMAGINARY MEALS to our attention; see also the news articles in Food in Science Fiction for current efforts at sfnal food in the real world outside your local theater and bookshop.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 9/30/2008)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 3 )

Related News Stories - (" Food ")

Can We Grow Crops On Mars?
Does Martian soil require remediation?

Rich (and Regular) People Should Stop Eating Meat, Says Bill Gates
'You can get used to the taste difference.' - Bill Gates, 2021.

Autonomous Russian Greenhouse For ISS Wheat
'We saw the gardens, flooded with artificial sunlight, planted with everything imaginable, that supplied the necessary food.' - Harley S Aldinger, 1932.

OK, NASA 3D Printer Of Food Not Yet Star Trek Food Synthesizer
Maybe not, but we're seeing definite progress.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Timeline
1600-1899
1900-1939
1940's   1950's
1960's   1970's
1980's   1990's
2000's   2010's

Current News

Monarch Tractor - It's Electric, Autonomous and Smart
'Driver-optional' and follows gestures.

'Seabreeze' Apple And UCLA Project To Beat Depression
'It's illegal to hold back information during a psyche test,' the machine said peevishly.'

Hovermap By Emesent Autonomous Mapping Works Indoors - and Out
Perfect for exploring ancient artifacts on distant planets.

Sono Motor's Sion Sun-Powered Car
'...six square yards of sunpower screens on its low curved roof.'

LEONARDO Robot Has Legs And Thrusters, Can Skateboard, Slackline
'a walking balloon proceeded with long strides of its aluminum legs over a slant of steep upland.'

Xavier Robots On Patrol For 'Anti-Social Behavior'
'This was as close as a robot could get to a cop in uniform.'

Rotating House in Bosnia
'... feel free to turn the house on your own.'

Ingenious Engineer Creates DIY Feeding Robot
'Waldo flexed and extended his fingers gently; the two pairs of waldoes in the screen followed in exact, simultaneous parallelism.'

SpaceX Creates 'Tholian Web' Mega Constellation Of Satellites
'We shall not see home again!'

Do Smart Glasses Need Forward-Facing Cameras?
'They were stylish, with yellow-tinted lenses and hip frames, but the posts were unusually thick.'

Adorable One-Seater Electric Car From Wuxi Sinotech
'Noiselessly, on rubber-tired wheels, they journeyed...'

Zoom Adds Real-Time, Live Translation
'He immediately turned the small shining disc of the Language Rectifier..'

It's Spacewalk Sunday, Thanks To The ESA
'The delicious, indescribable pleasure of being a little planet swinging through space...'

Pengxing Intelligent Robot Horse You Can Ride
'The horse reared up, pawing the air, then sprang into a gallop.'

Tesla Bot Humanoid 'Robot' Vs. Boston Dynamics Atlas Parkour Robot
'...most jobs that require a human form are better done by those organic alternatives.'

Altos Labs' Bezos Wants An Anti-Agathic (To Live Forever)
'So what we're looking for now is... an anti-agathic, an anti-death drug.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.