On a literary trip

The Guardian books blog has a fantastic short piece on fictional mind-bending drugs from literature, stretching from the nightmare-inducing hallucinogens of William Burroughs to Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster from Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy.

The most famous invented drug is probably soma in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. It was an integral part of the story because it was an integral part of the authorities’ control mechanism ‚Äì they were literally keeping the people doped up and happy. Sounds alright to me: a permanent state of blissed-out semi-catatonia. In fact, given my choice of fictional narcotics, soma would probably be first.

Nor would I mind sampling some melange/spice from Frank Herbert’s Dune (long life, heightened awareness and possible extrasensory properties, cool blue eyeballs); septus from Iain Banks’s Transition (the ability to flit between parallel worlds and inhabit others’ bodies); Dylar from Don DeLillo’s White Noise (no more fear of death); the various hallucinogens drunk with the old moloko in A Clockwork Orange (a nice quiet horrorshow starring Bog and all his angels); Can-D in Philip K Dick’s The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (allows you to participate in a group hallucination). I also quite like the sound of the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster in Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, described as “like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick”. Well, it beats aspirin and sniffing exhaust pipes.

However, it misses out one of the most wonderful examples: the feathers from Jeff Noon’s Vurt and Pollen novels that produce shared hallucinations that are a cross between Jung’s collective unconscious and the internet.

Link to ‘Literature’s most mind-blowing drugs’.

3 Comments

  1. lerandia
    Posted February 11, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    M’kay, yes…fictional drugs. Ah, check please?
    This reminds me of the last time I got a letter of referral from psych professor and she proceeded to recommend various beers for me to try (some were very good, in case you are wondering).
    I ‘spose, as a college student, I get all the hallucinations I need from sleep deprivation and a lack of adequate nutrition. I see there is still so much for me to learn. ^_^
    Cute post; thanks for the grins and giggles.

  2. rdk
    Posted February 11, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Vaughan, thanks for the great post.
    I might add to the list the fictional drug Salon from Douglas Coupland’s recent book Generation A. He describes the effect as a distortion of one’s sense of time, which makes it perfect for people who want time to pass faster, like prisoners and those with boring jobs. The effect is compared to that of being absorbed in a good book, and there are all sorts of interesting metaphysical consequences associated with it.

  3. jakobh
    Posted February 13, 2010 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Tempus fugit pills from Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters.
    “I always carry a tube of “tempus fugit” pills; most agents do, as one never knows when giving your reflexes a jolt will get you through a tight spot. Despite the scare propaganda, tempos pills are not habit-forming, not the way the original hashish is.
    Nevertheless a purist would say I was addicted to them, for I had the habit of taking them occasionally to make a twenty-four hour leave seem like a week. I admit that I enjoyed the mild euphoria which the pills induced as a side effect. Primarily, though, they just stretch out your subjective time by a factor of ten or more, chop time into finer bits so that you live longer for the same amount of clock and calendar.
    What’s wrong with that? Sure, I know the horrible example story of the man who died of old age in a calendar month through taking the pills steadily, but I took them only once in a while.
    Maybe he had the right idea. He lived a long and happy life‚Äîyou can be sure it was happy‚Äîand died happy at the end. What matter that the sun rose only thirty times? Who is keeping score and what are the rules anyhow?”


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