Sep 24 2008 6:22pm

Science-fictional Nuggets Found in the News

A couple of items that crossed my path this week struck me as raw materials for science fiction:

1) How to save your LHC story, now that they switched it on and the world didn’t end: LHC shuts down for 2 months over faulty wiring. The LHC will not be back online until April because of “an electrical glitch caused a helium leak.” So, if I were were writing an SF story about the LHC, the detail of the faulty wiring would be the tell-tale sign that we were in the alternate universe—the one that didn’t end when they turned it on.

2) Readymade dystopian setting: PETA Urges Ben & Jerry’s To Use Human Milk!

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter to Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, co-founders of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc., urging them to replace cow’s milk they use in their ice cream products with human breast milk, according to a statement recently released by a PETA spokeswoman.

First of all, the nutritional and chemical intake of the lactating women would need to be controlled somehow. No glass of wine; no Zoloft for that postpartum depression; no peanuts because allergens might be transmitted, etc.

Secondly, PETA has not considered the scale of the B & J’s operation. Production on an industrial scale requires industrial control of a supply line. Speculation on how one might accomplish that is rich material for dystopian science fiction.

The obvious solution: Third World factory farms! After their babies are harvested for adoption mills, women in indentured servitude are warehoused and machine-milked several times a day like cows to provide milk for a new designer ice cream flavor produced by a company in Vermont.

So your protagonist walks into a B&Js and sees a new flavor called “Mother’s Milk.” She is in an alternate universe, one the LHC didn’t destroy. She is pregnant and single and looking for a job. There is an intriguing ad in the paper, but the job appears to involve international travel . . .

So get to work!

John Joseph Adams
1. johnjosephadams
Piers Anthony wrote a story about human women being used for milk--"In the Barn" from Again, Dangerous Visions--which actually takes place in an alternate universe, so its nicely relevant to both aspects of your post. I don't think PETA would approve of the scenario depicted therein, however.
David G. Hartwell
2. David G. Hartwell
My own favorite of this SF story line is John Wyndham's novella, "Consider Her Ways." It is one of the great originals in the SF field (it first appeared in the three-novella collection by Wyndham, William Golding, and Mervyn Peake, SOMETIME, NEVER.
Winchell Chung
3. Nyrath
I'm worried. That news item about the LHC is a little too close to the events in your father's novel EINSTEIN'S BRIDGE.
Kathryn Cramer
4. KathrynCramer
Hah. You catch me stealing from a lecture of my father's a few months back: if the experiment will do something the universe doesn't like, why then the universe can cancel it.
David G. Hartwell
5. Nomada
I have another theory about the LHC "glitch". a) They are unable to guess the coordinates for returning us to our original universe or b) the tunnel/portal, on this side of the universe, is empty.

They were able to create a self-replicating LHC so the whole Earth was displaced... except for the LHC itself.

But, being resourfeful techies, they had the pieces ready to build a full LHC in just two months. And to send us to another coordiantes... without the LHC.

The recent news about strange movements of matter in far away corners of the universe are nothing but a confirmation of our messing with the universe fabric.

Just my two cents (of euro).
Clifton Royston
6. CliftonR
Shades of Niven's 'Rotating Cylinders and the Possibility of Global Causality Violation'!

(The title was taken from an actual physics paper on that subject, and the math and theory in question still appears valid IIRC; Google for "closed time-like curves" and/or "Kerr vacuum".)

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