An Interesting Thing Happened In Last Weekend’s Writer’s Group

writing“Are you on a diet or something?”

This question came about because the group was reading a little scifi I’d written wherein the characters were (GASP!), eating.

One character had lunch (a turkey sandwich, light mayo).  Next, he had dinner with a friend:

Dinner turned out to be a Mexican Sushi place in one of the smaller domes attached by a small tube to the Military Dome. Carter had the guacamole tuna tataki, minus the cilantro, while the Master Chief ordered this thinly cut grilled rib eye and asparagus rolls with a chipotle-teriyaki glaze that the chef called, asugyu. This was followed by an entree of thinly sliced jalapeno rolled over grilled manchego cheese with tempura shrimp, chipotle sauce and avocado. Everything was better than anything he had eaten in recent weeks, and quickly devoured.

Another character woke to the scent of bacon cooking.  After, she had lunch with her aunt:

Gloria steered them into a little cafe.  They sat on the patio, ordering both water and drinks before taking in the menu.

“Soup, I think,” Belle told the waiter.  “The clam chowder.  Extra crackers.”

“Cheeseburger,” Gloria told the man.  “Mayo on the side, no onion.”

Lastly, there were some raw recruits chowing down in the mess hall:

The line moved quick enough and soon they were seated at a table with other members of their platoon.  Uly looked at the food with a critical eye.  Used as he was to fresh vegetables straight from the fields behind his house, the mushy mounds piled in the sections of the tray were less than appealing.  With a stomach grumbling, however, he didn’t see much choice in the matter.  He sniffed it before he ate it.  All he could smell was a hint of potatoes, and that came from the orange-ish stuff in the upper right hand corner of the tray.  He slid his fork into that pile and shoved it into his mouth, chewing mechanically.

These moments stood out to some, and I want to say it’s because of something I’ve talked about before; there’s no food in science fiction.  Or rather, very little.  A running joke about the Enterprise was that they never showed a toilet, but I always thought it was odd how fantasy books portray people eating quite often, whereas science fiction books tend to not.

So my brain wonders if these scenes stood out to the readers because they are unusual in scifi…


Thoughts about food in scifi?



  • Paul (@princejvstin) Posted May 5, 2013 10:39 am

    Hi Patrick,

    Well I *did* do an SF Signal Mind Meld on the subject. I think food is woefully underutilized in science fiction, to its detriment. Fantasy (when it does it right–no stew on a road trip, please!) has the upper hand, and certain authors appreciate the use of food.

  • J.T. Evans Posted May 5, 2013 10:41 am

    As I wrote in the critique I handed you, I was VERY HAPPY to see food in sci-fi! I was equally happy to be eating dinner while doing the critique. If I hadn’t been chowing down, I’d have been starving at the end of reading those scenes with food.

    Thinking back on all of the sci-fi I’ve read and watched and listened to…. I can only come up with one food item that really stands out to me: Picard’s tea.

    Seems like the “standard sci-fi” lacks food to me.

  • Sylvia Anna Posted May 5, 2013 10:59 am

    I imagine partially sci fi has less food descriptions because the character are ‘supposed’ to eat bland, nutritional, prepackaged mush. It seems a natural progression really, as society constantly moves toward processed foods.

    Plus, so often sci fi is dystopian, and it would seem that dull foods mirror that better than steaming chunks of wild boar with lingonberries.

  • Robert Collins Posted May 5, 2013 11:08 am

    I saw your tweet about this blog entry, and wanted to comment.

    Considering everything (cooking, storage, what’s edible, etc.), you’d think more would be written about food in SF. I recall some mentions of food in Firefly, and there were the tribbles. Heck, you could probably spin a plot about some aspect of food into a SF story. I did, once.

    I guess we all need to do more thinking outside the box (there’s a few food jokes in that, but I shall restrain myself, since this is my first post here).

  • Ashley R Pollard Posted May 16, 2013 7:48 am

    Did a breakfast scene in my first novel that due to the plot the character gets to repeat several times that was fun to write, for definitions of fun that meant bleeding eyes and my brains dribbling out of my ears, but hey if I wanted an easy job I wouldn’t be a writer, right?

    Also had a scene in the toilet too. Go figure I must be a masochist. I shared your Scrivenor post on my FB page too. Nice blog.

    • Patrick Hester Posted May 16, 2013 4:24 pm


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