There’s the romantic – and sometimes tragically true – notion that creativity and substance abuse go hand in nicotine stained hand. Some writers – William Burroughs, Philip K. Dick – have turned their drug and drink problems into central themes in their own work, but even the most abstemious of authors have been known to feature a narcotic or two in their fiction. Here’s a list of some of science fiction and fantasy fiction’s most famous intoxicants:
The Lord of the Rings
Initially brought to Middle Earth by the Numenoreans and cultivated by hobbits. Despite the name “weed”, Tolkien described the hobbit’s favorite crop as a strain of tobacco. Not incidentally, Tolkien was an avid pipe smoker himself. According to the fan site LOTRplaza.com, the professor’s favorite blends were Cavendish, Three Nuns, Players Navy Cut or Blue Capstan.
The Conan stories
Robert E. Howard
Black Lotus is a powerful opiate found in the jungles of Khitai. Smoked or consumed in small doses, it induces a deep sleep and strange visions. Larger doses can kill, as Conan learns in “The Tower of the Elephant.” There’s no reason to believe that Howard ever indulged in any variety of “lotus” himself, although the author was quite fond of beer – itself illegal during a good portion of Howard’s lifetime.
A Scanner Darkly
Philip K. Dick
Undercover agent/Drug addict “Fred”/Bob Arctor becomes addicted to the powerful drug Substance D in Dick’s pseudobiographical drug classic A Scanner Darkly. Substance D works by splitting the mind into two independently functioning halves, a mind-screw too far for the already-undercover Fred/Arctor. Dick said that the book was written during a time when he was heavily involved with methamphetamines. Go figure.
The Black Meat
William S. Burroughs
Featured in Burroughs’ cut-up masterpiece Naked Lunch, the Black Meat is basically a heroin analogue. Burroughs, of course, was a junkie for most of his life, and most of his fiction was influenced by his own drug use. Anyone interested in a biographical account of his experiences in the drug culture might be interested in reading his novel Junkie, which Burroughs wrote while fleeing pending drug charges in New Orleans.
Melange, or “Spice”, is a powerfully addictive substance that underlies nearly every aspect of Herbert’s universe. In small doses it promotes longevity and health; large doses trigger precognitive abilities and mutation. “The Spice Must Flow!”
Brave New World
Citizens of Huxley’s Brave New World regularly consume Soma, a government-sanctioned drug that induces transcendental experiences and feelings of well-being. It may come as no surprise to readers that Huxley was a dabbler in psychogenic drugs, himself, writing of his experiences in The Doors of Perception, which took its title from William Blake’s poem The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. One – or both – of these inspired a group of UCLA film students to name their newly found group The Doors: (“Father, I want to kill you…Mother, I want to…MWABLARBARGLE!!!”)