Eating, drinking and bars in science fiction

frenchcafeIn a series of three blogs starting with ‘Where is society going? What will the future look like?’ I take a look at what life might be like in the near future, in this case as more and more people come to live in cities. However, as a writer (and reader) of science fiction I can’t help but look way into the future, to when we have escaped this planet and our own system and are populating worlds and habitats around other suns.

Now, obviously when we expand into the galaxy and set up home on other worlds we’ll take our human culture with us. On a similar subject I also wrote a blog sometime ago, ‘Coffee and Beer – their place (or not) in science fiction’. This blog kind of brings these two themes together.

For me a fundamental part of most human cultures are places where we gather with friends and strangers in large social groups, which from my point of view means bars and restaurants. We’ve had such places for thousands of years, ever since man began to live in communities we recognise as towns, villages and cities. This is surely proof that they answer some deep seated need in our collective psyche. So as we travel to the stars we’ll take them with us, won’t we?

And yet I’m struggling to think of examples in science fiction. There is of course a bar in Star Wars, filled with alien races, all drinking who knows what? There’s even band. Douglas Adam’s has the restaurant at the end of the universe. Terry Pratchet’s Disc World has all sorts of ‘pubs’ for its varied inhabitants. But if I try to think of examples in more ‘serious’ (i.e. not meant to be humorous) cafescience fiction I’m struggling to find any. In my own far future science fiction book ‘Ancestral Dreams’ I do feature bars. I figure that the rough around the edges types I imagine pushing back the frontiers would be looking for just such places to relax, meet people and have fun (much as we see in films of Cowboys and the American West). I even have a bar and gambling loving alien, a centaur (you’ll have to read it). I believe it likely that any other intelligent, social species out there will have come up with something similar.

We dream up huge fantastic space ships and orbital space stations and yet seem to leave out the canteen, (as an aside, look up ‘Eddie Izzard, Death Star Canteen’ on youtube), a bar, whatever. I do seem to remember one in one of the TV episodes of Star Trek, but that’s all. So as writers of the genre I think we’re missing a trick and lots of fun as well. As I said at the beginning they’ve been around for thousands of years so why wouldn’t we take them with us? Food and drink has always been at the centre of what we human’s call a good time. I can’t believe we’ll let it become just a fuel we need, dispensed from some hole in the wall by a machine. In ‘Ancestral Dreams’ the main character actively seeks out cafe’s run by human beings, for the interaction. As we look to the future I think that the last thing we’ll want will be automated bars and restaurants. So as I write my books and stories I‘ll be sure to include them, and have them run by people.  I’m certain my characters will appreciate it.

Now having raised the subject I’m sure you’ll be able to tell me of examples of science fiction with bars and restaurants – let me know.

Ian Martyn

Author: Ian Martyn

Science Fiction Writer

3 thoughts on “Eating, drinking and bars in science fiction”

  1. Perhaps you missed out on Star Trek – TNG?
    One of the focal points on the Enterprise was the bar/café run by Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg, and many pivotal scenes took place there.
    Restaurants and bars cropped up in several episodes of Babylon 5, (which is one of the few series I’ve encountered where the media play an active role in society, as they do these days – perhaps a topic for another post?).
    And of course the mess room was always an important place on board the |Battlestar Galactica, both the original series and the more recent version.
    These are perhaps not quite the ‘serious SF’ you were thinking of, and obviously TV shows, not books (or even films) but they popped straight into my head as soon as the subject came up so, they are my offering on this topic.

    1. The Star Trek one came to mind. I’m afraid I didn’t watch Battle Star Galactica. I just think when writing sci-fi we some times forget all the human bagage we’ll take with us into those future worlds

      1. Agreed, that’s why I commented on the media involvement in Babylon 5 – not something you tend to see in SF, and yet it is such an important part of our lives whether we like it or not.

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