Welcome to Kronk Burger, an occasional column in which we will mock your shortcomings and -goings. When you're in a foreign country, you don't gawk, and you don't get your photograph taken in front of anything that's not naked and roaring with nubility. That's because you're not a tourist — you're a Seasoned Traveler. The same thing should apply to your enjoyment of science fiction — you should strive to be a sophisticate with calluses in the right places. Here's our guide to having seen it all before.
"Sense of wonder" is for the rubes. The truly experienced SF boffin doesn't wonder at all — because she already knows. "Ringworld? Whatever. Call me when you've got a Mobius Strip-World, with infinite real estate." "Oh yeah, I already rendezvoused with Rama three times last week. Rama is my dog."
You always know a "little place" off the beaten track. Everybody else is reading William Gibson or Bruce Sterling? You're more into Pat Cadigan — but only her early stuff, before she sold out. Or actually, forget cyberpunk altogether — you're more into ribofunk, which the masses haven't trampled all over yet.
Nothing shocks you. Oh sure, people are buzzing about this new movie where babies get inflated to the size of Buicks and fired into space, where they can get bigger and bigger until they become giant human satellites, blotting out the sun around the equator. But you were into the baby-inflation craze before it went mainstream — and really A.E. Van Vogt did the definitive mega-baby story back in the 50s. You, yourself, have been inflated to the size of a semi. Twice.
Memorize a few helpful phrases. For instance, say your acquaintances are discussing a Philip K. Dick novel you've never read — and maybe you've never read any PKD novels at all. Simply say this: "Well, to the casual reader, Dick might seem to be using an out-of-body experience to explore an alternate dystopia. But actually, he's asking: 'Are we in ourselves, or out of pocket?' And the answer, as always, is 'When.'" Nobody will doubt that you've read the book in question — three times.
Know how to talk to the natives. They speak a pidgin dialect, made up almost entirely of quotes from Dune, Highlander, Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan, the old Twilight Zone series, the new Battlestar Galactica, and maybe a few British programs like Monty Python and Doctor Who. (Instead of saying "Bitch, please," say "Bitch, your agonizer please.") Plus the occasional bit of technobabble or gadgetspeak — memorize the words on this list and drop them into your conversation: "Either my telechronometer is frakked to the max, or I'm late for I'm late for my afternoon tasping."
Here's a handy list of actors whose body of work you can dismiss unseen: Shia LaBeouf, William Shatner, Arnold Schwartzenegger, Keanu Reeves, Milla Jovovich, Sean Connery, John Travolta, Kevin Spacey, Hugh Jackman, Val Kilmer, Natasha Henstridge, Jason Statham, Eric Roberts, Mark Wahlberg, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Tom Cruise, Eddie Murphy, Will Smith, Mel Gibson, Tobey Maguire, Hayden Christensen, Morgan Freeman, Eric Bana, Ben Affleck, Vin Diesel, Nicole Kidman, RIchard Dean Anderson and Ben Browder. It's possible some of these actors have done some decent non-scifi work, but that shouldn't concern you.
Oh, and did I mention that nothing shocks you? Everybody else is watching tentacle porn, but you've already moved on to eel snuff. You've already seen the video of Steven Spielberg demonstrating the correct way to react to an alien anal probe on the set of Taken, five times, and in fact you're the one doing the probing, off camera. Bitch, your agonizer please!
You've already memorized every landmark on the "hero's journey." You also know by heart all the lesser-known variants, including the hero's drain-circling, the hero's descent, the hero's graduation from fire-safety school, the hero's summer dog-walking job that ends disastrously when one of the dogs thinks an asphalt machine is a sandpit, the hero's heroin binge, the hero's first visit to a prodomme, the hero's missing bottom half of his spacesuit, and the hero's incredibly long nap that turns into a surreal reverie without ever leaving the couch.
Know the story beats in the average summer movie — to the point where you have them timed to the split second. "Hero's humiliation at the hands of minor bullies in three, two one..." People in movie theaters love it when you count down out loud, so go ahead.
Weed out the chaff. There's really no need ever to see a movie or TV show with the word "star" in the title. Or to see any narratives about cars, or big fighting machines. Really, any books that take place in a "Universe," with a capital "U" and its own first name, like the Mooboo Universe, are probably skippable. No book or movie sequels. And forget any books that are compared to Pynchon or David Foster Wallace on the cover, unless they're by one of those authors. (A book by Wallace that's compared to Pynchon may be okay. May.) If you manage to be jaded enough, you can whittle your entertainment choices down to one movie a year, and maybe a couple of books.
Nothing at all ever shocks you. You've already seen John Travolta giving an enema to a sentient planet, and you've asked John to stop coming over to your house and showing you. Klingon/Borg porn is so over. Nerve extraction and insertion into a giant space torus is totally done to death. Vat-grown city-sized noses that smell alien sex organs? Yawn. Wake me when you've caught up with my blood cactus porn collection.