HomeHealthNutritionFood, Glorious Food! Five SF Approaches to a Balanced Diet

Food, Glorious Food! Five SF Approaches to a Balanced Diet

Finnish scientists are working on it an innovative protein source. (In case you don’t want to click the link, scientists make protein meal from Co2other common elements, electricity [which could come from solar]and bacteria) This process, if successful and scalable, promises some degree of protection against agricultural disruption due to climate change—

I hope that this, or something like it, can eventually replace much of modern agriculture, since my math currently suggests that food is the primary need, it’s no surprise that science fiction authors have plotted based on new forms of nutrition. Want to guess how many examples follow?

The food of the gods and how it came to earth by H. G. Wells (1904)

The visionary chemist Mr. Bensington, in collaboration with the equally visionary Professor Redwood, endows a long-suffering world with Herakleophorbia IV, a chemical additive that greatly promotes animal growth. The pair had very specific uses in mind for their creation – British children will be like gods, towering over their parents! – but thanks to shoddy containment procedures, the benefits of Herakleophorbia IV have spread throughout food chains. Welcome to a brave new world of hulking chickens and foot-long wasps.

Aside from accidental pest problems, Wells has a curiously pessimistic view of the gap between a glorious vision and actual implementation. A society of youth giants sounds like one, but accommodating 40-foot-tall people in a community designed for 6-foot-7 people is going to be challenging, to say the least.

The space traders by Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth (1953)

While Pohl and Kornbluth’s satire focuses primarily on a world in which exuberant advertising-driven capitalism has freed itself from any form of prudence or reason, food production appears in one memorable sequence. While in hiding, star-class copywriter fugitive Mitch Courtenay finds himself tending to Chicken Little, “a gray-brown, rubbery hemisphere (of chicken meat) about fifty feet across.” Chicken Little is an essential source of protein for “people from Baffinland to Little America.” Huzzah for progress!

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Chicken Little was inspired by the famous chicken heart experiment by Dr. Alexis Carrol, with Carrol keeping the heart in a flask of his own design for over twenty years. Or at least he said he did. No one has been able to replicate his experiment. Sad news for all of us who crave a piece of a VW Beetle-sized piece of chicken tumour.

“The food of the gods” by Arthur C. Clarke (1964)

Synthetic food has freed man from dependence on agriculture. Scientists were able to replicate traditional foods, even invent tasty new ones. But if there are moral reasons not to eat certain foods (take foie gras as an example), is it moral to eat synthetic foie gras? Are there foods that are even more taboo? Should there be laws against synthetic taboo foods? (I’ll do my best not to give away spoilers.)

Clarke’s case for synthetic foods may seem unconvincing at first glance, but the math is unlike Bensington and Redwood’s invention (and really, really, a lot of SF, where running screaming is the appropriate response to any innovation), the synthesizers work exactly as meant. The only problem with this particular implementation is a simple marketing problem.

Delicious in dungeons by Ryoko Kui (2014)

While exploring one of the labyrinthine dungeons in his world, Laios and his friends are attacked by a red dragon. They are rescued by Laios’ sister Falin. While being consumed herself, Falin teleported her brother and friends to safety. Falin can still be saved… if the group can track down the dragon, kill it, and bring Falin back to life before she is completely consumed. The bottleneck is food, of which the group has little. Or maybe they’re surrounded by an abundance of food, if they can bring themselves to think of the dungeon’s monsters as food.

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No matter how catastrophic the events in each part of this ongoing manga, the author always finds time to explain how exactly the party cooks their last meal. Reading this fantasy adventure manga is a constant craving.

No food by Sarah Tolmie (2015)

Total Gastric Bypass freed the wealthy from the demands of their digestive system. They are fed in alternative ways and no longer need to consume real food. Is this the end of high end restaurants? Not if you believe the visionaries behind the exclusive eatery NoFood.

This collection of satirical pieces explores a world where the rich get what they want, even if it’s not a good idea. Isn’t that the world we should all be working towards?

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I’m sure there are other works that mention alternative nutrition. If you know of any notable examples, please list them in comments…which, as always, are below.

In the words of fanfiction author Musty181four-time Hugo finalist, prolific book reviewer and perennial Darwin Award nominee James Davis Nicoll “looks like a standard mii with glasses.” His work has appeared in Interzone, Publishers Weekly and Romantic Times, as well as on his own websites, James Nicoll reviews (where he is assisted by editor Karen Lofstrom and web persona Adrienne L. Travis) and the Aurora Prize 2021 and 2022 finalist Young people read old SFF (where he is assisted by web persona Adrienne L. Travis). His patron can be found here.

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