I was thinking about the relationship of drugs, emotions, and society. I was thinking of several different fictional futures that give different takes on this.
The most classic example is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. The drug of choice in that novel was soma.
“Benighted fool!” shouted the man from The Fordian Science Monitor, “why don’t you take soma?””Get away!” The Savage shook his fist.
The other retreated a few steps then turned round again. “Evil’s an unreality if you take a couple of grammes.”
“Kohakwa iyathtokyai!” The tone was menacingly derisive.
“Pain’s a delusion.”
“Oh, is it?” said the Savage and, picking up a thick hazel switch, strode forward.
The man from The Fordian Science Monitor made a dash for his helicopter.”
Later, Huxley experimented with psychedelics and saw their positive potential. So, he wrote the utopian novel Island. The people of the island use a mushroom called moksha medicine.
“Is there any connection,” Will asked, “between what you’ve been talking about and what I saw up there in the Shiva temple?”
“Of course there is,” she answered. “The moksha-medicine takes you to the same place as you get to in meditation.”
“So why bother to meditate?”
“You might as well ask, Why bother to eat your
“But according to you, the moksha-medicine is dinner.”
“It’s a banquet,” she said emphatically. “And that’s precisely why there has to be meditation. You can’t have banquets everyday. They’re too rich and they last too long. Besides, banquets are provided by a caterer; you don’t have any part in the preparation of them. For your everyday diet you have to do your own cooking. The moksha-medicine comes as an occasional treat.”
Philip K. Dick wrote about the mood organ in his book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, but the mood organ isn’t a physical drug. It uses a Penfield Wave Transmitter and so can instantly alter one’s brainwaves. By dialing different numbers one can create the desired state of mind:
“well-disposed toward the world”
“businesslike, professional attitude”
“awareness of the manifold possibilities open to me in the future”
“The desire to watch TV, no matter what is on it”
“ecstatic sexual bliss”
“pleased acknowledgement of husband’s superior wisdom in all matters”
“creative and fresh attitude toward one’s job”
Similarly, in Larry Niven’s Known Space novels, he introduced the Tasp.
The puppeteer addressed himself to Speaker-to-Animals.
“You understand that I will use the tasp every time you force me to. I will use it if you attempt to use violence too often, or if you startle me too much; you will soon become dependent upon the tasp; if you kill me, you will still be ignobly bound by the tasp itself.”
“Very astute,” said Speaker. “Brilliantly unorthodox tactics. I will trouble you no more.”
“The puppeteer is right,” said Speaker. “I would not risk the tasp again. Too many jolts of pleasure would leave me his willing slave. I, a kzin, enslaved to a herbivore!”
In George Lucas’ THX 1138, everyone is forced to take drugs that suppress emotions including sexual desire.
“Take four red capsules, In 10 minutes take two more. Help is on the way.”
The Matrix trilogy is a bit different. The Matrix is an illusion, the ultimate dystopia. In this case, the two pills are symbolic of choice, and the red pill is more of an anti-drug as it induces waking to reality.
Morpheus: “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”
In case you’re interested, there are many other fictional drugs. I could describe the drugs in William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, but that would be a complicated endeavor and it doesn’t quite fit in with these other fictional drug stories.