Yeah, yeah—Earth has a ton of substances that can numb and distract us from the excruciating pain of existence. They’re fine. But you know what would be better? If we could take drugs from the magical worlds of fantasy and science fiction! Please, join me in my TARDIS for an exceedingly questionable survey of the ways people get fucked up in fantasy novels, sci-fi movies, and that part of Universal Studios that looks like Hogsmeade.
The Lord of the Rings
There are an infinite number of annoying things about Tolkien nerds (stop speaking Sindarin, unless you are actually as elegant and erudite as the High Elves of the Undying Lands, which you are not), but number one with a bullet are their jokes about pipe-weed. Also known as “Halflings’ Leaf,” and with a particular strain known as “Old Toby,” pipe-weed was enjoyed by Hobbits all over the Shire because they were dull-witted deadbeats who, aside from literally only five of them, accomplished nothing of worth in their entire useless existence.
That’s all canon (pretty much), but what isn’t canon is people snickering whenever a Hobbit sparks up a pipe or zones out staring at Gandalf’s smoke rings. “Get it?” nerds giggle, except in Sindarin. “Pipe-weed is like weed!” Yes, we get it, and no, Tolkien didn’t mean for it to be weed. Tolkien was square as hell. But if partaking in Old Toby will get you to shut up about second breakfast, by all means, please.
The Stormlight Archive
Drugs aren’t a huge part of Brandon Sanderson’s epic fantasy series (Start with The Way of Kings! See you in three years!), but wine plays a role in the narrative—yellow wine has practically no alcohol in it, and thus no reason to exist, while violet wine will seriously fuck you up. Since reading about wine in any context is incredibly boring, Sanderson also includes a few other intoxicants, like firemoss, which smokes when you rub it between your fingers, and the Thrill—a bloodlust that turns warriors’ vision red, filling them with fury and an unquenchable thirst for slaughter. Uh, I’ll stick with firemoss, thanks.
The Kingkiller Chronicle
Like maple syrup, denner resin comes from trees; unlike maple syrup, it’s basically fantasy heroin. Known as “sweet eaters,” addicts can be spotted by their bleached-white teeth and frantic jonesing—and one of those addicts is a “draccus,” which is basically a fat Komodo dragon! When the third book in Patrick Rothfuss’ series finally comes out, it is my deepest hope that it is entirely about that draccus and his wacky, Trainspotting-style adventures.
Portland writer Ursula K. Le Guin gave us many gifts, and one of them, found in her Earthsea series of fantasy novels, was the idea of hazia, a root one could chew in order to hallucinate. The only side effects are “trembling, and later paralysis, and then death,” or basically what’s going to happen to you when you get old anyways, so why not go for it?
George Lucas is not a subtle man. First, Chewbacca is obviously stoned all the time. Second, drugs in the Star Wars galaxy are called “death sticks.” In Attack of the Clones, Obi-Wan Kenobi, who is a Jedi and a narc, uses his space-wizard powers to tell a death-stick dealer that, rather than selling death sticks, he should “go home and rethink your life.” This death-stick dealer is named Elan Sleazebaggano. George Lucas is not a subtle man.
A Song of Ice and Fire
George R.R. Martin is a huge Deadhead, as evidenced by the fact he named Westeros’ Weirwood trees after Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir, and also as evidenced by the fact that his unfinished book series A Song of Ice and Fire—which has already been lapped by its TV version, Game of Thrones—is a rambling, interminable slog that features a million noodly, pointless, and clearly improvised digressions that lead nowhere and are interrupted only by Martin getting the munchies and describing imaginary food for 73 pages.
“The spice,” a rare, powerful drug from the planet Arrakis, is central to Frank Herbert’s 1965 book Dune. It tastes like cinnamon, and was reportedly inspired by Herbert’s experimentation with psychedelic mushrooms. Aside from the fact Arrakis is also home to Tremors’ worm-monsters, that is literally all that I or anyone else can tell you about Dune, a beloved science-fiction classic that absolutely no one has ever finished reading.
Sure, everyone’s mind goes straight to butterbeer, which, like everyone else, I desperately wish was real. But perhaps you’ve forgotten about the time Harry, attempting to impress creepy ol’ Professor Slughorn, brewed an Elixir to Induce Euphoria? That elixir’s horrifying effects include “excessive singing and nose-tweaking,” thus making it the worst drug ever.
In the 1967 episode “This Side of Paradise,” spores on Omicron Ceti III make everyone from the Enterprise giddy! (“For the first time in my life,” Spock later remembers, “I was happy.”) Naturally, James T. Kirk, who is the captain and a narc, wants everyone to go back to their stupid jobs on his spaceship, so he ruins it for everybody. For some reason this involves him being really mean to a blissed-out Spock, calling him “an overgrown jackrabbit, an elf with a hyperactive thyroid,” a “simpering, devil-eared freak,” and “rotten, like the rest of your subhuman race.” “You belong in a circus, Spock, not a starship!” Kirk shouts at his best friend. “Right next to the dog-faced boy!” Note: Never party with Jim Kirk.