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Odd Thought

June 12, 2007

One of the fascinating things about immersing oneself in older, literary SF is getting a peak into the culture that produced these works of fiction. One of the most obvious differences between then and now is the ubiquity of cigarettes (often spelled “cigaret,” a spelling I’d never seen before) and cigars. Smoking is just part of the culture at the time and no one really questions whether people thousands of years from now on other worlds would smoke too, because of course they would.

Now, I personally hate smoking. Leaving aside the long-term health issues, I’m allergic to cigarette smoke and don’t find the smell of most commonly-bought brands at all appealing. Same is true of cigars, although pipe smoke is generally more pleasant. Still, I also recognize why someone would enjoy smoking and, dramatically, having a cigarette in your hand makes for a wonderful prop or mood-setter. It’s no surprise that the latest incarnation of Battlestar Galactica includes cigarettes, although exactly what they’re made of is never discussed in the series to my recollection.

So, I’m thinking, if only as a small bit of color — a way to remind people that this isn’t just modern North American society transposed onto some other world — I might make the smoking of cigarettes, perhaps not made from tobacco, part of the culture of the Thousand Suns. It’s not something I intend to dwell upon or provide lots of information about nor is it something that I find somehow essential or less modular than any other aspect of the meta-setting. It’s just that it’s a small piece of cultural minutiae that can be used to a good end and it pays homage to the source material. Dominic Flandry always had a cigarette available when socializing. Why shouldn’t people in the Thousand Suns?

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