Things That Drive Me Batty in Science Fiction, No. 1 (in an occasional series)

Futuristic showers.

I’ve read several science fiction novels lately and actually this sin was only committed 1.5 times in the course of three books. Still, I’ve encountered it enough now that it makes me want to hurl a book across the room, then jump and down while yelling at it.

Here’s the thing: Showers actually work pretty well. Water sprays out onto body, body gets clean (add soap in there somewhere). Do we really believe that there is a far better way that technology will find? I don’t. If showering changes, my guess is it will be for the worse, because of lack of energy or fresh water. And that’s okay, that would be interesting, but any time a character in a science fiction novel is luxuriating in a fancy shower with multiple sprays or a weird door or whatever? It’s just gratuitous window-dressing. And it makes me want to kill.

That is all.

17 thoughts on “Things That Drive Me Batty in Science Fiction, No. 1 (in an occasional series)”

  1. I am ridiculously prone to freezing to death, so the sf-posited vibrate-y air showers that would leave me without wet hair for sixteen years after climbing out? Actually sound pretty good to me!

  2. All the shower scenes I’m thinking of involve water, but it’s SPACE WATER! (And by space water, I mean water in the future, but it’s pretty much like regular water from what I can tell.)
    I’m okay if it has some actual purpose in the narrative, but, really, it seems like there’s an over-focus on the shower as integral part of science fiction story. Often the technology has less than nothing to do with the main story. It’s just bizarrely _there_.

  3. Yeah, Hannah, the thing about you hating to get out of the warm shower into the micro-Arctic that bathrooms become after September 1st (I’m totally with you on that), see, if that came into play in an sf story that would be interesting; it would speak to character to make some kind of comparison there.
    I think what G’s talking about here–or at least what bugged me about the excerpt she read to me–is the way that stuff like this is described in books that are ostensibly tight 3rd person POV. So we find ourselves reading stories nearly a hundred years after Gernsback’s Ralph 124C41+ that depend on these cornball narrative techniques to evoke sense of wonder. Or try to.
    This all occurred to me this morning while I was making my morning ablutions in the fiberglass compartment–injection molded so as to be a single piece–that the builders of our house installed in an upgrade in the last quarter of the previous century. Tapping into the network of older iron pipes layed throughout the city, the specialists contracted by the builders accessed the municiple water supply–that bounteous source of clean, treated water drawn from nearby rivers and streams–and routed a portion of it into our home by the mechanism of a series of PVC pipes equipped with stops and valves. Before the water reached the compartment, or “shower,” however, it was first stored in an insulated cylindrical reservoir and heated to a preset temperature by means of the onsite immolation of a mixture of hydrocarbon compounds and small amounts of various nonhydrocarbons (such as carbon dioxide, helium, hydrogen sulfide, and nitrogen) existing in the gaseous phase, which mixture itself was delivered to the house by a system similar to that of the water network decribed above.

  4. Oh, understood. I was responding more to ‘showers actually work pretty well’ than to anything writing-related.

  5. what bugs me about the skiffy shower is that it sprays in all directions, but miraculously doesn’t get up your nose or hit your eyeballs.
    somebody needs to write a skiffy shower which the showerer has to wear goggles and an oxygen tank to use. it ain’t gonna be me, though.

  6. So much of my SF aesthetic is based on Star Trek (go ahead, hate me!), and I recall more than one scene in the original (with Kirk of course) where the showers are exactly like ours – even the bathrooms are basically the same size in their ship’s quarters. I also remember Neelix on Voyager first taking a bath and luxuriating in all that water. No changes there.
    This is, oddly, a pet peeve of mine as well. It’s like some authors think they can’t write SF unless they make every single thing as complicated as possible.
    That’s why I love Bradbury so much!

  7. I wish I had a fancy shower in my apartment! A friend of mine lives in one that used to be inhabited by an architect who put in one of those futuristic huge brushed-steel and graphite-type setups, on giant scale, it is quite amazing…
    I see where you’re coming from, but I don’t mind Christopher’s parody, books that include stuff like that are often very good!
    I have always remembered a detail from Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “Thendara House” that’s about how the earth person now on Darkover can’t understand the horribleness of the Darkovan custom of taking a cold shower early in the morning and only having the hot bath late at night.
    It may be that J. D. Robb’s futuristic Manhattan novels include some slightly absurd futuristic shower scenes, if you are collecting good examples–it would make a funny little satirical essay.

  8. Actually, that points up another thing I find annoying about them, Jenny — often, the tech is already available, thus making it not even as shiny, shiny futuristic as the writer believes it is.
    Oh, and while passages like C’s may sometimes appear in good books, post-, say, 1980 (too generous?), they are wayyyy more common in bad ones. Or at least not-very-good ones.

  9. Christopher, I suddenly have an inexplicable urge to punch you in the eye after reading that little shower riff. I’m sorry!

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