Everyone's bitter and snarky on the internet, but no one does it with as much class, wit, and foresight as celebrated American crime novelist Raymond Chandler. In a 1953 letter to his agent H.N. Swanson, Chandler indulges in a brilliantly entertaining, paragraph-long parody of sci-fi writing, which hits every trope and cliché of the genre. Oh, and he namedrops Google some 45 years before Larry and Sergey registered the domain.
Did you ever read what they call Science Fiction? It's a scream. It is written like this: "I checked out with K19 on Adabaran III, and stepped out through the crummaliote hatch on my 22 Model Sirus Hardtop. I cocked the timejector in secondary and waded through the bright blue manda grass. My breath froze into pink pretzels. I flicked on the heat bars and the Bryllis ran swiftly on five legs using their other two to send out crylon vibrations. The pressure was almost unbearable, but I caught the range on my wrist computer through the transparent cysicites. I pressed the trigger. The thin violet glow was ice-cold against the rust-colored mountains. The Bryllis shrank to half an inch long and I worked fast stepping on them with the poltex. But it wasn't enough. The sudden brightness swung me around and the Fourth Moon had already risen. I had exactly four seconds to hot up the disintegrator and Google had told me it wasn't enough. He was right."
They pay brisk money for this crap?
The ironic thing about Chandler's mockery of sci-fi is that it's enticing in its own right: I'm actually drawn in to find out more about crylon vibrations and the seven-legged Bryllis they emanate from. I'm also curious about the range-finding wrist computer, which sounds an awful lot like the smartwatches of today.
But that wasn't the only time that Chandler sharply (and accurately) derided the future that was to come. In another letter, he tells his agent about the TV and movie industries, identifying problems that persist to this day:
TV stinks to heaven and even the halfwits admit it, but it doesn't cost anything, and you don't have to put a shirt on and get the car out and find a place to park and sit in a badly ventilated theatre with the stink of popcorn turning your stomach....
I'd like a TV show, who wouldn't, but not on any terms CBS would agree to. And if I got the kind of show I would like, it would probably flop. The private eye as such is dated. If you can't give him character and interest as a human being, you are licked. And TV can't. It hasn't the time or the talent and it is too much afraid of offending some jerk in Corn Center, Nebraska.
So yes, we can add Futurist and Trenchant Media Critic to Chandler's list of accolades.