Modern reboots of The Twilight Zone and Star Trek show that swearwords have finally reached space. Its a smegging shame
You just crossed over into the Twilight Zone. And its a total headfuck. OK, so Jordan Peeles Netflix reboot doesnt actually begin like that but it could. While most of its first creepy tale, of a comedian (Kumail Nanjiani) who discovers success comes at a price, could have been broadcast in 1958, that era would have struggled with the 15 F-bombs. Meanwhile, on board Star Trek Discovery, currently on Netflix, swearwords are dropped like photon torpedoes. Classic sci-fi has returned, but with a modern potty mouth.
The future didnt used to be so profane. HG Wells wrote an essay on the vivid, scorching and variegated world of cursing, yet the worst word in War of the Worlds is tripod. Authors such as Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven and EE Smith invented futuristic expletives such as Tanj! (There Aint No Justice, credited to Niven) to stay decorous. As the Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction entry on swearing makes clear, these could be pretty weak try shouting By space! when you next stub your toe.
The first true test of space-swearing came with real astronauts in the 1960s, broadcast live to the worlds media. Nasa was nervous about their swaggering test pilots one foul-mouthed spaceman was reportedly hypnotised into humming instead, but the odd gaffe made it to the mission transcripts. Pete Conrad, the third man on the Moon, predicted he would take the first shit on the lunar surface. John Young and Charlie Duke moaned about their potassium-rich diet like they were standing at the urinal, not skipping across a heavenly body, with Young complaining to Duke: I havent eaten this much citrus fruit in 20 years, and Ill tell you one thing, in another 12 fucking days I aint never eating any more. (Young had previously smuggled a corned beef sandwich into space.)
Nevertheless, when they remembered the microphone was on, these were professionals. The public image of astronauts as orbiting boy scouts influenced the sci-fi of the era, such as in Star Treks imagined future of evolved humans who had overcome our base instincts.
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