In science fiction, everybody's always running and flying and questing, and time is always running out. So that makes those occasions when our space heroes and future warriors take the time to kick back and relax in a bar that much more alluring. There's nothing like a tall cold one when you're fighting the Dark Side.
Here are 10 science fictional bars we wish we could hang out in.
Top image: Fluorescent Teddy on Deviant Art
The Hip Joint is the place where the Futurama crowd go to drown their sorrows unsuccessfully, and meet new people successfully. Everyone wears glowing rings around their arms, necks, legs, and hair, and they infuse them with a healthy sense of irony, which is the only way I could pull that look off. It overall embraces the scifi look, with bright colors and minimalism that early science fiction movies were so fond of - before the entire sensibility was blasted away by the gritty, cramped, darkness of Bladerunner and other dystopian visions. Mostly, though, I'd like to go to The Hip Joint because the odds of meeting someone are pretty high. After a night out there, pretty much everyone with two eyes winds up meeting someone. Unless extremely poor eyesight in two eyes counts as one eye, it looks like a good place.
9. Ten Forward from Star Trek: The Next Generation
Yes, I know, pretty much every other Star Trek series had a cooler bar to hang out in. Even Deep Space Nine had a better place, and they were technically in the middle of a horrible war. Ten Forward was a quiet place with a view of the stars, a bar that I think served no alcohol, and a plenty of quiet tables. It was kind of the stuffy historical society of Star Trek bars. And I don't care — I still like it better than the rest. I like the Whoopie Goldberg played the immortal bartender in the saucer hat with a completely straight face. I like that you could order a hot fudge sundae and a prune juice at a bar. I liked that there were no pool tables but you could play three-dimensional chess. Not all bars have to be the wildest place in the galaxy. Some places just need to have tables, a decent atmosphere, and be quiet enough to talk to your friends in.
8. The Domain of the King Bar and Grille from Mostly Harmless
Okay, any list that mentions bars and science fiction has to be Hitchhiker heavy. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books have a major background element of finding bars and hanging out in them. In addition to the bar mentioned above, there's also the bar at the Hitchhiker's Guide offices, Stavro-Mueller Beta on Earth, and the Old Pink Dog Bar on a kind of anarchist world, and that's just in one book of the series. (We'll get to the main bar of the series later.) The Domain of the King bar doesn't stand out. It is just an ordinary bar and grill, accessible by a ride on the backs of dimension-hopping buffalos (yes, that's the way things go in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy universe) that serves decent food and features one live act. Elvis. Now that's worth a visit, isn't it?
7. Munden's Bar from Grimjack
Since most comics tend to stick to certain conventions — including little mention of booze or bars — there aren't really any places for the heroes to get together and drink in DC or Marvel comics, except for when Guy Gardner was slinging booze. This is why we need Munden's Bar, in the comic Grimjack, whose patrons include Bruce and Selina (kind of), many different versions of Iron Man (from his drinking days) and the actual Ninja Turtles. The tone of the bar is light and breezy, with many different comedy stories happening there. It's the Cheers of the comic book world. Everyone might not know your name, but you know everyone else's.
6. Chatsubo from Neuromancer
Chatsubo does not sound like a nice place, and it's not in a nice universe. It is, however, in a very good book, and so it's pretty normal to want to explore it. Neuromancer's tale of technological intrigue is heavy with unpleasant consequences for anyone who wasn't hardened enough to deal with it or was hardened enough that they even remotely stepped out of line. Although Chatsubo is an ex-pat bar in Japan and seems more like a pretentious hipster place than a smoldering den of corruption, a place to be annoyed with the clientele rather than terrified by them, it doesn't still doesn't seem like a fun place to go. Instead, you would go to Chatsubo (or the rest of the Neuromancer universe) like you would swim with sharks or run with the bulls - just to say you had done it and not to enjoy it.
5. The Place from The Big Time
Sometimes you just need to get away. When it's imperative to take a break from the demands on your time and the unpleasant spaces around you, you need to head to The Place. Fritz Leiber wrote The Big Time, about a war that has gone on for centuries between two rival factions. Since time travel and resurrection are possible in this universe, a centuries-long war is even more of a burden than usual. The Place is a little area outside of time and space for soldiers to relax. Unfortunately, in the novel it's threatened by an atom bomb, but other nights - or other whatevers since there is no time - it sounds like the perfect place to chill out and contemplate how anything can extract itself from time and space.
4. The Palace Saloon from Back to the Future III
In science fiction there are a lot of places where you can order Grillian UltraGin or Klingon Toch Maach Mal (or whatever gutteral sound you want to pass off as a word), but there aren't so many places where you can order sasparilla. The Palace Saloon was in the third Back to the Future movie, when Marty and Doc go back in time to the Old West. It's not that I think that The Palace Saloon is that great a place. It's just that I think, in a science fiction universe, it's a rare place. Cowboys and sasparilla really go down well in a genre crowded with laser blasters and modified humans with artificial pets.
3. The Venusville Bar from Total Recall
Total Recall was a kind of kickstarter (or more like a kick-restarter) for the "paranoid mind-bending thriller" genre of science fiction. It kept the traditional trappings of science fiction films: the space voyages, the newly-colonized world, and the grime that pervaded the whole genre since the beginning of the eighties, added a psychological twist, and did it all in 1990, when the nineties were still the eighties. The bar scene in Venusville, the Red Light district on Mars, was very heavily influenced by Star Wars, added in a little Bladerunner urban grunge, and included the heavily synthesized background music and gigantic hair of the mainstream eighties. It's about ten different kinds of retro, and therefore comforting. I'm sure the triple-breasted women will also enhance the bar experience for some.
2. The Bar at Milliways from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Milliways, in the Hitchhiker universe, is the eponymous Restaurant at the End of the Universe. It's in a time bubble that floats untouched as the universe blows up outside. (Of course now we know that the universe will probably just fade away, but still.) Because it exists at the end of time, patrons make reservations when they get back from their dinner. They pay the check by depositing one penny in a special savings account and letting the billions of years of interest pay for their dinner. This makes it both the most convenient and the cheapest place on the list. But what are its attractions? Well. Everything. Douglas Adams famously based the concept on the song Grand Hotel, from British prog rock band Procol Harum. The food is the best, the show is one-of-a-kind (except in a universe with time travel, it's always repeating), and Adams describes the decor as the kind of extravagantly wealthy excellence that loops around taste and genius and lands right back in tackiness. Chandeliers hang from the ceiling everywhere, the entire place glitters with jewels, and the bar is covered with lizard skins.
1. Mos Eisley Cantina from the Star Wars Christmas Special
Star Wars' famous Cantina was all well and good in A New Hope. There's nothing wrong with wanting to see Han get into blaster fights. It's just that, in the infamous Christmas Special that the series aired, it was so much better. Bea Arthur bustled around the place, wearing what appeared to be her costume from A History of the World: Part I, dealing with Imperial guards and two-bit criminals alike. She's always good, and in this she manages to be both funny and touching in several places. And just when you think it can't get any better? She starts singing. Gunplay you can get anywhere in the Star Wars universe. Bea Arthur singing? That's something else entirely. Where else would you really want to be?
Ten Forward Image: The Viewscreen
Munden's Image: Westfield Comics Blog
Total Recall Image: Writing Horror