Panel 2: The mysterious “pornulator” that Idea Man commands his minions to “power up” is certainly an evocative-sounding item of supervillain ultra-tech. What exactly might it do, though? Is it a porn-skewed simulator of some sort, perhaps? Yes, this word balloon is an actual, honest-to-God example of so-called “technobabble,” in that I didn’t bother to figure out ahead of time exactly what a “pornulator” might do. Note that, most of the time, I do have very specific ideas of what the various neologisms and jargonistic terms in my work are referring to, which makes such terminology not “technobabble” as such in my eyes.
As far as I’m concerned, “technobabble” refers strictly to made-up, wholly meaningless dialogue intended only to give an vague “science-fiction-y” impression—such as, say, the cockpit chatter in Star Wars: A New Hope. (Then again, that might now be a poor example, as I’m sure that well-meaning geeks must have gone back and elaborately pieced together convoluted, “No-Prize”-style rationales for every g-d line of that chatter. Safe to say, though, such meanings weren’t on the mind of George Lucas when he originally wrote that the screenplay.) I do tend to get annoyed by fellas online—and I do mean “fellas,” as I’ve only ever seen male critics complain about this—who sneeringly dismiss rather straightforward technical terms as “technobabble.” Hey, dumbass, it ain’t “technobabble” just ’cause you happen to be too uninformed to get the reference. Anyone who reads even semi-rigorous prose SF on a regular basis—let alone serious “hard SF,” which is another story—is well aware of what all the assorted jargon and neologisms in my work are referring to.
As I’ve probably said before, critics who bleat about “technobabble” are generally males who consider themselves Quite Frankly Very Intelligent, yet get their hackles raised and display their insecurities when they think an uppity writer is trying to “show them up.” Oh, get over yourselves, intellectually insecure dudes. For the record, I do not consider myself Quite Frankly Very Intelligent—for one thing, I’ve been beating my head against the unyielding brick wall of the comics field for my entire adult life, which is definitely not a sign of viable intelligence. Rather, I’m just smart enough to recognize cool science concepts when I stumble across them, snatch them up in my magpie-like beak, and clumsily incorporate them in my stories.
By the way, an odd “technobabble” variant that really got under my skin was, during the last season of 24 that I tried to watch, how the writers needed to give the President something, well, presidential to say in the midst of the shoe’s perpetual crises. Ah, but after a while the writers gave her ever more meaningless and nonsensical “filler” lines of commanding-sounding dialogue to say, even with no relevant story-related point being addressed. A personal favorite, after yet another terrorist bombing or the like: [barked sternly]“I want immediate reports from first responders!” Sounds like an adequate piece of dialogue, until you start to think a little more about what she’s asking—nay, demanding. “Uh, Madam President? This is Bill, the first firefighter on the scene, and man, this place looks like a mess.” Needless to say, the President never does get any reports from first responders, as the line was just “filler” dialogue meant to give her something—anything—to say in a vaguely commanding manner. (“President-o-babble,” you might say.)
Whoops—I did intend to say something about Sexy Librarian Emp on this page, but just blew four paragraphs on the term “technobabble!” Well, maybe next time…