The Hipcrime Vocab

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Published on 29 February 2024 by Andrew Owen (5 minutes)

I can confidently predict that I will not still be writing this blog the next time February 29 falls on a Thursday. So today’s article is a little out of left field. I used to read a lot of science fiction when I was younger. But I hesitate to present a curated list, because the genre isn’t for everyone, and even within the genre there are so many sub-genres that it’s hard to find titles with universal appeal.

Unlike many people of my background, I’m not particularly fond of Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” series in novel form. I preferred the original radio series, although I enjoyed the adaptations for radio by Dirk Maggs. I liked Eoin Coifer’s “And Another Thing”, but it felt like familiar characters in a completely different universe. As a child, I grew up reading mostly New Wave before moving on to Cyberpunk in my late teens. I devoured anything by William Gibson, Rudy Rucker, Neal Stephenson or Bruce Sterling. But that led me to John Brunner’s “The Shockwave Rider” which was inspired by Alvin Toffler’s “Future Shock”, a non-fiction work about the accelerating pace of change.

Decades later, the pre-Cyberpunk stories that I still remember and will read again one day are, in publication order:

Some notes. Čapek is best known for creating the word robot. I emailed Sheckley in the early days of the internet to track down a copy of his story, which was by then out of print. He replied, and it turned out that my mother owned the anthology that contained it. I learned about the story from the Franco-Yugoslav film “Le prix du danger”. I agree with Heinlein that the original release of Stranger is better than the uncut version. I’m sure most people are well aware that Electric Sheep was the inspiration for “Blade Runner”, but it’s a very different story. When I get through my backlog of unread books, Ursula K. Le Guin is on my to-read list.

“The real universe has a marvellous and unique quality, in as much as it, and only it, can take us completely by surprise” —John Brunner

Published in 1968, a year I’ll come back to in a future article, John Brunner’s “Stand on Zanzibar” contains a number of entries from a fictional reference book by Dr. Chad C. Mulligan. I thought it would be interesting to collect them. If you enjoy them, buy the book. There is one term that I considered leaving out, but it appears in its historical context.


A friend of mine in Tusla, Okla., when I was about eleven years old. I’d be interested to hear from him. There are so many pseudos around taking his name in vain.


You weren’t paying attention to the other half of what was going on.

Crying wolf

An ad-hoc form of Pavlovian conditioning adopted by those with a lust for power to prevent the people due to be slaughtered in the next war from taking them out and humanely drowning them.


You committed one when you opened this book. Keep it up. It’s our only hope.

Human being

You’re one. At least if you aren’t you know you’re a Martian or a trained dolphin or Shalmaneser. If you want me to tell you more about that, you’re out of luck. There’s nothing more anybody can tell you.


Means: 1 I wouldn’t like it and when it happens I won’t approve; 2 I can’t be bothered; 3 God can’t be bothered. Meaning 3 may perhaps be valid, but the others are 101% whaledreck.


A form of self-preservation exhibited by people with autodestructive imaginations in order to ensure that when it comes to the crunch it’ll be someone else’s bones which go crack and not their own.


The principle governing human intellection. Its nature may be deduced from examining the two following propositions, both of which are held by human beings to be true and often by the same people: “I can’t so you mustn’t,” and “I can, but you mustn’t.”


Member of a subgroup of the human race who hails, or whose ancestors hailed, from a chunk of land nicknamed—not by its residents—Africa. Superior to the Caucasian in that Negroes did not invent nuclear weapons, the automobile, Christianity, nerve gas, the concentration camp, military epidemics, or the megalopolis.

New poor

People who are too far behind with time-payments on next year’s model to make the down-payment on the one for the year after.


A Great British writer once said that if he had to choose between betraying his country and betraying his friend, he hoped he would have the decency to betray his country. Amen, brothers and sisters! Amen!

Population explosion

Unique in human experience, an event which happened yesterday but which everyone swears won’t happen until tomorrow.


Believe all you hear. Your world may not be a better one than the one the blocks live in, but it’ll be a sight more vivid.


That real cool piece of hardware up at the GT tower. They say he’s apt to evolve true consciousness one day. Also, they say he’s as intelligent as a thousand of us put together, which isn’t really saying much, because when you put a thousand of us together look how stupidly we behave.


Term applied to advantages enjoyed by other people which we tried to cheat them out of and didn’t manage. See also dishonest, sneaky, underhand and just lucky I guess.