Suddenly emerging from years in seclusion, science fiction hero Anthony “Buck” Rogers announced his retirement today from the world of future-describing cliches. From now on, Rogers said, he would no longer appear in any metaphors designed to help people lacking scientific backgrounds understand complex technological developments and breakthroughs.
“After decades of seeing my name tied to every damn-fool trend that comes down the pike, I’m calling it quits,” said Rogers from his beachfront home in 25th century Florida. “You guys are just going to have to find a new name to drop when trying to describe how breathtaking the new talking toaster is or how amazing next year’s personal jet pack will be. Frankly, I’m just too old to keep doing this.”
Rogers first appeared 77 years ago in Phil Nowlan’s August 1928 Amazing Stories story “Armageddon-2419 A.D.” According to Nowlan, Rogers—a former “U.S. Air Service” pilot in World War I—had found post-war work as a Pennsylvania surveyor.
But in 1919, he was trapped in a cave-in, then put into suspended animation by “strange radioactive gasses.” Upon awakening 500 years later in 2419, Rogers found to his horror that Mongol hordes had overrun America. In response, Rogers teamed up with beautiful Wilma Deering and the genius Dr. Huer and succeeded in driving the dreaded hordes away.
Since then, pundits, reporters and screenwriters have invoked Rogers’ name millions of times by trying to describe otherwise undescribable new developments in warfare, aviation and spaceflight. Even the original Mercury Seven astronauts were said to refer to themselves as modern-day Buck Rogers.
The National Intelligence Council held a conference in October 1999 on future threats to the nation entitled “Buck Rogers or Rock Throwers?” A 2001 NASA press release on the study of aircraft with self-bending wings was called “Buck Rogers, Watch Out!” A June 21, 2004 CNN story headlined “Buck Rogers Bucks” told of how civilians can fly into space for $102,000.
“All four vehicles understand and react to the change real-time, deliver the munitions on target and bring back the evidence,” said U.S. Air Force test pilot Lt. Col. James “Pee Wee” Wertz in a May 2004 Boeing corporate newsletter article on the experimental unmanned X-45 aircraft. “Now that’s truly amazing. That’s Buck Rogers-type stuff.”
“I never agreed to any of this!” said Rogers, sharing his porch with his fifth wife Honey Goodhead, a 23-year-old exotic dancer and adult film star who said she was also contemplating retirement. “Had I been getting fat residual checks all these years, maybe I’d consider staying on. But it’s too late now. From now on, you people will just have to invoke Flash Gordon’s or maybe even Batman’s name for your high-tech metaphors.” MTW