What the Frack?

I have succumbed to “Caprica.”

I didn’t even put up a fight. As a former fan of “Battlestar Galatica,” the smashing Sci-Fi Channel series which set pulses racing with its taiko drums and noir attitude, I didn’t stumble unwittingly upon “Caprica.” I saw the slick ads in The New Yorker. I allowed myself to hope that the show might measure up.

And, so far, it’s not bad. The writers have a lot of compelling themes to work with – the uneasy alliance between artificial intelligence and humanity, the contested zone between religion and science, the limits of love and friendship in a world gone mad. The show is stylish, layered, and occasionally has the foreshadowing of those addictive drums.

But last night for the first time I heard one of the characters use the word “frack” as a verb to suggest—well, what we all assumed it meant in BG—a word that can’t be uttered on major networks. And it sounded natural in the fictional context. However, my own understanding of the word has irrevocably changed since I came across a story on the news wires earlier this week. The story by Associated Press Writers Marc Levy and Vicki Smith dealt with a drilling technique that has been used since the 1990s to tap natural gas fields.

The technique is called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” And all this time I had thought how clever the writers of Battlestar had been to get around the confinement of obscenity rules by inventing a brand new euphemism which had the virtues of being both explosive on the tongue and somehow suggestively smutty. Yet, it turns out, the drilling technique, which involves pumping millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into wells to fracture the shale where the gas is trapped, produces a salty, foul wastewater too loaded with chemicals to be restored by conventional sewage and drinking water treatment plants. Hmm. Maybe the term is more obscene than I thought.

Of course, we all want energy to run our TVs and video games, not to mention the robots who will be doing our dirty work in the glorious future. But if our energy experts don’t figure out a better way to manage the millions of gallons of polluted water that fracking leaves behind, at some point in the not too distant future we may find ourselves well and truly fracked.

2 thoughts on “What the Frack?”

  1. I too have been seduced by Caprica – a sublime addiction and I never even watched Battlestar Galactica – and I agree wholeheartedly about fracking.

    Diane Rehm did a program last week that touched on this (the nasty by-products of fracking). If I can track it down, I’ll send you the link.

    Have you produced audiobooks of your novels yet?


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