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Truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction can be stopped by editors, and lightning bolts really don't have that problem. That's why all of Zeus' myths are so ridiculous. But sometimes, even the gods of our own earthly reality bring in a hack fantasy writer to finish their work -- a coffee-stained scribbler spackling our world with the improbable adventures of Lance Thrustcock and his heroic ability to stab everything with his magical or metaphorical sword (or the spectacular science-silliness of ZERO POINT COMEDY). The dumbest fantasy tropes weren't created by dudes trying to pump out The Spell Of The Muthlrhu Elven Kings, Part 11; they were created by J.R.R. Mother Nature.

5
The Royal Family Has A Sword Of Starmetal

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The Shitty Fantasy:

Lance Thrustcock gripped his Thrusty Stabber, the magical weapon which had been in his family for generations. He would use it to end Vile Darkpouch's evil, which dangled over the kingdom even now. The sword was engraved with ancient, important script, but who cares about words when you can hack assholes' heads right off? Legend said it was cast from the light of the stars themselves, so hacking off assholes' heads would be drenched in heavenly glory. Bards even sang of how the Thrustcocks used it to carve out a mighty empire, but not of how the world had been at peace at the time, because it's hard to sing when someone hacks your asshole head right off.

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REAL cutting critique.

The lost son of the royal family has a magical blade made of heavenly metal, a physical object embodying fantasy's shittiest core lesson: High-class people are just BETTER than all the bloody peasants. Not even because they're properly fed and more expensively trained; just because they have special shiny things while stupid farmers are too busy feeding everyone. The stories say it's the magic sword that gives our hero a chance. What it really does is tell everyone else, "Don't have a priceless antique made from space metal? Then get back to work, asshole."

The Scientific Fact

When archaeologists cracked Tutankhamun's tomb in 1925, they were astonished to find a 3,000-year-old dagger which hadn't rusted. They were even more astonished not to find it in their back after saying, "See? The curse was nonsense!" It seems Egyptian burial customs preserve weapons of war instead of protecting mummies from (well-educated) thieves. Which isn't the most subtle moral, but nothing on Earth is less subtle than a pyramid.

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I - like - big - BLOCKS and I cannot lie.

X-ray fluorescence spectrometry matched the blade's metal with meteoric iron. Tutankhamun was buried with a meteorite dagger, which makes Valyrian steel look like a letter opener. Maybe that's the only thing that can kill mummies. It also demonstrates the biggest problem with fantasy weapons: If there is a priceless relic weapon, in reality, the fabulously rich ruler of the totalitarian kingdom is much more likely own it.

4
Time Warps Between Different Regions

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The Shitty Fantasy:

Lance Thrustcock had formerly been standing in a stormy winter, the sky cursed by the dangling evil of Vile Darkpouch, but this new land was bright, innocent, and summery. It was almost as if the time ran differently here, and as if the writer couldn't think of a subtler way of suggesting this. He'd been whisked here by incredibly long-lived and wise women who were still mega-hot, wore bottle caps and thin leather straps for armor, and inexplicably wanted to get it on with Lance, even though by their standards, he must have been a particularly stupid two-year-old. And if we can have a magical land where time runs differently, well, we can definitely ignore how a thug like Lance wouldn't have worked out time dilation in a million years.

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Unlike his time-travelling descendant, Lance Timecock.

Time running differently in a magical land is a mythical cliche. Dicking around with time is also a great way of pretending that exposition is part of the story. Why subtly imply how things ended up this way if you can go right back and tell everyone! It also reveals the "world" as a disconnected series of things for Lance to lance, because even one functioning time-differential mechanism would utterly reshape society beyond anything like the usual swords-and-orcs bullshit.

The Scientific Fact

The most stupidly impossible of all science fiction or fantasy tropes is a core component of our reality. General relativity means that all mass is leaning on the fast-forward and slow motion buttons, depending on where you're standing, quite literally all the time. You've probably read about it happening near light speed or awesome events like black holes. But it's also happening right under your feet.

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You might even find a time when these shoes are a good idea.

Time is moving more slowly underground. Massive time dilation means the Earth's core is 2.5 years younger than the surface. The sun's core is 40,000 years younger than its surface, and since it takes light 100,000 years to escape that core, that means every bit of solar energy has traveled through time and relative dimensions in space. It's the Universe's final, desperate attempt to end jokes about nerds needing to go outside.

Of course, we can't actually go down to the center of the Earth and check. Because even in an article about fantasy magic and Doctor Who, The Core was hilariously nonsensical bullshit.


"I know a bunch of science words, and now I will write a script about ALL of them."

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3
There's An Impossibly Rare Magic Substance

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The Shitty Fantasy:

Greypubes the wizard explained, "There's magical material which can defeat Vile Darkpouch and rescue the Princess Lacethong. But with all my magical power, I cannot recover it, because a HUGE part of these allegedly nerdy fantasies is that the smart character is actually useless without a heroic thug to march in and hit people. Have fun cheering for the bully, nerds!"

Lance looked confused. "Who are you talking to?"

Greypubes looked annoyed. "Ugh, a minor character just exposited something, so your next 20 murders are probably justified. Go have fun."

Lance grinned and stabbed him. "Sweet!" he exclaimed as he bent over to loot the corpse."

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The hero of every D&D campaign.

The core of the villain's power (or the plot to beat them) is a magical material that is utterly impossible to acquire, which raises all kinds of ridiculous questions. If no one can get it, how does anyone know what it does? How did ancient prophets who passed on the spoken legend know about it, when they clearly lived in a time before writing, and presumably before toilet paper? Bearded shamans with shitty asses encoding their universe's equivalent of heavy particle physics in legends. And happy to do it, even though they'd be long dead (and only marginally dirtier) by the time it actually happened. And why did they just patiently wait to die, when apparently all it takes to get the substance is, like, one dude and some comic relief companions?

The Scientific Fact

There really is a powerful element you just can't get, no matter how rich you are. Astatine, element 85, is named after the Greek for "unstable," and nothing has ever lived up to its name so hard. All of science has no idea what solid Astatine looks like, how it behaves, or what it does, because the atoms are so unstable that it doesn't exist long enough to become a material.

Wikimedia Commons
"Don't @ me" -- the laws of physics

There are long-lived elements above and below it on the periodic table. They're all fine. This is just the forces of physics fundamentally hating this element and kicking it out of the Existence Club whenever it forms. Element 85 has been 86'd from reality. This is because it's the most stupidly radioactive anything ever. Even if you could gather enough to make the tiniest pebble, it would instantly be vaporized by its own radioactive heating. The stablest isotope has a half life of about 8.1 hours, meaning this element exists for about as long as a Stranger Things binge.

2
You Can Break Any Barrier Just By Trying Enough

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The Shitty Fantasy:

Lance Thrustcock is blocked by evil magic! Princess Lacethong is held behind by an impenetrable magical barrier utterly immune to all attacks. But by just BELIEVING in himself -- and by grimacing quite a lot as he NEVER GIVES UP -- he can thrust, and thrust (while the music, among other things, swells), until he finally penetrates the barrier. Because that's how he solves every physical, emotional, or sociological problem.

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Artist's impression of Thrustcock versus the Ice Queen

Once more, the hero proves that the power of love is stronger than hate, that purity can defeat sorcery, and that even the most powerful magic isn't as good as just stabbing someone. It's the mystic equivalent of the Bond villain deathtrap.

The Scientific Fact

Reality breaks through impossible barriers tredicillions of times per second, and that's just the reactions required to keep you alive. Every atomic nucleus is held together by energy barriers. Radioactive decay happens when a particle breaks through this hard-physics wall instead of jumping over it. It's all based on quantum mechanics, the science of which makes even Autobots/Robocops orgy fanfiction seem sane and anatomically possible.

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When an alpha particle goes full Thrustcock.

Quantum tunneling is when a particle appears on the other side of an energy barrier after just bouncing off it a ludicrous number of times, like a subatomic cat scratching at the door until reality says "Fine" and lets it out. And like that cat, you can never predict exactly if or when the bugger will go out, no matter what you do.

So you can break through any barrier simply by never giving up. Of course, for anything larger than an alpha particle, "never giving up" might mean billions of years longer than the universe will actually exist. But that's still shorter than the extended editions of The Hobbit.

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1
The Fabulously Jeweled Location

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The Shitty Fantasy:

Lance rescues Princess Lacethong, and in their desperate on-foot escape, they somehow evade an entire castle of goblorcs. Their journey takes them through a magnificently jeweled desert, which the writer really enjoyed describing in exquisite detail while ignoring how they would have ecologically and economically devastated every other region in the story simply by existing.

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Because everyone would have been too busy trying to match three.

The writer especially ignores how the gleaming jeweled location of whatever would have made it too painful for Lance and Lacethong to fall to the glittering ground and make sweet love. But if she's going to ignore the pain of her entire family/kingdom being slaughtered and the trauma of severe physical and mental abuse and subsequent violent rescue, all to bone some asshole like two hours later? Well, she can easily ignore diamonds poking into her back.

The Scientific Fact

"Libyan desert glass" comes from a huge area of desert studded with jewels. It was formed tens of millions of years ago, when a meteorite glassed a vast swath of the Libyan Desert. It's square miles of solid shiny over a foot deep. In time, it eroded and cracked, and fragments were sand-blasted to smooth gems, scattering space-wealth over the desert. Truth isn't just stranger than fiction; it blows the shit out of it with interplanetary ammunition. Space hit Earth so hard that it turned into gems, like a video game enemy.

Remember how Tutankhamun had a +5 Space Dagger? He was also wearing a Space Scarab DEATH BLING jewelry.

Wikimedia Commons
A yellow gem, formed when the planet Earth pissed itself.

The yellow stone is a piece of Libyan desert glass. Glass millions of years older than the Egyptian (or any other) civilization. So Tutankhamun had a meteorite dagger and space jewelry. Are we absolutely sure that Stargate was fictional?

Simulations show that such an airburst would be tens of thousands of times more powerful than the atomic tests, which have formed similar sand-glasses around the world. And we still don't have a good anti-asteroid program. Space physically thumped a chunk of Earth into shiny objects, trying to get even our dumbest instincts to notice, and we still aren't taking the hint. We still don't even know whether the glass was formed by airburst or impact melting. Asteroids hit Earth with such force that 28.5 million years later, it's evolved intelligent life and still doesn't know exactly what hit it. Because physics kicks the shit out of even the most powerful wizard.

Enjoy even more science glory with 5 of the Coolest Scientific Findings (are Shockingly Recent) and 6 Incredibly Cool Discoveries (About Cold Things)

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