Reviev: Just Like Grandma Used to Make by Brenta Blevins
The slippery slope argument is as close to universally wrong as you can get, but the good thing about science fiction, which often uses the same idea, is that its job isn't to predict things correctly. And while it is fun when it does it's far more useful to have a story that explores what is happening in our world and a well written slippery slope argument can do that brilliantly.
One excellent example of a slippery slope story that well done is “Just Like Grandma Used to Make,” By Brenta Blevins. At less than a thousand words it points out clearly just how bad the food situation can get, but more importantly it might make a few people look at the current food situation and realize that we're already in a situation that needs fixed, and the only reason we don't see it is because we're in the middle of it.
The story of “Just Like Grandma Used to Make,” is a simple one. A woman is trying to make a traditional meal for her son so he can understand what Christmas meals were like when she was a kid. But she lives in a world that has been devastated both by global warming and corporate greed. The problem with this is that most recipes have been patented and she isn't wealthy enough to afford them so she has had to use black market chemicals and recipes to make her meal.
This sounds absurd until you realize it's mostly just a combination of things we deal with all the time and things that farmers and grocers have to face. We currently have legal gene patents. Which isn't quite as bad as it might seem since, at least so far, you can't patent human DNA, but there are certainly plenty of people who want to. Video game companies have been pushing against ownership for years because if you don't own the product you buy they can charge you for it every month or anything else they want and the only reason this isn't a wider spread issue is that it's harder to do this with physical products, but with the growing popularity of 3d printers people are going to try to control the right to make things and food.
All of this is before you even look at the food situation in the world where a handful of companies hold huge power over what you eat. Companies that clearly don't care about your health, your happiness or anything but your money. And while this is frustrating for a consumer it's worse for farmers who are forced to buy seeds from these companies every year instead of simply using their own as was done in the past. There are even stories of farmers being sued because seeds from neighboring farms blew into theirs and they hadn't paid for the right to use those seeds.
I don't expect that things are likely to get as bad as they are in “Just Like Gradma Used to Make,” by Brenta Blevins, but prediction doesn’t seem to be the point of this story. Beyond being a good story, the real point is to remind people that things really can get worse and so perhaps we should work on doing something before the ocean begins to take out cities and people are kicking in our doors for cooking a meal for our family. You can find “Just Like Grandma Used to Make” in the January 2014 issue of Analog magazine.