A New Man: Original Flash Fiction

I walk in and talk to a balding man at a desk. I am not sure why I’m here: the room reminds me of a university lecture hall with banks of desks arrayed in front of a central screen. It looks like a NASA control room, almost. The air smells distinctly like bureaucracy.

“The machine has just been completed,” the balding man tells me.

Standing behind him as he sits at the desk, I can see his name plate. His name is John Kew. He points to the screen at the front of the room – it is some kind of alien made scanner-thing. They are trying it for the first time today. I seem as if I belong here; I’m not out of place. I must be some sort of scientist, or an observer.

Yes, that’s more likely, I think.

John Kew tells me he ‘found’ the blueprints for this device, but he doesn’t elaborate.

I say, “In your own journal, right?”

I smile. I am making a joke. Apparently.

I go on, “I liked this story better the first time I read it. You know? As Never Was? P. Schuyler Miller? He finds a knife in his own museum in the future. Builds a museum and puts the knife in it. It only exists there…” I trail off. John Kew looks at me blankly. He doesn’t know.

“This is alien technology,” John Kew says. “Well, there are aliens involved but no one has met them. This machine allows them to communicate with us and to scan us. We don’t know exactly what to expect here.”

I am free to wander the room. I pass the big screen at the front of the room and stop behind another desk just like John Kew’s. There’s a woman at this desk, strong and serious. Her name plate reads: Anne Stockton.

“We can also scan them through the device, but only a few people know how it works. It took three years just to get it to talk to our computers.” Anne Stockton runs a hand through her short hair and doesn’t look at me.

On the screen is what looks like the aurora borealis dancing in rose and green. The shape and the details of the undulations are some kind of language. The scientists seem able to read it.

I take a hard look at the screen and the picture changes. Gold rings appear, and I think of dripping paint into water.  A man at the other end of the room calls out that the aliens have registered my presence.

“Something about the eye contact makes it easier for them to scan us,” Anne tells me.

I look down, and then back up again. I am immobilized by some kind of beam. I can’t tell whether I am seeing the beam or only feeling it, but I can’t move until it abruptly cuts off.  I feel disoriented: I’m a few feet farther away from Anne’s desk.

I stagger over to John Kew.

“What the hell just happened?” I say.

“You were gone,” he replies.

I look at him blankly.

“You weren’t gone long,” he adds.

No one seems very worried about this. I expect to be enveloped by security, or a medical team, or something. But nothing like that happens. They don’t seem concerned about where I’ve been or what happened while I was gone. I turn back to the screen: it looks all cremation of Sam McGee again.

“You know, I could be a clone or something,” I say. “I don’t feel like a clone, but still you should check it out.”

John Kew rolls his eyes. He thinks I am making another joke. I thank John Kew for his time, and nod to Anne Stockton. Then I walk out of the room, out of the building, and into the world.

Let TVOntario Know You Want to See More Prisoners of Gravity

OK, here’s the deal, beloved readers and random internet persons: the producer slash director of Prisoners of Gravity, Greg Thurlbeck, left a note on my blog yesterday.

Read it here.

So all you PoG fans out there need to let TVOntario know that it is worth their effort and money to release these episodes. You need to do it now. Before the funding request gets denied. Use the email form, call them up, or stroll on in to the TVo offices if you’re in the area.

Here’s the link to TVO’s contact page.

Do it. Please.

Borrowed from http://tytempletonart.wordpress.com/tag/prisoners-of-gravity/

 

 

Prisoners of Gravity is the Best Thing Ever

I’ve been thinking a lot about Prisoners of Gravity. I’m not sure how many of you are old enough to remember this, but I am (So there. Nyah!). It ran from 1989 to 1994 on TVOntario, and featured Rick Green (of the Frantics, the Red Green Show, and more recently History Bites) as lead character Commander Rick. The show ran on the premise that disgruntled citizen Rick rigs up his car as a spaceship to escape the earth and begin a new life somewhere out in the Great White Milky, but ends up crashing into an earth orbiting satellite instead. So, trapped in orbit, Commander Rick spends his time reviewing books and interviewing their creators.

I borrowed this image from sfwriter.com

It was low budget, funny, topical, and absolutely brilliant. And it was about Books. Did I mention that already? More specifically it explored science fiction, fantasy, horror and comics. It’s where I got an introduction to the work of Rob J. Sawyer, Neil Gaiman, and Alan Moore (who looks suspiciously like my dog) among many others.

My dog. Just sayin’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out this sampling:

The intro was drawn by Ty Templeton. Note the Doctor Who lampshade, SW poster and is that a Watchmen mug (?) at 1:20 and the THX 138 license plate at 1:15. MMMmmm nerdy goodness.

You can watch a bunch of episodes at the TVOntario Public Archive and quite a few are available on YouTube. And watch you should.

Rob Sawyer has a PoG page on his website sfwriter.com, where he calls prisoners of Gravity, “the most thoughtful and creative television program ever produced anywhere in the world about the literature of science fiction.” Read the rest here.

Is there anything like this on TV today? Could a show like this even get made for television today? I seriously doubt it. And that’s a damn shame. Because Prisoners  of Gravity is the BEST. THING. EVER.

Hit it Nan-Cy…

Flash Friday Original Short Fiction: The Gleaners

Image by Sarah Novak at http://www.novakistan.com

The Gleaners

Chancy stood in the doorway in the never-quite-dark, and looked out over the town’s tumid glow in the distance. The shanty-town of Harperville spread out behind him.

“Today is the day the bulldozers come,” he said.

“Once upon a time, astronauts tooled around the moon in an open, two-seat electric buggy.”

Chancy looked up and saw Professor Milo standing just a few feet away, hair wild.

“I was raised at the tail end of the great big beautiful tomorrow. I was promised sparkling domed cities and a space elevator to the moon. We were all supposed to go the moon,” Milo continued.

Milo was a real professor and said a lot of things; mostly quotations from the books that lined his little shack. The books were great insulation from the cold, but Milo read them all too. Chancy might have read them once, in another lifetime. Milo waved him over.

In his hands was a picture, carefully pulled out of one of the books. Milo’s hands were crosshatched with thin scars, and shook slightly. Chancy took the page to get a better look. The sun had just started to rise, and Chancy had to hold it close to his face and squint hard to see it. It was a painting of three bent women in a field, with handfuls of wheat. Behind them, as if at a great distance, the sun shone.

“It’s very nice?” Chancy tried. He didn’t think it was nice at all, but it was best not to rile Milo. He handed it back and started walking. The ransom-note jumble of shacks and little cooking fires thinned out until Chancy could see the landfill itself, newly lit by the first smear of dawn.

Nairne was out digging with a broken-handled spade, her frizzled red hair hanging in a profusion of dreadlocks and little braids, her face blotched with sweat and grime. Her twins, Carolus and Magnus, were madly stuffing plastic pop bottles and bags into an old sack.

Milo sidled up to Chancy.

“No one is going to buy from her. The official channels are all papered up. Recyclers can only get their scrap from licensed dealers now.”

“There’s no licenses for us,” Chancy snorted.

And anyway, he thought, the bulldozers are coming.

A news van, emblazoned with a huge white seven, pulled up just as the horizon melted rose and gold, and parked near the edge of the shanty town.

The other residents had started to gather behind Chancy, looking down at the van. Some clutched handwritten signs, others held shovels or garden hoes.

“Be nice to the journalists,” Chancy reminded everyone.

The reporter was thin and blond. She hurried out of the van and jogged up the hill towards them, a cameraman trailing behind her. Up close, the reporter smelled like new car. Chancy didn’t want to imagine how he must smell; he’d given up worrying about these things a long time ago.

“I’m Suede Henley,” she said. “Can I ask you a few questions?”

“Sure,” Chancy nodded. “My name’s Chancy.”

Everyone deferred to Chancy: he had been there for a long time, before the people had moved in, and had children.

“You live here? In the dump?” she asked.

“Yes,” Chancy replied

“What do you do, exactly?”

“We mine for plastic, and sell it to the recyclers. We’re not stealing. This is stuff no one wanted. Garbage.”

Suede turned, and began talking at an invisible audience, “For years these people have been scouring the landfill, scraping a living from what others have thrown away. And now an Amendment to the Recycling and Composting of Municipal Waste Act, Ontario has changed everything.”

Over Suede’s shoulder Chancy could see a movement on the road. The bulldozers were coming. Chancy glanced back at Suede who was still talking to her audience.

“At some point corporations,” she said, “Corporate people rather, got wind of the goldmine that was under their feet. And now these people are being swept away, their homes demolished, to make way for large scale mining concerns. According to one industry spokesman, this type of open pit plastic mine is the way of the future.”

Suede stopped talking and the cameraman swung the camera around for a dramatic shot of the bulldozers advancing. The residents of Harperville waited anxiously, not knowing exactly what to do, when to start.

This doesn’t feel like the future, Chancy thought. The future is out there someplace, for somebody. But it sure isn’t here.

New Futurama is *Still* the Best Thing Ever…

Squeee! Here’s another Futurama countdown podcast from David X. Cohen (the X makes it cool) and Mike Rowe:

“But last time you tried that the Mexican restaurant declared war on us!” OMG. Classic Zapp and Kiff. I love it already.

For your enjoyment and edification, here are some of Zapp and Kiff’s best moments via You Tube. If you aren’t into Futurama, then skip straight to the bottom for Sparky the Swearing Parrot (P.S. new Futurama tomorrow!):

And without further ado, Sparky (he’s NSFW language-wise):

Flash Friday: At the Dairy Dungeon

It’s Friday again! Here’s a bit of something I’ve been working on – lemme know what you think. Another bit of this same thing can be found here.

It was Wednesday night. Farutto was at the Dairy Dungeon, kitty-corner to his apartment, nursing a thin slice of overpriced cheesecake. He was at his usual table next to the door. Outside, huge gun-metal ants skittered across the sidewalk. A pavement-coloured cat watched from the shadows, almost perfectly camouflaged against the crumbling retaining wall across the street.

The interior was all black and red naugahyde, and the paper cups proclaimed in big, cheery letters: “We beat you right!” Little clots of goth kids drifted in and out, desperate to be cool, all doing their part to lower the earth’s albedo.

Farutto picked up his cup and swirled the ice cubes around. At least they don’t serve any ridiculous theme dishes, he thought. The owner, Gerry, had said it was ‘too meta.’ Ostensibly, Farutto was there reading a novel: it was an old ratty copy of Catcher in the Rye. He’d read it three times already, and he mostly stared at Pigeon as she bustled around the restaurant.

T. Francis Pigeon had wide curvy hips, and her name spelled out with little stickers on her name tag. FraNkiE, it said. She wore hot pink cat’s-eye glasses, and her hair was purple this week, shaved up one side.

Farutto listened as she chatted with the customers and other servers. He tried to clink his fork as little as possible so he could hear better. Pigeon was bringing a plate of frothy chocolate cake to a well-dressed older man who was sitting near Farutto.

He might be a lawyer, Farutto thought. There were lots of little law firms around with only two or three lawyers, in lovely converted houses, or nasty cheap storefronts.

“When are you due?” The older gentleman asked Frankie.

Or he might not, Farutto corrected himself.

Pigeon paused with the plate of cake just above the table top. She blinked her eyes and then frowned.

“Pardon?” she said.

“The baby,” he said pointing at her belly. “You are pregnant, right?’

“No. I’m just fat, “she answered.

The maybe-lawyer, maybe-not looked down at the table, then at his shoes and blurted out a garbled apology.

“It’s okay,’ Frankie replied. “It happens all the time. I’m not offended, it’s just weird.”

Pigeon set the plate down and went off to wipe an empty table near the kitchen. The man hurriedly ate his cake and left. Out of the corner of her eye, Pigeon watched as the door shut behind him before going back to the table.

Gerry came and stood with his back to Pigeon, still looking out the door.

“What was that all about?”

“Nothing. Another guy asked if I was pregnant and I told him I was just fat. At least he left me a big tip.” Frankie shook her head. “Why does that keep happening? I’m not that fat.”

“You just have that glow,” Gerry answered grinning.

Pigeon scrunched up her nose and punched him hard on the arm.

Welcome Back to the World of Tomorrow: New Futurama is the Best Thing Ever

Not that I’m counting down the days, or anything…but there are 8 days until brand spanking new Futurama! I loooove Futurama. I’ve loved it right from, “Space, it seems to go on and on forever and then you get to the end and the gorilla starts throwing barrells at you.” I love the nerdy in jokes, and the attention to detail. The tubular bell-sy theme song is my ringtone.

And somehow it keeps coming back for more seasons. Like right now! Apparently Bender has a child and then gets to kill all humans. Finally. Check out the Futurama podcast below. For those of you with short attention spans, the clip starts at 10:48:

Hehehehe. Yay! For anyone who cares, this is my absolute favourite Futurama moment ever. Somebody’s got ADHD…

I wondered what were the oddest things people have done for Futurama, and thanks to the internet here they are:

Futurama tattoos! I especially like this Planet Express logo via Pop Candy – it’s simple and iconic.

And check out this Slurm tattoo via reddit:

It’s highly addictive!

Cut and paste this url to see the Bender butt tattoo. Truly for the devoted fan only:

http://www.peelified.com/Futurama-Forum-1/Topic-650-80-On_the_topic_of_Futurama.html

I want one soooo badly now.

Futurama fans don’t just tattoo their butts, they also cosplay! Out in public. Where people can see them.

Via Dorkshelf.com. I’m glad these two didn’t go for the low hanging fruit, opting instead for Captain Yesterday and Clobberella.

A great Fry and Bender:

And a kick-ass Leela:

And Mom!


It’s amazing (and only a little bit sad) what fans will do. But yay! (have I mentioned yay?!) in only 8 days all we’ll have to do is sit on our shiny metal asses and enjoy!

 

 

Flash Friday: Speak Easy in the Library

Gnat stood at the library doors, arms full. The little girl in front of her pressed the wheelchair access button, and Gnat slipped through just as the door was closing. Her shoes ticked on the shiny paste floor as she passed the notice board. A tattered paper announced, “Knitters’ Circle 6 pm First Thursday Every Month.” A skinny slip of paper tacked on top enthused, “Today!”

The children’s librarian was behind the desk fussing with a stack of printed colouring pages, and worrying at her lip ring with her tongue. Beside her on the wall a framed printout declared:

“A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone.”

Gnat pointed to the sign as she passed, “Hey! I’m offended by that.”

The children’s librarian looked up, startled for a second, and then smiled. She had a very loud smile, for a librarian.

Gnat strode past the stacks where tattered books were overflowing onto carts. There was nothing here to offend: pablum infotainment and mockumentaries. There just wasn’t the budget or the mandate for serious acquisitions anymore. The Fairness and Excellence in Libraries Act had made sure of that.

She made her way to the stairwell, hiked up her knitting bag on her shoulder and re-adjusted the casserole dish she was carrying so that she could shoulder open the door. Gnat didn’t hear or see anyone else coming and realised that she was the last one to arrive. As usual.

Most of the other knitters were already down in the chilly meeting room (officially known as the Margaret Eva Sim General Purpose Room) with needles out and knitting bags open. Someone had taped a paper to the concrete wall that read: Forgetting is the fifth horseman of the apocalypse. – Jane Jacobs. A few discarded knitting books were piled on a little table in the corner.

Looking around the room, Gnat saw that some of the knitters did have patterns, printed out or handwritten, but they were just for show. No one here needed to look at a pattern more than once to remember it.

All of us can knit though, she mused.

All except for Livia who could only crochet great long chains, and Geo the ginger, who did corking. He’d made the motley rugs that lined the meeting room walls and kept the sound from carrying to the library upstairs. He had plenty of time on his hands. Geo had been here, in the handful of basement rooms at the library, for six months at least.

As Gnat set the casserole dish on the long plywood table with the rest of the potluck, she wondered briefly what Geo had done. Livia said that he was affiliated with Wikileaks, but Rufus and Carl insisted he was a hacker. He had worked wonders with the aging computer in the general purpose room, even though it still sounded like there was a hamster inside.

“Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster for the internet,” Geo had said the first time he and Gnat had met. Gnat understood: Geo had tracked them all down that way. Eleven people with eidetic memory, all in one room. Whatever he had done, it had left him with a stack of illicit documents. So while everyone else was wasting their time hazzing cheeseburgers and amusing themselves to death, Geo had been busy building himself a library.

He had also been left with a flair for the melodramatic that everyone tolerated with a minimum of eye rolling. He started the meeting in the usual way: “We’re here to remember. What’s been taken apart, we put back together.”

Everyone sat in a loose circle, knitting in hand. It was Rufus’ turn to start. He was making socks that he traded with one neighbour for haircuts, and another for eggs. There was silence for a full minute while he finished the row he was on, and put everything back in the bag.

Rufus cleared his throat, and started,

“Treaty No. 1. Articles of a treaty made and concluded this third day of August in the year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seventy-one, between Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland by Her Commissioner, Wemyss M. Simpson, Esquire, of the one part, and the Chippewa and Swampy Cree Tribes of Indians, inhabitants of the country within the limits hereinafter defined and described, by their Chiefs chosen and named as hereinafter mentioned, of the other part…”

 

I love libraries. 🙂

Right now the Stephen Harper ™ government is gutting Library and Archives Canada. LAC hasn’t acquired new materials since 2010.With further cuts announced this spring our collected cultural heritage is being disbursed and contracted out to private collections. The cuts are being justified by way of digitization of the collection. But to date 4% of LAC’s archive has been digitized, and digitization staff have just been cut in half. Go here to save Library and Archives Canada.

Check out Library and Archives Canada and their new approach to “Service Delivery.”

The American Library Association has a good summary of What Libraries are Good For.

Nerdy T-shirts are the Best Thing Ever

This comes via Tor.com, and there’s so much to mashed up geekiness to love at Riptapparel that it’s hard to pick out favourites. But somehow I persevered to bring you these gems:

Ghostbusters! Batman!

Futurama and Coffee together at last

You know you want to buy these! There’s dozens of other great designs, enough to replace all of your shirts that got eaten by moths. Or maybe that’s just me. :/

Go check them out, they’re the Best. Thing. Ever.

Flash Friday: Jack Daw and the Repo Man

Yikes! Friday just keeps happening, doesn’t it? I’d say something like, “I’m sure you’ve all been looking forward to my next installment of weirdness,” but then I’d roll my eyes so hard they might fall out. This is what I call my impecunious student story.

Repo

I look around the tiny, windowless office. There’s a small, cheap desk and a battered file cabinet that is a slightly more daring shade of putty than the walls. I sit down, take a deep breath. Of course the HR manager isn’t here yet. He wants to wait, to make me wait. To see how I deal with the pressure.

The desk has a blotter, a calendar, a bunch of stapled printouts. I fight the urge to pick up a battered videocassette entitled Hands off my BLT. I raise an eyebrow at it. This isn’t the high-powered type-A manager I’m used to. Maybe he really is just late.

Pre-rehearsed answers are swimming in my head.

You’ve done this a thousand times, I think to myself.

“If only I could remember it.”

“They can’t ask about the Repo,” I assure myself.

I’d looked it up on the Canadian Human Rights Commission website. “Avoid asking: Have you undergone any education-related memory adjustments? Preferred: Tell me about your education.”

It has an official name of course, Induced Lacunar Amnesia, but everyone calls it Repo. I had fallen behind on my student loan payments. Way behind. Eventually I had had no choice: I went to my loan manager, hat in hand, to have my degree repossessed. It took less than an hour, and most of that was the mandatory half hour wait in case of anaphylaxis. The drug itself had tasted faintly of chalk, which seemed deeply meaningful at the time.

Finally, the door opens. The HR manager wears khakis and a bright coral dress shirt. He extends a beefy hand for me to shake.

“Nice to meet you Jack, I’m John Stoneman. Sorry to keep you waiting.”

“No problem.” I reply. I stare intently at the bridge of his nose so that he thinks I’m making eye contact.

Mr. Stoneman sits down, rummages for my resume in his stack of papers, clears his throat. His eyes flick up to me, and then back down to the resume.

“I can see here that you’ve held some interesting positions. So what I’m wondering is why you are looking at this particular position?”

I’m momentarily frozen. Yeah. This is what I was afraid of right there. I mumble something about needing a change. I’m not even sure what I’ve said. He knows: I’m not qualified for those ‘interesting positions’ anymore. He can’t ask, it’s illegal, but that doesn’t stop anyone from trying.

“Tell me about your education.”

Tell him what? That I remember the bus ride to school, the leafy autumn smell, the uneven stone face of the buildings? Sometimes in dreams I walk up the paved sidewalk and lay my hands on the heavy wooden door. It is cold and smooth from a generation of students pushing through, and infinitely heavy the way things are in dreams. I push harder and it swings open over a huge burned out pit. Odd glittering embers glow here and there. I panic, then fall endlessly.

And those are the good dreams. I look up; he’s waiting for an answer.

So am I.