Wednesday, May 4, 2011
The room was dark and reeked of discontent. Chairs were arraigned in rows facing a podium where a gray haired man stood waiting. The people in the chairs looked as though this was a mix between a formal tea and a Magic tournament.
Norman Thomond, ex-author of a string of detective stories about a retired blind police officer who solved crimes with the help of an old German Sheppard named Rusty, had taken it upon himself to head the meeting.
‘I guess you can all pretty much guess why we’re here,’ growled Norman who was bearded and grizzled, with a lazy eye which constantly dipped and turned as he looked around the audience.
‘We’re here because we’re being replaced,’ shrilled the high pitched tones of elderly Margaret Hammond, author of the romantic titles The Temptation of Tera and Lust on Lake Loneliness.
‘Settle down, settle down,’ said a stocky, balding science fiction writer in the back. “Squawking about it won’t help anything.’
‘Margaret is right though, isn’t she?’ said Norman. ‘We’ve all lost our jobs.’
‘And all at the same time,’ said another voice in the back.
‘Yes. And all at the same time, and for the same reason,’ said Norman. There was a muted mumbling and muttering from the chairs.
‘Yes, we’ve been replaced. My agent friend from the company says they’re contracting with all new writers; writers who work cheaper and faster and better than we do. My friend even claims they’re firing most of their agents. Apparently these new writers do their own contracts too.’
‘It’s bullshit!’ shouted someone. ‘It’s impossible’ shouted someone else.
‘Calm down. What we need is less yelling and more talking about solutions. We’re all in the same boat; we should work together,’ said Norman raising his hands in a mute appeal for reason.
‘I, for one, find it to be a blessing in disguise. I was tiring of the business anyway,’ said Ms. Hammond. ‘I shall use this forced retirement to concentrate on other pursuits such as my séance readings.’
‘That’s fine for you, you’ve got a legitimate business to fall back on,’ said the stocky writer who had spoken earlier. ‘Writing was my life.’ And he proceeded to blow his nose loudly.
‘We’ve all got problems to worry about. How to feed our kids, how to pay our mortgages,’ said Jim Harding. ‘I know a correspondence course at community college won’t get me very far when I’m trying to feed a 17-year old daughter and keep a roof over my wife’s head.’
Well we’ve got to do something!’ said an extremely obese fantasy writer in a cowboy hat and bolo tie.
‘Yes, but what?’ said Norman. There was a pause of considerable length.
‘We could go into the publishing business ourselves,’ someone suggested at last.
Jim Harding shook his head. ‘Ever hear of John Henry and the steam shovel?’ he said. ‘These new writers can produce a novel every three weeks. We could work day and night and not equal that.
‘Perhaps we should try to find out how these writers can produce so much and attempt to employ their methods?’ suggested an elderly, monocled gentleman from the leftmost row.
‘Impossible’ said Jim. ‘Most likely it’s some situation where the labor is exported overseas and paid dirt cheap wages. There’s probably a factory in Taiwan that has twenty Taiwanese college students writing two chapters a day for fifty cents a year.’
‘Well we gotta do something. I mean, what harm can it be to try to find out what’s going on. I mean, there might be something illegal, or why would they be taking such pains to conceal who these new writers are,’ said the fat fantasy writer.
There was another lengthy pause.
Joe Viotolla chuckled as he used another 100$ bill dipped in brandy to light his cigar. ‘We got ‘em now Charlie,’ he said.
‘I’ll say Joe,’ said the bald man bending over the spreadsheets on the table. ‘That crazy doctor and his contraption are the greatest thing to ever happen to this company. Profits are up 6000%. We’ve laid-off 80% of our staff, all the agents who contracted with the writers, all the secretaries, all the writers, and we’re still producing 300 times the amount of novels. Hell, all that’s left of this company is marketing and distribution. Well, that and the computer program. But all he costs is 15.50$ an hour to have the techie run him. Keep this up, come Christmas we’ll be billionaires.’
The two of them cackled madly, two heaving bulks in the hazy cigar smoke of the room.
Monday, April 25, 2011
covered in goo
reached into the yellow canoe
pulled out his phone
filed a report
‘I’ve found the lake guilty
Of murder of course’
The policemen’s eyes
went wide with surprise
‘That’s the second time
The officer said,
This lakes not so tough
I’m bringing him in
Huff and puff
Don’t you squirm
as I apply the cuffs
eyed the file
‘Clear the court
and start the trial
I’ll hang this lake if I can
This inanimatey is just a sham
The judge’s prodigious
mustache was chewed
tell me who speaks
for the accused
The lawyer roared
Not so fast
Judge, throw this case
on it’s ass
I’ve got a witness who will swear
That the lake
heemed and hawed
etceteraed, and aproposed
He could be sentient
He could be not
Hang him first
Then I’ll have a shot
Deliberate the jurours did
The verdict game back at half past ten
Unanimous it was agreed
Murder the charge
So him they hung,
And hung again
The rope kept
Just falling in
A pump they yelled
A dike perhaps
We’ll drain this lake
Twice as fast
Pump they did, and diked it too
And after all the hullaballo
The crowd stepped back from its huddle
And the lake was now a puddle
Victory some said
We had no choice
But in the back
was a discerning voice
‘Now it may be that
the lake is gone
But that puddle
Could still drown someone’
His voice was buried
Drowned and stopped
The peacocks chest
Had been popped
And at last the puddle
To plot and scheme
and vengeance hone
Fact: There once was a man who married his daughter. Unfortunately, they both agreed to the proposition, and were happy with situation. They lived happily ever after, and he died tens years before she did.
Fact: There once was a man and his sister who were married. They also, unfortunately, lived happily ever after. They rarely quarreled, and when they did it was never of any consequence. They both enjoyed playing checkers.
Fact: There was once a man who married another man. They also were happy, though biologically unable to make children. They lived together, and he cooked every Thursday, Tuesday, and Sunday night. The other He cooked Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On Saturday’s they went out.
Fact: There once lived a man and two women and they were all married to each other. The man felt that he was very lucky, and the women thought so too.
Fact: There once lived a man and his brother. They were both married to the same women and she was very lucky. She had more money and more things, because she had two men looking after her. The men were lucky because they each had a woman, and women were scarce.
Fact: There was once a man who married to his dog. The dog had no idea that this was true, but he did not complain and the man was happy.
Fact: There was once a man who married a woman. He was extremely unhappy with the situation, but did it because he felt pressured into to it, and he was afraid of spending the rest of life alone. They had two children and were bitter and resentful. The man took to drinking after work, and when he came home from work, he would fight with his wife, occasionally hitting her. She was not that happy either, but neither of them felt well enough to leave the other one.
Fact: There once lived a man who was not married. He lived alone and ate alone and watched TV alone. Occasionally he would get drunk, and sometimes he would go out and bring a girl to sleep in his bed. He was quite happy, especially when he would watch stories on the news about a man who shot his wife, or a woman who cut off her husband’s testicles. When he would see these stories, he would chuckle and take a sip out of his beer and eat another forkful of his Hungry Man dinner.
‘Jim Harding and the Steam Shovel’
The meeting was the secretest of secret. Only the truly elite, the Don Corleones and Jabba the Hutts of the publishing world were present. The CEOs of Random House, Harper Collins, Double Day, and others, shuttled and bundled into the top of an enormous skyscraper with blinds drawn and security posted, peered down the long table toward the white coated madman and his invention.
‘Gentleman, I would like to thank you for inviting me to speak here today.’ Dr. Sverson licked his lips. ‘What I have invented will revolutionize the publishing industry.’
‘Get on with it Svernson!’ growled Joe Viottala, head of Random House. His big, red, whiskered, cheeks shook as he spit the words out between lips pursed around a fat cigar. ‘Say whatever it is you came to say; I gotta busy day and my time is worth a lot more than yours,’ he spat, each explosion of air reeking of gin.
Svernson, eye twitching uncontrollably, drew his breath. With a great effort to control his irritation, he began again.
‘Gentleman, the cotton gin to textile factory, the assembly line to the motor car, those were all great inventions, and I have created the same for the publishing industry!’ and with a flourish worthy of a cheap magician, he pulled the cover off the trolley to his right to reveal a small laptop computer.
‘Have you ever pondered the future of writing? Have you ever stopped to think who will be the Arthur Conan Doyles and Charles Dickens of our time? I have,’ Svernson licked his lips again in evident relish. ‘I have here, gentleman, a list of the greatest and most prolific writers of our time. Agatha Christy, Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton, and R.L. Stine; each name on this list has produced over twenty titles which grossed a million or more sales. What I am offering you gentleman is a way to produce, in one afternoon, twenty new works from authors whose style in every way mimics the style and device of these writers.’
‘This computer program is fully versed in all known rhetorical devices, as well as over 2000 major and minor plot devices. He can produce works varying on thirty major themes or so, and he can mimic every genre and sub genre ever produced in the history of humankind. And he can do it all while you’re having lunch.’
‘You there’ Sverson pointed at Mickey O’Malley, CEO of Tor Fantasy, who had momentarily removed his attention from the speaker to enjoy a bite of his gigantic horseradish and pickled herring sandwich. ‘Your company employs authors like Terry Goodkind and Robert Jordan, doesn’t it? Well how would you like to own the rights, with no royalty payments, to a completely new series borrowing only the best aspects of both those writers, and best of all how would you like to produce a book in that series every month? Here you go.’ He whirled the wireless mouse like a baton and plunked a few keys on the computer then paused. In a second the computer began to hum and the printer underneath it began to vomit pages at a tremendous rate.
‘You!’ Svernson pointed at Griffen Halbern, CEO of Del Ray books. ‘You own the rights to the Star Wars books series, correct? Want the next twenty installments?’ He was furiously typing and the printer was whirring and pages were beginning to spill out of the tray.
‘New Tom Clancy spy novel!’ click. Whirr. Svernson was red in the face and sweating and still pages were flying from the printer. One of the pages fell and landed at Joe Viottola’s feet. He leaned over and picked it up. The others watched him.
‘Good,’ he said after a minute. ‘Really good. A little formulaic, but….’