Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Jim harding and the steam shovel part 2 of 3


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.

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