Telling the Story

Everything was normal before the incident. You heard a knock at the door, a call to adventure. There was hesitation. You weren’t sure you could do it. The incident was an incitement, a catalyst.

Life was normal, too normal. The incident meant you could never go back to the way things were. The choices were death or adventure, but there was still time for doubt, for debate.

The choice was made and you took up the quest. You met a love interest. They didn’t tell you what you wanted to hear – they told you what you needed to hear.

You made preparations. Events passed in the form of a montage. You chose a 1980s hair metal track to convey the passage of time. A mentor showed you your potential, but you were still not ready – you could never learn the forbidden secret.

You thought you had everything. Your confidence was your demise. A major event happened. The love interest kissed you. The clock started to tick. The mentor was killed. You vowed revenge, but still blamed yourself. You were told: “Something has to change.”

The antagonists closed-in. They chased you around. Things fell over. There were crashing sounds and a jazz-funk soundtrack. It was all very dramatic.

You were hurt by your own hubris. The love interest left you, perhaps forever. You had to face up to a harsh truth about yourself. That was the hardest lesson of all.

Wandering the city at night, neon signs flashed around you. Garish faces gurned at you, cackling and screaming as you clawed at the last threads of sanity. You had dark thoughts, but they led to fresh ideas. You knew you could never go back to the way things were. The love interest returned, pushing you towards the final confrontation.

You worked out the antagonists’ weakness. You had the knowledge all along. You knew you could win – but only if you really, really tried.

There was a battle and you almost died. The ticking stopped, and not a moment too soon. The love interest kissed you. You realised you knew the forbidden secret – it was inside you all along.

You won. You won.

You returned to the place of origin. All was normal, but it was a new normal.

You tried to ignore the hand reaching out of the ground – the promise of a sequel.

This text is copyright 2016 by Jon Cronshaw, released under a BY-NC-ND Creative Commons Licence.

Mike Resnick – Observation Post (2013)

Mike Resnick‘s short story Observation Post was first published in the 2013 anthology Beyond the Sun, edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt.

Observation Post is a comedy about an aliens observing Earth through intercepted TV show footage.

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The Dead Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop

“That was wonderful wasn’t it? Such a talent.” Helena loaded the next reconstruction workshop as her students looked on. “Even if you’re not a fan of his work, I think we can all learn something about writing from Iain Banks.”

Helena looked at the display as Robert Heinlein’s face came into focus: a static image frozen between expressions.

“What works so well with the reconstructions is the advice comes straight from the authror’s writings,” Helena explained. “They aren’t mediated by those so-called rules of writing.” She made a small zig-zig gesture and Heinlein’s image blinked to life.

“There is a secret to selling good fantastical fiction,” he began. “Writing a good plot helps, of course, but it is characters – always characters – that we remember.

“The best characters are those that fulfil the wishes and fantasies of the reader. This is all you need to know.” Heinlein’s portrait gave a slow nod.

“You’re an old engineer, an old physicist – why shouldn’t the old man get the sexy schoolgirl?”

Helena gave a knowing shrug to her students, most of whom looked on with raised eyebrows.

“I like pretty girls – all men like pretty teenage girls. All men want is for a pretty teenage girl to notice them – to notice them as an object of desire – an object of raw, sexual desire.” He paused and pursed his lips as his eyes seemed to fix longingly on some distant point.

“The best characters will be the ones you fall in love with. In the Door Into Summer I wrote about a man falling in love with a ten-year-old girl. This is illegal, but it is something I can explore in fantastic fiction. The old engineer used time travel to marry the girl when she was of legal age. This is good. This is sexy.

“Of course it’s not all about young girls – it’s important, but not everything.”

Helena rolled her eyes and smiled, miming a exaltation to the heavens.

“You can dig deeper. We all love our mothers, we all want to make love to our mothers – our mothers are sexy. In my novel Time Enough for Love, Lazarus Long went back in time to have sex with his mother. This is very sexy.

“So you see, you can take a trope of fantastical fiction such as time travel and use it to fulfil your reader’s deepest desires: to be with young girls, to be with their mothers. This is what time travel is for. It is very sexy.

The portrait of Heinlein licked his lips. “Let’s talk about how much fun rape can be. If the woman makes an effort to enjoy it then–.”

Helena gestured frantically toward the display. “I’m so sorry,” she said, turning to her students as her cheeks flushed, “this one’s clearly just a pervert.”

Heinlein’s portrait froze between expressions.

This text is copyright 2016 by Jon Cronshaw, released under a BY-NC-ND Creative Commons Licence.