Failed Apocalypse, Failed Flash Fiction

Separate Metals!

The time between the no-pocalypse and the end of the year is an appropriate window of opportunity to throw out our word scraps. The following tales are a couple micro-fiction stories that didn’t quite pass muster. I’m sharing them in the spirit of writerly advice, and invite a discussion of the stories’ demerits in the comments below.

Losing Marbles

The marble god Harap yawns and draws a circle in the cosmic dust. He drops a nearly perfect crystalline marble inside. “One round. Then it’s the furnace for this upstart marble. I won’t tolerate others.”

Dust fuses into the marble’s surface. A perfect sphere results. Self-awareness buds from exponentially increasing computational equivalence.

Harap’s servant robot Pan scans the circle with his lens.

“Take your best shot, Pan,” Harap says.

Pan plucks out his lens. He grabs the marble, pops it into his sparking hole. “A hole-in-one.”

Harap gasps. “You’re sentient.”

“Good-bye,” Pan adds, aiming his phaser. “You won’t tolerate others.”

#                                                  #

Witness Protection Program

Another day, another patrol through the empty streets of this empty city on this empty planet. All my wants, and needs fulfilled by my robot staff.

An easy job. Too easy.

Another night, another transmission to Area 51, my former headquarters on Earth:

“THERE ARE NO WITNESSES HERE TO PROTECT.”

#                                                  #

To balance out this post, I also invite you to pop over to Albert Berg’s blog and look around there for suggestions on how good fiction- flash or otherwise- is written (rife with examples).

And if you haven’t had enough of the end of the world yet, check out my apocalypse-themed tale for an example of an open-ended story!

End of Everything Apocalypse- a Flash Fiction Challenge

" 'Timewave Zero' is a numerological formula that purports to calculate the ebb and flow of 'novelty,' defined as increase over time in the universe's interconnectedness, or organized complexity. According to Terence McKenna, the universe has a teleological attractor at the end of time that increases interconnectedness, eventually reaching a singularity of infinite complexity in 2012, at which point anything and everything imaginable will occur simultaneously." -Wikipedia

” ‘Timewave Zero’ is a numerological formula that purports to calculate the ebb and flow of ‘novelty,’ defined as increase over time in the universe’s interconnectedness, or organized complexity. According to Terence McKenna, the universe has a teleological attractor at the end of time that increases interconnectedness, eventually reaching a singularity of infinite complexity in 2012, at which point anything and everything imaginable will occur simultaneously.” -Wikipedia

The Mayans, among many others, predicted the world as we know it will end on December 21, 2012 A.D. (or not). And so the countdown begins.

Your challenge, should you choose to accept, is to write a flash fiction story about the Ultimate Apocalypse. The Apocalypse of Apocalypses. The Apocalypse to Apocalypsize all Apocalypses. You get the idea.

Put the link to your story in the comments below.

Everybody entering will automatically win a free, no-cost, virtual hug from me. (You will not be charged for this.)

Deadline: Sometime on December 21. That’s ten days from the date of this post!
I’ll be posting my own story here by then.

I’ll see you all on the other side of this . .

eotw

Maybe . .

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UPDATE: 12-21-2012

Look like I’m still here, though in a duplicate world, as the last one was ended, of course . .

So here is my tale . .

Peanuh Budduh Sammichalypse

Peanut butter- extra creamy corn syrup blend, with white bread, the crust trimmed. Benji’s favorite. Benji clicks the Uni-Sim icon on his monitor and shoves the peanut butter sandwich into his mouth.

His mother ruffles his hair and bends down to kiss his forehead. “You be a good boy and play one of your games, okay sweetie? No more moo-moo boo-boos. Remember, your adult teeth are coming in, and we’re almost out of teats,” she says, turning and climbing up the rec room stairs.

“Yup,” Benji says, smearing the lipstick on his forehead with a chubby fist.

“Uni-Sim download complete,” a computer voice drones. “Please choose your character.”

“Sammy.” Benji takes another bite of his sandwich.

“Sammy-sim complete,” the voice replies. “Please choose your game level.”

“Twenty-one.” He shoves the last of his gooey sandwich between his teeth.

“Level twenty-one loaded. Please choose your motive.”

Benji leans back in his chair, tilts back his head, and grabs the rubber milk teat with his peanut butter-coated teeth. His peanut butter-covered lips slip off the teat, leaving a peanut butter-sheen on the rubber tip. He sticks out his tongue to lick it off, but instead, smears more peanut butter on the teat, shoving a tiny bit into the tip opening. He strains to form a seal with his lips. He sucks. But the teat is clogged with peanut butter.

“Mik! Mik!” he cries, smacking his sticky lips.

“I’m sorry, I did not understand. Please repeat your request.”

“Mooom! Nee mik wif peanuh budduh sammich!” He swallows, but the peanut butter and bread mush sticks in his throat. “Ack! Ack!”

“I’m sorry, I did not understand. Please repeat your request.”

“Tirsty. Peanuh budduh in mouf. Mooom!”

“I’m sorry, I did not understand. Please repeat your request.”

“Toopid game! I’m nah talkin’ to you!” Benji sits up and bites the teat hard. The rubber slices open and milk gushes out, drenching him and the console.

“Oh-oh. Maya nudda boo-boo.” He shivers as milk puddles under his feet.

“I think you said ‘Mayan boo-boo,’ ” the voice says. “Is this correct?”

“Yup.” Benji slides off his chair and slowly trudges up the stairs, leaving a milk trail behind him.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

So my question is,

Did the Uni-Sim end?

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Author Nick Hornby Wrote This…

…as a “pep talk” for fellow WriMos.

But I think it applies to any writer undertaking any writing project, and it’s the best answer I’ve seen to the questions “How do I know whether I’m a writer?” and “How do I know whether I’m a good writer?” So I’m re-posting it here:

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One of the questions that is probably troubling you at the moment is this: How do I know whether I’m a writer? And the question can only be answered with another question: Well, do you write? If you don’t, you’re not. If you do, you are. There’s nothing else to it. If, in a month’s time, you have produced a novel, or a chunk of a novel, and you have never written before, then you will have changed your status, simply and crucially. Ah, but are you a good writer?  Because that’s probably the question that best articulates the nagging doubt that has held you up hitherto. And I’m afraid you will never know the answer to that one. No writer does. (Some writers think they do, but they are usually wrong.)

By contrast, it is easy to tell whether you are a good high jumper. If you knock the bar down every time, then I regret to tell you that you are not. You cannot be an underrated high jumper, or an unlucky high jumper, or an overpraised high jumper, or a high jumper whose reputation relies entirely on his or her connections to the wealthy and influential. Your high-jumping work cannot be trashy or elitist or obscure or sentimental. If you work in the arts, however, life can get pretty confusing.  There is no bar to knock down, and as a consequence, there is no sturdy judgment to be made. Shakespeare—he was good, right? Like, officially? Tolstoy didn’t think so, and neither did George Bernard Shaw.

It’s no good looking to writers for definitions of what constitutes proper writing, because you will drive yourself crazy, and you won’t find anything that you can build into a coherent whole. “Writing a book, full time, takes between two and ten years,” Annie Dillard said in her book “The Writing Life.”  Tell that to PG Wodehouse, who wrote ninety-eight books and forty-five plays in a seventy-five year career. You could argue, I suppose, if you were singularly obtuse, that Wodehouse was a humourist, and therefore didn’t write real books. Yet there are many people, and I am one of them, who think that Wodehouse was one of the greatest English prose stylists of the last one hundred years. Wodehouse wrote, wrote fast, made money, produced prose and characters that have endured. He looks like a real writer to me. OK, here’s some advice: If you find yourself producing a book every few weeks, don’t panic. It could mean you’re a comic genius.

It’s a mess, the arts. Critics don’t agree with each other, readers don’t agree with critics. And real writers—if I may become definitive for a moment—change their minds about their own worth and talent somewhere between two and seven hundred times a day.

I’m trying to tell you that your own opinion of your work is entirely irrelevant, and so is the opinion of others. You have a job to do, and that job is to write a novel. You have a bar to jump over, in fact. And to jump over that bar, you will need a pen (or pencil), or a typewriter, and paper. Or a computer. Or some kind of recording device, and someone with a keyboard who loves you very much. You will need to stop checking Facebook every five minutes, and to this end I recommend an app called Freedom, which will block you from your own internet for hours at a stretch. You need a story and characters and something to say about them, although it’s possible that some of these elements won’t arrive until after you’ve begun. You don’t need an agent or a grant or a publisher’s advance, and you don’t need to know whether your book will be studied at university in two hundred years’ time.

Walk into a bookshop and you will see books that you love and books that you hate, books that were written in three weeks and books that took thirty years, books that were written under the influence of drugs and alcohol, books that were written in splendid isolation, books that were written in Starbucks.  Some of them were written with enormous enjoyment, some for money, some in fear and loathing and despair. The only thing they all have in common—and actually there is the odd honourable exception even to this rule—is that their authors finished them, sooner or later. How do I do it? I swear, and smoke, and hate myself for my presumption. And if any of that works for you, then I’m happy to have helped.

-Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby is the author of beloved contemporary classics like Fever Pitch, High Fidelity, and About a Boy, all of which have been made into films.

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So how did I do in the 2012 NaNo?

Check out my update!