Ask General Kang: As a world-conquering potentate, what is your policy regarding instant gratification?

Ask General KangWell, I’m totally against it.

From what I can see there is too much instant gratification happening here on Terra; and this is at least some part of the reason why I am conquering this world soon.

I’m a fan of a system of gratification we call The Rectitude on my home world.

The Rectitude started out as philosophical movement of neo-utopian bonobos, but it eventually caught on within the simian population at large, and I hope that someday it will catch on amongst the primates of this world too.

What is The Rectitude?
It sounds kind of proctologist-y, but essentially, to have some kind of physical gratification, the idea is that first you have to earn it. (Yes, just go ahead, say it just like John Houseman.)

The best kind of Rectitude to earn is through intense physical effort. For example, if you climb a mountain, that earns you lots of Rectitude – at least a week of all kinds of debauchery. Walk to the store instead of driving, and that probably earns you enough Rectitude to eat the Cheese Doodles you were going to get in the first place.

Once Earth is fully under my control, every sentient being on the planet can look forward to a lifetime of earning and expending Rectitude.

Stop groaning! It will be good for you humans to learn a little self-discipline!

Next time: How do you handle unwanted sexual advances, particularly from another species?

You know who has rectitude? Hard working humor writers. From my collection, Pirate Therapy and Other Cures.

Time Travel Sucks

Nothing worse than the hoseIf you asked him, Bertie could never really tell you what he disliked most about time travel.

Obviously, having to arrive in each new era stark naked was not the most pleasant experience. It usually meant having at least a few embarrassing moments (though it could occasionally have its upsides, such as the time he dimensionally slipped into that alternate reality where women had the same psychosexual visual response to nudity the way that men did in his reality . . .)

He was bothered that he could not change anything. He’d taken Causality 101 in college, and was fully conversant with the Heisenberg-Lurie equations relating to the Novikov self-consistency principle. He’d even tested this idea by trying to kill Hitler. (Every first-year time traveler tries to kill Hitler at least a couple of times.) Yes, not being able to alter history bothered him.

Then there was the HOSE. He hated the HOSE.

Alltop considers itself a hoser. Thanks to Whatsthatpicture for the historical snap. Originally published in 2007.

A Reluctant Emcee

One of the Ab's brothers

The stun bolt struck near me, and I was flying through the air. My hair crackled with static electricity. My vision went red. Quite possibly I soiled my expensive trousers. Did any of that worry me? No, I had much bigger problems. My brothers were coming back to town for the wedding.

I’d been dreading both events. Their inevitable return, and the marriage of Josh and Mary. Just as inevitable: the lovebirds’ request to have me, the Right Honorable Member of Parliament for Middlesex County, Ab Durer, as master of ceremonies.

I loathe the role of emcee. And my friends always ask me to do it.

Earlier that week, I’d foolishly complained to my brother Warren about emceeing again; he’d looked particularly scary in a suit of plate mail he always “wore” in the datasphere. An affectation, but it had plenty of impact.

“Well, why don’t me and the other brothers come?” he’d said.

“Uh. I’m not sure how good an idea that is,” I had said.

“Sure! It’s been ages since we saw you. Fabian and Petrovich have been pretty busy in Central America, but me and Deeter can convince them to come up.”

“No, I really don’t think you should. You’re not invited.”

“Hey!” shouted Warren, “we’re never invited. Just suck it up. We’re going to be there. Besides, Albrecht,” he said — emphasizing the “brecht”, just the way I’ve always hated it —”we have something to tell you.”

It had taken me a while to work up the courage to let Josh and Mary know that all four were planning to attend. Mary had burst into tears, and Josh confided, “You know, I thought this relationship was just going to be the end of my bachelorhood, not the end of everything.”

I’d laughed and mumbled something about the boys being much more mellow since they’d left high school. You had to admire the couple’s pluck. They made contingency plans, booking a full riot squad for the reception, buying doses of the best nanobiotics money could buy, and hiring Freeze-A-Head, “in case” of fatalities.

I felt so bad that I actually gave them my speech to vet, though I figured we would never get through the wedding, let alone the speeches. I was kind of torn on that. I hate emceeing — blathering into a holo-mic so that the relatives and friends attending remotely can enjoy the syrupy sentiments. And while everyone else whiffs up jazzy nanocaines and quaffs copious amounts of Old Nurberg’s Pink Ale (those who like it like it enough to go blind), I have to abstain.

On the other hand, did I really want to see my brothers back in town, just to avoid sobriety?

But I should get back to the stun bolts, and my electric fandango as I flew through the air, shouldn’t I?

°°°
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Miss Atomic Test, Las Vegas

1957 - Miss Atomic Test, Las Vegas via x-ray delta one

Like everyone, she was in shock.

But she had just narrowly avoided the disintegration of LA. She’d moved to Vegas the week before the war began, to work as a background dancer.

They found her the day after, in Vegas, getting ready for the show. She was starving as usual. Her figure just wouldn’t conform to the standards of the 2020s, and that meant not eating very much. Not that she felt like eating, after she’d seen some of the video of what remained of her home town.

They could change it all with a photo, they told her.

All they needed was for her to accept that she could be in two times in one place. It was a little thing, right? Like, you’re a gorgeous dancer who thinks she’s fat. The reality doesn’t change, just because your thinking is all wrong.

So she said yes, and the next day — after all the injections, and the strange machine — she woke up in 1954. She was a dancer at the Copa Room, at the Sands. She did a show with Frank Sinatra. Sammy Davis Jr. dropped in, and was a big hit. Everyone thought she was gorgeous, even though (she thought) she was a fat cow.

Eventually, she got comfortable with being desired by so many men, despite her obvious (to her) defects. She loosened up, though she was always quiet and reserved. Some of the other girls called her “the librarian”, but if they’d had the right words, they would have called her the cipher. She never mentioned her folks — she was intensely aware of the fact that they were not born yet, and she didn’t want to say anything to prevent their existence.

They hadn’t told her which photograph would be the right one. Funny, that the scientists should miss such an obvious detail, so she treated each snap with reverence and joy. “The secret,” the lead scientist had told her before she left the year 2024, “is your innocence and exuberance. When they take the shot, you have to exhibit that, above all.”

It was one of the things that made her more of a cipher than a librarian. Her reserve dissolved whenever a camera was produced, which was noticed by a Hollywood producer in 1956. He wanted to her to do a screen test in LA, but she turned him down flat.

They hadn’t said which photo would be the one, but the scientists hadn’t told her she needed to do movies.

When it happened a year later, she was in no doubt. The photo that would save the world had been taken.

And after that, she was (almost) free.

Alltop loves a little time travel! 1954 – Miss Atomic Test, Las Vegas, a photo by x-ray delta one on Flickr.