Author Archive | Mark A. Rayner

Octopuses’ Garden

man selling things in diving suitPeter Stumbersby was a devotee of the Browning Diving Suit, though for some time he had owned an original Flannigan Breathing Apparatus (it almost killed him.)

Neither of these submersible garments were cheap to maintain. The Browning Suit, especially, got a little funky, as he insisted on wearing it even during the summer, on High Street, while working as a salesman for the Farkmee SeaFood and Taffy Conglomerate. (Famous for its company slogans: Farkmee on the High Seas, and, Farkmee Taffy: Stiff, Sweet and Long.)

And of course, there was always the danger that some fine lady would step on his hose in her heels. Delicious.

Alltop is fond of cave diving. Photo via Twisted Vintage. Previously published in 2010.

How Anne of Green Gables Destroyed the World

How Anne of Green Gables Destroyed the World

“Like most of you I was inclined to say the war was caused by fish.”

However, after a close examination of the evidence, Cadman Michaels — who held doctorates in theoretical physics and history, but who called himself an Alternate Historian — could say now with some confidence that the roots of World War III could be found in three things: beer, ice hockey and something called Tim Horton’s coffee.

He could say this with some confidence. And he did.

“My extensive work in multi-universal alternate histories, made possible by my invention, the Moorcock Inter-Dimensional Time Inversion Tunneller (patent pending), shows the cause of the war was actually much earlier in history, well before the breakup of Canada. I intend to outline this series of events in this presentation.”

There were grumbles from the learned audience at the annual History of WWIII Conference, held in sunny and (relatively) radiation-free Blenheim, NZ. The MIDTIT was controversial technology, but several papers had proved its efficacy at determining historical turning points.

“I’d have to say it stems from an incident in 1972, during the so-called Summit Series, an ice hockey match played between Canadian NHL players and the Russian Red Army team. Prior to the sixth game, played at the Luzhniki Palace of Sports in Moscow, Russian officials “lost” a shipment of beer the Canadian team had been expecting. Few other historians have noted how grumpy this made the Canadian players, and in particular, Bobby Clarke. ”

The audience stared at Michaels blankly.

“Clarke was the player who slashed Valeri Kharlamov’s ankle, fracturing it; this took him out of the next game, and made him ineffective for the final game.”

“Wait, that’s not true!” someone from the audience shouted.

“Exactly,” someone else said, Michaels thought it was Hans Gruber, Professor of Pre-Radiation Sports at the University of New Heidelberg, in Perth Australia. “Kharmalov played brilliantly in the remaining games, which is how the Russian team took the series four games to three, with one tie.”

“Ah,” Michaels smiled. “You are right of course. I’ve been telling you about the alternate history. Now, the other surprise I have for you is actual images of this alternate history, taken by a recording device that can utilize the inter-dimensional tunnel created by the MIDTIT.”

He played several minutes of grainy, black and white video, showing the events he described, including the Canadian victory in game eight.

“My apologies for the quality of the video, but for some reason, I can only capture video and stills from sources broadcast during the time period the MIDTIT is examining.”

This produced fewer grumbles, but a higher level of chatter in the room.

“I agree. It is fascinating, yes? In this alternate history, the Canadians win the Summit Series, and really, this enables the country to keep from falling apart, unlike our own timeline. We have always thought the Canadian experiment failed because it was a historical necessity. Really, when you look at the absurd country, there was very little to hold it together, given the regional differences, an active separatist movement in Quebec, Western alienation, and the pressure from the United States. But imagine if Canada wins the Summit Series …”

Terry McDonaldson, who was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, when it was part of the defunct country called Canada, and who actually played “ice hockey” as it was called in New Auszealand, could be heard muttering, “beauty, eh?” Continue Reading →

Evard Munch: The Revenant of Kristiania

Edvard Munch's Evening on Karl Johan

Most art historians will recognize this painting as “Evening on Karl Johan”, painted sometime in 1892, while its creator Edvard Munch was still a young man.

Modern commentators have described this painting as an existentialist cri de coeur, a public declaration hoping to wake up the somnolent crowd and face the reality of their lives. This is a reasonable interpretation if you did not know the true story of The Revenant of Kristiania, the painting’s original title.

Kristiania, now known as Oslo, was founded by Harald Sigurdsson in 1048. Harald’s career is a storied one. He fought for the Byzantine Empire (distinguishing himself with his valor and luck, and reputedly making himself one of the richest men in the world by looting the Imperial treasury after the death of three emperors.) He escaped Byzantine prison, and returned to Norway to discover that his half-brother was ruling in his stead.

According to legend, he made a pact with the forces of darkness so that he could be the sole ruler, and when his brother was killed by tainted lutefisk, he made Norway a great kingdom; he then invaded England in 1066. He was killed at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, and his soul returned to city that he founded to forever rule over it with a crushing sense of ennui and depression.

Most people like to blame this effect on long winters, shortened daylight hours, and the existence of lutefisk, but Munch had the courage to show the real story.

Check out more Famous Paintings with SF Titles here.

Alltop loves having its ennui crushed. More on the painting here — Great Works: Evening on Karl Johan (The Independent)

How I Spent the Ice Age

Mountains, snow, and glacier -- Chile

The new arms weren’t as much fun as I hoped they’d be, but they were sure useful during the crisis.

As you know I’m not really into the bodmod community, but I’d always thought it would be cool to be able to swing from tree to tree, the way we saw the Reclaimed Gibbons do in the preserve, when we were in high school. Yeah, the one down in Souwesto, near the ruins of Toronto, remember? That was a great trip.

I got the new arms a few weeks before it started. They weren’t actual Gibbon arms, of course, but a beautiful bit of work by a friend of mine, who dabbles in bio-enhancement. She mostly works with nano, but I keep telling her she has a real flare for the genetic arts too, so she did a combination. The plan was to spend my vacation swinging with my simian friends in Souwesto. Tree swinging that is.

Of course I got the hair on them; I’m not totally fake!

My musculature had just finished healing — even with the latest developments, flesh bodies adapt slowly to nano — but I don’t need to tell you that do I? Duh. I sometimes forget that we’re all real time now, even you guys on Big Red.

Anyway, the worst happened. Multiple eruptions, right when we were at our peek seeding of the atmosphere. Temps dropped. The snow started falling. Piling up. And bam. Ice age.

In miniature, anyway. Of course, it couldn’t last, but the damage. Wiped out my Gibbon buddies in Souwesto. And nearly got all of us here in Nunavut too.

But these babies were awesome. You know how much easier it is to ski and snowshoe if your arms can provide half the power? The hair was useful too — an extra layer for warmth. And I’ve been told they’re awesome in zero-G, so I think I’ll keep them until after I visit you.

Though I’m sure it still won’t be as weird as your green skin, man. That I have to see with my own eyes.

Alltop swings with the yuks. Photo by Stuck in Customs.