The Clown Apocalypse
Years later, the survivors discovered the Bozo Virus got its start at Escola de Clown de Girona, near the end of semester.
The “Esclowna” was a kind of university/prep school for the international clowning set. The buffoons-in-training lived in common dorm rooms, and shared everything, so the virus spread easily within the school. There it incubated. (The school was at least 30 kilometers from the nearest village in Spain.)
They developed flu-like symptoms, and then recovered, but of course, everyone at the school was a clown, or a clown-in-training, already. So the worst of the symptoms went unnoticed, until after they matriculated. When the school year was over, the faculty, staff and students went to their respective home countries, throughout the world, and began to perform as clowns: at birthday parties, in old folks homes, in circuses, at rodeos, and on the street.
Remembering the Beard Wars
“Captain Chiggerson, can you hear me? Captain?”
“I can hear you! I’m blind, not deaf.”
“Sorry Captain, but you didn’t seem to be responding,” the historian asked. He was a young man, and was frankly shocked by the Captain’s long beard, his lifeless eyes. He’d met many veterans of the Beard Wars, but he’d never gotten used to their dead stares, their broken minds, their creepy long beards.
“Well, I was thinking,” Captain Chiggerson explained.
“About the war?”
A Reluctant Emcee
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?
Why Dr. McCoy Was Not a Whiny Bitch
McCoy, Kirk and Spock are all about to die as their bodies are de-atomized over a period of several agonizing seconds.
Everyone in the original Star Trek was quite condescending to Bones whenever he got fretful about using the transporter.
Yet Dr. McCoy had solid, philosophical reasons for being freaked out by the device. Basically, the transporter disassembles all your molecules, and then reassembles them somewhere else. (Assuming something doesn’t go horribly wrong in the process, as it did in pretty much every other episode.)
It’s an existentialist nightmare.
Why Everyone Should Read Cat’s Cradle
“Now I will destroy the whole world.”
– What Bokonists say when they commit suicide, Cat’s Cradle, Chapter 106
You’d think a story about the end of the world – not just the world of one person, or human civilization, but all life on the planet – would be a grim affair, but Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle is replete with wit, wry humour, and a touching compassion for human frailty.
Vonnegut’s book is no bright dystopia, like the one portrayed in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, nor is it as unrelentingly dark as George Orwell’s 1984. It’s our world that Vonnegut so amusingly satirizes, a world in which human beings are awfully good at creating doomsday devices (atomic bombs, religions), and lying to themselves.
Dreamscapes: The Stars Go Out
In the dream, we know something is wrong when I notice the constellations have all disappeared.
All that remains in the night sky is the deep black of space, and a few sets of stars — in triplets and doubles, shining like it was the dead of winter.
The stars are going out, and we’re not certain what that means, except we know that something is happening in our sky.
Is the atmosphere changing? Is it space? Time itself? Are we living out a Robert Charles Wilson novel?
We’ll probably never know.
We can feel the effects on our skin first. Like a mix of hoarfrost and gooseflesh, we can feel our flesh freezing and drying; it’s almost painful.