What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? November 2017 – January 2018


It’s been only a few short months since I last checked in on Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy and yet plenty of stuff has happened. I’m glad to try catching you up on that. More stuff might have happened by the time you read this. If it’s late January or early February 2018 for you, this is probably enough to catch you up. If it’s a lot later than that, maybe the story’s developed far past that. If I’ve written a later summary I shall try to have it at or near the top of this link. Also I mentioned this on my other blog, but GoComics.com broke something so that My Comics Page won’t load, and broke their “Contact Us” page so it won’t submit error reports. I’ve got workarounds, but I’m not happy with them.

Also, on my mathematics blog, I review comics with mathematical themes. My latest report on those should be at or near the top of this link. Thanks for checking that out, if you do.

Dick Tracy.

5 November 2017 – 27 January 2018.

Last time you’ll recall, Dick Tracy and team were closing in on audio-recording forgers Silver and Sprocket Nitrate. The pair were hiding out in the Lyric (movie) Theater, Sprocket on a date with novelist and Les Moore’s less-punchworthy twin Adam Austin, Silver in the Phantoms Of Theaters room. Silver watches his sister have a date so serious she even wears sandals for it. So he gives her half their take and alibis her. He goes to jail. She goes to California with Adam Austin, who I’m assuming is writing the novelization for the Starbuck Jones sequel. Silver Nitrate and his boss/jailbreaker Public Domain go to jail and that ends that story reasonably logically.

[ Chaos erupts at the Lyric Theater ] Lizz Grove: 'That's an emergency exit alarm!' Dick Tracy: 'Everyone cover the exits!' (Voices) 'Over there!' 'It's Silver Nitrate!' 'Stop! You're under arrest!' Silver Nitrate: 'Okay, okay! I give up!' Sam Catchem: 'Anybody come out this door?' Officer: 'Nobody's come this way, sir.' Catchem: 'Everyone's checked in, Tracy. No sign of Sprocket Nitrate.'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 12th of November, 2017. I don’t mean to make light of what operational skill it requires to surround and secure a public theater with hundreds of people inside to secure one criminal safely. But Sprocket Nitrate is inside the secured building, and her costume is pretty much that she’s wearing sandals. Just seems like they could have checked.

And then, the 18th of November, came an odd interlude before the next story: a “Minit Mystery”. It was one of those adorable puzzle mysteries, you know, figuring out who killed the guy based on whether an umbrella is damp or figuring which jacket is underneath another on the coat-stand. It’s a week illustrated by Charles Ettinger, and it’s introduced as the start of a new series. There was just the one mystery presented this time around. Perhaps they’re waiting for the current storyline to resolve, or reach a logical pause, before showing the next. I’m not sure this is any more logically rigorous than an Inspector Danger’s Crime Quiz, but it’s a fun pastime. The story started the 19th of November and ran each day through to the 26th, when the solution was revealed.

Back to plotting, the 27th of November. Mister Bribery reappears, along with his niece Ugly Crystal and hired gun Sawtooth. Bribery’s hired Sawtooth to execute Dick Tracy. Tracy’s team has infiltrated Bribery’s organization, though, as their bodyguard, with Lee Ebony pretending to be “T-Bolt”. Bribery orders Sawtooth to carry out the execution plan, even though it’s not compatible with putting the shrunken head of Dick Tracy into a jar on his shelf. Okay then.

One of the dangling side plots comes back to the fore. The fellow you get by fusing Buster Crabbe and Alley Oop finds crime boss Posie Ermine. Ermine’s been disheartened since his daughter was abducted, surgically altered to be Mysta the new Moon Maid, and somehow brainwashed into a whole new identity who wants nothing to do with her biological father. Buster Oop has personal reasons for this. He’s the Governor of the Moon, and father of the original Moon Maid. (The original Moon Maid was killed in the 70s, when most of the really loopy science fiction stuff was written out of the strip, although her daughter — Honey Moon Tracy, Dick’s granddaughter — is still around and a critical character these days.)

Got all these relations? Because that just catches things up to early December 2017 and from there everything gets explosive.

Honey Moon Tracy and Ugly Crystal … Bribery, I guess is her last name? … meet cute-ish at the mall’s CD store. They get along surprisingly well, what with both having superpowers and Ugly Crystal envying Honey Moon’s antennas. I understand. I imprinted early on Uncle Martin’s extendable antennas from My Favorite Martian. And I’m not an ugly person.

Mister Bribery, out for a jog, shoves another jogger into the path of a minibus. It’s a startling moment. It establishes Mister Bribery’s villainy and menace in a way that his hiring someone to murder Dick Tracy hadn’t, somehow. I suppose it’s because you expect the villain to try killing the scientific superdetective. It’s normal and routine and built into the worldview and the name of the comic strip that the plan won’t work. But he can kill — or try to kill, as the victim survives with “minor injuries” — some nobody. And that it’s utterly unmotivated makes Mister Bribery’s danger more real. The murderous impulse doesn’t do Mister Bribery any good, either, as the city looks for whoever’s in the blurry video footage of the crime.

Mister Bribery, jogging: 'Ah, it's a beautiful, brisk morning for a jog!' [ He comes up on a woman jogging ] Bribery: 'That minibus is awfully close! Let's have a little room.' [ He shoves the woman into the minibus's path. ] 'SO much better!' [ Screech ] 'EEEE!' Bribery: 'What a hubbub! I'd better cut my jog short.'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 17th of December, 2017. And … jeez, can’t you just see this happening? A lot of the Dick Tracy criminal plans are a bit outrageous — robbing banks to the tunes of Chumbawumba, hijacking Space Coupes, forging 19th-century audio recordings — but just simply shoving a person into traffic to kill them? I can see local news covering that. And I’m in mid-Michigan; this story might bump Larry Nasser off the top of the news feed, but only maybe.

Which might be too late: Sawtooth snags Dick Tracy — from right outside his son’s house on Christmas Eve-or-Day, by the way — and drags him out into the woods. Sawtooth drags him into the deep woods, in the blizzard, and ties him to a tree to die. Sawtooth does well enough tying up Tracy, who’s unable to get his hands free, never mind untie any of his ropes, nor answer his Wrist Wizard to call for help. What Sawtooth fails to account for: Rifle Ruby, who found and saved Dick Tracy deep in the woods where Mister Crime tried to drown him in a story in 1952. (I had not the faintest idea of this, but GoComics commenter RGGlick recognized this and provided people with the link.) She and her niece Rhett run across the shivering, starved Tracy and nurse him back to non-death.

Honey Moon Tracy and Ugly Crystal meet up again, under Lee Ebony’s supervision. Honey Moon gets a bit of brain freeze from the Moon Governor’s transmissions. The Moon Governor and Posie Ermine have been searching for Honey Moon. Meanwhile Mister Bribery’s artificial-intelligence assistant/digitally-uploaded former henchman Matty Squared has detected the Moon Governor’s Space Coupe. Mister Bribery orders Sawtooth to kidnap Honey Moon. The Moon Governor and Posie Ermine close in on Smith Industries, there to find Mysta the (second) Moon Maid. Yes, I’m getting tired just writing all this.

OK. There’s a shootout. Ermine’s killed. Sawtooth grabs the Moon Governor and Mysta and takes them to Mister Bribery. Mister Bribery wants the Moon Governor’s help getting to the Lunarian valley settlement, there to mine lunar gold and whatnot. The Moon Governor tries to squash these plans. He drops the bad news that there’s no oxygen left in the Moon Valley colony. (This we the readers have known since in 2012, in one of the last uses of Diet Smith’s Moon Coupe. And that also shows how long this team is willing to let a mystery simmer.) Also, it’s dumb to go to the Moon to mine gold. These days the fashion is to go to the Moon to mine Helium-3, which is even dumber. Plus there’s the whole Rocket Hat problem. He tells Mister Bribery to move on, “as we did”.

[ Bribery's office. ] Mister Bribery: 'Whee! I must be dreaming! It's the Moon Governor! What a prize! Naturally, you came to Earth in your SPACE COUPE. I can utilize that in my master plan! This is so perfect!' [ Elsewhere ] Sam Catchem, on Lee Ebony's wrist wizard: 'Come in while you can, Lee This blizzard's getting bad.' Glitch: 'T-Bolt? Is that a POLICE wrist wizard?'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 21st of January, 2018. All right, yes, he’s a sociopathic crime boss who just weeks ago tried to murder a woman for absolutely no possible benefit, but to say “utilize” when “use” would be the correct word? That’s put him beyond the pale.

Mister Bribery takes this with all the calm and grace of Donald Duck finding Chip and Dale back on his folding lawn chair. Meanwhile henchman Glitch spots Lee Ebony talking on her official police-grade wrist wizard, astoundingly sloppy undercover work. It’s okay, though, since Glitch has figured out this is the big meltdown and he’s just telling people to run while they can. Ebony arrests Ugly Crystal (I’m not sure for what, but I suppose that can be sorted out). Sam Catchem says they’ve got the rest of Mister Bribery’s gang. And Tracy is going in after Mister Bribery himself, who’s got the Moon Governor and Second Moon maid with him.

And that’s where we stand. It’s a lot of stuff happening, and with (so far as I noticed) no weird cameos or digressions, after the Minit Mystery interlude. I’ve only noticed one odd, unresolved mention of a thing either: on the 4th of December mentioning how Diet Smith’s “time machine was a bust”. I didn’t know there was ever a time machine in Dick Tracy, but I’m also not surprised, given how crazy Chester Gould went in the 60s.

The only outstanding thread that I haven’t seen advanced, or mentioned, was the suspected haunting of the B O Plenty lair, which started action back in June 2017.

Next Week!

Jim Scancarelli has been out of action since the last time I recapped the plot in Gasoline Alley! Why? Where? What’s happening? Will the story of Rufus’s courting of The Widow Emma Sue and Scruffy’s Mom ever resolve? I don’t know. But I’ll do my best to share what I know, or can find out. And to recap nearly three months’ worth of reruns next week, somewhere on this link. Here’s hoping there’s good news ahead.

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MiSTed: The Jovian Jest (Part 4 of 4)


And concluding:

  1. MiSTed: The Jovian Jest (Part 1 of 4)
  2. MiSTed: The Jovian Jest (Part 2 of 4)
  3. MiSTed: The Jovian Jest (Part 3 of 4)

>
>
>
> We can dissolve our bodies at will, retaining only the permanent
> atom of our being, the seed of life dropped on the soil of our
> planet by Infinite Intelligence.

JOEL: Decluttering tip! Shed every part of your existence that doesn’t bring you joy!

> We can propel this indestructible
> seed on light rays through the depths of space.

CROW: However I confess we are not yet able to tell a cabbage from a lettuce.

> We can visit the
> farthest universe with the velocity of light, since light is our
> conveyance.

TOM: *Now* how much would you pay? But wait, there’s more!

> In reaching your little world, I have consumed a

> million years, for my world is a million light-years distant: yet to
> my race a million years is as one of your days.

JOEL: For us three of our popcorn balls are like two of your candy corns!

TOM: To my race seven of your Star Wars movies are like three of our Thanksgiving Day parades!

CROW: Four things that you perceive as green are equivalent to one of our yellowy-blues!

>
> "On arrival at any given destination, we can build our bodies from
> the elements of the foreign planet.

CROW: We can make them stronger, faster, well, you get the drill.

> We attain our knowledge of
> conditions on any given planet by absorbing the thought-content of
> the brains of a few representative members of its dominant race.

TOM: Isn’t that going to be, like, some microbe?

JOEL: So, the amoebas?

TOM: Oooooooooh.

> Every well-balanced mind contains the experience of the race, the
> essence of the wisdom that the race-soul has gained during its
> residence in matter.

JOEL: The longer that sentence ran the more I dreaded it.

> We make this knowledge a part of our own
> thought-content, and thus the Universe lies like an open book before
> us.

TOM: Even when we’re in the bathroom?

>
> "At the end of a given experiment in thought absorption, we return
> the borrowed mind-stuff to the brain of its possessor.

CROW: Who’s … uh … us, now! Neat how that works, isn’t it? Thanks.

> We reward
> our subject for his momentary discomfiture by pouring into his body
> our splendid vitality.

TOM: Also a $20 gift card to Jersey Mike’s.

> This lengthens his life expectancy
> immeasurably,

CROW: We hush it up because it would ruin the insurance companies.

> by literally burning from his system the germs of
> actual or incipient ills that contaminate the blood-stream.

JOEL: We leave behind the broken arm, we don’t have an administrative code for that.

>
>
>
> This, I believe, will conclude my explanation, an explanation to
> which you, as a race in whom intelligence is beginning to dawn, are
> entitled.

TOM: So, any questions? Yes, you there.

CROW: The *heck* was that all about?

> But you have a long road to travel yet. Your
> thought-channels are pitifully blocked and criss-crossed with
> nonsensical and inhibitory complexes that stand in the way of true
> progress.

JOEL: Oh dear lord it’s a Dianetics ad.

> But you will work this out, for the Divine Spark that
> pulses through us of the Larger Universe, pulses also through you.

TOM: This might explain why you feel like you’re ticking and also part of the Galactic Federation of Light.

> That spark, once lighted, can never be extinguished, can never be
> swallowed up again in the primeval slime.

CROW: As long as you remember one thing: always — I mean, never — I mean, you have to make sure [ Cough, wheezes ] THUD!

>
> "There is nothing more that I can learn from you — nothing that I
> can teach you at this stage of your evolution.

JOEL: Nothing at all? Not, like, antibiotics —

TOM: Nope! Nothing to teach you.

CROW: Maybe how to make electronics —

TOM: Negatory! You’ve got all you can handle.

JOEL: Could you give a hint about grand unification theory?

TOM: Nah! What wouldn’t be redundant?

> I have but one
> message to give you, one thought to leave with you — forge on!

CROW: Counterfeit *everything*!

> You are on the path, the stars are over you, their light is flashing
> into your souls the slogan of the Federated Suns beyond the
> frontiers of your little warring worlds. Forge on!"

TOM: Excelsior!

CROW: Tuebor!

JOEL: Here’s mud in your eye!

>
> The Voice died out like the chiming of a great bell receding into
> immeasurable distance.

TOM: The time is now 11:00.

> The supercilious tones of the professor had
> yielded to the sweetness and the light of the Greater Mind whose
> instrument he had momentarily become.

CROW: And now he’s going back to a career of explaining to waitresses that if the choice is cole slaw *or* home fries he’s entitled to get both.

> It was charged at the last
> with a golden resonance that seemed to echo down vast spaceless
> corridors beyond the furthermost outposts of time.
>
>
>
> As the Voice faded out into a sacramental silence, the strangely
> assorted throng, moved by a common impulse, lowered their heads as
> though in prayer.

CROW: [ As Amoeboy ] “Sorry, ah, this thing usually takes off right away. Think the battery’s a bit low is all.”

> The great globe pulsed and shimmered throughout
> its sentient depths like a sea of liquid jewels.

TOM: [ As the Terminator ] Liquid Jewels.

JOEL: For the Twee-1000.

> Then the tentacle
> that grasped the professor drew him back toward the scintillating
> nucleus.

TOM: [ Amoeboy ] ‘C’mon and gimme a hug!’

> Simultaneously another arm reached out and grasped Bill
> Jones, who,

CROW: Was still in the story we guess?

> during the strange lecture, had ceased his wooden
> soldier marching and had stood stiffly at attention.

TOM: [ Amoeboy ] ‘You give me a hug too! It’s a hug party and everyone’s invited! Not you, Ray.’

>
> The bodies of both men within the nucleus were encircled once more
> by the single current. From it again put forth the tentacles,
> cupping their heads, but the smokelike essence flowed back to them
> this time,

JOEL: [ Amoeboy ] And what the heck, you’ll cluck like a chicken every time someone says ‘cabinet’.

> and with it flowed a tiny threadlike stream of violet
> light. Then came the heaving motion when the shimmering currents
> caught the two men

[ CROW, TOM scream in agony ]

> and tossed them forth unharmed but visibly
> dowered with the radiance of more abundant life.

JOEL: And they fall down the ravine to Rock Gulch.

> Their faces were
> positively glowing and their eyes were illuminated by a light that
> was surely not of earth.

CROW: They look at each other and say, wulp, nothing to do now but make out, right?

>
> Then, before the very eyes of the marveling people, the great globe
> began to dwindle.

[ TOM makes a low hissing noise, as a balloon deflates. ]

> The jeweled lights intensified, concentrated,
> merged, until at last remained only a single spot no larger than a
> pin-head,

JOEL: Are we having alien yet?

> but whose radiance was, notwithstanding, searing,
> excruciating.

CROW: Strangely lemon-scented.

> Then the spot leaped up — up into the heavens,
> whirling, dipping and circling as in a gesture of farewell, and
> finally soaring into invisibility with the blinding speed of light.

TOM: Travels for a million years, you’d think it could stay for dinner.

CROW: Got a look at this bunch and headed right out.

>
> The whole wildly improbable occurrence might have been dismissed as
> a queer case of mass delusion,

JOEL: Like the Clown Sightings of 2016 or the so-called state of ‘Tennessee’.

> for such cases are not unknown to
> history, had it not been followed by a convincing aftermath.

TOM: The alien coming back to ask if anyone had seen its flagellum.

>
> The culmination of a series of startling coincidences, both
> ridiculous and tragic, at last brought men face to face with an

> incontestable fact:

CROW: If Woody had gone right to the police this would never have happened!

> namely, that Bill Jones had emerged from his
> fiery baptism endowed with the thought-expressing facilities of
> Professor Ralston, while the professor was forced to struggle along
> with the meager educational appliances of Bill Jones!

JOEL: Whoo-hoo-hoo-oops!

TOM: Ha ha!

>
> In this ironic manner the Space-Wanderer had left unquestionable
> proof of his visit by rendering a tribute to "innate intelligence"
> and playing a Jovian Jest upon an educated fool — a neat
> transposition.

CROW: It’s funny ’cause it’s … I don’t know, playing on elitist pretentions? Something?

>
> A Columbus from a vaster, kindlier universe had paused for a moment
> to learn the story of our pigmy system.

TOM: Wonder what would’ve happened if it had eaten, like, a raccoon’s brain?

> He had brought us a message
> from the outermost citadels of life and had flashed out again on his
> aeonic voyage from everlasting unto everlasting.
>

JOEL: A strange visitor from beyond the stars comes to Earth with a chilling message: yeah, do whatever you’re doing.

>

TOM: Let’s blow this popsicle stand.

JOEL: Works for me.

CROW: [ Slowly, seriously ] Dum DA-dum!

[ ALL file out. ]

                             \  |  /
                              \ | /
                               \|/
                             ---O---
                               /|\
                              / | \
                             /  |  \

	

Mystery Science Theater 3000 and its characters and situations are the property of Satellite of Love, LLC, if the footer on mst3kinfo.com doesn’t lead me wrong. I’m still geting used to thinking of Best Brains as a part of the past. I don’t know. _The Jovian Jest_ was written by Lilith Loraine and appeared in the May 1930 issue of _Astounding Stories of Super-Science_ which I believe to be out of copyright. It can be found through Project Gutenberg at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/29809/29809-h/29809-h.htm#The_Jovian_Jest at your leisure. I’m Joseph Nebus and this is 2017 for me.

> The homogeneous force of
> our omni-substance subjects the plural world to the processing of a
> powerful unity.

MiSTed: The Jovian Jest (Part 3 of 4)


And continuing:

  1. MiSTed: The Jovian Jest (Part 1 of 4)
  2. MiSTed: The Jovian Jest (Part 2 of 4)

> He possesses more of what you would call ‘innate
> intelligence,’ but he has not perfected the mechanical brain through
> whose operation this innate intelligence can be transmitted to
> others and, applied for practical advantage.

TOM: Oh, c’mon, how many people do you know perfect mechanical brains?

CROW: Joel did!

TOM: Sycophant.

>
>
>
> Now this creature that I am using is, as you might say, full of
> sound without meaning.

JOEL: How we might say? How would you say?

> His brain is a lumber-room in which he has
> hoarded a conglomeration of clever and appropriate word-forms with
> which to disguise the paucity of his ideas, with which to express
> nothing!

CROW: Um …

> Yet the very abundance of the material in his storeroom
> furnishes a discriminating mind with excellent tools for the
> transportation of its ideas into other minds.

TOM: [ Professor Ralston ] Are you calling me stupid?

JOEL: [ As Amoeba ] I’m saying you have an abundance of deficiencies!

TOM: [ Professor Ralston ] Well … okay then.

>
> "Know, then, that I am not here by accident.

CROW: I had long and fully planned to land my flying saucer at a 50 degree angle in the middle of this corn silo!

> I am a Space Wanderer,
> an explorer from a super-universe whose evolution has proceeded
> without variation along the line of your amoeba.

TOM: Look, I don’t want to nitpick.

JOEL: Of course you don’t, honey.

TOM: Just, ‘evolution’ or ‘variation’, which of those words aren’t they using right?

> Your evolution, as
> I perceive from an analysis of the brain-content of your professor,
> began its unfoldment in somewhat the same manner as our own.

CROW: With cartoons of fish stepping up on land.

> But in
> your smaller system, less perfectly adjusted than our own to the
> cosmic mechanism, a series of cataclysms occurred.

JOEL: Does this involve blowing up the moon and jolting Earth into a new orbit?

> In fact, your
> planetary system was itself the result of a catastrophe, or of what
> might have been a catastrophe, had the two great suns collided whose
> near approach caused the wrenching off of your planets.

CROW: And if their diplomats weren’t able to find a face-saving solution to the crisis.

> From this
> colossal accident, rare, indeed, in the annals of the stars, an
> endless chain of accidents was born, a chain of which this specimen,
> this professor, and the species that he represents, is one of the
> weakest links.

TOM: Is Lilith Lorraine getting back at one of her professors?

CROW: Show *you* to give me a B *minus*.

>
> "Your infinite variety of species is directly due to the variety of
> adaptations necessitated by this train of accidents.

JOEL: If only no planets had formed then we’d all be amoebas!

TOM: Huh?

> In the
> super-universe from which I come, such derangements of the celestial
> machinery simply do not happen.

CROW: Amoeba-boy’s getting a little snobby there.

> For this reason, our evolution has
> unfolded harmoniously along one line of development, whereas yours
> has branched out into diversified and grotesque expressions of the
> Life-Principle.

TOM: Why, thank you for noticing!

> Your so-called highest manifestation of this
> principle, namely, your own species, is characterized by a great
> number of specialized organs.

CROW: Is … is Amoeba-boy talking about breasts?

JOEL: Oy, aliens, always like this …

> Through this very specialization of
> functions, however, you have forfeited your individual immortality,
> and it has come about that only your life-stream is immortal. The
> primal cell is inherently immortal, but death follows in the wake of
> specialization.

TOM: Also in the wake of being eaten by a bear. Just saying.

>
>
>
> We, the beings of this amoeba universe, are individually immortal.

CROW: So there’s no escape from Great-Aunt Carol and her inappropriate questions.

> We have no highly specialized organs to break down under the stress
> of environment. When we want an organ, we create it.

TOM: From … ?

JOEL: Never you mind!

> When it has
> served its purpose, we withdraw it into ourselves.

CROW: We draw the shades and hide from neighbors.

> We reach out our
> tentacles and draw to ourselves whatsoever we desire. Should a
> tentacle be destroyed, we can put forth another.

JOEL: Our contests of rock-paper-scissors can take years to decide!

>
> "Our universe is beautiful beyond the dreams of your most inspired
> poets.

TOM: So neener neener neener on you.

> Whereas your landscapes, though lovely, are stationary,
> unchangeable except through herculean efforts, ours are Protean,
> eternally changing.

CROW: [ As an onlooker ] Get me the one they call Heraclitus.

> With our own substance, we build our minarets
> of light, piercing the aura of infinity.

TOM: Your buildings are made out of people?

> At the bidding of our
> wills we create, preserve, destroy — only to build again more
> gloriously.

JOEL: It’s all great fun except when you’re signed up to be the sewer this week.

>
> "We draw our sustenance from the primates, as do your plants,

CROW: Are they telling us that ferns eat apes?

TOM: That’s how I make it out, yeah.

> and we
> constantly replace the electronic base of these primates with our
> own emanations,

JOEL: Your ferns charge up apes?

CROW: Even for aliens these are kinda weird mamma-jamas.

> in much the same manner as your nitrogenous plants
> revitalize your soil.

TOM: [ Onlooker ] “Um … are you completely sure you landed on the right planet here?”

>
> "While we create and withdraw organs at will, we have nothing to
> correspond to your five senses.

CROW: Though we have a perfect match for your Five Mrs Buchanans!

> We derive knowledge through one
> sense only, or, shall I say, a super-sense?

JOEL: We know everything through our hyperdimensional sense of taste!

TOM: Thus we travel the cosmos finding things to lick!

> We see and hear and
> touch and taste and smell and feel and know, not through any one
> organ, but through our whole structure.

CROW: You’re making this creepy, Amoe-boy.

> The homogeneous force of
> our omni-substance subjects the plural world to the processing of a
> powerful unity.

TOM: Dilute, dilute, okay?

MiSTed: The Jovian Jest (Part 2 of 4)


And continuing:

  1. MiSTed: The Jovian Jest (Part 1 of 4)

>
>
>
> The absorption of the stone had taught them what to expect, and for
> a moment it seemed that their worst anticipations were to be
> realised.

CROW: Pebbles across the county might be no more!

> The sluggish currents circled through the Thing,

TOM, CROW: Dum DA-dum!

> swirling
> the victim’s body to the center. The giant tentacle drew back into
> the globe and became itself a current.

JOEL: Don’t fight the current! Swim out and then make it to shore!

> The concentric circles
> merged — tightened — became one gleaming cord that encircled the
> helpless prey.

TOM: Is … he turning into Sailor Moon?

> From the inner circumference of this cord shot
> forth, not the swords of light that had powdered the stone to atoms,
> but myriads of radiant tentacles that gripped and cupped the body in
> a thousand places.

CROW: [ Bill Jones, giggling ] No wait stop I’m ticklish aaaaaaugh
[ and breaks down laughing ]

>
> Suddenly the tentacles withdrew themselves, all save the ones that
> grasped the head.

JOEL: That’s his *hair*.

> These seemed to tighten their pressure — to
> swell and pulse with a grayish substance that was flowing from the
> cups into the cord and from the cord into the body of the mass.

TOM: And from the body of the mass into the grayish substance and
that’s what we call an ‘economy’.

> Yes, it was a grayish something, a smokelike Essence that was being
> drawn from the cranial cavity.

CROW: Mmm, fresh skull juice.

> Bill Jones was no longer screaming
> and gibbering, but was stiff with the rigidity of stone.

JOEL: [ Bill Jones ] ‘Mondays, am I right?’

> Notwithstanding, there was no visible mark upon his body; his flesh
> seemed unharmed.

TOM: [ The Blob ] Oh yeah! Let me work on that.

JOEL: [ Bill Jones ] Whoa hey yeowwwowow!

>
> Swiftly came the awful climax. The waving tentacles withdrew
> themselves, the body of Bill Jones lost its rigidity, a heaving
> motion from the center of the Thing

CROW, JOEL: Dum DA-dum!

> propelled its cargo to the
> surface — and Bill Jones stepped out!

TOM: And he holds up the eight of diamonds — your card?

>
> Yes, he stepped out and stood for a moment staring straight ahead,
> staring at nothing, glassily. Every person in the shivering,
> paralysed group knew instinctively that something unthinkable had
> happened to him.

CROW: You suppose Farmer Burns will give him a refund?

> Something had transpired, something hitherto
> possible only in the abysmal spaces of the Other Side of Things.

JOEL: Do … do you think he liked it?

> Finally he turned and faced the nameless object, raising his arm
> stiffly, automatically, as in a military salute.

CROW: Oh, do *not* go there, I don’t have the energy.

> Then he turned and
> walked jerkily, mindlessly, round and round the globe like a wooden
> soldier marching. Meanwhile the Thing

ALL: Dum DA-dum!

> lay quiescent — gorged!
>
>
>
> Professor Ralston was the first to find his voice. In fact,
> Professor Ralston was always finding his voice in the most
> unexpected places.

JOEL: One time he spent a week searching for it before it turned up
in Schenectady.

> But this time it had caught a chill. It was
> trembling.
>
> "Gentlemen," he began, looking down academically upon the motley
> crowd

TOM: Too Fast For Love.

> as though doubting the aptitude of his salutation.

CROW: ‘It appears the aliens are here to … play.’

> "Fellow-citizens," he corrected,

JOEL: Buh?

TOM: The ever-popular ‘unneeded correction that somehow makes
you sound like a jerk’.

> "the phenomenon we have just
> witnessed is, to the lay mind, inexplicable. To me — and to my
> honorable colleagues (added as an afterthought) it is quite clear.

CROW: Oh, *boo*.

> Quite clear, indeed. We have before us a specimen, a perfect
> specimen, I might say, of a — of a — "

JOEL: You know he’s a professor of accounting, right?

>
> He stammered in the presence of the unnamable.

TOM: Read the employee badge! Then you can name it.

> His hesitancy caused
> the rapt attention of the throng that was waiting breathlessly for
> an explanation, to flicker back to the inexplicable.

CROW: [ As Ralston ] ‘Hey, stop paying attention to the not-man here!’

> In the
> fraction of a second that their gaze had been diverted from the
> Thing

ALL: Dum DA-dum!

> to the professor, the object had shot forth another tentacle,
> gripping him round the neck and choking off his sentence with a
> horrid rasp that sounded like a death rattle.

[ ALL clap. ]

JOEL: ‘Wait! I needed him to sign my financial aid paperwork!’

>
> Needless to say,

JOEL: End paragraph.

> the revolting process that had turned Bill Jones
> from a human being into a mindless automaton was repeated with
> Professor Ralston.

TOM: Blob is going to get *such* a letter from the Faculty Senate.

> It happened as before, too rapidly for
> intervention, too suddenly for the minds of the onlookers to shake
> off the paralysis of an unprecedented nightmare.

JOEL: With too much joy from everyone who’s had to listen to
the Professor mansplaining the world.

> But when the
> victim was thrown to the surface, when he stepped out, drained of
> the grayish smokelike essence, a tentacle still gripped his neck and
> another rested directly on top of his head.

CROW: He’s ready for Stromboli’s puppet show!

> This latter tentacle,
> instead of absorbing from him, visibly poured into him what
> resembled a threadlike stream of violet light.

TOM: Heck of a way to pick a new Doctor Who.

>
>
>
> Facing the cowering audience with eyes staring glassily, still in
> the grip of the unknowable, Professor Ralston did an unbelievable
> thing.

CROW: Let’s … POLKA!

> He resumed his lecture at the exact point of interruption!
> But he spoke with the tonelessness of a machine, a machine that
> pulsed to the will of a dictator, inhuman and inexorable!

JOEL: I had this guy for pre-algebra!

>
> "What you see before you," the Voice continued — the Voice that no
> longer echoed the thoughts of the professor — "is what you would
> call an amoeba, a giant amoeba.

CROW: Would you believe … a giant amoeba with cupholders?

TOM: It’s, it’s, maybe more of a paramecium? Would you buy that?

> It is I — this amoeba, who am
> addressing you — children of an alien universe.

JOEL: [ As the Amoeba ] Are … are any of you buying this?

> It is I, who
> through this captured instrument of expression, whose queer language
> you can understand, am explaining my presence on your planet.

CROW: [ As the Amoeba ] I … you know, this got a better reaction when I tried it at open-mic night.

> I
> pour my thoughts into this specialised brain-box which I have
> previously drained of its meager thought-content." (Here the
> "honorable colleagues" nudged each other gleefully.)

TOM: Mind-wiping is fun when it’s someone else on the faculty senate getting it!

> "I have so
> drained it for the purpose of analysis and that the flow of my own
> ideas may pass from my mind to yours unimpeded by any distortion
> that might otherwise be caused by their conflict with the thoughts
> of this individual.

JOEL: Oh, uh, PS, we’re not the bad guys?

>
> "First I absorbed the brain-content of this being whom you call Bill
> Jones, but I found his mental instrument unavailable.

TOM: Oh, sheesh.

> It was
> technically untrained in the use of your words that would best
> convey my meaning.

CROW: [ Bill Jones ] Are you calling me stupid?

JOEL: [ As Amoeba ] I’m saying you have an abundance of deficiencies!

CROW: [ Bill Jones ] Well … okay then.

MiSTed: The Jovian Jest (Part 1 of 4)


I’d wanted to do another MiSTing of something and didn’t have time to get at some more chapters of The Tale of Fatty Coon somehow, despite having a whole year to try it. Instead I found a trifling little short story from a 1930 issue of Astounding and went to that. As best I can tell, it’s public domain, so no fair making me feel bad bringing out something completely inoffensive and fantastically avoidable for the sake of making some easy jokes, okay? Thanks. Also by the way I wrote and scheduled this to post before we got a meteor coming in to southeastern Michigan, so let’s just hold off on those allegations of who plagiarized who, all right?


MiSTed: The Jovian Jest [ 1 / 1 ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. THEATER. ALL file in. ]

TOM: So, an astounding tale from outer space, huh?

CROW: That’s the rumor.

>
>
>
> The Jovian Jest
>
> By Lilith Lorraine

CROW: Sponsored by the Alliteration Council.

JOEL: You’d think that would be an association.

>
> There came to our pigmy planet a radiant wanderer with a message —

TOM: ‘Please remove us from your mailing list’.

> and a jest

JOEL: And a jape?

TOM: No, a *jest*. Pay attention.

> — from the vasty universe.

CROW: Vasty?

>
>
> Consternation reigned in Elsnore village

[ ALL make grumbly crowd noises. ]

TOM: Rar, argh.

JOEL: Consternation and uproar!

> when the Nameless Thing was
> discovered in Farmer Burns’ corn-patch.

CROW: Fatty Coon! Get out of here!

> When the rumor began to
> gain credence that it was some sort of meteor from inter-stellar
> space,

TOM: [ Nerdy ] I *believe* you mean it is a meteor*ite*, thank you.

> reporters, scientists and college professors flocked to the
> scene, desirous of prying off particles for analysis.

CROW: Scientists and college professors! That’s what we’re doing wrong. We never should’ve given all those samples to the pro wrestlers and the guy selling Dead Sea bath salts at the mall.

> But they soon
> discovered that the Thing was no ordinary meteor, for it glowed at
> night with a peculiar luminescence.

JOEL: We need a novelty song! Get Phil Harris, stat!

> They also observed that it was
> practically weightless, since it had embedded itself in the soft
> sand scarcely more than a few inches.

CROW: Also Farmer Burns was growing his corn in the sand.

TOM: It’s a little game he plays.

>
> By the time the first group of newspapermen and scientists had
> reached the farm, another phenomenon was plainly observable. The
> Thing

TOM: Dum DA-dum!

> was growing!

JOEL: Well, that’ll happen.

>
> Farmer Burns, with an eye to profit, had already built a picket
> fence around his starry visitor and was charging admission.

TOM: ‘All right, here’s my nickel. Now give me an admission.’

CROW: ‘I’m the guy that clicks on Twitter Moments on purpose.’

> He also
> flatly refused to permit the chipping off of specimens or even the
> touching of the object.

JOEL: ‘Can I lick it?’

TOM: ‘No.’

JOEL: ‘Can I lick it just a little?’

TOM: ‘No.’

JOEL: ‘C’mon, I just want to lick it.’

TOM: ‘Well … okay.’

> His attitude was severely criticized, but
> he stubbornly clung to the theory that possession is nine points in
> law.

CROW: So science is going to need at least a touchdown and a field goal to catch up.

>
>
>
> It was Professor Ralston of Princewell who, on the third day after
> the fall of the meteor, remarked upon its growth. His colleagues

TOM: Were frankly amazed he took that long to get to it.

CROW: ‘No, please, Ralston, talk about growing orbs some more.’

> crowded around him as he pointed out this peculiarity, and soon they
> discovered another factor — pulsation!

JOEL: My god … it’s disco aliens!

>
> Larger than a small balloon,

CROW: Yet smaller than a large balloon …

> and gradually, almost imperceptibly
> expanding, with its viscid transparency shot through with opalescent
> lights, the Thing

CROW: Dum DA-dum!

> lay there in the deepening twilight and palpably
> shivered.

JOEL: Aw, it’s space-chilly.

> As darkness descended, a sort of hellish radiance began
> to ooze from it. I say hellish, because there is no other word to
> describe that spectral, sulphurous emanation.

CROW: Well *you’re* pretty judgemental there, narrator.

>
> As the hangers-on around the pickets shudderingly shrank away from
> the weird light that was streaming out to them and tinting their
> faces with a ghastly, greenish pallor,

TOM: Sheesh, they act like they’ve never even tried a death-ray before.

> Farmer Burns’ small boy,
> moved by some imp of perversity, did a characteristically childish
> thing.

CROW: He ran around yelling for a while until he fell down and cried.

> He picked up a good-sized stone and flung it straight at the
> nameless mass!

JOEL: The mass answers back about sticks and stones may break its bones.

>
>
>
> Instead of veering off and falling to the ground as from an impact
> with metal, the stone sank right through the surface of the Thing

JOEL: Dum DA-dum!

> as
> into a pool of protoplastic slime. When it reached the central core
> of the object, a more abundant life suddenly leaped and pulsed from
> center to circumference.

TOM: Welp.

CROW: It’s like pouring sugar in the gas tank, that.

> Visible waves of sentient color circled
> round the solid stone.

JOEL: What’s an invisible wave of color?

> Stabbing swords of light leaped forth from
> them, piercing the stone, crumbling it, absorbing it. When it was
> gone, only a red spot, like a bloodshot eye, throbbed eerily where
> it had been.

TOM: [ As the kid ] ‘Uhm … can I have my rock back?’

>
> Before the now thoroughly mystified crowd had time to remark upon
> this inexplicable disintegration, a more horrible manifestation
> occurred. The Thing,

JOEL, TOM: Dum DA-dum!

> as though thoroughly awakened and vitalized by
> its unusual fare, was putting forth a tentacle.

CROW: That figures.

TOM: It’s always tentacles. Why is it never, like, sea lion flippers?

> Right from the top
> of the shivering globe it pushed, sluggishly weaving and prescient
> of doom.

ALL: [ As onlookers ] HE DID IT!

> Wavering, it hung for a moment, turning, twisting,
> groping. Finally it shot straight outward swift as a rattler’s
> strike!
>
> Before the closely packed crowd could give room for escape, it had
> circled the neck of the nearest bystander, Bill Jones, a cattleman,

CROW: Moo.

> and jerked him, writhing and screaming, into the reddish core.

TOM: [ Bill Jones ] ‘Tell my cattle … I love … aaaargh!’

> Stupefied with soul-chilling terror, with their mass-consciousness
> practically annihilated before a deed with which their minds could
> make no association, the crowd could only gasp in sobbing unison and
> await the outcome.

JOEL: You know the *Australian* alien space blob is like twenty times deadlier than this.

In Which I Explain My Work-Related Anxieties


Me, thinking: “So, in a Star Trek style universe you kind of have every intelligent, spacegoing species having that thing it’s best at. Like, Vulcans are the best at logic. Zakdorns are the best strategists. Klingons are the best at hollering at fake swords. Deltans are the best at 70s-style sexy sex sexing. Ferengi are the best at sounding like YouTube commenters. Pakleds are the best at making everyone else feel better about their own abilities but also kinda awful for feeling like that. Cardassians are the best at honeypot intelligence sting operations luring Federation spies into captivity. But how far does this specialization go? Like, is there a species that’s the best at practical jokes? A species that’s the galaxy’s greatest prank-phone-callers? A species of unmatchable pumpkin-carvers? The quadrant’s naturally greatest bird-watchers? The best house-cleaners in the known reaches of space? A species that’s the go-to people for watching old game show episodes while sighing and feeling like they can never be as happy as that first year out of college again? A species that’s unmatchable in their ability to read Wuthering Heights? A species that just draws the best comics? A species that’s the greatest at actually watching DVDs from the library before it’s time to return or renew them? A people who can make microwave hot chocolate taste the least weird that it can possibly taste?”

Also me, thinking: “Have I checked my work e-mail this week?”

Why I Am Not A Successful Urban Fantasy Writer


So before you go ahead and take my Urban-Fantasy writing group’s side in throwing me out into the mall food court by the Chinese food stand with the unsettlingly outgoing staff let me explain my work-in-progress. The important thing is the premise. If you don’t have a premise all you have is a bunch of characters milling around. I’m going ahead and assuming that’s literary fiction. I don’t know, I can’t be bothered reading stuff.

So here in this story that’s just on the edge of tomorrow and the limits of possibility, how about a story built around the new digital genie of tomorrow? And it’s a digital genie based on the Freemium model. Yeah, don’t your eyes light up at this prospect? Because you can already hear the digital genie reporting, “You can modify the results of your last wish in 23 hours 58 minutes! Or you can hurry that up by spending 10 Sigloi. Did you want to buy a small bag of Sigloi, a medium bag of Sigloi, or a large bag of Sigloi?”

And I wasn’t even done cackling at my genius when some spoilsport asked, “Sigloi? Really? You can’t just say a bag of coins like every other stupid game like this ever?” and someone else asked, “What is your problem? Are you just in this to research … freaking ancient Persian coins? Is ‘Sigloi’ even plural or is it supposed to be ‘Siglois’ and it doesn’t look any more like a real word the more we look at it”. The person who brings windmill cookies to all the meetings asked whether I see writing as anything but an excuse to do weirdly specific bits of research. “And it’s not even deep research,” she pointed out. “You just put ‘ancient Persian coin’ into Google.” I explained how I did not: I use DuckDuckGo. The conversation was not productive.

My scene speculating this would come to the genie saying, “You don’t have to buy Sigloi! You can earn them by completing a quest! Your first quest: match these advertising slogans up to the fast-food companies that use them and share the results on Facebook!” before four of the group flopped over and played dead until the bookstore sent the Children’s Books section manager around with a push broom to nudge them.

I was barely through describing the central conflict of the book. It’s one of the digital genies coming face-to-face with the partially developed open-source clone digital genie project. There’s all kinds of deep philosophical questions about identity that raises if you don’t actually think very hard about deep philosophical questions. So it’s perfect for my kind of writing! I especially liked the scene where developers complain about people reverting the open-source genie back to the first wish. They say “it screws up the machine-learning routines plus we all see what you’re trying to do there”.

This prompted a customer to quit his project of reorganizing the books in the Computers section to fit his tastes and berate my failure to have the faintest idea of how revision control works. I pointed out that I could well learn plenty about how revision control works except it’s too boring. And the head of the writing group said, “How can a person who owns multiple books about the history of containerized cargo and has opinions about the strengths and weaknesses of them call the center of your own book too boring to learn about?”. Plus the bookstore café people came over to ask what all the shouting was about.

So just before they threw me out the group organizer asked, “Do you have even the slightest idea of what Urban Fantasy is?” No, I do not. I guessed it’s, like, the protagonist is coming to terms with learning she’s part-Billiken while she teaches English as a Second Language classes to zombies in-between her relationship troubles with Bigfoot, who’s always being called off for some crisis at his tech startup company.

They picked me up to evict me more effectively.

Oh but if Bigfoot’s tech startup is involved in the digital genie project then it all counts, right? They have to let me back in now, the rules say!

Why I Am Not A Successful Alternate-History Writer


So, it’s an alternate history where everything is like it was here, only instead of the gold standard countries drifted to the gold dragon standard. It’s 1893. Industrial-capitalism-driven finance, as embodied by J.P. Morgan, has after decades of fighting reached a tentative but solid-looking peace accord with the nascent environmental movement, as embodied by John Muir. But danger is mounting. The Granger movement is pressing hard for the re-adoption of silver dragons as a foundation for currency outside South Asia. And the so-called Treaty of Oyster Bay may collapse against the deepening of the balance-of-payments crisis in Washington. As Grover Cleveland fends off appeals from the Bryan wing of his own party, and arranges his own secret and possibly illicit cancer surgery, Muir and Morgan have to work out whose sides they want to be on, and what they want to press for, before the endangered North American Gold Dragon is lost forever.

My fellow reading group members described it as featuring “oh Lord even more words?” and bringing up memories of “how much my head hurt as a kid when I asked my parents what it meant that, like, France was buying Japanese Yen”. Other comments included, “do the dragons even do anything?” and “did you have to call it the Bland-Allison Act? Is that even a joke? What is this thing?” and, in what I consider a glowing review, “can you at least have a dragon eat Prescott Hall or something? Please?”

In the first sequel it’s 1898 and rumors of a major cache of gold dragons coming out of the Yukon threatens to scramble the worldwide recovery from the Panic of 1893. The rush of American settlers into northwestern Canada presents great new challenges to the meaning of Canadian — and Alaskan — national identity, just as biologists find their understanding of the development of dragons challenged by the extreme-cold-weather breed’s anomalous sides. The new potential for Canadian self-determination calls into question the whole constitutional settlement of the British Empire, at a time when Australia and New Zealand’s needs for local constitutions and the stirrings of a new war with the Boers occupy Her Majesty’s Government, and the scientific minds try to square paradigm-shattering data about evolution and thermodynamics into their worldview.

My beta readers describe the roughed-out novel as “incredibly many words between cool parts that have dragons” and “are you working out some crazypants obscurant flame war with somebody about this Lord Carnavon [sic] guy?” And when I bring new chapters to a group session at the bookstore people’s eyes light up and they hide behind the Coffee Table Art books and do that thing where they playfully feign tossing manuscript pages into the fireplace! The kidders. They have to know by now I know there’s a grate over the fireplace.

Now the second sequel is set in the early 1910s and pulls back from the questions of the relationship between the United Kingdom and the Dominions and prospective Dominions to more closely examine United States monetary policy. Between the influence of the Populist movement on American politics and the passing of people like Morgan, the public’s coming around to accept the need for regularized, boring systems that can handle dragon-related crises instead of trusting that Great Men will somehow be found when needed. And so it’s a struggle among the followers and students of the previous generation’s greats to exactly work out the parameters of the Federal Preserve System.

I only have this in a roughed-out form, mostly notes on my laptop. But already Scrivener is so excited by this it’s set my computer on fire and several of its programmers have come around my house to holler at me at six in the morning, every morning, for a week now. But even they have to admit that the couple chapters I’ve written “don’t read nearly so much like a manifesto as I expected” and “wait, so, like, are banks just keeping dragons in vaults or something? Like, can tellers go in back during lunch and pet one? Do bank robbers come out with nests of dragons?” I don’t know, but that might be interesting if I can find space for a side story that petty in what I figure’s going to be a 700,000-word book!

Now I know all this sounds great, but I know my readers are trying to be nice so the stories aren’t that compelling. At that I still think the publisher might not have thrown me out on the street and kicked me in the back if I hadn’t insisted on naming it The Origin of Specie trilogy. I’m sorry, but her suggestion of The Gilded Age is a great title but it would need a story set in the 1870s to make the title sensible and I can’t think of anything sensible for that era.

PS no stealing my story, I e-mailed it to myself in an attachment I haven’t opened yet so I can prove it’s mine.

Statistics Saturday: The Major Star Trek Characters Ordered By Appearances In Episode Or Movie Titles


Star Trek: Discovery not included because I’ve been avoiding spoilers including episode title lists so la la la la do not tell me I can not hear you la la la.

Character Title Appearances
Q 6
Data 4
Mudd 3
Bashir 2
Spock 2
Dax 1
Khan 1
Quark 1
Sarek 1
Troi 1
Archer 0
Beverley Crusher 0
Chakotay 0
Chapel 0
Chekov 0
Guinan 0
Janeway 0
Kes 0
Kim 0
Kira 0
Kirk 0
LaForge 0
Mayweather 0
McCoy 0
Neelix 0
O’Brien 0
Odo 0
Paris 0
Phlox 0
Picard 0
Pulaski 0
Rand 0
Reed 0
Riker 0
Sato 0
Scott 0
Seven 0
Sisko 0
Sulu 0
T’Pol 0
Torres 0
Tucker 0
Tuvok 0
Uhura 0
Wesley Crusher 0
Worf 0
Yar 0

No, neither Mayweather nor Chakotay were actually significant characters. They are included to be nice.

Science Fiction Book Identification Corner


We had this missive cross our desk, after first asking permission and getting a hearty lad to walk ahead carrying a red flag:

What was that old book where I don’t remember the title or the author, but the cover art was this hollowed-out human head that was unpeeling into a helix, and in the upper right there’s a planet kind-of Earthlike but not exactly, and then it’s also an apple with a huge bite taken out of it, with the background an isometric grid imposed on an outer-space shot, and in the lower right corner there’s an infinite regression of open doorframes, each with the silhouette of a stern-looking and possibly alien person in front?

PS: Love your podcast, hope to listen to it someday. Do you have one?

The answer is: you are thinking of every science fiction novel, 1970-1974. You may find some in any used book store of class III or above; best of luck with your search! Do write in if you have further questions.

In A Perfect World


So you live in a utopian future. You don’t have anything to be embarrassed by there. It’s a pretty sweet deal. Maybe it wasn’t you that was embarrassed. Maybe it was someone who reminded me of you. It would help if we could get some name tags or distinctive ribbons or something. Anyway, even in a utopia there’s no getting away from some civic responsibilities. At any moment something like one-eighth of our population is busy introducing the place to an outsider. Are you ready?

Maybe you’re wondering where they come from. The answer is, all over. Some of them are people from before the utopia who got themselves caught in cave-ins, or were put into stasis until medical science found a cure for painting bricks. Some of them are from alternate timelines, like one where Belgian visionary Paul Otlet and his electric telescopes failed to manifest the Mundaneum in Lakewood, New Jersey in 1934. Maybe they’re dreaming, as far as they can tell, and there’s no sense waking them up before you figure out which of us is real. Ooh, maybe they’re aliens, so we can be their aliens, and add this neat little mirror-image chic to things.

Really it doesn’t matter. Any visitor to utopia has some things they just have to know. And they have some expectations. Meet them, and they’ll be happy with the experience. They’ll need to be told they are in a utopia, straight off. Hide that and they’ll never be happy. And they’ll need a couple rounds of origin-shaming so they appreciate how their homes made serious dog’s breakfasts of things. That’s an easy sell because people find it charming to hear “dog’s breakfast” as a metaphor.

They’ll want to have a tour, once they’ve been electro-taught the universal language or just happened to know it anyway. You’ll want to take this on foot. It makes stuff seem bigger. I recommend taking them to one of those middling-size buildings made with that brick cladding that somehow looks like fake bricks even though they’re real bricks. Try to approach from the side that’s the least architectury. Then go into something about how it’s the administrative district’s largest facility for producing psychoneutral brick or self-motivated gelatin or fully interactive quadrophonic squirrels or whatever. To make a convincing presentation remember the important two elements:

  • A bunch of statistics delivered in obscure units. Try saying something like `modules over 20.38 centipoise per millikatal hectosievert’ or `response metrics as sensitive as 12.10 decatur-centidays’ until it sounds kind of normal-ish. `400,000 mease of herring each compline’. `0.2 adrianople-ceston-centiMcClintocks.’ Something like that.
  • A moving sidewalk. You can find some at most airports, many train stations, and the occasional shopping mall.

You’re going to get the occasional visitor who’s looking for social satire. By “social satire” people mean everyone talking about how their enemies were fools and their heroes visionaries. This is tricky to do before you know who their enemies and their heroes were. You can make some wild guesses and if they react with horror say that you were just testing to see if they were ready for the true order of things. You’ll want to practice that with friends before doing it live. Also bring some gift certificates for ice cream or something so you can act like you’re giving a special award for their figuring it out. Some weird flavor, something hard to like. They’re not coming all the way to utopia just to get fudge ripple. They’re looking for something with a bit of freaky to it. In fact, don’t just do this for ice cream. Every day try to find two or three little things to freak up a bit. It’s surprisingly fun once you get the hang of it and it makes their experience so much better. It’s kind of an important rule for life.

If you still can’t get a handle on them, try some patter about how gold and silver make the throw pillows of utopia all the more throw-pillow-ish. Your guests will make what they want out of this, and if they ask you to expand on it pull the old “what does that tell you about us?” routine. You’re not going to believe how well this works.

Sometimes you’re going to get the visitor who’s decided utopia is actually a dystopia. There’s no arguing them out of it. They’re going to figure they’re the only ones who see it, and they have a responsibility to destroy society, which is supposed to somehow help. So you’ll want to have contacts with some local theater group. They should have a bunch of costumes and a couple people who can do improv work as an underground movement. Set them up with something harmless like bubble wands. Tell your visitor these are futuristic pacification weapons so that nobody’ll get unnecessarily hurt while they’re busy destroying society.

Now you’ll need to set up a story where the organizing impulse for all society comes from, oh, whatever. That closed psychoneutral brick factory nobody’s got around to tearing down yet. Send them off to attack it and after all the foam has evaporated — well, you know joy? Not really. Not the kind of joy you’ll see after they figure they’ve gone and obliterated society. It’s pretty sweet, really. After you do go along with this you’re going to have to listen to them blathering a while about how they’ve opened everyone’s eyes and how society is really and truly going to work this time. And some of them can go on forever like this. But whoever said life in utopia was perfect?

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose eleven points on word that if everybody was good we might just go to an amusement park for the Fourth of July. Skeptics protest that major holidays are the worst time to go to amusement parks because everybody goes to them then, but they were shut down by that time on the 4th of July that we went to Great Adventure and literally got to walk on to the front row of Kingda Ka, and when does that ever happen?

273

What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? December 2016 – March 2017


I started out this strikingly popular series of “What’s Going On In” story strips by describing how Dick Tracy had gotten pretty good. I stand by that assessment: the comic has been telling stories at a pretty good pace and with enough energy and excitement to demand attention. I discover reading my earlier piece that I didn’t actually describe the then-current storyline except to say it was going to have a guy get eaten by a hyena. Let me fix that and bring you to the present day.

Dick Tracy

29 November 2016 through 11 March 2017

So, the guy did not get eaten by a hyena. I apologize for the mistake, but it was after all only my best projection as to where the story was going. The fellow was a new Tracy-esque villain named Selfy Narcisse, whose gimmick was that he was always taking selfies. They can’t all be The Pouch.

Narcisse had been embezzling campaign donations to Representative Lois Bellowthon (herself proposing some anti-Lunar-people legislation); he was fleeing with a literal satchel of cash after poisoning the finally-wise-to-him Congressman. Yes, he used his selfie stick to inject the poison, so at least that keeps on-theme. He took refuge in the zoo where he had a friend willing to disguise him as a zoo keeper, which is a thing that happens in real big-city zoos.

Selfy Narcisse panics as police close in. 'This is all Vic's fault! He blew my cover and wasted all my poison ... if he weren't already dead I'd kill him!' Tracy discovers Vic's corpse. 'It's the missing zoo worker! He doesn't appear to have been mauled, but my Wrist Wizard isn't showing any of his vital signs. Get Baker to open the door, Lizz. I'll check for another way in.' Meanwhile Narcisse plans: 'Better stay put, Tracy. There might be enough poison left in the selfie stick for you!'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 4th of December, 2016. While I admit I kept losing track in the climax of the difference between the Narcisse’s selfie stick and the electric prods used for pushing animals around, I don’t blame the artists: they’re hard things to differentiate. Especially when it doesn’t seem like that big a leap for a poison-dispensing selfie stick to also have an electric prod. Anyway, look at the center panel, bottom row: that’s a great rendition of a scene viewed through a window, and most of that texture is made by good color choice.

His cover fell apart when his hat fell off for a moment and zoogoers put pictures that happened to have him in frame on social media. So again, that’s good work by Mike Staton and Joe Curtis in being on-theme. His friend accidentally drank Narcisse’s poison stash, thinking it alcohol. Narcisse tasers Tracy and drags him into the water buffalo pen. One of the water buffalo, annoyed by the villain’s selfie-taking, gored Narcisse, but was scared away from Tracy when his Wrist Wizard handheld computer’s battery exploded. Yes, I wrote that sentence, and you read it. Go back and read it again until you believe it.

In December a major new story started and it involved a major crossover event because everything in Dick Tracy does anymore. Their Christmas strip was the characters singing Deck Us All With Boston Charlie, Walt Kelly’s great Pogo doggerel, for crying out loud. The main attraction for this storyline is The Spirit, the great superhero character created by Will Eisner in a line of books I never read. Sorry. I know, I know, everybody who’s stood in a comic book store more than ten minutes will tell you they’re the greatest things ever made. I’ve been busy.

Tracy: 'Spirit, I'd like you to meet a friend of mine, The Great Am.' Am: 'The pleasure is mine, Mr Spirit. I presume the object of your visit is to keep an eye on Perenelle Flammel?' Spirit: 'Yes ...' (Thinking: who is this guy?) Am: 'I've encountered her about five times through the years. In fact, the first time we met was at her funeral in 1397.' Tracy: 'So Perenelle Flammel is truly immortal?' Am: 'Yes, I am sure of it, Tracy.'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 1st of January, 2017. This strip may not convince the casual reader about Perenelle Flammel. But it is delivering to us the Word of God that Flammel is indeed immortal. The Great Am will be recognized by devoted longtime readers of Annie, where he’s God. All right, he’s Ambiguously God. But that’s who he is because that’s the kind of thing Annie was up to when Harold Gray wasn’t ranting against social security or the minimum wage law or stuff.

The Spirit’s in town because one Perenelle Flammel is auctioning off the immortality formula that’s kept her from dying since the 14th century. The auction brings together The Spirit, Dick Tracy‘s own super-science-industrialist Diet Smith, Oliver Warbucks (as Staton and Curtis are fostering the orphaned Annie cast), Mister Carrion (whom Wikipedia tells me is one of The Spirit’s recurring villains, and whom the story revealed to be an agent for The Octopus, which Wikipedia says is another of The Spirit’s recurring villains), and the Dragon Lady (allowed into the story via special passport issued by Terry and the Pirates). The preliminary auction helps convince bidders the formula might be legitimate because it checks out with a Doc Savage reference. Low-level con men Brush and Kitchen attempt to rob the preliminary auction’s treasury but get easily caught by Tracy and Spirit. And Tracy, doing some actual detective work for once, finds that Carrion brought cash from a bank robbery, so he’s out of the plot or so we think.

Early morning in Flammel's suite: 'Good morning, Mistress! Your Monte Cristo is ready. All the bidders will assemble at noon for the auction. Is there anything else you need, mistress? ... MISTER DOUBLEUP! COME QUICKLY! Mistress Flammel! Please, help her!' 'I cant. It's too late. Too late. She's DEAD. Go call Dick Tracy, Dick Tracy!'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 5th of March, 2017. Repeating the last two words he says is Doubleup’s gimmick. I suppose he’d repeat more if the word balloons were bigger. The valet’s gimmick I’m not clear on, but he seems to only be a minor character there because Flammel needs a valet.

And then Flammel turned up dead, because the immortality serum doesn’t protect you against strangulation. Flammel’s bodyguard, recurring Tracy villain Doubleup, seems a poor suspect as he was being paid in Scarlett Sting comic books, so we’re on to Flammel’s valet and then check out anyone else who’s been in the story.

In miscellaneous plot threads, since there’s a lot of those planted in spaces between the main action: Sam Catchem’s wife has finished chemotherapy and been declared cancer-free. A crime boss name of Posie Ermine noticed Mysta Chimera, who had been his daughter Mindy before the mad science treatment that destroyed her memory and made her into a synthetic Moon Maid replica. He crashed his car into hers to try to recover her. This didn’t get him permanently back in her life, but he’s undeterred. I’m sympathetic to Posie Ermine here and not even being snarky about that. There’s some deeply emotionally messy stuff going on here.

Somewhere deep in an Antarctic valley someone who appears to be a Lunarian pledges to investigate “the halfling”, “my granddaughter”, which has to be Mysta Chimera. This matches a couple references in October with Mysta asking Honey Moon Tracy if she’s heard any telepathic contacts from anybody else. Tracy and the Spirit have been trading stories including The Spirit mentioning how he went to the Moon too. I think that’s all the stuff that sounds like threads ready to go somewhere, but for all I know that Pogo reference for the Christmas strip is setting up a scene late this year when Albert Alligator mistakenly swallows Gidney and Cloyd. We’ll see.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

While the Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose another three points during trading nobody trusts the result and everybody is walking gingerly on the trading floor lest they tip something over.

127

What I Need In A Science Fiction Novel To Get Me To Read It


  1. It should have a city enclosed in a transparent dome, whether glass, plastic, a force field, or some exotic form of matter of energy.
  2. That’s about it.
  3. Really, yeah, give me a domed city and you can have just about whatever else you want in the story.
  4. Thank you.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

While trading was open for a normal day there wasn’t much exchange on the floor. Everyone was caught up on how Other Matt cut a piece of paper snowflake-style and then cut it again into a valentine heart and it seems like some crazy mixed metaphor and it also seems impossible to do. But he keeps insisting it’s not hard, just a “little fiddly” is all. Anyway it’s all anybody can think about today.

103

And Now For A Bit Of Fun


I know it’s been a rough … year … so let’s take a moment to relax. Here’s “Beauty And The Beast”, by Henry Kuttner, cover story for the April 1940 Thrilling Wonder Stories and it’s about a Venusian giant kangaroo-dinosaur monster that accidentally crashes his way through Washington, DC along the way to destroying the world although it’s not his fault. Um. Well, all right, how about this totally different story from the July 1940 Thrilling Wonder Stories about a gigantic reptilian monster that melts the ice caps and crashes through the New York harborfront and everybody acts like he’s the jerk?

Thrilling Wonder Stories cover for April 1940. A giant kangaroo-dinosaur crashes through the US Capitol dome while what's supposed to be a heat beam shoots him in the chin.
Fortunately the US Army had just completed testing of its powerful “tickle string ray gun” and was able to handle the monster reasonably well. Image and story from Archive.org which is just magnificent for this sort of thing. Also, when are we going to stop mindlessly bringing alien eggs back from Venus and raising giant kangaroo-dinosaur monsters in the Capitol’s backyard?

Science fiction: the literature of pleasant escapism.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped one point on the debut of the rival Another Blog, Meanwhile index created by those dissatisfied traders I was talking about yesterday. We all thought they were bluffing, too. As it happens the alternate index dropped from its starting point of 100 also down to 99, which the alternate traders are saying is sheer coincidence and their index is going to take off like you never would believe. We shall see.

99

From The September 2016 Scraps File


The month may have got started later than usual, but that’s no reason not to empty out the scraps bin. Here’s stuff I couldn’t use in September and if you’re able to, please, go wild. All I ask is a simple acknowledgement that you couldn’t have done your work without me. I need it to pad my CV.

Connoisseur. Cut from several pieces when I realize that even with spell check and entering it into DuckDuckGo I can’t come close to spelling it right. I don’t know. It shouldn’t be this hard and it’s not like I wasn’t able to get the hang of ‘kigurumi’ eventually. So this goes into the special bin for “words that have appeared in Peanuts that I somehow can’t get straight”.

Really I never understood what problem the Federation was solving in dividing the galaxy into just four quadrants, especially when two of them were off on the far side where they’d only interact following freak events like the Bajor wormhole or whatever crazy pipeline sends everything from Earth, including dinosaurs and Amelia Earhart, into the Delta Quadrant. Cut from a post on TrekBBS about why the aliens on Star Trek: Voyager say they’re in the Delta Quadrant when that’s a human designation and surely can’t match any local description of space. Because you know, the part of TrekBBS I like best is how many people are sincerely worried that Benjamin Sisko might never come to reconcile with Jean-Luc Picard, even though they could go through the rest of their lives never seeing or thinking about the other. The part I like least is people starting threads straightplaining why Star Trek is at its best on issues of gender and sexual orientation when it mostly shows men worrying over their womenfolk. In any case the other people there aren’t living long enough for me to argue about how Delta Quadrant species make large-scale divisions of the Milky Way.

Cybernarc. Title of a novel by William H Keith, Jr, and cut from a piece where I was going to try to list the Most 90s Science Fiction Novel Titles ever. And it’s a good idea but it’s just so hard to try finding a bunch of 90s Science Fiction Novels, since they don’t sell novels from after 1991 back to used book stores anymore. And while that’s great if you’re looking for a 70s novel about the extremely sex-partner-ready inhabitants of a great domed city that get pushed outside it doesn’t help you scan the shelves and see what titles really jump out of the 90s and make you giggle. Oh, I guess there’s also Robert Thurston’s Bloodname: Legend of the Jade Phoenix II but you could probably make that a Most Science Fiction Novel Title Of Today too.

I like to think of this as a place where I occasionally buy queen-size bedsheets. Cut from the start of a new tumblr that I cancelled when I realized I couldn’t think what a third post on it would be. Also that I don’t understand tumblr because you respond to stuff by posting it from somewhere else and people looking at the original don’t see it and I don’t know. There are people who can explain this to me but they give up in disgust when they see my cell phone.

In his 40 years as Jacksonian Professor at Cambridge University James Dewar, pioneer of the study of heat flow, never fulfilled the requirement of the post that he find a cure for gout. Cut because while it is a wonder it doesn’t seem to be on-point to anything I’d be writing. I mean, I guess I admire James Dewar. Anyone who could get his name attached to Thermos bottles has to be doing something right. But why would it come up in September when I’m not even in school anymore and don’t need something to hit my siblings with? We’re adults now, we can just punch and gossip on social media.

You’re Steve Allen, aren’t you? Cut from an episode of Stan Freberg’s 1957 radio series where, even if it doesn’t look like much, it’s a pretty solid laugh. It’s in Daws Butler’s delivery unless it was someone else delivering it. I put the line back where I got it and I bet you’d like it there after all. It’s the show with the Grey Flannel Hat Full Of Teenaged Werewolves sketch and the advertising campaign for Food, so, you know, good stuff there.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Index was up a solid eight points and must admit it would be feeling invulnerable if it weren’t sure feeling invulnerable was the prelude to suddenly feeling very, very vulnerable. I mean, we’ve been through this before, we know what hubris is. And we’re not looking to see a demonstration of hubris brought against someone who claims to know perfectlyw ell what hubris is. That’s just not fair.

148

Statistics Saturday: Actual Star Trek: The Next Generation Plots That Sound Like Parodies Of Star Trek: The Next Generation Plots


With thanks to my love for noticing this.

  • Aliens replace Captain Picard with a double who’d be perfect if not for his rousing drunken singalongs in the bar.
  • A historian from the future turns out to be a con artist from the past. Picard decides whether to risk saving a planet suffering from too much static electricity.
  • Data practices how to sneeze. Also he has an evil twin.
  • In an alternate timeline the Federation is doomed, but Guinan and Tasha Yar are great friends.
  • The transporter makes Picard twelve years old while space pirates take over the Enterprise.
  • A planet of extremely white scantily-clad sex partners wants to execute Wesley for tripping over a flower.
  • Worf has a crush on some fish-aliens, one of whom is Mick Fleetwood for some reason. Troi’s Mom hits on a holodeck bartender.
  • Riker’s the lead actor in Dr Crusher’s play! Also maybe crazy.
  • Worf gets dizzy whenever he falls into a parallel universe.
  • Dr Crusher gets a Ferengi scientist killed when she incorrectly diagnoses another alien as being dead.
  • Troi shows Mark Twain around the Enterprise. Picard pretends to lead a San Francisco theatrical company. (Emmy Award-winning episode, for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Hairstyling for a Series.)
  • Worf finds a planet where Klingons and Romulans live together peacefully and puts a stop to that. Data has crazypants dreams.
  • Poker night holds the only key to escaping a spacetime anomaly.
  • Data makes friends with a little alien girl over his Space Ham Radio, so they save her planet.
  • It just so happens nobody had ever asked if Data was a person or a thing before making him third-in-command of the Federation flagship.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell three points, then rose three points and dropped another three points, just to see if it could get your attention from all the way over there in your peripheral vision.

129

What I’ve Picked Up From The 1953 Movie _The Neanderthal Man_


So, Professor Clifford Groves (Robert Shayne, who also played the assistant to the Secretary of Defense in 1963’s Son of Flubber and a refinery executive in 1971’s The Million Dollar Duck) has a meeting with the Council of Jerkface Movie Scientists and it isn’t going well:

“This is my cross. The penalty of being born into an era of little men, who are small even in their spites. You’re creatures of paper, bred of an artificial culture, whose dearest possessions is your prejudices, and important only in the hollowness of your smirking vanities. Hypocrisy is your Bible; stupidity is the cornerstone of your existence; and dishonesty your human essence.”

Groves’s meeting went downhill from there, yes, and he would go on to use an experimental formula that turned his housekeeper and himself into half-ape monstrosities and he gets killed and turns their pet into a saber-toothed tiger and his fiancee breaks up with him (not in that order), but I still think I’m going to work that up into a gif so I can deploy it in some Twitter arguments I only stopped answering because it was too much bother to go back and win them. Also I’m really uncomfortable with the subject/verb number agreement there, although Professor Graves sounds so compelling I don’t want to argue it, especially since he might maul me.

Also I really love how everyone talks with more syllables than they need to for every sentence, including when they’re apologizing for entering their room uninvited.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index dropped one point in ordinary trading, and made it two points after tipping the bartender.

132

Why does turning into an ape-man monstrosity in the movies always mean you have to climb out windows instead of using the door, anyway? It wasn’t even locked.

Fortunately Either Way I Know Unix


My love mentioned the trivia that the film Jurassic Park had only about four minutes of full-on CGI special effects, and that dinosaurs were on screen only about fourteen minutes of the whole movie. I wondered what there even was in the movie after that? My love knew. It was people arguing, people hiding, and the worst computer-hacking scene in history to that date. I pointed out that they did the best they could, since at that time, nobody had yet made the movie Johnny Mnemonic.

Also, I’ve never seen the movie Johnny Mnemonic. I picked up the DVD for it when the local independent video shop went out of business last year, since I liked the pinball machine so much. Another local independent video shop went out of business a few months after that, but all I got from that was some He-Man cartoons and stuff. Anyway, while I’ve never seen Johnny Mnemonic I do assume it has a computer-hacking scene. I also assume that it is the most wonderfully funny thing humanity has produced that isn’t a Simpsons character giving a false name. Probably involving someone standing and wearing wires hooked up to his hands and wiggling his fingers at midair while, if I read the pinball backglass correctly, a prog rock album occurs. Someday I’ll have to see it.

Statistics Saturday: The Star Trek Movies Ordered By Length Of Their Wikipedia Talk Pages


Movie Length (in words)
Star Trek: First Contact 193
Star Trek Beyond 454
Star Trek Generations 1327
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier 1776
Star Trek Into Darkness 1927
Star Trek: The Motion Picture 1940
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan 2087
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country 2344
Star Trek (2013) 3137
Star Trek III: The Search For Spock 3904
Star Trek: Insurrection 5019
Star Trek: Nemesis 6256
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home 8287

Based on their talk pages as of the 2nd of July, 2016, in case that matters. No, I have no idea what the deal is with First Contact having nothing considering how much there is to dispute about the movie.

Not Explaining The Convention We Didn’t Go To


My love and I were wondering last weekend when MediaWest*Con might be. This is a small but ancient science fiction/TV/movies/et cetera convention that’s been held in Lansing for the past Like 37 years [1]. We had no idea. We only found out about it last year because a friend was going to it and asked if we wanted to meet up for dinner during a slow stretch. It turned out the convention was being held just that weekend, right as we were wondering when it might be.

We couldn’t go. They only sell 700 attending memberships and were sold out. But we found this magnificent question and answer on their web site:

3. Why do you have Apocryphal memberships and allow pets?

We found some people were buying full memberships for their stuffed critters, so we started offering Apocryphal memberships for stuffed or live critters and for alternate identities so as not to take up already limited regular memberships.

As for pets, we had started bringing our dogs to the con so we didn’t have to board them, which cleared the way for others to bring their pets, as long as they get along with the other animals and members (which goes for the humans as well!). Some people miss their pets too much, and some pets don’t do well without their people.

This is my favorite sort of explanation. It’s clear, concise, and doesn’t explain a thing. That thing: wait, there were so many people buying memberships for their stuffed dolls that it was creating resentment in the standby list? How many people was that? Surely not one, because who’d notice that? Ten? Again, nobody would notice ten people not there because toys were instead. 680? That’s more plausible. It suggests there a time in Like 1994[2], when the convention was twenty people and hundreds upon hundreds of plush dolls dressed in Star Trek, Blake’s 7, and Bruce Campbell costumes. All staring at the people who couldn’t get in. And someone declared, “there must be something we can do! And I know what it is!” And that lone person was a stuffed Vulcan-eared teddy bear dressed up like George Francisco from Alien Nation, and was the voice of reason.

Also I like how pets are allowed because hey, pets.


[1] 35 or 38 years depending on how you count some stuff.

[2] For example 1993, 1995, or possibly 1994.