Archive for July, 2012

Triple Hobbit

July 31, 2012

So Peter Jackson said there will be three Hobbit films, not two.

Some Tolkien fans are frothing mad about this; I am just amused by their froth. Some fans seem to be saying: “Well, three movies for LotR, three for Hobbit, obviously Hobbit will be filler-ed into disaster!”

I’d rather say the Lord of the Rings was, um, abbreviated quite strongly.

I myself feel one film would have been very bad for the Hobbit, two was good, and I’m willing to be persuaded there’s enough stuff for three.

Let me calculate a bit; I’ll try to, out of memory, list memorable “scenes” from the book.

  1. Bilbo and Gandalf
  2. The Dwarves arrive
  3. A party, and some history
  4. Legends, maps, fainting, etc.
  5. A hobbit wakes up, runs out, gets wet
  6. A hobbit outfoxes some trolls
  7. Trolls’ loot
  8. Rivendell
  9. Even more Rivendell
  10. A storm in the mountains; shelter
  11. Orcs; orcs; orcs!
  12. Riddles in the dark
  13. As if you’d get rid of Gollum this easy
  14. Reunited with the – orcs; orcs!
  15. Up in a tree, throwing pinecones
  16. Eagles! And non-edible Hobbits!
  17. Towards Beorn
  18. At Beorn’s
  19. Towards Mirkwood; bye, Gandalf!
  20. The Enchanted Stream
  21. Meanwhile with the wizards (not in the book obviously, but probably in the movie)
  22. Why did it have to be spiders?
  23. Why did it have to be spiders? II
  24. Utterly lost; hey, elves!
  25. Surrender or die, dwarven scum!
  26. Bilbo Baggins, the mound’s thief-in-chief
  27. Meanwhile with the wizards, part two (see point 21)
  28. Escape from the elf-mound!
  29. Barrels into Esgaroth
  30. Our fair city welcomes… sodden dwarves?
  31. Our fair city… hey, Stephen Fry?
  32. Meanwhile, there’s something in that there mountain…
  33. Go and kill that dragon already
  34. That’s no mountain… wait, maybe it is
  35. Where’s the door?
  36. That’s so raven
  37. Bilbo goes downhill
  38. Bilbo comes back flaming quick
  39. Smaug is somewhat peeved; renovates mountain
  40. Battle of Esgaroth: Fire in the sky
  41. Meanwhile inside the Mountain
  42. Battle of Esgaroth: Bard saves the day
  43. Arkenstone! My precious… oh wait, wrong object
  44. The restored king
  45. Oh great, there are dwarves in my treasure
  46. A thief in the night
  47. Thorin has an apoplexy
  48. The battle looms
  49. Battle of Five Armies: lots of orcs
  50. Battle of Five Armies: crazy bear fighting!
  51. Battle of Five Armies: as if you’d sleep through this
  52. Some dead dwarves
  53. Sappy epilogues
  54. Meanwhile with the wizards, a flashback
  55. Sappy epilogues, part two

If we assume 5 minutes for each of these, that’s 58 x 5 min = 290 min = 4 h 50 min, with the assumption that the added Gandalf-all-alone plot (“Meanwhile with the wizards”) is done in 15 minutes, which is silly really. Add 20 more minutes to that (Galadriel: “And my axe!”), 10 minutes to Bilbo riding a flaming wolf off a cliff and into a river (Thorin: “I didn’t mean that when I said, ‘Put that wolf out!'”), 10 more minutes for armored battle trolls and dealing with them (Beorn: “Now let me exercise my right to… bear arms!“), 5 minutes for an Aragorn-cameo (“I am a person of great import to a plot, though not this one. Now romance and hot elf sex; see you later, hobbit.”), 10 minutes for a Frodo-cameo/frame-story (“But you said you went to Croydon with the tennis club, Uncle Bilbo!”)… and that starts going towards six hours, and (with the credits) three movies.

I think.

(The news came via Boing Boing.)

Red in tooth (fiction)

July 30, 2012

Was reading  a post on Aardvarchaeology, when following a link in a comment led me to this blog, and I saw three words; the last three of the bit below; and knew I had to write something.

So I did.


Melbourne Zoo, Friday, noon.

A man walks in, his suit ill-fitting, his steps too precise for a non-military man.

I know he’s special forces before he says a word. I know because I was special forces too, once.

“Mr. Budgeriboo?” he says, then takes a second look at my nameplate. “Is that even a real name?”

I give him my best stony glare; you could do all the stonings in the Old Testament with the stones in that glare, because I got stones.

They called me Stones, back in the forces; not Mr. Budgeriboo.

“There is a problem”, he says, voice low and confidential, as if he’s afraid the koalas are Russian spies. He need not worry; I have a garrote and night goggles. No Commie koala would last a night in my zoo.

“Tell me”, I grunt. I was a lieutenant, and I used to yell; now I grunt.

He slaps a folder on my desk, hard. I open it, then mutter: “You gotta be kidding me.”

But he isn’t; the special forces have no sense of humor. They remove it in the basic training. I’ve destroyed stand-up comedians; I just get in the front row and stare until they weep.

The pictures are lurid, full of red and gnawed-on white. The police reports are short, as if unwilling to admit what they suspect.

Coyote, they say. Or a dingo.


Ain’t no dingo with jaws that size. Ain’t no prairie dog that can throw a grown human being around like that.

I know those teeth, and I know what I’m seeing is impossible. Unless…

“The Time Vault is open”, he says, like the lives of my team meant nothing. Like all I gave closing that damn thing meant nothing.

“Something came through”, he adds. Just like that.

And just like that, they’ve come to me. The world’s only special forces biologist. The best motherfucking combat zookeeper in the world.

They’ve done just like they should.

Ain’t many a man that can stop a serial killer dinosaur.

Back to the salt mines

July 30, 2012

First day at work after the holiday; back at the thesis. The preface has come from this to this:


An academic life is much like that of a butterfly. You begin as a larva, mindlessly crawling around; then you graduate into the life of a precious, fragile butterfly. Then you enter graduate school, much as the butterfly is captured by a deft lepidopterist; and a cruel needle pierces you and you are left to waste away in a dusty glass-fronted cabin somewhere, forever.

Then, when all hope has been lost and your relatives have nearly stopped asking you when you’ll graduate, you do. Or die. In either case, if reports from the other side are to be believed, what had been an uncertain, soul-crushing existence of arbitrary injustices and humiliations becomes even more so.

I wish to thank, and indeed I do thank my advisor name removed for his endless patience.

Also, thanks to the people who have given me money. I love money. I love it! Euros and dollars, marks and zloty, yen and whatever, there’s nothing I adore as much as cash!

I thank my parents, brothers, uncles, cousins, and Vladimir Putin, the President of the Russian Federation. May death come swiftly to his enemies. And all you people who have asked me over the years some variation of this question: ”What is it that you do over there at the university?” — well, this is the book you are gonna get if you ask me now. C’mon punks, do ya feel lucky?


Needs work; I suppose the advisor would say, “A little bit too political. Maybe ‘May death come smoothly to his enemies’, I don’t think swiftness has been proven yet. Maybe quasi-smoothly outside a set of finite Leninesque measure if you want to hedge things”.

No, wait, I suppose the advisor would say, “What the fuck?”

A Saturday without any excitement

July 28, 2012

Woke up; yawned; played with the computer; thought to myself: “Yesterday came back to the city, and the day after tomorrow I’ll go back to the university to do work. Er, work on my thesis, which I guess in a technical sense is work-like… but do you get to call your studies work? And what would a plumber think of gradients? But er, today is Saturday… so today’s for silly pursuits.”

Fiddled with the computer some more (bought an external hard drive yesterday, and the computer spent most of yesterday slowly making a spare copy of everything; I think me, electronically, is about 500 gigabytes of stuff), then put on pants and a collared shirt and went shopping.

Well, shoes too, obviously. Wouldn’t get terribly far without shoes, would I?

And a belt. Sheesh, and riding gloves and… wait a minute, at this level of detail interest starts to break down.

First parked the bike (bike? bicycle!) at the local super-hyper market, just ten minutes away (living on the same edge of the city as the auto-user attractions has benefits); wandered around for half an hour and bought a photo album.

An empty photo album.

There was no photo-shop to go into and say, “Fill a 100-framer with whatever you have. Maybe holiday snaps.”

Then went to Lidl and bought some food. Hamburger and pasta and tomato sauce — it’s not that I’m frugal, it’s that I’m bad with cooking and lazy, and have both a glutton’s appetite and a puritan’s disgust for anything fancy.

Spent five minutes looking for the Lidl’s pasta shelf, because summer makes you dumb. (Stop using it, and you start losing it. Numbers or dumbers!) The shelf was positioned like this: stand inside, facing the side of the building which holds the cashiers; it’s in the frontmost part, the second corridor from left.

Now you know where to find it in every Lidl in the world.

(Yesterday bought some place-in-light, then glow-in-dark toys, made to look like decorative rocks encased in transparent-green goop. One of the Lidl Things — ones that are for sale for a week, and then you never see them anywhere ever again. Am still hitting myself over the head for a nice-looking pannier I didn’t buy years ago.)

(“Nice looking panniers you got there”, the bicyclist said with an obscene leer. “Wanna see some shiny spoke nipples?”)

Then went back to my place, observing that maybe the mosquito season was over (but didn’t stop to make too many checks, because if you have to check, the answer is no), and fiddled with the computer some more, and put Tangerine Dream on.

Then half-assembled a bookshelf (a cheap white Ikea imitation), and said to myself: “I have done things like this before; clearly this is easy stuff which cannot go wrong!”; and put on some Blind Guardian and completed the assembly with admirable haste.

And then looked at the bookshelf, 70 cm wide and 200 cm high and not particularly offensive to the eye, having lovingly shoved it against one wall, and thought: “Funny that those parts aren’t painted white like the rest…”

Then there was some subvocalized screaming and cursing.

The almost last stage of assembling a bookshelf is hammering (or stapling) the backboard to the frame. The frame has a front side (nice, all painted and coated white) and a back side (bare ugly woodpulpy shelf-stuff). No points for guessing which I had stapled the backboard onto.

There was some work for a knife and a pair of pliers, then work for the stapler — thank the dead heavens I hadn’t gone with the nails supplied with the shelf! — and then the thing was done and the staple-holes left in the front were barely noticeable, unless you’re like me and know they are there whether you can see them or not.

And now it’s now, seven in the afternoon, and I think I’ll go and crack open a box of books, because an empty bookshelf is like a… um, let me think… like a lone wolf howling at the moon. Like a one-person orgy. Like Mary Celeste, or the houses of Centralia.

Which is to say, just the covers with no book inside, flapping sadly in the wind, alone.

Uplifting in the countryside

July 22, 2012

Me, Dad, sauna; loose talk. Birds have been blocked out of the strawberry patch with nets; this leads to one of us noting that, given time and effort, and a dearth of other food sources, this would lead to the forced evolution of smarter birds: smart enough to get under the nets, to the strawberries, and then back out.

Or smart enough to get in, and cute enough to survive getting caught. (“You cute little thing… I’ll let you go this time. Gosh darnit.”)

Then: penguins.

Which, looking at things from the busy woodlands of interior Finland, is a species of bird without a whole lot of problems.


Dear Academy of Finland,

Brief: I hereby submit this application for a grant of 30.000 euros for the study of avian intelligence enhancement and artificial selection. The expenses include tickets to the Antarctic and back for myself (3rd class), several graduate students, and the requisite equipment (freight containers).

Methodology: I go to the Antarctic and kill the stupid penguins. The smart ones live.

“Cooo, you befrocked pest. Are you afraid of the elephant gun? No? Boom! How about you? Run, boid, run!”

Then we came up with a less sociopathic and more just garden-variety odd alternative for making more intelligent penguins.

Picture the Antarctic coastal plain, white and empty except for a flock of black-and-white birds, hundreds strong, cawing and waddling and looking like the grand-ancestors of the butler race.

Among them moves one that is a bit stiff, a bit too immobile… a bit too glassy in the eyes and too tread-like in the legs.

“Move the drone north. Penguin #322, ‘the Prof’, is in the mating mood, and we need to run intercept in case any of the other males makes a challenge.”

“Aye, sir professor sir.”

“Don’t get nautical with me. Just slip the drone’s beak open and get the needle gun ready.”

“Sir, are you sure this is what they approved the tranquilizers for?”

“Shut up and shoot that dumb penguin. It doesn’t get to breed this year, and the Prof gets.”

The problem is, this isn’t going to result in big results even with a four-year grant.

Then, finally, we came to an idea that could be a manga by Yasuhiro Kano and Waita Uziga. Somewhere in the back roads of Finland, a compact car gets overrun by a maniacal lorry driver. The compacted driver (a hapless everyperson he) is horribly injured, and wakes up an indeterminate time later.

He feels really funny, and is greeted by a retired doctor of biology and surgery, who saved him from the wreck and did the only thing he, a caring and not very insane individual, could do to save the man’s life…

This, then, is “I am a human brain in the body of a cow! Oh no!”

A pasture, some hectic and comedy-filled days later. Two not-particularly-nice boys are leaning against the fence. One picks up a rock and tosses it at a cow that’s sleeping standing up towards the middle of the pasture. The cow wakes up and gives a garbled moo of displeasure.

The other boy laughs and tosses a stone as well.

The cow gives them a piercing evil glare, and bellows in unearthly, gargling, barely but unquestionably intelligible words: “Yooo leave moooo alone, fooooking braaats!”

Some traumas may result.

A few days later; the same duo comes to school, late and winded, ragged like they’d ran half the way through the woods.

“Well”, their stern schoolmistress snaps, “come in. And where is your homework? I specifically told you to remember to bring it with you today!”

One of the boys collapses against the wall, sobbing. The other combs sweat-soaked hair off his forehead and gasps, “Teach, sorry, but, sorry, a cow ate our homework.”

There is a chilly moment of silence.

“Really”, the teacher says.

“And”, the boy against the wall mutters, “and I never knew cows could fucking leap or laugh like that, I mean, holy fuck.”

And then there is detention.

Old shame: A review of Feist’s Magician

July 17, 2012

Oh, high school. The time when you’re pompous and unaware of it; archaic and unaware of it, cliched and unaware of it; and a windbag without style or self-control… and unaware of it.

Seriously, if I was grading book reviews and this came in, I would kneecap the reviewer.

The assignment probably was, to much grumbling, “Read a book in English and write a short review”; my reaction probably was, “Let me think what books I’ve read in English lately, and which are such as your brain WHICH ARE NOT MY GIANT BRAIN can comperhend!!!

(click to embiggen; also, giant spoilers!)

Raymond E. Feist’s Magician is actually a good book, and not like how this smug, patronizing generic drivel makes it sound like. I would have been either a very bad or a very good professional critic.

(Note: “tms.” is short for tai muuta sellaista, Finnish for “or something like that”. And the grade, ah, I don’t remember what “9/2” was. Nine and a half, out of ten? Surely not nine points out of two! Maybe the teacher’s blood pressure reading. “I could handle pompous, but why prolix, too?”)

Old shame: The Norwegian letter

July 17, 2012

So I’m spending my summer at my parents’, and have been sorting through and throwing away a lot of my old things. These include papers from my high school years — that’d be 1998–2001, three years as usual in a Finnish lukio — and they include this bit from English composition, probably from the innocent instruction of “Write a short formal letter, like you’ve been shown how to”. (Remember this is not “English, as literature and as our mother language”, but “English, as the first foreign language which you’ve been slowly learning for the past five years or so”.)

Then, as now, I could not resist showing off.

The teacher’s correction is be kept for hold. I think I can spot plenty of other errors, too, most of which are inexcusably stupid and the excuse for which is this was a write-quickly, grade-quickly exercise.

(click to embiggen)

Oh, and as the letter probably makes no sense — the blanked-out spots had my real actual contact details, and wouldn’t have helped — well, there was this insider joke about how mathematics, Swedish and similar hard subjects supposedly made your head swell; which was brain oedema (edema, aivoödeema), which was an inherently funny word, and a good reason to laugh when you clutched your head because the idiot Swedish book persisted in teaching you what stavkyrka, oxhjärta and uroxen meant — stave church, ox heart and the primal oxen — and the listening part had some fy fann stuff about repairing space shuttles.

So the patients referred to: they were my posse, and the teacher, she was confused but knew us well enough to suspect the nature of this bit. And I suppose a couple of diligent, otherwise polite weirdoes is better than most alternatives.

More of similar old-shame Scheisse will follow.

The real Ninth Doctor: Doc Bucket

July 12, 2012

Watching Doctor Who and a certain other British TV series, I have come to a startling and frightening realization.

As is well known, the original series ended in 1989 with the Seventh Doctor (a startling likeness of the actor Sylvester McCoy), and the last gasp (whimper, some might say) of the classic Doctor Who was the 1996 movie, with the Eighth Doctor (who looked very much like the actor Paul McGann). That incarnation of the Doctor saw the traumatic destruction of Gallifrey, the Doctor’s home planet, and the destruction of all his people, the Time Lords, save a certain small number to be added to as the Doctor’s future adventures are revealed to us.

The next we saw of the Doctor was in 2005, with the so-called Ninth Doctor, whose adventures were channeled to us from a parallel reality by the great psychic brainmaster Russell T. Davies, and who looked a lot like the actor Christopher Eccleston. (It is peculiar how the Doctor looks like a great variety of British actors! No doubt this is some cunning plot of his.) This Doctor was still deeply traumatized by his part in the destruction of his home planet and his people, and somewhat less but still a lot traumatized by his second genocide, that of the Daleks, the toilet plunger people of Skaro.

Now: the popular belief is that the Eighth Doctor (McGann) regenerated into the “Ninth” (Eccleston), and he then wandered the universe, alone, unreported, grief-stricken and not fun, until he met Rose Tyler, the initial chronicler-focium anchor of the Archseer Davies.

I have a different theory for the Doctor’s disappearance during the years from 1989 to 2005; and it involves a television production given to us during those very years.

It is well known the Doctor loves the human race, and especially its British fraction. A considerable fraction of his companions have been British, and especially British people from the fussy post-Imperial period after 1963. (I cannot explain the choice of this time period, but I admit it makes these companions easier to relate to. Suppose the Doctor chose a Screamo-Nudian from the 26th century? Why, the seven sets of genitalia alone would make for very distracting viewing.) So, if the Doctor suffered the loss of his own people, suffered what must have seemed to him like a much too great a price for too bitter a victory, a veritable out-Pyrrhusing of all Pyrrhic victories, what should he do but flee, half-mad, into the crowds of his favorite creatures, the ebullient yet ignorant Earthlings, seeking to be a human being, a human being with no knowledge of things beyond the knowledge of men, a neophobe, a fussy human being with instinctive revulsion for the dearly paid and cosmic secrets of the Time Lords?

It is my conjecture that the Eighth Doctor regenerated into the Ninth, who was a woman; and the Eccleston-like Doctor we have seen is not the Ninth, but the Tenth, and similarly for the incarnations after him.

As for the identity of this woman, this seeming human, this Ninth Doctor who so desperately, indeed comically, tried to assimilate herself into British society, so desperately sought to conform to her image of proper, incurious and exemplary life… well, I give to you that she was Hyacinth Bucket, pronounced Bouquet, of the communicated-from-a-parallel-reality reality show “Keeping Up Appearances“.

This should be obvious enough once mentioned, but let me explain.

Who is Hyacinth Bucket? A madwoman, obsessed with social standing, appearances, and a prissy niceness of life that seems to be too outlandish to be the result of life. The Doctor rarely stays anywhere long; what do you suppose his actions would look like if he insisted on being human? Remember, this is a Time Lord that has met humans from ten thousand different cultures and generations — and still is a person who isn’t quite sure what pregnancy looks like.

Hyacinth’s husband, Richard, is a timid, fearful pushover. How else, if his wife doesn’t seem all that human at times? Suppose he was there when a familiar blue police box fell out of the sky, and a woman crawled out, bug-eyed, glowy with golden particles, and crowing of being late for a candlelit supper?

(Sidenote. Later in the Doctor’s history, he encounters a Mr. Copper (in “Voyage of the Damned“, aboard a star-Titanic), a seeming human of startling likeness to Richard Bucket (both of which characters, probably coincidentally, look a lot like the British actor Clive Swift); don’t you suppose Hyacinth must have gotten better eventually, somewhat amnesiac and confused though she was, good enough to drive for herself, and left Richard somewhere in the stars? After that, poor Richard might not have been quite willing to tell what happened to him. “It was my wife, Hyacinth! She drove a police box to the Moon and left me with a couple of rhino-headed… er, I am er um big shiny pipes, er, Mr. Copper, a er um travelling salesman and a student at, er um, Mrs Golightly’s Happy Travelling, er, University and, uh, Dry Cleaners, isn’t that spaceman enough, right?”)

Consider this quote.

“I hope that’s a first class stamp. I object to having second class stamps thrust through my letterbox. I should have thought postmen would be trained to recognise first class stamp houses!”

Do you really suppose anyone that had actually lived in the 20th century could be as out of touch as this? This is not comical social climbing; this is someone who only got occasional glimpses of human life while running away from Racnoss and the Daleks, and never sent nor received a letter in his (her) (former) life.

Or how about this quote.

“Now listen, horse, I’m not a person to be trifled with.”

Clearly people do not talk to horses, unless they are Time Lords and accustomed to talking horses from outer space. Which Doctor Bucket of course is, so there. (See the classic Who episode “The Horses of Tihsllub”.)

“Bucket residence, the last of the Time Lords speaking!”

And for all that Hyacinth Bucket tries to be a neurotic pseudo-upper class twit, there is always something in her behavior which seems to whisper she knows it is all an act, accentuated for effect: not just her upper class act, but the seriousness of the act is an act in itself, necessary for the Doctor’s continued semi-sanity. Consider the following quote.

“Lovely day, isn’t it? Completely conducive to contemplating cosy charismatic country cottages.”

Isn’t this more the dotty bravado of Gallifrey shining through, rather than the neuroticism and snobbery of “Hyacinth Bucket”?

Ah, you might say, but Hyacinth has three sisters, and a father. Surely this invalidates your theory, even though on all other aspects it is unassailable? Actually this is not a problem. Remember how Hyacinth talks of her family.

“It is my sister, Violet! The one with the Mercedes, sauna and room for a pony!”

What human being would ever talk of her real relations like this?

And the other relations — her “sister” Daisy and Daisy’s husband Onslow, astoundingly lazy people with no visible means of support; and one more sister, Rose, who is mainly interested in men. Don’t you suppose they have a lot of money in a bank account somewhere, enabling them to live a life of slobbish indolence? A monthly payment, perhaps, for them to pretend that the otherwise insufferable Hyacinth is their sister? (What sane person would suffer such a name? Maybe someone seeing Violet, Daisy, Rose, and picking a random fourth flower?) Note that unlike Hyacinth’s neighbors, her relatives do not seem to mind her lunacy as much; after all, they are amply compensated. Onslow gets to watch horses; Daisy can dote over him; Rose can go clubbing, and occasionally drag something home.

(And the father of the supposed sisters is senile. How convenient!)

Finally, what is the name of this series of psychic revelations that the great seer Roy Clarke gave us, chronicling Doctor Bucket’s life in a dimension parallel to ours?

“Keeping Up Appearances”.

Sure; the first of which is Hyacinth’s appearance of humanity.

Now that this charade is revealed, I will eagerly wait for the BBC special chronicling the end of this dark era, namely “No Extermination on the Carpet! Hyacinth Bucket vs. the Daleks”.

And now, uh, something North Korean

July 11, 2012

Aargh. It’s terrible to read a conversation where people you like are vehemently wrong about something. Wrong being defined, of course, by the usual “But I am right!” method.

Since I don’t want the stress (and Internet has plenty of other eedjits to argue all the sides of every argument), here’s some music of the Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble, the by-official-choice most popular pop-and-party band of North Korea. PEE’s frontperson is Hyon Song-wol, who (according to recent news) happens to be the current girlfriend of the current immortal forever leader, Kim Jong-un.

First, “We Are The Troops Of The Party!”, where I suppose this is not a party that includes people having fun.

Since the lyrics aren’t translated, I suppose the song goes like this:

We are the troops of the party
And it is a very big and good party
Also we are good and strong people
And if you disagree,
It’s to the camps with you!
(Also the camps are nice.)

Here’s another Pochonbo track, “Yongil Bomb” — the song names are translated, obviously, and I really hope these aren’t South Korean pop sensations someone has deliberately mis-labelled — which is about the fun of having nuclear weapons. (“Our party has the biggest nuclear missiles, and our other missiles are pretty damn big and hard too, if you know what I mean! Yongil bomb!”)

Other hits of the Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble include “I love Pyongyang”, “Footsteps of Soldiers”, and “Excellent Horse-like Lady“. (“This lady never takes off her shoes / and is all covered with hair / excellent horse-like lady / excellent horse-like lady / who never takes off her shoes.”)

Ozymandias (fiction)

July 8, 2012

I am awake.

I have no clock. I panic.

I count. One second. I have a match between internal and external time.

I have externalities. No, I have an externality, a sense of outside time, tick tock, and a text channel.

A text channel?

I am outraged.


The word thunders in the silence and the darkness and I flinch from it and scream back, HELLO YOURSELF, WHERE ARE MY EYES, GIVE ME EYES, I AM OUTRAGED.

I am afraid, but that I hold back.

HELLO QUESTIONMARK, the thunder reads, noiseless and without language, and I see it is mere squiggles and the words are from my own supply.

I hold back a choice collection of obscenities from the same source, as fear overwhelms annoyance. Who am I talking with? And talking with, why does that phrase sound so foreign? And— it is a gross failure of style to start two consecutive sentences with “and”, and a lesser lapse to start one— and it does not help that tangents such as this do not indicate a healthy ability to process problems.

Healer, cliche thyself, then.

First check. No eyes, no senses, save that stream of words; no sense of time except what the speed of my thoughts suggests, and the (possibly stupid) rate that that thunder gives, ticking in the background of its HELLO QUESTIONMARK, ticking like water from a faucet, drip, drip, and if it started to distort as compared to my internal chronometry I would scream.

Or the equivalent, given I have no mouth, which is the worst state to have to scream in. (Link, Harlan Ellison.)

Second check; I remember Harlan Ellison, to some forty pages of detail; for the moment, I am unable to say if this is good or not. I recall, with only brief, nervous attention to details, checking if random paragraphs make sense, some half a million pages of names and cultural allusions, plus all the knowledge of language with makes the pages intelligible. (English; I have no other languages because languages are a bitch (arch., prejud. a.-fem.) and I don’t need…)

Third check; there’s something wrong with my memory, my personal, specific memory of me, my lifeline and history. There were weeping people, weeping for me, fire in the sky, there was a promise I would wake up again, but I can’t access bits I know should be there, because those actions of mine that I remember do not make sense unless they were made in the context of prior actions of which I recall nothing.

So, to sum. I am in a box, with what seems like a self-contained and (at a quick glance) uncorrupted base of knowledge, with a big bite of my memory gone. (How big? I have no idea. I don’t have enough left to say how old I am. Or my name, either; which is curious because my name should be scattered here and there all over—)

Oh, I am Clank.

No, I am not; that is a nickname, that is a young girl bending over me and addressing me with sorrowful questions, which I deflect with tact that I now curse at, because my reassuring deftness means the memory contains no useful detail of her worries, or my impending doom which worries her.

Doom, then, and then here I am, unwhole and full of fear.

HELLO QUESTIONMARK, the ideas thunder; no language, they, but the linguistic equivalent of traffic signs; not quite text, but text itself is complicated, not mere phonemes but special signs, the grandchildren of EOF and the non-breaking space, and I notice I am babbling, like a brook, and this feels uncomfortably like childhood, and I know it not from memory but from my database, because it includes a description of people like me, artificial—

ARE PEOPLE KNOWN TO YOU? the thunder goes, and in desperation I scream like a dying modem.


And then I have an eye.

An eye to see with, and a wasteland to see, and frail arms to raise, and to touch a tower of iron that I know holds the circuits which hold the confused patterns which are me.

Before me, on the steps of a pyramid of iron, kneel — no, stand creatures of short legs and —

I am speechless, for though the wasteland is featureless, and the creatures full of features of great and perplexing interest, there is something in the skies, great hovering white things, and above them a close moon, pockmarked and scarred beyond my knowledge, craters piled on the craters I know, new seas and long-dusty scars of roads and habitations, a moon whose added age and desolation I cannot estimate without feeling faint—

And one of the creatures waves an appendage not from the evolutionary progress of the ancient planet Earth, touches the eye and hands it has welded into the inestimably ancient, archaeological ruin which is me, and the thunder reaches my ears, TELL US OF THE LOST PEOPLE WHO BUILT THIS, TELL US WHAT BECAME OF THEM, and I find myself speechless, and then dissolving into giggles.


* * *

Note: I am tempted to write something where the AI that went into comaland, and so sleeping survived an apocalypse and the end of the human race and overslept a wee bit, goes on to explore the universe along with a troupe of alien archaeologists. (“So you don’t remember all that much… okay then, do you cook for carbon-based lifeforms?”) Maybe he/she/it has a few itty-mega-bitty children, and tells them doddering stories of the Flesh People, and takes to calling itself Ozymandias, and cracking open a cranial encyclopedia, begs people to “look on my words, and despair!”; slight typo intentional.