A horrible realization occurred to me the other day while I was speaking with someone on the bus. "Did you see my column last week?" the conversation began, as indeed all my conversations do. "It was a pretty good one I think. What was your favorite line? I'll tell you what mine was." Later, when I joined him at the front of the bus after he'd decided to switch seats, and we'd started arguing about personal boundaries (as indeed all my conversations end) it hit me: I may not be as important as I'd previously assumed. Although I own shoes and electricity and many other trappings of success, the sad fact remains that I have yet to earn millions of dollars or international acclaim or speedboats from the practice of my craft. Clearly something had to change. I thanked the stranger with an enormous wet kiss, and left the bus to find my fortune. Outside of a daring jewel heist while wearing a dick-joke themed costume, I decided the easiest way for me to earn a fortune with my writing was to create the next bestselling book series. I realized that two of the most recent successes, the Harry Potter and Twilight series, followed very similar formulas which could easily be copied. They took long standing fantasy elements and reinvented them, creating shamelessly escapist stories targeted at very specific audiences - in those cases children and teenage girls with fourth grade reading comprehension. The formula was easy enough, but could I write that well also? I thunk I could. After a bit of brainstorming, I decided the demographic currently most in need of escapist fantasy were middle-aged men. Under pressure from tiring careers, family obligations and enlarged prostates, this was clearly a demographic that could use an escape. And I noted they were woefully under served by the existing escapism service industry; these men were too old to find video games accessible, too young to experience the delights of senility, and likely to burst into flames if made to watch a Sex and the City movie. As for the "disused fantastic element" that would be reinvented, I eventually settled on Space Adventure. Remember that this is the generation that watched the moon landing happen--every one of these men grew up pretending to be astronauts firing laser guns at space lizards and driving rocket ships off huge ramps. Now obviously space based fiction has never really gone out of fashion. But it has gotten a lot less fun. These days most fiction that features spaceships gets all tied up with that moral and philosophical bullshit that science fiction writers insist on putting in their stories when their editors tell them to delete all those scenes with the sex robots. I reasoned that all my book had to do was keep the space, put the sex robots back in, axe the undergraduate philosophy lecture and crank up the fun. Add a middle aged schlub who yearns for a better life, and maybe add a few more sex robots and I would have a Grammy award winning turbonovel. Anyway, I figured that out on Saturday. It turns out that becoming the undisputed master of middle-aged fantasy takes a little more than three days, so I've only finished a few scenes since then, and have picked out some of the most spell-checked ones below for your enjoyment. I'd offer to show you the rest next week, but I kind of doubt there will be a column next week, as by that point I expect to be ridiculously wealthy, partying on my yacht and maybe high-fiving a cool black guy. ____________________ Chapter 2 - Sunglass Hut Harry exhaled deeply as he entered the Lakewood Centre that morning. This branch had gone through three store managers in the past two year, and he wasn't optimistic that number was done rising. Entering the store, his experienced eyes began noticing tons of bullshit not done. Then he felt the Sadness, the feeling that crept over him when he realized that managing Sunglass Huts was something he was good at.
"Randall, how many times have I fucking told you to keep the fingerprints under control?" Harry barked at the slope shouldered store manager. "When was the last time you cleaned these? It looks like you've been wiping your ass on them. And why the hell aren't the new Pradas on the middle shelf like they're supposed to be?" Randall gave a sort of halfhearted shrug, the look of a man who didn't give a monkey's damn about sunglass sales - a look that Harry envied. "Is this a job you can handle or not?" Randall responded by leaning way back, tilting his head to face the ceiling, then uncoiling his body and thrusting it forward, violently spitting on Harry from a distance of about two-feet away. Why did everyone always quit that way? Was that normal? That actually hurt. ____________________ Chapter 3 - Kicked While Down Harry returned home to find his wife Janet sitting at the kitchen table with her coat on. "Hi honey," he said. "You just get in?" "I'm leaving you Harry," she said, fixing him with a sad look. "This just isn't working out." Harry reeled, his monstrously shitty day having left him a bit punch-drunk. "What?" "I'm leaving you. I'm going to move back in with my sister." Harry boggled. "You're going to move in with your alcoholic sister and Friendly Mike?" he repeated, referring to Janet's bottle-loving sister and live-in boyfriend (also fond of the booze). "To live on their dog-sex-stained pull-out sofa?" Janet nodded. "I think it's a step in the right direction for me," she said, swallowing. She got up from the table, walked towards the door, turned and with a sad smile, spit on Harry. Then she was gone. ____________________ Chapter 6 - The Interview "You want me to be a quality manager… in space?" Hans Villman nodded. "That's right. We saw your resume on Monster.com and you have the sort of management experience we were looking for." Harry's eyes widened in shock. They wanted him? No one had wanted him in 23 years. And they wanted to send him into space! "And what would this job entail?" Villman smiled. "The usual. Quarterly reports. Budgets. Career evaluations. Process Reviews. Everything you're good at. Just now in space." "And by space you mean..." "Planets and stars and asteroids and laser pirates. Just your basic space." "Holy shit, did he just say laser pirates? Yes he did just say laser pirates. Holy shit!" Harry's internal monologue raced. ____________________ Chapter 12 - Would You Like Some Fries With Your Mystery? Harry sat down in the space cafeteria with Chester and Lucy. Through the floor to ceiling window they could see the Earth slowly rotate beneath them. "I wonder why Villman was sneaking around the Director's Office last night," Lucy said quietly, leaning in slightly. "Harry, did he give you anything to carry before you came to the station?" Harry shook his head. "No. He told me what supplies I'd need to buy, like my jumpsuits and plasma stapler, but he didn't give me anything. Except for my space watch of course." He held up his wrist. "Let me have a look at that," Lucy said. Harry shrugged and took it off, handing it to her. She poked and prodded at it for a few seconds. "Looks normal I guess." They were interrupted by the arrival of the food robot. "Beep," the robot said as it delivered the food. Harry loved the food robot. He would love any food that didn't come from a mall food court, but there was something about this little robot that just choke him up. "I love you food robot," he said. "Beep." Harry smiled, tears in his eyes. He was home. ____________________ Chapter 21 - Bow-Chik-A-Wow-Wow "Chester, hurry. I think Villman is coming," Harry hissed, ducking behind the door. Chester hurriedly tried to zip his jumpsuit back up, accidentally catching one of his nipples in it as he did so. Cursing, he hopped up and down before tripping, falling backwards and bumping into the sex bot closest to him. Slowly, gradually, agonizingly, the sex bot teetered, hanging on by thread, until it fell, crashing into the sex bot behind it, sending that one into the next, and the next, and then the whole fleet of sex bots was cascading to the floor. "Fuck," Chester squeeked. At that single word, the sex bots programming kicked in, sending them in to action, a horrific writhing mass of robotic nastiness. It was the worst thing ever. The door slowly started to open... ____________________ Chapter 28 - The Revelation The wind picked up around Harry as the hole in the station's hull slowly enlarged, partially drowning out the sounds of laser fire throughout the station. "I know a secret about you Harry," Duke Aetherbeard hissed. Harry tasted blood from his split lip, as he eyed Aetherbeard's laser axe. Where was Chester? He was running out of time. "I'm not going to fall for any of your laser pirate tricks, Aetherbeard!" "No trickkkkkkkkkks Harry. Not this time. You see, you and me have a connection Harry." Harry shook his head. No. He couldn't mean? "Once upon a time Harry, I met a very pretty girl. A very pretty girl indeed. Her name was Janet. And oh, the love that we made. Oh my yes. Tell me Harry: Do you remember going to Sacramento on business a few years ago? Do you remember when you got home from Sacramento? Do you remember Janet walking funny?" Aetherbeard laughed. The bastard. Harry seethed inside, desperate to put his fist right through his laser face. Unless. Yes. That could work. "I don't believe you for a second, Aetherbeard." Aetherbeard laughed. "It's true Harry. You know it to be true." Harry shook his head. "If you actually were trying to convince me you'd have brought proof. You've got nothing Chump Dukebeard." Aetherbeard snorted. "Imbecile!" He rummaged around inside his coat pocket. Finding something, he pulled it out, and thrust it angrily at Harry. A stack of glossy photographs. Harry looked at them. Sure enough, they depicted Aetherbeard, Duke-Sensai of the Laser Pirates lustily fucking Harry's estranged wife in a variety of different positions around Harry's house, and also what looked like a T.G.I. Friday's bathroom. Harry smiled and pocketed the pictures. "Thanks Duke. This is going to save me a ton of money during my divorce." Just then the door opened to reveal Chester, wildly spraying laser fire around the room from the turret of his sex-tank, a broad post-coital grin on his face.... ____________________