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King o' the Hill
by Jeffrey M. Mahr
©2002 Jeffrey M. Mahr -- all rights reserved

"That was fun." John stopped tugging at his left earlobe once it was clear that he was back in his dreary room with Megan. This was the tenth simulation they'd been in this afternoon. "I'm goin' ta the bathroom and grabbin' a snack after that 'whaddya wanna do?'"

"I dunno," Megan sighed in frustration. She had been enjoying the romantic interactions in the period piece they had just left. "Whaddya wanna do?"

"I dunno. I asked you." John Smith -- that was his real name --frowned momentarily. It looked somehow wrong on his handsome face, the kind of face that made women want to do whatever they could to help him smile again. John was proud of that face. He had carefully created it from an amalgam of last week's top ten movie stars. The body he'd taken a bit less care with, choosing the hulking form of one of his favorite wrestling stars. "Make a suggestion why don'tcha?"

Megan Jones -- it wasn't her real name, but John had long ago decided that he did not like ANITA-7 -- closed her eyes and twirled her hair, the standard visual display for her "thinking mode." Almost two seconds later, her eyes opened and she smiled brightly. Her voice suddenly reflected a markedly more intelligent tone.

"You could choose from one of your top ten fantasies? I can name them for you if you like by frequency of use, by your reported post-fantasy satisfaction rating or in last used first order. Would you like me to proceed?"

"Nah. I wanna do something totally different tonight. Gimme some really flaky suggestions."

"Certainly John." Thinking mode lasted almost five seconds this time. "How about water skiing on Rigel Seven?"

"Uh-uh. I don't think I wanna hafta learn any new sports rules tonight. What else ya got?"

"How would you like to live as the richest person in the world?"

"Been there, done that. I want somethin' really different."

"How about I randomly pick a situation and pull the reset button?"

"Whatcha mean?"

"You have to live that life, the entire life. That means you live through all the good and all the bad."

"But I don't want no stinkin' bad. I've already done 'bad.' That's why I got you. Artificial Nano Intelligent Technical Assistants ain't cheap and you're the mark seven version. Top o' the line. You're supposed to be able to make me happy -- so do your stuff and make me happy already."

"Do you wish me to randomly select a situation?"

"Sure. Whatever. Just get on with it already. I'm tired of lookin' at these peeling walls and suckin' on this crappy snack tube."

"Anything at all?"

"What the hell. Sure. Surprise me." He placed the VR helmet back on, attached it to the rest of the suit and wiring and lay down on the antiquated cot that was the only piece of furniture in his small room besides ANITA's brain box that he used as an end table.


Marty Jones, beamed with pride as he watched his beautiful and talented girlfriend swim over to his side. She had just saved another human from drowning. He was so proud of her.

"Come here Joan," Marty chattered happily as he sliced through the water towards her. "I'm going to make you so happy that you're going to screw up everyone's sonar for miles."

"Comin' darlin'."

As they met, Marty gave her a quick kiss on the beak as together they both made a run for the surface for some more air. Their gray bodies flashed through the water and they danced on the water with their tails as they tried to see which could remain in the air longer. Then they both headed for their grotto where Marty was going to take the rest of their lives together making Joan one very happy dolphin.

And the best part, at least as far as Marty Jones -- also known as Megan Jones, also known as ANITA-7 -- was concerned, was that with no hands and no ears there was no way the little twerp was going to get bored and turn off the simulation before Marty was good and ready.

Short, sweet and to the point. I'm almost embarrassed to say it, given my penchant for novella length stories and longer, but it is not necessary to use a lot of words to tell a story. Using this story, I'd like to make a couple of points about writing.

1. You've got to start.

Don't be afraid to try. You don't need to wait until you have the perfect topic, the perfect plot, the perfect characters, or the perfect anything. For example, I had no idea what I was going to write when I started this story beyond the idea that I was bored and had no idea what to write about. The obvious answers are always, "write what you know about" and "write what you feel" so I did.

2. Set your scene.

It doesn't take a lot of words to do that either. Some writers get caught up in the minutiae. While detail is important, it is more important to paint a picture with your words. For example, how many words are used to set the imagery that describes John's room? Go ahead and count if you'd like. Did you come up with the same count as me? I got fifteen-that is if you allow the use of the word room twice.

3. Have some sort of conflict.

Here the conflict is that ANITA-7 is getting tired of pulling new ideas out of the air to interest John. She wants to be able to practice what she was made to do, create and maintain a virtual world.

A resolution is optional, but desirable. It's easier to like this story with the last four paragraphs, but it might have been an acceptable read without the last one. The last paragraph is the resolution, the part that pulls everything together. As I noted above, I had no idea where the story was going, let alone where it would end. Finding the ending took a bit of work. I had to look at what existed and ask myself where it could go from here. There were many options. I picked one. I hope you liked it.

4. Sex sells.

Look at the number of websites on the internet providing sexually explicit material. It's hard not to believe that sex sells, because it does. But, does that mean you've got to write pornography? Nope. Only that you've got to somehow make the story interesting to your reader. You do that by giving him, her or it what he, she or it wants. On an Internet porn site it would be sex, but in a magazine devoted to transformative literature, it is a transformation. I provided a transformation so presumably I've done something to interest you the reader. Of course, you'll notice that I tossed an indirect reference to sex in at the end. After all, I told you sex sells.

There's more of course, people can always tell you how to do something better, just look at the market for self-help books, but my goal is to entertain at least as much as I educate. To be more explicit, I'm hoping to find the next great novel -- or at least one I really like.

If you like this, check out the Infinite Imagination eBooks website. And don't forget to sign up for our biweekly newsletter!

Jeffrey M. Mahr
Senior Editor, Infinite Imagination eBooks
January 8, 2002

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