And Now For Something Completely Different

Here’s something sort of unusual. I don’t normally publish any of my fiction on this blog, since I am still hoping in vain that some editor will finally recognize its value and publish it. But this particular bit of (extremely short) fiction was written for a specific purpose – the New Scientist Flash Fiction Competition 2010 – and cannot really be repurposed, so my choice is between letting the story gather digital dust or publishing it here.

I was rather sad it didn’t get selected, but at least it wasn’t published in the company of some of the mind-bendingly idiotic bullshit that was. (Sorry, there’s something about the perpetuation of imbecilic stereotypes that really pisses me off.)

Anyway, here is my contribution, entitled Letter to the Editor. To put this in context, the topic of the competition was basically alternate history (with an emphasis on science).


  1. (Read the story before reading this.)

    I feel rather strongly that one reason the story didn’t stand a chance is that it treats its subject thematically rather than in an idea-based way. Yes, the whole story is written from the point of view of an alternate reality, but that’s not the point: the story is about the science of history, not about the history of science. And I fear that most of the modern scientific establishment is still terrified of history.

    Of course, it’s also your right to simply not like it. But I do, so there.

  2. Hm. Very strange. It was really confusing at first, mainly because I went to it directly from your Twitter and had no context, but once I read this post, it became much more clear. Apparently, in alternate reality, you are a religious fanatic. Very different from this reality, as you are obviously a fanatical chocolate lover.

    Oh, don’t look at me like that. I know your secrets! I saw the plans for taking over a small cocoa-producing country, so you could conquer the world! WITH CHOCOLATE WEAPONRY! Yes, I know your plans very well, fiendish mastermind! In fact, I have already put together a small resistance force utilizing marshmallow and graham cracker weaponry! As soon as you start, your entire army’s weaponry will be made into delicious s’mores! Then, we will distribute the s’mores to starving children, who will become extremely fat and never go hungry again, as was foretold in the prophesy. Yes. So it was written, so it shall be.

    As a side note, I can’t wait for you to release that film, I’m almost as excited for it as I am for You Shall Know the Truth.

  3. James Patton

    (Spoiler alert! Read the flash fic before you read this.)

    Ha! Very clever, I love how you turned the concept on its head. The little hints (“What moral wisdom is to be found in imagining worlds where Rome never fell, where Napoleon was never assassinated, where the African threat did not exist?”) were perfectly pitched, both for humour and that “aha!” moment.

    The only criticism I have is that the joke doesn’t kick in early enough. You begin with an inflammatory paragraph – all well and good – but then we have another holier-than-thou paragraph and two holier-than-thou sentences before it’s revealed that this person is speaking from an alternate reality. While I was reading it I wondered whether this was an actual letter of moral indignation or a parody of one; you could probably have cut most of the second paragraph and splice any exposition from there into the piece somewhere else.

    Of course, this is just a niggling point; I feel bound to give constructive criticism if someone puts writing in front of me. I really enjoyed it and loved its irreverence. And, good Lord, it was *far* better than that Soviet Seeds thing…

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