Frozen pizza: the forbidden food. Yet these instructions defeat me. Yes, I, a cat who can field strip an AR-15 in the dark and without the aid of opposable thumbs, am incapable of reading these tiny instructions or operating the big heaty kitchen box thingy.
Time to turn to wiser heads. Who better than the six nominated writers for the Hugo 2017 Best Writey Book Prize!
All the Pizza in the Box
When Patricia opened the freezer, she found a melancholy pizza box. It sat on top of a pile of oven chips in the crook formed by a box of frozen spinach and an unopened tub of lactose-free ice cream. With the pizza crying subliminally to end its misery by being eaten, Patricia looked past the nutritional information label and onto the cooking instructions but all she could see was fear. Not just fear, but also misery, and not just misery but also Italian sausage and pineapple. Patricia still didn’t understand how the life could just go out of a popular cuisine, but she could tell the very concept of ‘pizza’ was fighting against death with what little resources it had left.
Patricia vowed that she would call upon the powers of magic to preheat the oven to 390 degrees Farenheit.
Laurence, his hair the colour of late-autumn leaves, suggested either using the time-travelling cyber-microwave he’d built or at least preheating the oven to 472.039 Kelvin.
Box’s End: The Three Pizza Problem
Yun Tianming listened to the radio from his hospital bed. The United Nations had jointly formed a resolution to condemn the doctrine known as ‘not being arsed to cook anything nutritious’. With the Trisolans a hundred years away from Earth, humanity had, in despair, stopped making an effort to cook anything decent.
The special session of the United Nations was being addressed by a tall American man.
“We must ensure the oven has been properly heated before putting the pizza into to cook!” he stated firmly.
The various national representatives sat in shocked silence until one of them spoke up:
“But how can we wait so long! The crisis is nearly upon us!”
The man nodded. “Yes, our only hope is to recruit at least six men of the right mental attitude. Each one will be placed in suspended animation until the oven is correctly preheated! They will be cut off from their families, friends, everything they know and awake in a world very different from ours! A world ten to fifteen minutes in the future!”
The Obelisk Box
“A what?” you say.
“An oven tray.” Alabaster, beloved cookmonster, sane madchef, the most powerful pizza-dough spinner in all of the Stillness, stares at you. This has all of his old intensity and you feel the will of him, the stuff that makes him a force of nature when it comes to bread-based Italian derived food stuff. “A metal plate for food to rest on.”
“A what?” you repeat.
He makes a tiny sound of frustration. He’s completely the same, aside from being covered in frozen peas. The same as in the days when you and he were less than dining companions and more than friends. Ten years and a couple of apocalypses ago. “Frozen-Gastronomy isn’t foolishness,” he says, “I know you were taught that – everyone in the Stillness thinks its a waste of energy to use their own oven when they can simply dial out for a pizza or maybe order it online. But… but I thought you would have learned to question the status-quo by now.”
“I had other things to do,” you snap, just like you always used to snap at him.
Too Like the Toppings
The witch Frisby approached the oven, her humanist boots clipping the floor in a rhythm like the spears of Menelaus approaching the walls of Illium.
Must thou once again use such words, Mycrust? We have had words on this thou and me already. Speak more on the cooking of this ‘pizza’ and less on witchcraft.
Must I, dear reader? When the innocent Candide was thrust out of his earthly paradise and taken in by those Genoese soldiers, would his tutor have counselled him that their baked snacks must be the best of all possible pizzas? Would Petrarch not lament that only the word ‘pizza’ remains of that noblest scion of Latin?
“But pizza was disallowed by the decree of 2205!” cried Carlyle Foster. “We can’t return to the dark days of the Domino-riots and the Pizzahut hegemony uprisings!”
“Along with big wigs, fabulous frocks and Enlightenment philosophy, we, one of the several secret conspiracies manipulating this society have also brought back pizza! But strictly in the privacy of one’s own ‘bash and between consenting adults!” explained Nepos Cousin Francis Bacon Diderot Seneca Augustine Louis MASON-Saneer-Weeksbooth-Huegnot-Bourbon-Hapsburg XIV, polylaw, sensayer, and vice-president of the Nintendo-Microsoft-Walmart Hive.
What Cheris remembered most was the instructor’s warning: returning to over cooked pizza, that was just over cooked pizza and not radiation gates contorted against hyperbolic cheese vectors and black-blasted pepperoni, was one of the best moments of a meal.
Thirty-minutes, twenty seconds, and one blistered finger later, surrounded by the smashed pineapple and the smouldering remains of chopped capsicum of the heretically anchovy-free oven pizza, Captain Kel Cheris had come to the conclusion that the instructions on the box were shit.
According to the oven’s manual, it was equipped with a directional fan-forced setting which would scramble reality vectors. The effect would be localised within the oven containment unit, but it was troublesome that at least one-quarter of the pizza topping was now inextricably baked to the upper inside surface of the oven. One miscalculation and the pizza could have been disintegrated down to its component sub-particles.
Cheris considered the fractal coefficient of the post heretical calendric settings of the oven timer. Despite everything – this pizza was cooked.
A Close and Common Pizza
Pepper looked at them all as they tucked into the charred cheese-stuff: the former genetic trash-sorter, the re-embodied AI simulacrium, the tentacle-monster that had come to terms with itself, the gelatinous cube that had found a new understanding with its long lost side-sibling, the reanimated megalithic three-toed sloth that had looked beyond the crude stereotypes of pre-Ice Age mammals, the abstract nano-cloud-being that had reforged its bonds of friendship across the mind-body divide and the martian/crocodillian hybrid kill monster that had learned that there was more to life than biting giants chunks out of people lost in the space-sewers.
They had done more than make a pizza together – they had made a family.