[Scene – Felapton Towers. A phone is ringing]
[CF – for it is he] Hello, Felapton Towers, how may I assist you?
[The voice of Timothy the Talking Cat] Oh good day to you sir or madam. Could you connect me to Cambarianexplosion Flugelhorn please?
[CF] One: that is not my name. Two: you know this is me Timothy. Three: what do you want?
[Tim] I’m just checking you got that new chapter cover finished. I want the next chapter out ASAP!
[CF] It is, though I say so myself, a tour-de-force. All I need now is the text of your chapter.
[Tim] OK do you have a pen handy?
[Tim] A pen, to write down the next chapter.
[CF] Seriously? You are literally just phoning this in? I thought you were with your pal typing it up.
[Tim] I’m playing video games with Straw Puppy in his mum’s basement. Time seems to have got away from us.
[CF] I didn’t even know SP had a mum. I just assumed he was your imaginary friend or at best was assembled for a bundled of dead grass.
[Tim] His mum is a sentient bailing machine.
[CF] Look just give me the story. Susan the Triceratops and Mr Atomic are here and we are trying to play monopoly.
[Tim] Ok, ok, SP says
“McEdifice tracks some damp footprints to a dark stairwell. He decides to change into his combat gear before following the footprints. When he gets back to the stairwell Ms. Qzrrzxxzq is waiting for him and she is also dressed in combat gear but it sexy.”
[CF] Well I was wondering how Qzrrzxxzq was pronounced and now I know. Hold on, Susan wants to talk to you about the sexy combat gear. Here is Susan.
[Susan] Hello fish breath, I’ve some changes I’d like to make.
[Tim] Oh, here we go. You just can’t keep your giant scaly feet out of anything can you.
[Susan] You are just mad because I beat you at Dance, Dance Revolution.
[CF] (inaudible mutter)
[Susan] We paid for the repairs! Honestly they should make those machines stronger if they expect people to dance on them. Anyway what I was thinking was this. So far Qzrrzxxzq is the only woman character you’ve had and all she’s done is be some sort of weird alien femme fatale and a paranoid boss.
[Tim] We were only trying to be faithful to the genre.
[Susan] Oh right, you just EVER so faithful to genre conventions.
[Tim] Was that sarcasm because frankly I can’t tell because of your stupid dinosaur accent. Maybe you could try talking like a mammal sometime.
[Susan] Well talking about mammals, Qzrrzxxzq is some sort of alien, so why do you have her being all sexy boobs and curves? Don’t say ‘convergent evolution’ or I swear I’ll reach down this phone line and kick you over that fence again.
[Tim] Well ACTUALLY if you had been paying ATTENTION to the story you would know that her sexy figure was all due to holograms and force-fields as part of her alien-anthropology observation protocols. Frankly, I think this is both empowering and indeed FEMINIST of me and Straw Puppy. Her sexiness is our way of commentating on the expectations the modern workplace puts on women to appear alluring.
[Susan] Hmmm, so answer me this then. If she now has changed into combat gear and is about to go on a mission into a dark stairwell, how come she still has to be sexy?
[Tim] Genre conventions!
[Susan] Your just grasping at straws.
[Tim] No, that was my idea. Straw Puppy wanted to say “It’s empowering.”
[Susan] Well here is how I think the next bit should go:
And by ‘sexy’ we mean she was dressed in a way that was functional and practical – a combination that many people who might be attracted to a woman of her species would indeed find sexy because it suggested somebody who wasn’t going to let conformity to expectations get in the way of dressing appropriately for a combat situation.
[Susan] And it should continue:
McEdifice greeted Qzrrzxxzq.
“You are dressed in a very sensible way for the mission. Also I note that you aren’t using those holograms and force fields any more and are instead appearing as a member of your species rather than trying to conform to the arbitrary standards of late twentieth century capitalist patriarchy.”
“Yes,” said Qzrrzxxzq, “Also I forgot to mention that as well as being a stranded anthropology student, I am also a reservist in my planet’s special forces.”
[Tim] Meh. You forgot to mention because you are stupid head who looks like somebody tried to draw a rhino but didn’t know what a rhino looked like, that Ms Qzrrzxxzq also says:
“We need to get that paper back. Something has gone very strange with local hyperspace and we haven’t got any supplies from Offalon 7, the stationary supply and pocket calculator planet. Without those missing stocks of paper, the work of Spindle, Spindle and Gatefold will grind to a halt!”
[CF] Hi Tim. I took the phone away from Susan because she was quite literally trying to reach down the phone line and kick you. I can’t afford the vet bill or another elaborate scheme to get you the vet, so can you try not to antagonize prehistoric creatures 100 times your size please?
[Tim] What do you mean, “another elaborate scheme”?
[Tim] sigh – it doesn’t matter, Susan has just ruined the story now. I don’t think I can go on.
[CF] Oh don’t be like that. I like her changes. I think it gives your story a bit more depth.
[Tim] No it is just totally ruined now. In fact, I think all of our McEdifice stories are ruined now.
[CF] Come on, no need to sulk.
[Tim] In fact all of science fiction is now ruined for me. Actually all books are now ruined. Word and sentences are ruined. The very concept of language is ruined.
[CF] Well just tell me what would have happened next. I can’t end the book with “and then the author threw a sulk because he couldn’t cope with criticism.
[Tim] sigh – if we must. Well, we were going to have McEdifice visit the Post-Project Milestone Management Group only to discover the half eaten remains of Dave. It seems due to a budget oversight, the whole group had descended into cannibalism. But we’ll skip that bit because my ennui is too all encompassing.
[CF] That would have been a good Halloween bit.
[Tim] Oh, I’d forgotten about Halloween!
[CF] Shame we won’t have a Halloween Special Chapter…
[Tim] But we must!
[CF] How can we, if you have given up on the very idea of books?
[Tim] Oh, I’m all better now that we are going to have a Halloween Special! OK, so skip past the cannibal bit. McEdifice and Qzrrzxxzq continue to follow the trail and arrive in the sub-basement and discover the thief. Guess who it is?
[CF] Is it Dave?
[Tim] No, he got eaten by the cannibals. No it is ScanScan the Dancing Photocopier Man.
[CF] Yay! ScanScan the Dancing Photocopier Man!
[CF] Susan wants to know who ScanScan the Dancing Photocopier Man is and come to think of it so do I.
[Tim] Remember when McEdifice threw that photocopier over his head because it was under alien mind control?
[Tim] Well the collision broke the alien mind control but in the process the photocopier became ScanScan the Dancing Photocopier Man. He’d been stealing all the paper and photocopying his own bum. The sub-basement was just covered in photcopies of his bum*.
[CF] Wow. That explains the cover image come to think of it.
[Tim] Oh but that’s not all. McEdifice and Qzrrzxxzq make ScanScan promise to stop stealing paper and photocopying his own bum and then they are all friends.
[CF] Hooray! Why it is almost like a happy ending!
[Tim] Not so fast Pharrell-apton. There is a twist!
Just then a loud siren began sirening through the building. Ms. Qzrrzxxzq checked her combat-ready Blackberry™ for new messages.
“Gasp!” she said.
McEdifice turned to her, his finely tuned intuition and full situational awareness assaulting his senses more loudly than the siren or Ms. Qzrrzxxzq’s Blackberry™ related gasp.
“It was a trap all along!” she cried. “The Space Vampires have broken the treaty. It was just a ruse to enable them to invade THIS PLANET! They are landing right now and sweeping through every office building on the planet looking for something!”
[CF] Oh, does McEdifice say “Nooo!!!” now?
[Tim] He says “Noooo!!!!”
*[Based on an original idea by Kip Williams