[Scene: a quiet evening just outside the southeast conservatory of Felapton Towers currently relocated to the former home of Doctor Morbius on Altair IV]
Timothy the Talking Cat: I’m going to sue France.
Camestros: Perhaps it is the pleasant evening weather echoing a summer that has since passed or perhaps it is this third tumbler of gin and tonic but I will release myself of my vow and humour your random context-free outburst with a response. Why are you going to sue the French government? They have deep pockets and scary French lawyers at their disposal.
Timothy: The French Government? I’m not going to sue the French Government! Why would I sue the French Government?
Camestros: But…OK, do you mean that you are going to sue the French people in general?
Timothy: I think you’ve had too much gin.
Camestros: I suspect I haven’t had enough.
Timothy: I’m going to sue FRANCE. France as the thing that is itself France. Not ‘the French’ not the French Government. Not any kind of the adjectival case of France but France strictly as a noun.
Camestros: Ah, you’ve been at the Krell machine again and given yourself a brain boost, haven’t you?
Timothy: I may have partaken a smidgen. How can you tell?
Camestros: Never mind, please continue so I can at least get some hint of what kind of monster from your id will be attacking our defences later.
Timothy: Well I was reading Plato…
Camestros: Hold on I just need to pour more gin.
Timothy: Do you not want tonic in that?
Camestros: I suspect not…
Timothy: Anyway, as you are aware this reality is but a mere shadow of a more perfect reality.
Camestros: I’m aware of the concept…
Timothy: And what we consider abstract concepts, such as a circle, are the true reality – one that we perceive but dimly as if we were enslaved being watching shadows upon a cave wall.
Camestros: Carry on Polonius, why are you suing France?
Timothy: I think you mean Plotinus, the third-century AD Neoplatonist. Polonius is the character from Hamlet.
Camestros: Oh dear…your id monster is going to be bigger than usual. But while we wait for the invisible beclawed two-footed manifestation of your squirrel-phobia, you still haven’t said why you are going to sue France.
Timothy: Well the key issue is not the government of France, or its geography, or its people but rather the paradigmatic ultimate ideal of France.
Camestros: Yes, but WHY do you want to sue France at all!
Timothy: I…oh…I mean, I wanted to sue France before I went into the machine. I was trying to find a clever way of doing it.
Mr Atomic: WARNING! WARNING! Perimeter alert!!
Camestros: OMG! That monster looks just like Steve Bannon!
[Exit pursued by Timothy’s id monster]
[Camestros] Welcome back, loyal viewers!
[Straw Puppy] (woof)
[Camestros] This is the exciting third episode of the Book Club Roundtable Review Club Non-Audio Podcast Club. A bit of a change in the roster this week. Susan can’t make it and Timothy’s long term collaborator and all-round trickster Straw Puppy is here to take her place. Welcome on board Straw Puppy.
[Straw Puppy] woof
[Timothy] Ha, ha, great joke there Pups.
[Camestros] Sooooo, we still seem to be stuck reading Run Star: Realms Rescue…
[Timothy] Correction, Dragon Award Nominated Star Realms: Rescue Run.
[None of this advice is endorsed by me, obviously – CF]
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.
[Scene: A Fancy Restaurant]
Camestros Felapton: Huh what? Where am I?
Timothy the Talking Cat: At a fancy restaurant of course, silly.
CF: Oh for glob’s sake – we aren’t doing a restaurant sketch are we?
Tim: It was your idea.
Tim: You’ve been a bit…odd the past few days but you wrote me a note. See?
CF (picks up note and read out loud): “Ha ha I see it all now. Let us celebrate with a mighty feast of the finest food tomorrow eve! See to the arrangements! Yours enlightendly, C. Felatponus”
CF: Well it is my handwriting…
CF: But why is it written in blood?
Tim: That is odd.
CF: …and in Comic Sans?
Tim: You’ve been a bit intense of late.
CF: OK, well now that we are here…actually, where are we?
Tim: ‘La Dame Gris’ – it is very fancy.
CF: Greece? It looks more French than Greek.
Tim: Come on I’m hungry! Let’s order!
CF: Are you sure about this – I can’t help feeling this is going to end up as a laboured political metaphor about current events. You hate that.
Tim: You haven’t eaten properly in days. You’ve just been scribbling away and rambling on about Lord Voldermort.
CF: Seriously? I know I got a bit obsessed with that last book but I don’t remember Voldemort.
Tim: Yeah, some fancy dude, begins with a V, name is some freaky anagram he made up for himself.
Tim: Same thing. Sir Randolph Fiennes played them both in that movie.
CF: Well…no too much to unpack and correct there. As you said, we are here for a nice night off. So no shop talk OK!
Tim: OK! No Hugos, alt-right, pre-modern philosophers, book covers, or puppies.
CF: Or guns or why Theresa May should have me shot for treason.
Tim: No such words will pass my lips!
CF: It’s a deal.
CF: Well this is nice.
CF: Nice, um table cloth.
Tim: White is traditional I believe.
Tim: They have more than one fork. That’s nice.
CF; Yes, nice.
Tim: agh OK, OK, you can talk about something blog related.
CF: Well, funny you should mention that because I’ve been thinking a lot about track 08 of Clipping’s Splendor & Misery album. Now as you know, this track ’True Believer’ switches between history and mythology and also invokes the names of gods such as Loko Yima, the god upon the Earth in the creation myth of the Bantu people of the Kuba Kingdom of Central Africa. Now doesn’t that sound a lot like “Loki”? Which makes me wonder if Norse mythology has a Central African origin, transmitted via Mediterranean culture and interconnected figures such as Prometheus.
Tim: Or, then again, awkward silences can be quite refreshing.
Waiter: Are you ready to order.
Tim: Get a grip – its just a waiter.
CF: Sorry, sorry. I’ve been in hiding for weeks. I’m still getting used to the outside world again.
Waiter: That is quite all right sir. Now can I interest you in our degustation menu? The theme is Boulanger au gratin?
Tim (whispers): That’s French for grated balloon.
CF: Oh just a main course off the alley cart for me.
Waiter: But of course – here are the menus.
CF: gratias tibi
Tim: Oooh looks fancy. You know what, I’ll have the kibble.
CF: Timothy! It’s a fancy restaurant, you can’t order kibble.
Tim: oh pish-tosh, all the fancy Hollywood celebs order off menu.
Waiter: So one kibble for Mounsier le Chat Parlant, and for you sir?
CF: I’ll have the Cotelettes d’agneau grilles aux herbes de provence, beurre a la moutarde a l’ ancienne, ratatouille et pomme purée.
Waiter: Excellent choice sir.
Waiter: Your main course, sirs.
CF: EEEEKKKK! Stop sneaking up on me!
Tim: Camo! I’ve met calmer cats. Seriously. [to the waiter] Thank you my good sir. Please excuse my friend, he is a stupid head.
Waiter: Enjoy [departs]
CF: Hmm, this doesn’t look like cotelettes d’agneau grilles aux herbes de provence, beurre a la moutarde a l’ ancienne, ratatoville et pomme purée.
Tim: What exactly does cottle dagnoo grill oh herbs the province bur a la mortars ali machine ratatatat eat poms puree look like?
CF: Well, I don’t know exactly but I assume it doesn’t look like a slice of bread with a square of processed cheese on top.
Tim: Hmmm, I see your point. My kibble looks more rectangular than normal also. Indeed, it would appear to be exactly the same as your food.
CF: Why didn’t you say something when he put the plates down!
Tim: Why didn’t YOU say something?
CF: I was still alarmed by the sight of another human being, and also I had a sudden attack of being middle-class and British and couldn’t dream of making a fuss in a fancy restaurant.
Tim: Oh but you expect me to?
CF: USUALLY I can’t stop you.
Tim: (sniff) nope, definitely not kibble, definitely cheese on bread.
CF: That’s outrageous! You are lactose intolerant!
Tim: I’m ALL kinds of intolerant. I specialise in it.
CF: OK, I can do this. I *will* make a fuss.
Tim: I believe in you.
CF: (very quietly) um excuse me.
Tim: That is about as assertive as carrot attempting to dissuade a rabbit.
CF: Well I don’t see you helping.
Tim (to waiter): OY! PENGUIN! GET OVER HERE!
CF: You are trying to murder me with embarrassment.
Waiter: Is everything all right sirs?
CF: Well, you see, um, thank you for the food and really, an excellent job on the cutlery and the plate and the delivery was excellent but…
CF: Well, I can’t help noticing that, um, and really its just my opinion and everything, but well…it is actually just a slice of bread with a slice of cheese on top.
Tim: Also this is not effin kibble.
Waiter: Well we have been trying to push the boundaries of our food here at La Dame Gris.
CF: Oh, I see.
Waiter: Indeed. We have attempted to address the question of diversity among our chefs.
CF: Well that’s very laudable. I know the upper echelons of the food industry are in desperate need of more people of colour, women, and other historically disadvantaged minorities.
CF: I’m not sure that explains my food though. I hope you aren’t suggesting that only white heterosexual cis-men can cook?
Waiter: No, no, not at all. Indeed our new chef is very much of that ilk.
CF: I don’t get it then. In what way is that diverse?
Waiter: Well we at La Dame Gris has decided to tackle diversity of *ideas*. You see, for too long the upper echelons of cooking have been restricted to people who actually care about the quality of the food they produce. We have tried to break out of our liberal bubble and find somebody who can reach out to a wider audience of people who hate the very idea of nice food. It is time recognised our culinary bubble and look out beyond its borders.
CF: I think you may have misunderstood several basic concepts.
Tim: Look, just bring the bloody chef out here.
Waiter: Of course sir.
Chef: Yeah, what?
Tim: Why! It is Bret Stephens, former Pultizer Prize-winning columnist for the Wall Street Journal, neoconservative and now New York Times Columnist!
Chef: The very same!
CF: What a surprise! When the bread and cheese turned up I assumed our laboured political metaphor would be about that Fyrefest thingy! It turns out we are stuck in a laboured political metaphor about a New York Times Opinion piece on climate change.
Tim: Never mind that. I love your work dude but where’s my kibble?
Stephens: Look, food is an art form. It is about self-expression. Fine dining is about challenging your preconceptions and looking beyond your established ideas. I’m trying to start a conversation here – trying to get you to look beyond your implicit assumptions.
CF: yeah but this is a bit shit.
Waiter: With all due respect, you haven’t even tasted it yet.
CF: I had a nibble and its dry bread and plastic cheese.
Stephens: This is what is wrong with the liberal establishment. When confronted with challenging ideas they just try to avoid thinking about them.
CF: No, I just don’t want to go to a fancy restaurant and eat stale bread and processed cheese.
Stephens: You are showing the same kind of denial you attack others for. Look, it’s perfectly edible food. You are trying to paint me as some cuisine extremist but many ordinary people would see bread and cheese as a reasonable and well informed meal.
CF; No, no, no, look – I get bread and cheese. Heck, I’m probably even more into eating bread and cheese than you are but I don’t come to a fancy blimmin restaurant and expect to be given a shitty slice of bread with some shitty cheese.
Tim: oooooh, he said ‘blimmin’. He’s mad now. I’d skedaddle before he does something rash like gesticulate with his finger.
CF: Come Timothy. WE ARE LEAVING THIS ESTABLISHMENT.
Waiter: Well, that’s just PROVING HIS POINT! It is a childish response to what was simply a way of broadening all our horizons. Bret has every right to express his ideas on food and you are just a mean left wing bully for not appreciating it.
Stephens: [sigh] I am so misunderstood.
Tim: By Bret.
Stephens: Oh, bye Timothy. See you at next week’s meeting of misunderstood conservative thinkers, yeah?
Tim: Will do! But, don’t ever feed me cheese again OK?
Stephens: Sure thing, Tim. That shit’s just for liberals.
They’ve always had an on-again/off-again sort of relationship since he hailed Timothy as the next new new new Heinlein but this recent event has caused Timothy more angst than usual.
Here is Timothy’s cover from last year:
And here is an earlier cover concept for him:
And here is the blatant rip off as the Vox tries to cash in on Timothy’s substantial audience: http://voxday.blogspot.com/2017/03/the-corroding-empire-preorder-now.html
Imagine stooping so low as to create a book that mimics somebody else’s just for cheap laughs? Shocking, just shocking. In the meantime There Will Be Walrus: Second Volume V is still available at Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/636378 Get it now and the first typo is free!