I wrote a story about Neil Gaiman’s toaster

There are many things I should be working on right now, but the idea for this weird story would not release me until I’d written it down.

 

A Plan Gone A’Rye

In retrospect there were a few holes in the plan. Perhaps he could have been more thorough in his research, but Corsokrops of the Guidant Nebula was morphological life form of action. He was proud that his superiors had selected him for a preliminary role in what was sure to be a spectacular conquest. His assignment was to spy on the most powerful person in America. The intelligence Corsokrops gathered would be key in overthrowing the government. The global chaos following the crumbling of a super power would pave the way for a full scale invasion.

Corsokrops studied American current event publications, to find the one person who would have the most important secrets.  To be honest he skimmed the publications, as he was wont to do. He hated wasting time, not with such a glorious mission at hand. The articles were terribly dry, and while there were some recurring names, they provided few clues. He soon discovered, toward the middle of most of the publications, a list of public figures, ranked in order of importance. The same name appeared at the top of each list. The man carried an impressive title, American Gods. Not just one god—a pantheon. Clearly this was the man Corsokrops was searching for. He infiltrated the man’s home, disguised as an innocuous appliance. He settled in to absorb the state secrets.

He had misgivings from the start. The man’s appearance was altogether unkempt. He had a mass of wild, curly hair, that rose and fell in odd, abrupt angles, and several days’ growth on his chin. His clothes were rumpled and seemed to be chosen only because they were all of one color. There was none of the gravitas Coroskrops expected in one of his station. The man, for his part, regarded Corsokrops skeptically.

“Have I always had this toaster?” he wondered aloud. Corsokrops emitted a high pitched hum. A subliminal tone to assure the man that he had indeed always had this toaster and there was nothing to be alarmed about. The disheveled man shrugged and loaded Corsokrops with two slices of raisin bread.

This is where the plan started to fall apart. He had chosen the form because he had seen it in numerous American homes. It rarely appeared to be in use. Not like the large cold box or or the radiation cooker. He believed its function to be primarily esthetic. Of course he had made his studies late in the evenings. He was not one to wake early if he didn’t need to. The bread played havoc with his central processor. Soon he was billowing smoke from very uncomfortable parts of his anatomy.

“What’s the use of a toaster that won’t toast?” The man grumbled. He turned Corsokrops over and dislodged the charred bread. Corsokrops was grateful for his assistance, but damned embarrassed just the same. What a terrible miscalculation! “And look at this mess!” The man sighed. “Crumbs everywhere.” He lifted Corsokrops and carried him toward the waste receptacle. Corsokrops hummed frantically. “Well…maybe it can be fixed,” the man said, setting him back on the counter.

This routine repeated daily, but Corsokrops was initially optimistic. He could connect into the man’s electric thought translators. There was no doubt he was gathering vital information. There was a crisis brewing involving a woman with clothing fasteners for eyes, luring children into a parallel dimension. Corsokrops’s superiors would be very interested in this. The woman could be a valuable distraction or a formidable wrench in their plans.

He paid close attention to the event as it unfolded. A female child was currently in her clutches, but surprisingly it looked as though this insignificant minor could gain the upper hand. Corsokrops waited on baited vapor to learn the outcome. It was slow coming. Almost as if the man didn’t always know what was happening. Sometimes the events seemed to shift and rearrange themselves. As though reality had changed its mind. The eventual conclusion was not, as it turns out, relevant to the invasion plans. It was still quite satisfying.

He continued to watch the man’s devices, searching for vulnerabilities in the country’s defenses. America was far stranger than he’d initially realized. Sometimes it was called England. Ghosts often popped up. And assassins. Deities died and were born. For a while an entity called the Doctor was looking promising. Nothing came of it.

Corsokrops feared his superiors were growing impatient. He  was desperate to produce something of value. He expanded his searching to older thought translators. The man was constantly discarding translators in favor of faster, more distracting models. He found vast records of unusual and engrossing phenomena. A secret city that existed below and concurrent to a well known one. A fallen star that became a sentient being. And the discovery of something called the San Grail.

It was only recently that the penny dropped. The duck pond was what did it. It could not be both a duck pond and an ocean. Preposterous. What he’d taken as accurate histories were in fact flights of fancy from a remarkable—but insignificant to the scheme of things—mind.

He filed a disillusioned report to the home office. They politely informed him that the invasion plans had been scrapped over a decade ago. He was written off as lost in action. Their many extraction orders had gone unanswered. Corsokrops performed a diagnostic test and determined the problem was due to build up of raisins in his incoming message receptors.

“You’ll want me to come back then?”

“All espionage positions are filled at the moment,” the bored sounding bacterial life form said. “I’ll see if I can find you a place in accounts if you like.”

“I guess. No hurry.” The man had finally started the sequel to Neverwhere. Corsokrops hated to leave in the middle.

 

This story was inspired by this question and answer from an interview with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer.

9. I don’t really have a relevant question, so I’m just gonna ask how many toasters you have at home?

NG: “There is only one toaster and it is TERRIBLE. It eats toast, and then I have to turn it on its side and shake it to get the toast out. And toast crumbs come out too and go all over the kitchen.

Why do I have such a toaster? Surely I can afford to replace it. Sigh.”

The whole Q&A can be found here.

With Apologies to Lennon and McCartney

All You Need is Love! Is it?

There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done.
Because do and done are the same word in a different tense.
There’s nothing you can win that can’t be won.
See above regarding tense.
There’s nothing you can be that isn’t How you’re meant to be…
This is where it gets a little tricky…
‘Cause now we’re talking about fate and pre-determinism. And the question of choice and free will. And by that statement if you kill, you are murderer because you were meant to be a murderer and not because you chose to murder. And that removes all personal responsibility…
All you need love.
And food to keep you alive.
All you need is love.
And a sense of right and wrong.
All you need is love, love, love.
Love isn’t really all you need.
Love isn’t really all you need. But I still love the Beatles.
Love isn’t really all you need. But it’s an awfully good start.
I spend too much of my time arguing with song lyrics.

I’m a fan girl: Neil Gaiman

How big of a Neil Gaiman fan am I? Here’s a hint.

I was first exposed to Neil Gaiman as a teenager by my sister, albeit a indirectly. She lent me the Bones of the Moon by Jonathan Carroll. I devoured it in a few days. I raved over it to her (it’s still one of my all time favorites). She mentioned that it reminded her of a particular arc of a comic book series called Sandman. I filed that away for future reference. About a year later, I was perusing my local Borders. I spotted a few Sandman trades. At that time I didn’t have a lot of money or many possessions to my name. Every purchase was carefully considered. I read each volume’s description until I found the one who’s plot sounded the most like Bones of the Moon. It was A Game of You. I took it home, hoping I hadn’t wasted my twelve dollars.

 

It probably wasn’t the best place to jump into the series as it was the most self contained arc, without many links to the series overall. It didn’t matter, I was hooked. Over the next year I read the rest of the series in order of what was in stock at the book store at any given time. I had already realized that I liked comic books before I left home, but I doubt I would be as into them as I am if I hadn’t spent that time in the graphic novel section searching for Sandman volumes I hadn’t read yet.

 

Once I’d devoured the entire Sandman saga, I snapped up everything else with the name Neil Gaiman on the spine. And they didn’t disappoint. Neverwhere, Mr. Punch, Stardust, they all sparked my imagination and made me see the world in a new way. I love the way he writes, often in a personal but slightly esoteric style. I love the way he mixes myths and everyday life in a way that makes me feel like this is the way the world has always been, I just hadn’t noticed before. And I love listening to him read his stories.

 

And my love of his writing sent me down many unexpected paths. It led me to delving into comic books. It led me to going to signings and conventions at a time in my life when getting out of the house for things other than work was a challenge. It led me to other artists who spoke to me, like Jill Thompson, Dave McKean, and Susanna Clarke.

 

What it didn’t do was spur me to do was write. Oh, it inspired me and made me long to be a writer. But I wanted to write like Neil, which I couldn’t. I would start a story and give up after a few paragraphs. I just couldn’t do what he does. It took a long time for me to realize that I’m not supposed to write like Neil, I’m supposed to write like me.

 

Occasionally I hit on something that feels like it plays in the same sandbox as Neil’s work (such as the story I posted on Halloween) and it pleases me immensely, but I’m no longer trying to imitate my idol. After all, he does an excellent job of being Neil. We don’t need another one. And I get to create something that only I could have created. Maybe I’ll never reach his level of craftsmanship, but I’m going to keep trying. And that is one of many reasons I’m a fangirl.

Picture Time: Dr. Who

I really like Dr. Who. I’m not  a super fan, I haven’t seen most of the old series, but have seen a few of them. I have watched the new series since it debuted with Christopher Eccleston. I like time travel stories, but Dr. Who just speaks to me in a way that a lot of the others don’t. It’s the wibbly wobbly timey wimeyness of it. David Tennant is my Doctor, not because I’m not attached to the other incarnations, but because if you say the words “the Doctor” to me David is who springs to mind. Tonight is an important night for Whovians, because tonight we bid fairwell to Amy and Rory. Hopefully not tragically. They are my favorite companions, with Rory edging Amy out by a hair for the top spot. Please don’t die Ponds! In their honor I’m posting some of my Dr. Whoniverse fan art.

 

 

 

(if you are interested these are all available as tee shirts at my Red Bubble store)

And now a bonus story. I don’t really write fan fiction, but this little scene popped into my head one day and I had to write it down.

(whooshy noise)

Amy: Doctor?

Doctor: (paying attention to something other than her) hmm?

Amy: Did you move the Tardis?

Doctor: (still interested in something else) No.  Look at thi—

Rory: Then why is it over there now?

Doctor looks up, silently ponders the Tardis which is not where he left it.

Doctor: Well… graaugh! (waves his arms in front of him)

Doctor: Come on, time to go! (takes each by the shoulder and tries to lead them off)

Amy: But—

Doctor: No.

Rory: Door’s opening.

Tall thin man in striped suit, large coat, and trainers steps out.

Man: Hello! (said with plenty of enthusiasm but no familiarity).

Amy: (raised eyebrow, refusing to be led off) Hi. (whispers to the Doctor) Who is that?

Doctor: No one! Come along, Pond.

Ten: No one? Not hardly. Who are you to— Ah.

Eleven: Right, no time to waste. All sorts of places that are not here.

Ten: I’m the Doctor.

Rory: Did he just say?

Ten: (Puts hands in pockets, bounces on heels) Yeah.

Amy: He’s not.

Ten: Am. (more heel bouncing.)

Amy: Doctor, why—

Eleven: Amy, I can’t stop to answer to questions. I will not be answering questions. Just don’t bother with questions—

Ten: I love answering questions. I’m brilliant at it. Won an award.

Eleven: Fine! I’ll answer.

Amy opens her mouth.

Eleven: (points to himself) The Doctor. (points to Ten) Also the Doctor. Same person, just not the same same person. See?

Amy and Rory: No.

Eleven sighs.

Ten: Want me to try?

Eleven: No.

Rory: Are there a whole bunch of weird blokes called the Doctor? Is that it?

Eleven: Noooo!

Ten: Also yes, a bit. But not quite like that.

Amy:(to Rory) I’m starting to see the similarity.

Eleven: Okay, there’s more than one Doctor, but there can only be one Doctor at a time.  However, there can be more than one Doctor in a time. There done, moving on. Has anyone got any gum?

Rory:(to Amy) Did you get any of that?

Amy: Not really. Lost interest halfway through anyway. You hungry?

Rory: Yeah.

They walk off, leaving the Doctors.

Ten: Nice redhead. Love a redhead.

Eleven: Gum? Anyone?

Ten: Or a blonde.

Eleven:(disgruntled noise)

Ten: Or a fish.

I’m a fangirl: Jim Henson

I hope this will be a semi regular feature where I discuss some of my biggest influences. First up Jim Henson.

Sesame Street

Like most people born after 1969 my first exposure to the work of Jim Henson was Sesame Street. Back then I didn’t know there was a person behind the puppets. They were entirely real to me. My prime watching years were 1980 to 86. It was a little different than it is today. No Murray or Abby Cadabby, only minimal Elmo. Not nearly as structured about when each segment aired. It was still the early years, I vaguely remember Mr. Hooper and a Snuffy who was imaginary. I clearly remember Gover as a waiter, Ernie stealing Bert’s nose, a song about a llama going to the dentist, Kermit as a reporter. Sesame Street made a huge impression on me and I absorbed as much as I could. It taught me about letters and numbers and words. It also taught me that being smart was important, but wanting to learn was even more important. It taught me people were all equal regardless of color: black, white, blue, green, it was all good. And no matter their quirks—if they can’t count, if all they want to do is count, if they tend to devour your worldy possessions, if they bother you while you’re trying to sleep, or if they’re perpetually crabby—your friends are your friends.
And they were my friends. I trusted them and loved spending time with them. Even after I found out there were people making them say or do the things they did, they were still living breathing beings to me.

The Muppets

My Muppet years started later than the Sesame years but they definitely overlapped. (In this case I’m referring to the ensemble of characters who populated the Muppet shows and movies, though it can be used to refer to all of Henson’s puppets including the Sesame gang). I don’t actually remember a time when I didn’t know of the Muppets. I think I might have been born knowing the lyrics to the Rainbow Connection. While Sesame’s focus was on education, The Muppets were all about entertainment. The Muppets were a little more sophisticated than their Sesame Street counterparts.  They were a tiny bit more complex both in their design and personalities. It’s remarkable that Henson and his fellow performers could imbue bits of felt and fur with such a range of emotions.  These puppets could convey pathos, joy, ennui, insecurity, mania, frustration, contentment etc.  That versatility meant you never knew for sure what you’d get with them. Sometimes it was pure vaudevillian shtick. Often it was zany, chaotic, whimsy. And sometimes it was raw emotion that spoke to the core of the human experience. (Okay, that was a kind of hyperbolic.) Few things have moved me the way Gonzo singing I Want to Go Back There Someday in the Muppet Movie did. Many of the few that have, also involve Muppets. (If you want another example of the muppets moving you to tears, search for Just One Person on YouTube.)

Despite their differences Sesame Street and the Muppets have a lot in common. Such as their affinity for the absurd. But most importantly, like Sesame Street, the Muppets are about acceptance and tolerance.  Everybody is welcome.

Everything else


Once I learned that there was a man behind Kermit and Ernie and the Swedish Chef, I sought out to find more things he’d done. And there was a lot. Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal, The Labyrinth, The Storyteller. All these worlds bursting with imagination. It came as a shock, yet felt entirely right when I learned that Henson and his team created the Yoda puppet for George Lucas, and Jim’s longtime collaborator, Frank Oz, brought him to life.

It’s a cliche to say that there will never be another Jim Henson. But it’s the truth. He was unique. My world is richer because of his creations—because of him. I was ten when he died. It was the first time I was so affected by the death of some one I never met. I’m so glad that Sesame Street and the Muppets have carried on after he was gone. Kids need them, I need them. They reflect the world the way I want it be be.  Full of laughter and hope.  And I’m glad that his company continues to produce incredibly creative and original projects like the TV show Farscape and the movie Mirrormask. Jim is gone, but his inspiration continues.

And I will always be a fangirl.