© 2000, Written by Matthew Lloyd Sprack, AKA Bluebottle
Matt, at long last, had finished writing his story. It had taken
him two years of his life to complete it, but he felt that it was well worth it. It was, afterall, a complete masterpiece, completely unlike any other book he had ever read. But that, in many ways, was its trouble. It was unique.
It wasn't a crime thriller, so publishers of crime thrillers
weren't interested. Likewise for science-fiction, or romance, or action. It was a unique tale that didn't fit into a label, and so because of this, no-one seemed to want to publish it.
"Our research department tells us that this sort of story just
isn't what our customers read," one publishing firm's secretary had once explained, with her glasses on the end of her nose. "98% of readers like to be able to predict the exact ending of a novel by the time they've read the first line. The boy must get the girl. The case must be solved. Switzerland must declare war on, and conquer, America. Otherwise it's new and original, and therefore scary. People don't like surprises."
Matt tested this theory by suddenly surprising the secretary with
a water-pistol and soaking her, and alas, the secretary's words were
proved true. It was a surprise, and the secretary didn't like it.
The really irritating thing was that all of Matt's friends and
family, and even people who didn't really like Matt much and would have loved to have seen him fail at something, really enjoyed reading it. Yet Market Research said that, no matter how good it was, a novel of this kind would not be bought from a bookshop's shelf.
"What am I going to do?" cried Matt to his friend Ian, who was on
the other end of a phone. "I've done everything I can think of to get this story published. I've written letters to every publisher in the land, I've sent a copy to agents all over the world, and I've even got a copy on H2G2 Fiction, but still no-one wants to publish my story."
"Nevermind, Matt," Ian replied. "How about, this afternoon, you e-
mail copies of the first chapter to lots of publishers overseas. Perhaps you'll get an interest then?"
Matt thought that was a good idea, and so, after saving the latest
copy to his old and trusty Amstrad PC1512's hard disk and floppy, went down to have nammet.
Sadly, Matt never finished his lunch as a Russian General spotted
a seagull, thought it was a UFO, and launched several nuclear missiles. The Earth wasn't destroyed by any means - it remained perfectly safe. It was just only the people, animals and plantlife that died. But as over 90% of the Earth consists of molten lava, Earth itself wasn't particularly bothered that the surface and atmosphere remained radioactive for a few billion millennia. Afterall, they're the dull bits of the planet.
Many many many years later, a real alien spacecraft landed on the
planet. And it wasn't saucer shaped at all. No alien with any street-cred would go anywhere near a saucer-shaped spaceship - that was even worse than being seen driving a Yugo. Much of the planet had been completely destroyed; all of New York, Moscow, Sydney and Paris had gone, and all that remained of London was the Millennium Dome - which, frankly, still was a waste of money, yet the aliens thought the Body Zone looked quite realistic...
As Matt lived on an island, most of the Nuclear Weapons hadn't
damaged the house where he had lived very much. Afterall, they had all been aimed for both Europe and the mainland, and not at the Island in-between. So Matt's house was one of the few surviving in the world. The aliens, naturally, investigated.
They went inside, and found Matt's ancient PC.
"Wow! Look! A 5 1/4" disk drive - these people must have been so
technologically civilised!" one of the alien's exclaimed, in awe.
They turned the computer on, and after loading Leading Edge 1.3 - Matt's word-processing programme, quickly came across the story that Matt had written billions (UK billion, that is. One billion equals one million million. Not the US billion of "any large number over a million which we'll call a billion to sound impressive") of millennia before.
And frankly, they were impressed. So impressed that they saved a
copy to a 5 1/4" disk that they carried, and then took it back to their homeworld. Where it was published and distributed through the Alien Star Empire, where it was considered a masterpiece, studied in universities and schools. It was popularly read until the Universe itself got depressed and committed suicide one Monday morning.
And the characters in Matt's story lived happily ever after.
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