Thursday, March 31, 2011

I'm here for your jobs and women

I have an announcement.

A friend of mine set up a website not long ago, one that focuses on internet art communities and webcomics and so on. He hired me on to write articles once a month.

This is the first one: a spotlight on Gunnerkrigg Court.

I'm going to go dance in the streets now.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Flash Fiction - Seminar

Good day,

 Speaking of reviving old ideas, remember The Hero? How about it's sequel, Interview? Or the sequel to both, The Bar? Remember how I said in The Bar that I wouldn't write for this universe again until March?

 I just remembered what month it was.

***

            Someone in a heavy black robe checked his jetpack at the desk. After taking a card from the leather-clad attendants, he found an empty seat next to a large man dress in what resembled the uniform for hell’s football league. Gingerly he waved at a woman in a tarantula-styled costume two rows ahead of him and sat down.
            From his podium, Venom looked faced the crowd. Count Corpse and the rest of the Bleak Consulate had asked him to give an introductory seminar to some new hopefuls to the super-villainy game. It was a strange feeing to be known as Venom, professional super-villain, former leader of the Golder’s Gangers, and guest lecturer at the B.C.’s San Francisco base, but image was everything.
            He tapped his papers on the wooden platform and coughed, adjusting his microphone. Fifteen minutes had passed; his talk needed to continue. “Well now, let’s resume, shall we?
            “I had spoken before about the concept of Going Rogue but hadn’t quite explained it. I feel as though I owe you a more… ” He paused for effect, “detailed description of what I mean.” Someone high-bosomed in a psychedelic pink leotard sighed lovingly at his dramatics; he tried to ignore her.
            “Now, when you hear the word rogue, you are struck with a number of images of policemen turning in their badges to fight as vigilantes, or perhaps a traitor to a cause; a turncoat or a spy. ‘He’s gone rogue!’ we say of someone who has deviated from a cause. The very word implies aberrant behaviour, straying from the herd to become something unpredictable.
            “By that definition, everyone in this business is a rogue. Flattering as it may be –” he joked, pausing to let his audience laugh, “– in our line of work, it means something far more.
            “For us, the idea of Going Rogue means violating the Treaty,” he tapped the podium, “It means damning the guidelines laid out by the competition. Not only does this look bad for us, but it also means that we become fair game for those among the competition who have chips on their shoulders. Some heroes even set up bounties, placing prices on the heads of the unaffiliated – a rare instance of the competition taking a page from our book.
            “Meanwhile, Hero Groups like The Liberty League or The Autonomy Alliance –” he stopped and put his hands up. Instinctively, the crowd grumbled. A man in a leather jacket and a gas mask booed.
“Now, now, let us be respectful,” he pleaded, casting his voice across the room. Slowly, there came a begrudging acceptance of his demand. When his audience had settled, he continued.
“As I was saying, Hero Companies are bound by similar sets of rules. Say I rob a bank; someone representing The Liberty League is allowed to capture me, if possible, and put me away, but I’m allowed to keep some of the money I’ve stolen so long as the public is presented with the… illusion that justice has been served.
“Our relationship, therefore, is formalized – symbiotic, even. Should anyone break the rules of engagement too many times, they’ll be cast out. They are not as cruel with their own as we can be, but there are certainly… stories.
“I’m painting too grim a picture,” he admitted, pensively, “Going Rogue does not always mean a death sentence. Anyone can return to a company on either side, but the price is high. Marvellous the Hood was accepted back into the AA after an eight-month tenure as a Rogue, but his re-registration fee put him debt with the bank for four years and counting.”
He paused to adjust his tie, staring at a man made of stone two rows from him who was checking an iPhone he wasn’t supposed to have on. Venom coughed at him; the man shot back to attention. The mastermind continued.
“Keep in mind that some do well for themselves by Going Rogue, but this is rare. For a recent example, consider The Army of None, the international crime syndicate led by Bleak Consulate renegade General Vidal. We know how they turned out,” he said, pausing again to let the words hover in the air before shattering them, “but they should never been seen as a model.
            “Why? Because though we break the laws of ordinary people, our laws keep the true peace. This is not a war; it is a trade, a trade that balances the scales of justice. We could all say ‘to hell with the Treaty,’ and meet each other on the field of battle this very minute –” his voice rose in pitch, but then began dropping to a grim tone.
“But with fifty thousand-plus empowered around the globe, it is safe to say that,” he paused one last time, “there would not be much of a world left to save. Or rule.
            “Are there any questions?” he finally asked, looking out at his people.
            A sea of hands raised in the air. He smiled.

***

 If you've been following along, then I think you know where this is going. Or do you? I haven't decided yet. We'll see.

See you next time,

-RWI

EDIT: May 20, 2012. Why does this one have over 30 views? Edited.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Flash Fiction - Plenty of Fish

Good day,

 Hammered out over a few days, I'm basing this on some experiences around the office.

***

After hovering over Ben’s computer trying to figure out what the problem was, Ning scratched his chin and hummed aloud: “Yep, it’s the virus.”
The office had been facing this problem all week. Files had gone missing or were moved around, with questionable websites popping up in place of homepages. With the I.T. department severely lacking in personnel, it was up to Ning to take a break from brokering to tap into his once-forgotten computer programming skills.
Wide-eyed, the intern Ben looked like he had just been slapped. “The virus? What’s the virus?”
“Some joker released a worm into the system and it’s been eating everyone’s files one by one,” the technician-for-a-day said, drumming his fingers on the desk, “How come you haven’t heard of this? Jacqueline sent out a memo.”
“I,” the younger man said with a cough, “I may have skimmed it.”
Ning rolled his eyes but wasn’t surprised. He shook his fingers loose and stretched them. “Alright, step aside. I need to borrow that for a few seconds.”
            Ben blanched and pulled himself out of his seat, “Okay?”
            Swiftly, Ning planted himself in his co-worker’s chair and pulled out a post-it note, setting it beside him. I.T. was kind enough to provide him with a map of the company’s security systems. He suspected that after five years of service and with a perfect record, he could be trusted with a few more trade secrets.
Flexing his fingers one last time, he started typing away. Window after window of text came on and off in manners of seconds. His eyes darted back and forth between the screen and the paper on his left. After a bevy of windows flew by, one with two blank lines appeared in front of him.
            “Okay,” Ning said, pulling back, “What’s your terminal password?”
            The younger man turned his eyes to the ceiling sheepishly and answered: “Swordfish.”
            Ning looked at him like he was crazy, “Seriously? Are you running a speakeasy in the 1930s? That’s the easiest thing! No wonder your system got hacked.”
            “I got hacked?” Ben said, his pupils dilating as Ning typed away.
            Ning groaned, stretching his neck, “Well, the virus fairy didn’t bring it.” Another log-in window came up as he spoke, “And this one couldn’t be caught by going to the wrong website so, yeah, you got hacked.”
            “Oh.”
            Ning shrugged and pointed his head at the screen, “Alright, what about here?”
            “Fishsword.”
            “You’re serious.”
            “Why, what’s wrong?”
            “That can’t be right.”
            “Well, it is.”
            Cautiously, Ning brought his hands to the keyboard and typed it out. When the window faded away, he turned red. “You just reversed the words!”
            “No I didn’t!”
            “That’s not a password! That’s a joke! Passwords are supposed to be complex so they can keep people out of your computer!”
            “And it did!”
            “Yeah, until someone got into your computer.
            Ben threw his hands up, “Can we just do this?”
            Nearly spitting, Ning typed through another set of windows. He gave his co-worker a pleading look when one last log-in page came up, “This one. It’s not like swordfish, right?”
            “It’s not,” the younger man said, adamantly.
            “Then what is it?”
            “Wordfish.”
            The whole floor heard Ning’s head hit the desk. “I demand a raise.”
            Using one hand, Ning typed the word in blindly and bitterly. There was a knock at the cubicle wall. Both turned to see Jerome, the giant of a man from two rows down, striding over to the pair of them, “What’s going on, my sons?”
            “Genius here has an entire aquarium in his computer,” Ning said, petulantly working through the last of the pop-ups, “It’s no wonder he caught the worm.”
            Showing his bright white teeth proudly, Jerome gave a smirk, “I heard. I thought you was an English major or something.”
            “I am!” Ben squawked, pulling his hands back in a flustered gesture, “My GPA was 4.0!”
            The newcomer shook his head, “That better be out of ten.”
            “Shaddap, both of ya,” Ning cut in.
            A proud clack; Ning struck the Enter key with dramatic power. “And you’re good.”
Jerome slapped the office saviour across the shoulder, basking in his triumph. “Good going, man. Now what’re we doing for eats?”
            The impromptu I.T. man shrugged again and turned a mean smile to Ben, “I dunno. How about sushi?”

***

See you next time,

-RWI

EDIT: May 20, 2012. Fixed the flow.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Let's Talk About: Sports

Good day,

                Two months back, I was reading about Mayor Rob Ford – a man whose mere name used to make my blood boil, but nowadays just leaves me constipated and tetchy – and his push to bring the NFL to Toronto. Apparently, this would mean a boost to tourism whenever the Super Bowl rolled into town, but it would also mean building another goddamn stadium in order to host a game watched by maybe 6 million Canucks and more than a third of the U.S. population.

                Now, I don’t know anything about football, or any sport that doesn’t involve someone’s heart getting ripped out for that matter, but I recently started thinking that maybe Ford had a point. Maybe a weekend of fatties belching obscenities at some of the best athletes in North America would be good for Toronto’s tourism. But before we do that, we’re going to need a team to represent Toronto.

“Wait a minute, Robert!” I hear you call out as though I just peed in the punch bowl at your wedding, “We already have a football team called The Argonauts!”
“Yes, but apparently they lose quite a bit,” I said, somehow managing to say a hyperlink out loud.

The solution is simple: we send the Argos to represent a part of the country that clearly needs a football team and we train a new one from the ground up. This will not be an Argos 2.0, but something brand-spanking new, with new players and new coaches and new (delicious) cheerleaders. Toronto’s face is changing, and we need a team that better represents a rough and ready Toronto that the U.S. public can better relate to.

                Thus I propose The Toronto War Criminals.

                Settle down, now, settle down. Yes, the name is too wordy, especially when other, catchier alternatives are around. Why not The Toronto Pariahs, or The Toronto Violators? If you’ll just put down the meat cleaver and listen for just one second, you’ll find that I have two main reasons for proposing this name.

First and foremost, sports team names are about intimidation. When you think of football teams, what do you think of? Vikings, Chiefs, Falcons, Panthers, Cowboys, Giants, Raiders, Texans, Jaguars, Bears, and, yes, Dolphins; these are all things in this world that you do not want to piss off, because they’re vicious or generally intimidating. And what’s more frightening than some nutter firebombing a hospital and then using a pregnant woman as a meatshield? Well, jellyfish that cannot die of course, but who wants to be a quarterback for The Toronto Turrittopsis Nutricula?

Secondly, professional sports are already proxy wars. Some sports have bloody histories, being the manifestations of brutal rituals (see above) while many served as entertainment within their respective kingdoms. Nowadays, however, globalization has spread sports like hockey and soccer/football to other parts of the world, inspiring nationalistic pride as people watch representatives of their homelands excel at ball kicking.

With world peace being as fragile as it is, what better way to sort out our problems than having teams representing each part of the world duke it out? Directing public anger and passion towards the athletic world does us a great service, as it gives us a means of venting tribal fury. Plus it’s impossible to look at sports riots and not be reminded of peasant revolts.

If sports are wars, then we must have war criminals, people who have taken their lust for domination to the extreme. And sports are all about the extreme, aren’t they? Well, at least they were when I last checked (in the ‘90s). Thus, the Toronto War Criminals must take the stage.

I’ve already decided on a logo; I’m thinking a pair of angry eyes staring out from behind a set of iron bars. Now, for the mascot to parade around the cheerleaders, I’m picturing a man in camouflage pants and gun belts with a knife in his teeth. Or a live baby. Or a live baby holding a knife.

This is why I couldn’t get into any of the good schools, isn’t it?

See you next time,

-RWI

EDIT: May 20, 2012. Back to editing. Dressed this one up to make the points stronger.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Flash Fiction - Rampage

Good day,

 Here's a quick and dirty space-filler.

***

            “I WILL FUCK YOUR SHIT,” he screamed, waving around the chainsaws he had strapped to his arms. From my office window, I watched people run in fear of the maniac who suddenly emerged from the hardware store, a robustly-built man with two pieces of lumberyard equipment tied to his person.
My first instinct was to notify the authorities, but the fleeing populace armed only with their mobile phones made me think they had gotten the hint. Instead, I decided to watch, captivated by the train wreck before me. I saw the man blindly swing his chainsaw-arms around, barely coming within a metre of each man or woman he terrorized. With each frantic swing and each wild scream, he seemed only to get angrier and angrier at the people who dodged him.
After a time, his flails and incoherent shrieks of rage stopped frightening me and starting to become a little funny. Here was a man who had clearly opted to go on a killing spree but hadn’t quite worked out the logistics. This was someone who didn’t anticipate his movements to be impeded by taking his schoolyard plan and bringing it into the real world.
I made the most of the mayhem. My body relaxed as I fixed my position so that I could observe the insanity unfolding below, taking a seat on my desk so that I could view the spectacle. Reaching over, I grabbed the candy bowl I left for visitors and popped a chocolate into my mouth.
There was a knock at my door; I turned to find Rick, the stick-thin blonde from down the hall, stepping in. “You’re seeing this too, hey?” he asked, coming close to me. His eyes widened gleefully, “Ooh, you’ve got the best view here.”
I nodded, pursing my lips and reluctant to agree. “Mm,” I mumbled, with my mouth full.
“So what do you think?” he asked, traipsing over to my filing cabinet and fiddling with the papers on top. “Postal worker gone batty? Victim of stress? Divorcee?”
Shrugging, I watched the man as he pumped his fists into the air and raged at some teenagers taking his picture, “Who cares? Right now, he’s a clown.”
“Nothing worse than a rampaging exhibitionist,” he mused, shaking his head, “School shootings, downtown stabbing sprees, there’s no thrill.”
Taking in his words like a bad pill, I tilted my head to the side and then back again, “This is more of a swinging spree.” I paused, “That sounded a lot better in my head.
“Anyway,” I continued, facing him, “how is there no thrill in running from an armed kook? At least he’s out in the open. You rather he crept around at the midnight hour, rubbing himself up against phone booths on the dark side of town, abducting kids and hookers so they can fight each other in his personal dungeon?”
He lit up a little when I said that, turning to me as though he had a revelation, “You know what we need? A new Jack the Ripper.”
My eyebrow nearly hit the ceiling two floors up, “What? Why?”
“I don’t know; it’s an exciting idea. Some unknown masked monster stalking the streets, claiming victims left and right. That’s when you get a stronger sense of togetherness, y’know? More cops on the streets, people watching each other’s backs, it’s beautiful.”
“You shitting me? We need more guys like him,” I said, pointing to the madman who had now swung too hard and fell on his back like an overturned turtle, “Think of all the kids who’d still be alive today if John Wayne Gacy left the house wearing a suit made of dildos, or if the Zodiac Killer went around yelling cryptography puzzles at people. What if the Columbine Boys aimed their guns up and sprayed the sky to the beats of a Rammstein track?
“Those guys are scary as all hell because they’re all whack-jobs with plans, but a whack-job with no plan: that’s where the excitement is,” I continued, watching a quartet of squad cars pull up, whole armies of policeman exiting with tasers and batons.
Rick gave a little smile and sat next to me as the cops dog-piled the thrashing gas-powered mass of fury, “You got a point. Plus, it’d make great television.”
I offered him to take something from my candy bowl; he obliged.

***

 Everyone loves a broment.

See you next time,

-RWI

EDIT: May 17, 2012. Edits, edits, edits. And this will be the last of my edits until the next time.