The Future According to Marvin: Episode 9

Marvin begins to tell another story of the future to Ammenia. He hopes it will amuse (or more likely confuse) the new Sime they picked up at the last stop, who so far has had nothing to say.

Marvin: So where were we? Shall I tell about Hrathna in school, or maybe it's time for another encounter between Alafry and the neighbors?

Ammenia is ~~ restless ~~ today.

Ammenia: I'm not in the mood for a schoolgirl -- I was very glad when I got my ring and could start working, thank you very much.

Marvin: Okay. Well, let me think up some good complication for Alafry to get into. I know you like stories with strong conflict lines.

Ammenia: Alafry's main problem seems to be that his neighbors confuse his nonentity of a book with pornography. Which only means that they've never read the real thing. Or does Syrus keep a stack of "Titillating Tentacled Lasses" in his backpack for the principal to find?

Marvin laughs.

Marvin: I very much doubt it. Anyhow, I didn't mean the book to be thaaaat bad. Who knows if the out-T text is even the same as the in-T one? Even today, the English version of "Are You My Mother?" is totally separate, although I admit it has the same plot.

Marvin: Okay. I have an idea.

Ammenia: Oh?

Alafry is trying to get back to work after five different interruptions this morning. Each one "only" took five minutes, except it took him half an hour afterwards to get back into the right mental state. He had no idea just how demanding neighbors can be, and wonders if it would help to pull down all the shades and pretend the whole family has gone away for the day. Probably not.

Ammenia snorts, in a not-completely polite way.

Ammenia: All he'd have to do is pretend that his wife was home early. People wouldn't change that much, in a few hundred years.

Marvin: What, and scandalize them all out there?

Marvin waves his hands about.

Marvin: It would be assumed she'd come home for a quickie, and the gossip would be even worse.

Ammenia: What, it's scandalous that a husband and wife would have sex? Come on, there are far too many kids in Gen Territory for me to buy that.

Marvin: No, that she'd come home from work for the purpose. Especially if the shades were pulled down and all. They all have to pretend it only happens at night.

Ammenia: Well, then, why doesn't he just not answer the door? They'd only assume he was off buying groceries or something.

Marvin fumfuhs for a moment, then recovers.

Marvin: Umm, they're watching the house and they'd notice him leaving?

Ammenia: What was that police officer's complaint about stakeouts? Something about how they're so boring that assigning a human being to such work ought to be a crime? Who'd want to do it all day for fun?

Marvin holds up his hands.

Ammenia: I'm sorry, Marvin. I guess I'm not in the mood for stories, today.

Marvin sighs.

Ammenia really is ~~ apologetic ~~.

Marvin: To tell you the truth, I was getting a little bored with it all myself, but I figured it was keeping you entertained on these long train trips. Don't feel bad about it.

Ammenia: It's been entertaining, truly, but I"m just too restless today to want to visit such a... tame... future. Not that I don't hope that someday a mixed-larity couple could move to Cago and have the neighbors' main concern be a children's book, not that the renSime would murder them in their beds.

Marvin: Quite so. Well, I don't suppose that a Return To Those Thrilling Days Of Yesteryear, otherwise known as the junct era, would be any too appropriate ...

Marvin points at the newbie with a few tentacles.

Marvin: ...with our new friend in the room, eh?

Ammenia: No, we'd better let that one rest. If the other was too far off in dreamland, that one's too close for comfort.

Marvin laughs, then switches to Simelan for privacy.

Marvin: Yes, life has been a little too exciting lately, what with picking up our friend here after she had killed instead of before. At least the G-villians managed to only knock her unconscious instead of murdering her.

Ammenia: Yes, and it's even more fortunate that they hadn't moved her before we arrived. Gegg learned quite a bit while he was at Sat'htine.

Marvin: Indeed, indeed. A quick zlin, plus the absence of bruises, leads me to suspect he had something to do with her unconscious state as well. It's a good thing Tecton law doesn't apply out-T, or our friend would be up on charges.

Ammenia: Which would be monstrously unfair, under the circumstances. It's not as if they had any other choice, other than murdering her.

Marvin laughs rather hollowly.

Marvin: Don't talk to me about Tecton law and unfair. Someday the Tecton is going to come up against someone who'll stand up to their bureaucratic machinations -- a Sectuib in Zeor, say, and then we shall see what we shall see.

Marvin: I have to say, though, if our lives were a Marvin Tale (or let's say a Yekko Tale), this would be the part where I shut my ears.

Ammenia: Oh? Would you be afraid of what the Author would throw at you next?

Starzie switches from the collaborative-fiction channel to the backchatter channel.

Starzie: You bet your ass I would, Yekko. Your plotlines are good, I have to admit it, but playing them just makes me too shenning tense.

Yekko answers, typing rapidly.

Yekko: Come on, Starzie. Without a plot, it gets boring.

Starzie grows annoyed at this repetition of a long-running argument.

Yekko: That's what a story is -- someone far away, having half the world's problems dumped in their lap.

Starzie: I never said it shouldn't have a plot! What I said was, it's too simplistic to assume that all plots are necessarily conflicts. Why does it all have to be tentacle-lube opera all the time? I can practically hear the ominous shiltpron music in the background. Which is pretty remarkable over a text-only channel, you have to admit.

Yekko: If there's nothing at risk, and no one whose laterals are being pinched, what's going to motivate the characters to change and grow?

Starzie types: "Starzie shrugs".

Starzie: This book I'm reading now, the plot is that three men and a dog are rowing their way up a small river. Various rather funny things happen to them, and occasionally the narrator, who is one of them, gets reminded of something that he saw or heard or that happened to him or one of the others, and then he tells me about it.

Starzie: It's fascinating to watch them. I don't know how much they're going to grow yet, I must admit, but I'm only about 60% of the way through it. But it wouldn't have become a classic if it hadn't had some sort of appeal to enough people.

Starzie looks back over what she's typed.

Starzie: Well, the dog isn't rowing, obviously.

Yekko: Ah, but there's a conflict there, or at least a goal -- they're going up the river, and something might happen to them that interferes with that. The boat might spring a leak. The dog might fall overboard. Or someone they meet along the way might change their minds about the whole enterprise.

Starzie: Well, I'll tell you how it comes out. But I bet none of that's the case. Anyway, why are you so obsessed with goals anyhow? I don't have a goal in life, I don't think.

Yekko: Not even to finish that report by next week, so the boss doesn't fire you?

Starzie: That's just a short-term objective. After all, a girl's gotta eat. Well, if she's a Gen. You know what I mean.

Starzie laughs.

Yekko: All too well, and never mind the excess pounds. But really, you can have poems that don't address much of anything, but for a story to be coherent, it has to have some theme organizing it.

Starzie: I don't argue against that. But there are narratives that don't depend on conflict, that's my only point.

Yekko: Not person-against-person conflict, certainly. But there's always a challenge, at least for stories that are coherent. A common theme, that explains why certain scenes are shown, rather than others.

Starzie types: "Starzie is ~~ frustrated ~~"

Yekko: Hey, do you want to put some characters on a boat going up a river? Or hiking all the way down the Eastern mountains, through six Territories?

Ammenia: Marvin, it's bad enough being stuck in the baggage car of a train, thank you very much. I get blisters.

Marvin: Sounds cool to me. But this time you tell the story, and I'll try to keep a grip on your nager so things don't get too wild, mmmmkay?

Ammenia laughs.

Ammenia: Well, all right. Once there were some people, and they had an Adventure...

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