I'm also not sure that it's a short story, rather than a novel. Or that the main character's name is Jasper. I keep wanting to call him Buck, and to have that be a shortening of an odd Latin name. [From an email - Buckminster Godot Lastname - Sheriff's assistant. Probably not, but I wonder how many people would get it.]
I can't get very far into the story that Jasper's trying to write unless I expand it to novel length. Just in case, though, I've done a little bit of checking on Dickens and Drood. First Wikipedia, then a Google search. I bought the novel Drood by Dan Simmons, which perports to be based on Dickens' life. Haven't read it yet, though. I listened to another novel on CD. The Last Dickens: A Novel, by Matthew Pearl.
According to Bookmarks magazine, as quoted on Amazon.com, American critics didn't like the subplots, and British reviewers thought Pearl hadn't quite gotten English culture. In general, the level of Pearl's research was said to be impressive, though. And both it and Drood are said to be based on the same research material. So if I find something in both books, it's either fairly reliable or difinitively false.
But back to my own fractured maunderings. Let's pull a few old emails from the pile. The first one to apply to FOE reads: a mirror on a door - a whistle hanging from the doorknob - a toxic magic cleanup - pigs flying - a redneck wizard - a sheriff - dust and dogs - flying carpets in the front yard like clunker cars - semis and trailers with fancy fringe - spitting on a wooden porch - (another note to self - read more Neil Gaiman.)
Well, shoot. It looks like I've already included all of that. I still need to read more Gaiman, but doesn't everybody?
OK - I think I found a line of patter for Wu. I don't know whether to just quote Douglas Adams and go from there, or try to explain what he'll be proposing without the quote that triggered the thought. I think the first would perhaps give Wu an excuse for reading a book instead of answering Jasper's questions properly.
[the characters have been talking about how history has become jumbled due to time travel] ". . . that not only had the great Cathedral of Chalesm been pulled down in order to build a new ion refinery, but that the construction of the refinery had taken so long, and had had to extend so far back into the past in order to allow ion production to start on time, that the Cathedral of Chalesm had now never been built in the first place. Picture postcards of the cathedral suddenly became immensely valuable. " Life, the Universe, and Everything
I'm wondering whether if everyone was given the ability to start things earlier in order to meet slipping deadlines, if the summed procrastination of all sentient beings would push the start of everything back to the big bang, with the subsequent discovery that the big bang had been triggered by too many timelines crossing.
Creation by procrastination.
So that's one bit of Wu. Big Kay listed three possible reasons to be angry with her. " Some people just don’t want to believe that their rug can’t be fixed. Or that it ought to cost what it does. Or that they bought a lemon." I think it was Wu who bought the lemon. He's not put out by it though. He's drawing up comics. Or writing plots for them.
From another email: Sadly, I have zombie story ideas. Well, they could be story ideas, or they could be game ideas. Similar things. It started tonight with Eric saying that he had heard of a tower defense game called Cowboys vs Zombies. In a tower defense game, successive waves of attackers come at you while you try to use your wits and resources to create a maze of defense fortifications that will take them out befoe they get all the way to your home base.
So I was thinking, what if it was the zombies that were being attacked. You're one of the attacking humans and after winning or nearly winning, you begin to suspect that the zombies are just a new kind of human, protecting their loved ones. That's been done. With vampires, instead of zombies, but it's been done.
Still, it's a dilemma. What if they deserve to just go about their lives? They haven't been out raiding. They do not come into human areas and snatch people. You've discovered that rumors that they have are unfounded.
What is a hero to do. You offer to switch sides. You offer try to convince your neighbors and government to leave the zombies alone. You just have this one little nagging worry about what they eat. I mean, why call them zombies if they don't eat people? Are they called that to make them easier to attack? You see that their food seems to be packaged and distributed from a central location. Eventually you're trusted enough that you're allowed to go anywhere within the zombie territory. Why not, you've worked to repell several waves of attacking humans. So you go to check out the distribution center and follow the trail of trucks arriving there.
That's when you find the pens. Mutated humans are being raised for zombie food. These scientifically modified humans grow faster than others and their heads are huge. They're harvested before they're fully grown and their massive brains are packaged and distributed to all hungry zombies. The zombies aren't attacking regular humans because they have domesticated humans to harvest.
Another dilemma! You're a defending hero. Don't these genetically modified humans deserve to be freed from captivity and certain death? It takes you a long time, but you finally put together a squad of humans that are trusted by the zombies and who sweep in and free a sizable number of these big-brained children. Oddly, the government had no interest in liberating them. In the process, most of the zombies are killed.
Later, you discover why the government wasn't interested. They've dealt with the mutants before. When they're allowed to become adults and form communities, they are super smart and mildly telepathic. They begin taking over the government and are obviously going to slowly take over the world, perhaps leaving some remnants of normal humans in nature preserves. The zombies were the result of an attempt to modify humans (Modification B) to be immune to the modified humans (Modification A) mental influence. The zombies had been volunteers, heroes who sacrificed their humanity to save humanity from (modified) humanity.
Another dilemma. It takes a lot to convince you that it is inevitable that the Mod A's will despise and mistreat mainline humanity. But you're eventually convinced. This is where the story is complicated and I'm not sure exactly how you do it, but eventually not only are most of the zombies wiped out, but all of the Mod A's in human territory are dead.
That's when you discover (or decide) that the government is evil. And that the only thing keeping the government from collapsing into a totalitarian hellhole is the threat that the Mod A's might get loose and put them out of business. Or they might be used to spy on the government, revealing dastardly plans.
Your head spins. It had all been in balance before - a horrible, yet wonderful balance. The zombies kept the Mod A's alive as a threat to the government, but kept them from overrunning the government. The humans kept the zombies from overpopulating and, what? There's got to be some kind of balance here, too. I'll think about it.
Anyway, you and your group hit the labs and become zombies. You join the remnants of the zombie hoard and establish new defensive positions. The government will make sure that you're never completely devastated by humans. Before you left you found a couple of Mod A children and used them to identify and take out a few of the most corrupt leaders. Now you're going to get the balance going again. You get your fellow zombies ready for the inevitable Night of the Living. (Eric thought of the title.)
What else is Wu up to? Puns? Weird plays with words?
Sounds like you were held to a hire standard.
And this isn't for some "whoa is us" Police Story.
You halved by sympathy.
Excuse me, I need to reverse the polarity of my nutrient flow. (he barfs)
We return you to your timeless void, already in progress.
"It's the anthropocene: Stuff gets around."
Remember: Friends don't let friends invoke the names of the Elder Gods.
She said, "Wow, I'm having some really strong deja vu." So I said, "We heard you the first time."
Butt hiss hart was rite their!
It was a kind jester.
altarnative All tarnative? Altar native?
And the barman says "Sorry. We don't serve your kind in here!"
Tachyon walks into a bar.
Tachyon walks into a bar.
Yeah, I'm chagrinning from ear to ear.
Urethra! instead of Eureka.
"I'm going to use age progression software on my two year and put the resulting photo on the mantel. He'll see it all the time as he's growing up and eventually he will realize that it's him. Then I'll convince him that he's a time traveler"
Second character. Old fat guy who used to be well-off but is now a near recluse and hoarder. Need a name. Perhaps Tartle, a Scottish verb meaning to hesitate while introducing someone due to having forgotten his/her name. Jayus (Jay) Tartle. He can't believe that his old rugs can't be fixed.
The first impression was that something had been nesting in the drawer. There was a swirl of hard and poke-y things mixed with and overlain by soft white. Focusing on individual items in the gyre brought recognition of straws, plastic sporks and knives, packets of various condiments, stained popsicle sticks, wrapped tooth brushes, the thin combs included in hospital packs, and other things, sticking out of a mound of free napkins. You could tell that the napkins were free, because there were so many different kinds, some with Wienerschnitzel logos on them. (I don't know if I wrote that or lifted it from somewhere. Should probably Google to be sure. Looks like I'm good.)
Of course, those will have to be Diner napkins in the story.
He also collects old stories, gossip, and sayings. "If you think a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, try calling a woman another woman's name."
Hope is the first step on the way to disappointment.
From a nearby city newsletter - The staff also got the opportunity to observe a falconer with his three peregrine falcons. The falconer was hired by Forward [City Landfill] staff to use his falcons as a natural deterrent to keep sea gulls from the landfill. Due to
's close proximity to the
landfill, the 500-600 sea gulls normally found at Forward, can be a serious
hazard to airplanes during landing and take off. The falcons never attack the
gulls but by their mere presence, the gulls instinctively leave the area, as
well as the airport flight paths. Stockton
When he's depressed he says, "I am holding my own." [The last communication from the Edmund Fitzgerald. During the storm Anderson notified Fitzgerald of an upbound ship and asked how it was doing. The reply, "We are holding our own."]
If gnawing my leg off like a fox in a trap would have allowed me to escape, you'd be calling me Stumpy today.
I could eat alphabet soup and shit a better threat letter.
Mice digging in the sand - or my life view as composed of magazine articles about experiments.
Clarence Darrow*: "I have never killed any one, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction."
"You can't fertilize a five-acre field by farting through a fence."
Would this one be Jay's or Wu's? Time passed, like Friday night's beer on a Saturday morning.
Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others whenever they go.
To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.
Is the third suspect Trina, the cook at the Diner? I'll have to re-comb the emails for Trin-isms. Or should there be someone else?
She's not all there, making you wonder where else she is. No that's the waitress at the Diner. Maybe we could make her Courtney Nichols, after Nicholas Courtney, the Brig.
When I was little, I thought that Lincoln had freed the sleighs, which must have gotten stuck in the snow.
This . . . thing . . . grows in your body like a tumor, bursts out and then immediately starts sucking life-giving fluids out of you. How is that not Lovecraftian?!
For general conversation in the Diner - everyone has a corpsicle story.
There was a brief crime wave in Antarctica recently. [Actually, a glitch in some crime web site transposed the X and Y coordinates, placing a bunch of Houston crimes down there.]
Plus, of course, if you leave your car unlocked in the summer, there's a risk that some gardener might leave a zucchini on the front seat. Chronos
Old email - Bus Stop Cafe [The Diner in this post] Tables far from building if magic is high or line is close.
NM's can't go into the dry lands for very long without nerve damage. Dusty [so now he's been Jasper, Buck, and Dusty] is not a true deputy, but can go into the lands, while the Sheriff can't. There's "a lot of not talking going on." Perky Edna [Courtney aka Sharon Dippity] notices and comments.
Patty [or Trina] believes what she says and gets mad at people who keep trying to steer her back to facts. Waiters, other cooks, and bus boys have a high turnover because it's hard to deal with Patty.
Bus stop [diner] people tend to say fractured things. Dusty and some of the other drylanders are regulars. The Sheriff often drops by to meet with Dusty. Edna makes sure that the diner is stocked with place mats that Dusty can draw on.
Edna makes mobiles, possibly with fragments of poetry on them.
You are a few sentences from an idea sparked by: In the Land of Invented Languages by Arika Okrent. In which Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty (Marty Crow?) invents a language in 1653 that he calls " . . . a new idiome of far greater perfection than any hitherto spoken." " . . . a most exquisite jewel, more preciouis than diamonds inchased win gold, the like whereof was never seen in any age." Explained by some as a sort of arithmetic of letters. His invented words include: Ekskubalauron "Gold out of Dung" and Logopandecteision "An Introduction to the Universal Language". For the Diner, he also invented quomodocunquizing "any-old-way-ing". That would be quomodocunquiz for the menu. Order that, and you get whatever the cook feels like giving you.
Food service is writhe with this kind of thing.
Found an email where the sheriff is Mark Banner. Not sure if that fits. There was also another name for Buck, but it didn't fit at all.