Journalistic Integrity

This is the story that I wrote for the Shaastra Online Science Fiction Writing contest this year in the Short Sketch category. It got picked first by Cory Doctorow ๐Ÿ˜€ . It’s not very,er, scientific, as you might notice. But that’s not supposed to be the important part, anyway ๐Ÿ™‚

An asteroid is about to collide with the Earth. Because there is no way of preventing the collision, the Earth is being evacuated. But your protagonist and a few others decide to stay back on Earth and await their fates. Recount the last hour of your protagonistโ€™s life.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” they asked for what seemed like the millionth time. Of course! Why would a man his age miss the greatest show on earth-the biggest and the last, at least-to be stuck in suspended animation for a century or two? They probably wouldn’t be able to unfreeze him when they got to wherever it is that they planned to go, and he was just as likely to keel over and die as soon as they did, anyway. And if he was going to die, he wanted to go like Terry Pratchett; glass of whiskey in hand, sitting on his favourite bench and admiring the garden he had tended himself for over half a century. With an approaching meteorite in the background. And he would go doing what he did best, going where others couldn’t-staying while others couldn’t stay- and telling them what they were missing. Nobody would watch what he made for a very long time, of course, but when they finally woke up, he wanted them to know just how this planet had gone into the good night.

He did have one final duty to tend to, so he set up the cameras and other equipment. Clip-on mic, check. Video link, check. Audio link, check. The others would be doing this at various other stations now, but he would be the one putting it all together. The Americans got to do this in daylight, which was easier, although he appreciated the darkness; he wanted to see the stars as they fell towards him. “Then the third angel sounded; and a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water.” Why had no one made a movie about Revelations yet? Some one at Warner Bros should have thrown a bible at Michael Bay and told him to get to work. He had always wanted to do it, but no one trusted him with that kind of thing. “Stick to the documentaries, John.” All studio executives sneered the same way. “You’re doing good work here, serious work. We all love your interviews. This country needs people like you. Keep at it. Leave the explosions to the experts.” Well. Well. He’d show them how to shoot a great explosion.

It was about the size of the moon now, and he could see it getting bigger every minute. Not long now. One camera was always focused on it; that would be his introduction sequence. Then a short but fittingly memorable speech, a few shots of the Wonders set to Ravel’s Bolero with Big Boy-what a stupid name for the Agent of Armageddon!-in the background, providing Context. And of course, the first person shot of the explosion for a finale.

“As we stand on the brink of destruction, it is only fitting to question what we as a species have accomplished in our short stay on this doomed planet. We have built bridges and skyscrapers, pyramids and temples, but what of that? In a few hours, and long before you hear this, they will all return to the earth from which they were carved. We are frustrated sculptors, seeking to shape the world in our image, only to be rebuffed by catastrophe. This planet will probably recover from this; at some point, it will hold life again. Perhaps, civilization will re-emerge. But nothing of out deeds will remain. What is our legacy? What has mankind done that separates it from any other form of life, from all the dumb creatures that remain behind, unaware of their fates? What canโ€ฆ”

That’s interesting… It didn’t seem to be moving any more. He peered over at the telescope. Was that a hole? Why would an asteroid have a hole in its side? He was sure it wasn’t there earlierโ€ฆ too astonished now to provide commentary, he focused the camera on it. That thing coming out of it now looked an awful lot like a ship, although it moved a lot faster than the speed at which those shuttles moved on TV. It was almost on the ground already!

Really? Little green men? If there was a god, he certainly has a sense of humour.

<Greetings, friend. We hope we translator decode you brain waves goodly. Translator bad now but become more goodly fastly. We are @#$@R$()%@$. We come in peace. We travel galaxy to spread %$#^&@#. We offer matter transmutator as sign of good faith.>

He bit back a sigh. Great, here come the alien evangelists, offering salvation. All he’d ever wanted was to film a good explosion!

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24 thoughts on “Journalistic Integrity

  1. ๐Ÿ™‚ good one. Although, to be brutally honest, I’m disappointed that this won first, you know. Was hoping for something more imaginative/funny.

  2. This story made me chuckle twice [“And if he was going to die, he wanted to go like Terry Pratchett; glass of whiskey in hand, sitting on his favourite bench and admiring the garden he had tended himself for over half a century. With an approaching meteorite in the background.” and “Some one at Warner Bros should have thrown a bible at Michael Bay and told him to get to work.”] and laugh once. Which is very impressive for a story of that length. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    And I was surprised by the twist – when you mentioned the hole, I thought at first it would be a “we blow up the meteorite to save the earth” thingy.

    In any case, congratulations!

    • You know, there are PLENTY of films based on Revelations; just not any produced by big studios.

      To name a few – The Left Behind series, A Thief in the Night (and it’s equally abysmal sequels)and more recently, The Omega Code (with accompanying sequels and prequels). Worst part is you’ll actually find familiar faces in these ‘films’.

      • I remember taking out one of the books- I think the first- of the “Left Behind” series when I was at school. I don’t believe I read more than a few pages or so, though. I had no idea it was made into a movie.

        Are any of these films that one could seriously consider watching?

      • True, there are a lot of Bible-inspired movies and I think they covered pretty much every part, cinematically.

        But still, picturing Michael Bay getting thrown a bible that probably hits him on the head and then he’s all Newtonian, “what is that thing here that hit me on the head? Why, IT IS MY MASTERPIECE!” – come on, doesn’t that make you laugh?

    • Thanks! And this story is on the long side for this category, actually… it’s supposed to be a little over 500 words, but it’s closer to 900.

      Random question: Is a twist that surprises better than one that doesn’t, even if it seems improbable/”doesn’t fit”?

      • Imo, the story comes first. I’d rather not have a twist than a twist that seriously strains my suspension of disbelief. Which twists for the sake of twists usually do.

        It’s a matter of how you play it. If you pretend like this completely obvious development is the TWIST OF THE CENTURY, you’ll totally lose me as a reader. If you go about it with a little bit of self-reference and basically say, “look, I know it was clear that this would happen, but it’s not like I tried to surprise you, is it?”, I’m totally okay with that.

        The difference is like between Columbo and CSI. Nobody in Columbo tries to surprise you with anything (the joy of watching lies elsewhere), in CSI they try every single episode (in good episodes, this works both in terms of the story and with the surprise, in most, it doesn’t).

        Okay, pretty long answer. I hope it was at least understandable. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • The stereotypicality (what’s a better word?) was kind of the point, actually. In the sense that it’s not supposed to be serious SF so much as a slapstick thing, although not quite as in-your-face slapstick as…most other things.

      Also, I was lazy.

  3. Pingback: Is This Funny? | The Ego Chronicles

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