So John Scalzi is hosting a fan-fiction contest, which you can read about over on his well-known and book-spawning blog, called Whatever. The gist of it is this: Write a bit of fanfic to go with a painting that Scalzi commissioned from artist Jeff Zugale. Let me be more clear: Write a bit of fanfic to go with a totally eye-blastingly awesome painting Scalzi commissioned depicting Scalzi as an orc and my friend Wil Wheaton, wearing his clown sweater, astride a kitten/hippogriff/unicorn thing against a backdrop of exploding volcanoes, all painted by artist Jeff Zugale.
The winning entry becomes part of a chapbook from Subterranean Press, which goes on sale as a benefit for the Lupus Foundation of America.
I don’t expect that this will be in the actual running, on account of I probably won’t submit it, but I gave myself 45 minutes or so to riff on the painting, and this is what I came up with. (And since I’ve been working in screenplay format a lot these past few months, it’s where my head’s at.) If nothing else, I hope this amuses you.
EXT. THE MOUNTAINS OF BANEDARK – NIGHT
In the distance, a pair of volcanos ERUPT, gushing forth smoking LAVA and screaming-hot GUITAR RIFFS. It’s TOTALLY METAL.
Bursting out of the mid-ground SMOKE and ASH comes a BLACK VAN emblazoned with an air-brushed image of a HALF-NAKED MAN & WOMAN battling shit like LIVING SKELETONS and probably a motherfucking DRAGON, with big spiral HORNS. The van is adorned with huge wood-and-steel SHIELDS and bristling with AXES on RACKS.
CLOSE ON THE VAN
In the front seats are TWO ORCS: ZOOGALE (driving) and SCALZEE (shotgun). Fuzzy 20-SIDED DICE hang from the rearview.
We’re not gonna make it!
We’ll make it.
SCALZEE slams a cartridge into the EIGHT TRACK PLAYER in the dash. Chanting, wordless VOCALS echo from the HI-FIDELITY STEREO SPEAKERS over pounding DRUMS and cutting, lethal GUITARS. The bass is SO FAT, sodas in the theater ripple and tremble. It’s an ORC METAL OPERA.
ZOOGALE checks the driver’s side rearview mirror.
In the mirror, something is coming. It’s a winged dot above the horizon, backlit by CHURNING MAGMA, sunlight GLINTING off SOMETHING GOLD. It’s getting closer.
A BARITONE CHORUS swells.
ZOOGALE points a thumb over his shoulder.
He knows it was us who logged in on his account and left him naked in the Valley of Darkwoe! He knows we have his gear!
In the back of the van, POULDRONS and GREAVES, a CUIRASS and WHATEVER PLATE-MAIL PANTS ARE CALLED rattle in a pile.
But that’s a flying mount! We can’t outrun that!
SCALZEE opens his door and snatches a SHIELD and an AXE off the side of the VAN.
I’ll hold him off. You get rid of this stuff as fast as you can.
SCALZEE DIVES out of the van in SLO-MO, rolling over VOLCANIC GLASS and ASH and coming to a skidding stop ON HIS FEET. Badass.
ZOOGALE pulls the passenger-side door shut, then pulls the CB HANDSET off the dash and yells into it.
WTS [Pouldrons of the Dire Owlbear] [Shit-Kickers of Infinite Skanking] [Leggings of the Whale Narwhal] PST!!!
As the VAN tears off into the distance, SCALZEE turns around in SLO-MO to face his APPROACHING FOE. He SQUINTS into the SKY, and then A TERRIBLE REALIZATION spreads across his face.
Out of the GLARE, he descends: WIL WHEATON astride his UNIKITTENGRIFF! Above the BLUE HOT PANTS that make up the underwear of all HUMANS he is dressed in gleaming multi-colored CHAINMAIL: a [SWEATER OF THE GIDDY CLOWN]! In his hand: an [AWESOMANTIUM SPEAR OF LANCING]!
SCALZEE hoists his SHIELD with his right hand, deflecting the first of WIL WHEATON’S blows! The volcanos BELCH FORTH FIRE in the background.
Where’d you get that gear?! We cleaned out your vault!
WIL WHEATON circles around, hovering on his mighty steed, reigns in his right hand, spear in his left. His eyes say “I NEVER SHOULD HAVE GIVEN YOU MY PASSWORD SO YOU COULD PLAY AS MY ALT!”
I swapped out a feat last level and forged these myself!
WIL WHEATON unleashes an encounter power, THRUST OF A THOUSAND SMITES, rolls an 18, and deals 2W+15 points of damage. Red numerals float away above SCALZEE’s head.
Ow! My hit points!
Give me my stuff or the next one will be a daily power!
SCALZEE smiles. Knowingly.
WIL WHEATON (CONT’D)
Why are you smiling knowingly?
Because I know something you don’t know. I am not left-handed!
SCALZEE throws his SHIELD away and tosses his axe into his right hand, then whips is round and round WITH A FLOURISH.
Don’t be a dick!
WIL WHEATON FLIPS off his mount, spinning through the air, and lands opposite SCALZEE.
WIL WHEATON (CONT’D)
I’m not left-handed, either!
SCALZEE and WIL WHEATON growl and CHARGE, their weapons CLASHING, teeth GRITTING, sparks FLYING, volcanos EXPLODING, guitars SCREAMING!
SMASH CUT TO:
TITLE: COMING SEPTEMBER 2010!
Today, perhaps as some sort of birthday present, my friend Wil Wheaton debuted the cover of his upcoming book, Memories of the Future, which I designed. The book comes out before too long (we’re still in the proofing phase), but the cover’s pretty much a lock, which feels pretty great. I did quite a few sketches before we arrived at this one, which I like not just as a cover, but as the start of a series. Lots of room to grow here.
What I’m especially curious to see, though, is if people notice now or later that the cover makes a few shout-outs to Star Trek costumes of the era. We’ll see, I guess. In the meantime, here’s a miniature version of the cover. Head over to Wil’s post to see it larger and read some of my notes on the design.
I am convinced that the “Try Again” button offered to me when my computer fails to connect to a wireless network… does nothing. It has never worked. It is almost certainly connected to a timer. When the time is up, the button is offered again.Repeat. Ad, nauseam and infinitum, etc.
I hope there is an easter egg, somewhere deep in the loop, that finally tells me to just give up. “You’re not getting on the AirPort network,” it tells me. It offers me two options: “Give Up” and “OK?”
Push “Give Up” and the timer repeats again. Because it knows I didn’t really mean it.
It’s been a year already. I know it’s hard to believe. If you’re one of the lucky ones, and your powers developed safely that day, then you’ve been bulletproof for 365 days now. You’ve been flying to Paris or Tokyo whenever you like. You’ve been catching falling helicopters and pulling people out of burning buildings. You’re a hero several times over, I bet — draped in medals and wrapped several layers deep in flags. You’re a star.
Some of you have asked, and I think I’ve been slow to answer, but since this is the anniversary day, that means I’ve been dodging the question, not stopping it like it was just a hot wad of supersonic lead, for a year now too. (By the way, Freudian typo: at first I typed “dodging the quest,” which is about right, too.)
Yes, I got powers in the radiation event.
No, I haven’t been to Paris or foiled a bank heist or pulled off a bank heist. We’re not sure if I got a weak dose or if my system’s fucked up chemistry reacted wrong or what, but my powers are pretty weak. I’m no superhero.
Sure, yes, I can fly. My airspeed is pathetic, though, and it turns out to be scary as all hell to be balanced in nothingness, suspended only by your own belief that you can fly. Doubts turns out to be heavy as fuck. If not for the ocean, I could drive to Paris faster than I could fly there, and I wouldn’t be terrified and freezing when I arrived.
My strength is better than it was, but there are ordinary people stronger than me and all supers are out of my class, for sure. People with real doses of the space rays stop bullets like their flesh was made out of solid iron. Mine cracks and dents and flakes and oozes blood. Better than nothing, but a gunshot is still pretty debilitating. I’d probably survive a bank robber’s panicky gunplay, but I’d be in the hospital for a week after.
The one time I tried, not only did a bunch of real supers beat me there, but I ended up rolling around in the vault, oozing blood, with hundred-dollar bills stuck to my wounds.
A photographer got a shot of me, but this nice super-guy who’d flown in from Midtown smashed his camera, just so the pictures wouldn’t get out. He caught the last of the robbers, too. Nice guy.
Anyway, that’s why I haven’t been writing about the superheroic escapades much since last summer. These guys get plenty of coverage already, and I figure you don’t need me lamenting over my weak shit. There are plenty of superheroes with blogs out there already, and I’ve always felt like blogs should be more about your day to day, anyway. I mean, sure, I rescued a few people and helped stop a falling satellite from landing on Midtown, but this is Tumblr. I figure you’d rather see a picture of a cat riding a bicycle than hear about the runaway train I helped save.
I mean, how do you blog about that anyway without coming off as a huge ass? “Oh! I saved a train!” Nobody wants to read about how awesome I think I am. (Or, I bet, how awesome I think I’m not, but you asked.)
The truth is that, even with all the cosmic rays, nothing much has changed. I’m okay at what I do, but I’m not great. I’m certainly not the best. The people who are better than me are still better than me, and I still admire and envy them. I tweet at Captain Fantastic the same as you do, hoping to get a reply one time. Everything’s just faster, louder, tougher. The competition got dialed up, but now that the scale goes not just to 11 but to 14 or 15, being a 9 or a 10 isn’t so hot. There’s always somebody better.