Slashdot Trolling FAQ 0.6


I just came across this on an old Slashdot (slashdot.org) comments page.  I thought it was hilarious (and pretty accurate, to boot), so I’m re-posting it here.  Since the original poster was using the “non-login,” “Anonymous Coward” (probably for good reason), I can’t cite the author…but “my hat is tipped,” anyway.  🙂

Notably, the article being discussed was about the similarities between chimp and human genomes; and the immediate follow-up comment to this one (by 403Forbidden) said, “5 million years later, and we’re still throwing poo at each other…I think i see how we’re 99.4% alike…”  How insightful!  X-D

 

The /. troll HOWTO

This is version 0.6 of a troll HOWTO, sort of a companion piece to jsm’s excellent troll FAQ. As a draft, comments and criticism are always welcome, if not appreciated 🙂

Section 1 – Trolling techniques
There are techniques used by successful trolls to elicit the maximum amount of responses from unthinking /.ers. This section is dedicated to explaining how to use these in the course of your trolls. Remember though, a great troll can break any or all of these and still be successful…

Timing
Because you’re posting as an AC, your troll will generally be ignored in favour of posters using their accounts, and so getting in early is essential. A good guideline is to get into the first 20 posts, so that people reading the article will see the troll before it is swamped out. One way of increasing the speed with which you get your troll into play is to prepare them beforehand, and then quickly customise them for the current article. This is easier than it sounds since /. typically repeats stories with small variations and runs lots of similar stories.

Note that this is why Jon Katz stories are pretty worthless as trolling material – by the time you’ve found the article and prepared a troll there’s already 50+ posts on it, most of them flaming Jon Katz anyway 🙂

Exposure
Once you’ve got your troll in, you need people to actually read it. You also want replies – /.ers are more likely to read your troll if it starts a large thread. You also want to remember that some people have set their comment thresholds to values higher than 0 – to get the attention of these you either want to get your post moderated up (see Style, below) or get a reply which gets moderated up to 4 or 5, in which case your troll becomes visible to all.

Accounts
An alternative to the time-honoured tradition of AC trolling is that of creating a “troll” account. This gives you the advantage of posting at 1 rather than 0, and slashbots are more likely to take you seriously, especially if you at least sound reasonable. If you do this, try to avoid posting stuff where it is obvious you’re a troll under the account – post it anoymously instead – some slightly more canny readers actually check your user info before they reply. Not many though 🙂

The ultimate goal of the troll account is to secure the +1 bonus, which is currently received once you hit 26 points of Karma. To get there, employ the techniques of karma whoring that we see every day on /. and watch the karma roll in. And of course once you get the +1 bonus, the world is your oyster in terms of /. Posts made at a default of 2 hit even those people with the threshold of 2, are more likely to get moderated up even further if they are at all coherent, and people tend to lose their critical thinking abilities in the face of the +1 bonus. Milk it for all it’s worth.

Layout
To get people reading it a troll needs to be easily readable. Make sure you break it down into easily digestible paragraphs, use HTML tags where appropriate (but always make sure you close them properly) and use whitespace appropriately.

Size
Generally a troll shouldn’t be too short, otherwise it’ll get lost in the crowd. A workable minimum is a couple of medium paragraphs. Conversely, it shouldn’t be too long, or no-one will bother to read it. Keep it to a happy medium.

Spelling
Whilst spelling is important if you want the troll to be taken “seriously”, key spelling mistakes can draw out the spelling zealots, especially if you mis-spell the name of a venerated /. hero, like Linus Torveldes or Richard Strawlman (thanks dmg). Related to this is the use of the wrong word, explaining an acronym as being something it isn’t or making a word into an acronym even when it isn’t.

Subject
The subject line needs to draw attention to your post without making it obvious that it is a troll. A simple statement of the main point of your argument can work here.

Style
Once you realise that most moderators don’t bother to read past the first paragraph or two, you can use this fact to craft trolls that can be moderated up as “Insightful” (note that I mean this in the /. sense rather than the real-world sense). Start off fairly reasonable, making statements that are /. friendly and not being too controversial. As the troll goes on, make it more and more controversial, building it up for the coup de grace in the final paragraph.

Linking
As we all know, a post with links is considered “informative” by the /. crowd. Moderators love it, and they rarely check the links, so be sure to include as many as possible. And make them wrong – a link to the Perl website should instead point to the Python website instead, and vice versa. The other alternative to incorrect links is “useful” links to places like http://www.linux.org and http://www.microsoft.com i.e. places /.ers could never have found on their own 🙂

Feeding
The ideal troll requires no feeding – it runs on its own, generating flamewars between clueless /.ers for your amusement. But often a troll requires some help and so you should consider feeding it. Feeding is best reserved for people making either completely clueless responses, people making responses with holes in, or those wonderful people who write a 2000-word point-by-point rebuttal of your troll.

Know your audience
Always keep in mind the kind of things advocated on /. so that you can play on and against them. This is why anti-Linux, creationist, gun-loving, pro-corporation trolls work well – the vast majority of /.ers hold the opposite viewpoints. And if a few people agree with you, so much the better – it merely validates your viewpoint in the eyes of readers.

Arrogance
Be arrogant. You, as a troll, know that you’re right. No other explanation could exist. The wronger the “fact”, the more assertively you should state it. Make it clear that you are better than everyone else – you know the truth and they are just too stupid to realise it. Use plenty of sarcasm, and use “quotes” to show it to people too dumb to realise.

Offensiveness
Being offensive in your initial troll can be counter-productive – it causes moderators to mark you down as flamebait in general. But if you’re feeding, then you can get away with calling /.ers all kinds of things. Make broad generalisations about /. readers – call them “long-haired Linux zealots”, “socialist open-source bigots” or whatever. Stereotyping is encouraged – people always want to think that they’re an individual, and will point this out to you given half a chance.

Indifference
Great for articles with a political or social bent, this kind of troll expresses complete indifference to the topic at hand, wondering who on Earth cares about it. An alternative method is to say that the topic only concerns a certain group of people – criminals, idiots, hackers (always use this instead of crackers) or whatever group you want to offend.

Sympathy
Appear to take the same stance as the people you’re trying to troll – claim you’re as much a fan of Linux as the next man, but… This way you can make all kinds of claims in the sure knowledge that you actually know what you’re talking about. A great phrase to use here is “In my experience”. Remember to act like all the things you’re pointing out are unfortunate but true.

The common touch
Always accuse /.ers of being elitist. This is an easy thing to do seeing as a lot of them are. Claim that is their grandmother couldn’t use it, then they are just into it to feel better than Joe Sixpack rather than “doing it for the average user”. This is always great for working into anti-Linux trolls – attack command-line tools and poorly designed desktops.

The 31337 touch
The opposite of the above. Claim that technology or whatever is only for the elite of society and that any attempt to open it up for everyone is wrong, an attack on intellectualism and possibly even dangerous. If people were meant to understand these things then they would, and it’s their fault if they’re too stupid to learn.

Contradiction
Never be afraid to contradict yourself, even in the space of a single sentence. The phrases “I am a top programmer who codes in VB” or “I am a supporter of open source who uses NT at work and 95 at home” will be sure to get a response from some weenie smugly pointing out the contradiction. Confuse the issue more by engaging in contradiction when you are feeding – this will confuse /.ers who will then make even more stupid replies, leaving them even more wide open for response.

Clues

If you’re feeling brave, give the reader clues that this is an obvious troll. The classic example here is dmg’s stock phrase “I am often accused of trolling (whatever that is)”, but also feel free to use phrases like “I have not read the article, and I don’t know much about XYZ but I feel I must comment”. If anyone responds to a troll with these kinds of clues in it, feel free to bask in the glow of knee-jerk /. responses.

Denial
If you’re unlucky someone will accuse you of being a troll (surely not!) and try and ruin it for you. If you don’t want it all to end there, then be sure to counter it by accusing them of being small-minded and petty, saying that it’s easier for them to say it’s a troll than to accept that people have different opinions. Be sure to say this in the subject line, especially if their subject was the infamous “YHBT. YHL. HAND.”

Claiming credit
Given that /. has its community of regular trolls (hi guys!), it’s only polite to publish your troll on one of the so-called “hidden” forums for all to see and admire. This way, you get to bask in the praise of other trolls, they get to contribute to your’s if they want to, and you get an easy way to find the troll later on when you want to check on its progress 🙂

As for when to post it, that’s a matter of opinion really. You can either post it straight away or leave it will after people start biting. Remember that the troll forum is also frequented by non-trolls, and sometimes you may get a self-declared “troll-buster” try and expose you. But remember, /.ers always post before thinking, and often it doesn’t matter at all.

There is no real current forum at the moment thanks to various spammers hitting the sids, but try trolltalk, the original troll sid started by 80md and osm way back in the day. Generally all postings are done there as an AC, with your name at the end of the post. Include a link to the troll somewhere in the text, which ideally will be directly to the post and its replies – click on the #XX link in the thread to get there.

Ending the troll
Sometimes you just get bored with a troll, or people start posting genuinely thoughtful stuff in reply (it does happen). When this happens it might be time to own up to the troll with a helpful “YHBT. YHL. HAND.” post. Sometimes people will carry on a discussion of the issue, and if you’re really lucky (and it was a great troll) they will completely fail to believe you and carry on arguing. If that happens, pat yourself on the back for writing a great troll 🙂

The cheap $3 crack
Finally, when all else fails and your troll gets moderated down to (-1, Troll) within ten seconds of you posting it, the only honourable thing to do is to accuse the moderators of smoking the cheap $3 crack (again) and give up 😦

Section 2 – Types of troll
The Maniac
Probably the most popular kind of troll, the Maniac holds an opinion on something, and won’t budge from that opinion no matter what evidence to the contrary is presented. If challenged, the Maniac will simply get more and more agitated and abusive, deriding his opponents as “idiots”, “wrong-thinking”, “dangerous” and “subversive”. Generally the Maniac takes a position that opposes the prevalent /. beliefs, but a similar effect can be achieved by taking a typical /. viewpoint and pushing it to ridiculous extremes.

Maniacs can be crafted for practically every article /. posts, although some are more obvious targets than others. Civil liberty articles, especially on things like censorship, DMCA, UCITA that really get /.ers riled up, are usually extremely fruitful grounds for a well-crafted maniac. The other obvious type of article is anything which could possibly involve religion, especially evolution 🙂

Here are some fruitful avenues to explore:

The Right-Wing Maniac
Always popular, the right-wing maniac (RWM) is a God-fearing, gun-toting, flag-waving American, and proud of it. They don’t care about the rest of the world, unless it’s to “prove” that America is better than everything else, and they cannot stand liberal whining over civil rights. They hate the moral decay of America and want it to revert into a nation of heterosexual, Christian whites like it was meant to be. Woe betide anyone that dares to suggest otherwise.

Religion
There are two ways to approach this kind of maniac. The harder to pull off is the militant atheist, but this is quite common amongst /. posters and you would have to be very offensive to get this to work. Of course with religion trolls, the argument can go on for ever once it’s started… The more common approach is the Christian fundamentalist. They are ignorant, intolerant and bigoted in the extreme. For them the Bible is the inerrant word of God revealed to man – it contains no flaws and no contradictions. Thus they are strict Creationists – mentions of evolution or cosmology will set them off on vitriolic rants. Flaming denunciations of anyone daring to contradict the “Word of God” are the way to go, and any kind of proof can always be ignored by appealing to “secular humanist brainwashing”. And let’s not forget, the USA is the greatest nation on Earth because it has the righteous power of Jesus Christ behind it.

Ideology
Pick a philosophy, any philosophy. This troll is a troll with a cause – they have found some kind of ideological truth, and are out to expose every other philosophy as a sham. Whether it be libertarianism, objectivism, communism or capitalism, this troll will point out the obvious “flaws” in any other philosophies, whilst spouting dogma about their own. And the best thing is – you don’t even need to know that much about what you’re spouting – making doctrinaire mistakes will get both sides of the argument flaming you, adding to the fun.

Software
This is an old favourite and crops up in many forms, covering the gamut from OS maniacs (Linux zealots, MS-apologists or embittered BSD fanatics), language maniacs (Pascal vs. C, C vs. C++, C++ vs. Java, Perl vs. Python, VB vs. everything), application maniacs(GIMP vs. Photoshop, Netscape vs. IE, vi vs. emacs) and also includes people who complain about how technology should only be for the 31337 hackers.

Guns
Americans love their guns, and will always fight passionately for their Constitutionally guarenteed rights to bear arms and shoot people. Even the slightest hint of criticism of this will bring down the wrath of a thousand and one enraged gun-owners on you, so it’s always a great point to work into a troll 🙂

The Expert
The Expert is someone who is “savvy” in their particular field, and is perfectly willing to give their opinion on any topic even vauguely related to their field. The Expert is most likely to be from a field which /.ers as a rule despise – the classic example is dumb marketing guy, but try consultants, lawyers, politicians, lobbyists, executives, journalists (just think Jon Katz). With this kind of troll sweeping statements with little content are the norm, along wire dire portents of future catastrophe and dark hints of “insider knowledge”.

Some possible angles to exploit:

Industry knowledge
The expert knows the computing industry from the inside – as a long-term pro, they can dispense knowledge knowing that they can “speak for the industry”. Their smug self-satisfaction is bound to annoy, as is any suggestion that things aren’t the way that /.ers would like it – saying “Linux requires the rock-solid guarantee of a trusted company like Microsoft” or “Apache cannot be trusted for mission-critical enterprise platforms” is guaranteed to get you denials explaining exactly why you’re wrong, in excruciating detail.

Helpful hints
With their tech-savvy (or law-savvy or whatever) experience, the expert is obviously the best person to point out what’s wrong with things or to give out useful “factual” information. In fact this probably works best with lawyer trolls – for all that /.ers protest “IANAL”, they certainly seem to think they could be, and any mistakes you make will send them rushing to prove themselves by correcting you.

Offtopic Trolls
Not really a “troll” in the strict Jargon File sense of the word, but they certainly should be included here 🙂 This category includes parodies, offtopic weirdness any all kinds of amusing stuff. Not really my area of expertise, this stuff is mainly done by gnarphlager and opensourceman. Thanks to gnarphlager for this section.

Offtopic trolls, like any other, come in almost as many colours as an iMac, but generally not as cute. But then again, a good offtopic “troll” can affect more people than a repulsive little gumdrop on your desk, because you need to have someone SEE your desk before they can react. Simple? Moreso than even my overblown prose could indicate. Some basic examples:

The serial troll
Write a story. Keep expanding it. It doesn’t matter what article you post it under, so long as it’s high up. If you want people to recognize you, pick a couple themes or symbols, and carry them on throughout the story. Other alternatives include back linking or including the entire story, but adding more each time. Be funny if you want. Or if you don’t feel like being funny, just be really weird. Someone will react.

The random troll
This has nothing to do with anything. Be it a stream of consciousness rant, or a description of the corner of your desk. Another favorite is a monologue, read as if spoken from any one given entity to another. The more outlandish, the better (a pair of socks talking to a mousepad, for example). If you really wanted to be artsy, work in an actual metaphor or legitimate meaning behind it, but it’s not necessary.

The vaguely related troll
Start out with a comment about the article. Have a definite opinion of it. Then, after a little while, disintegrate into randomness. All roads eventually can eventually lead to cheese (yum), Natalie Portman, cannibalism, toasters, squirrels, futons, you name it. All it takes is a little bit of creativity. Oh, and feel free to use other trolls’ motifs. Open source and all that 😉

General tips:

If it’s funny for a fleeting moment, then it’s worth posting.
Puns. Puns are only less vile than mimes, but it’s hard to mime on /. So feel free/obligated to litter your offtopic and random bits with puns. Hurt the bastards. And if they’re sick enough to laugh at them, then they’ll eventually end up here 😉
Obscure cultural references and injokes are always good. SOMEONE will get them eventually.
Several drafts of a serial or random post are common, but true elegance is being able to come up with something on the spot that still makes the top 40 posts (on a post-heavy article)
Section 3 – Useful trolling links
The following links contain background information useful for trolls needing quick quotes and “expert” opinions to include.

General purpose links

ddi.digital.net/~gandalf/trollfaq.html – How to deal with USENET trolls – learn your enemy 🙂
http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments. html – A List Of Fallacious Arguments – Learn them and use them liberally
http://www.altairiv.demon.co.uk/troll/trollfaq .html – USENET troll HOWTO
http://www.baiting.org – Baiting.org
http://www.fieldingtravel.com/df/index.htm – Fielding’s DangerFinder – A guide to what and where’s dangerous

Religious links

http://www.godhatesamerica.com/ – God Hates America
http://www.chalcedon.edu/creed.html – The Creed of Christian Reconstruction
http://www.demonbuster.com – How to cast out your demons and do spiritual warfare
riceinfo.rice.edu/armadillo/Sciacademy/ri ggins/thi ngs.htm – Things Creationists hate
http://www.icr.org/ – Institute for Creation Research
http://www.xenu.net – Operation Clambake – The fight against Scientology on the net
http://www.hom.net/~angels/ – Citizens for the Ten Commandments
http://www.bju.edu/rcnbc.html – The difference between Catholics and Christians
http://www.geocities.com/prazske00/biblequote s.html – Bible quotes by category

Political/economy links

http://www.aynrand.org – The Ayn Rand Institute
http://www.reason.com – Libertarian site
http://www.freerepublic.com – Right-wing stuff
http://www.jbs.org – Excellent site for all kinds of right-wingery
http://www.dack.com/web/bullshit.html – Web economy bullshit generator

Crackpot science links

http://www.fixedearth.com – The Earth Is Not Moving
http://www.jir.com/index.htm – The Journal of Irreproducible Results

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Not Far From Buddhahood


For those who don’t know, I’m a Christian (LDS, specifically), but I have a prominent appreciation for other faiths that teach peace, relief of suffering, and other wise principles.  This Zen koan spoke to me.  I don’t know if it’s a standard of the Zen Buddhist religion, but it seems to fit well enough with what I’ve studied of it.  This was taken from http://www.ashidakim.com/zenkoans/16notfarfrombuddhahood.html.  I highly recommend taking a look at Buddhist philosophies, regardless of your theological/philosophical leanings.  Even if you don’t intend on converting (as I don’t), there’s a lot of unconventional wisdom to be had there, which often isn’t as clearly explained in other sacred works.

Not Far from Buddhahood

A university student while visiting Gasan asked him: “Have you ever read the Christian Bible?”

“No, read it to me,” said Gasan.

The student opened the Bible and read from St. Matthew: “And why take ye thought for rainment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They toil not, neither do they spin, and yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these… Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.”

Gasan said: “Whoever uttered those words I consider an enlightened man.”

The student continued reading: “Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.”

Gasan remarked: “That is excellent. Whoever said that is not far from Buddhahood.”

The Regal Penguin


As it so happens, I don’t have a lot of short stories that I’d consider worth publishing; but I do have one more that’s actually a poem in prose form.

I wrote this for the 2000 National Youth Poetry Slam Competition in San Francisco, CA.  It’s the only poem that I’ve performed in front of what I’d consider a “large” audience: around 2,000 people at the final show.

The nature of this poem/story is highly metaphorical, with a political bent.  I hope you all enjoy it.

The Regal Penguin

A regal penguin sat on the lower beach of his iceberg, watching the frozen sea, like it must be on the rest of the world, bumping lethargically against his primordial salt-sand crescent.

He wrinkled his nose and sniffed the cold salty wind. Wind from the sea, he thought, could never be sweet.

He lay down spread-eagle over soft snow and gazed up into the fuzzy dusk-dawn sky. Stars still shown brightly, but why shouldn’t they? The night has just begun. Calm, quiet night.

He dozed off, watching Hercules kill Hydra while the sea glittered up contentedly.

–And awoke to a rudely screaming sea, churning beneath him.

“Penguin, fraud!” it barked across a sand-filled larynx. “You told us Hercules would kill the hydra and behold! We are but mocked followers of blatant lies.”

But the penguin was unmoved. “I wear a suit, but I cannot fly.”

“Fraud, we say! Change these stars or we will torment you. We can force your hand, lay your career to waste; you must move the stars, or do you challenge us?”

The penguin laughed and replied, “Silly wave, I was president once.”

Churn away the floating iceberg and continue forever the sloshing tides.

But it was not his place. They could never believe him, they wanted freedom.—whose iceberg is flat and eroded.

The great penguin shook his head and wept to read the weather.

“A duck has an excuse, but not I;

And I come to save them, the waters, so vindictive—since I realize that they’re at their own peril they are wroth to listen to me when I tell them that the cold fronts they create do still make hurricanes—which never do they cease, but now who takes the blame?”

The penguin no longer watched the sky. Instead, he fasted atop the iceberg, waiting to be cremated for his ineptitude in dealing with a stubborn sea.

BUT NO! He couldn’t have done better.

How could he be expected to regulate a population who’s primary concern is that of removing him?

Melt the iceberg to loose the penguin and hold your breath forever.

He wept bitterly through eyes which had hardened into graying marble slits, unseeing beyond the walls he had built around him to keep out the meaningless movements of the hateful sea. They wouldn’t make a fool of him again. It was their world now; while it lasted, he was free.

By Dane Mutters, 2000

Celestial Innovations, Inc.


I wrote this during my first semester in college.  Same horrible creative writing teacher as previously mentioned.  She hated it, of course.  😀

Celestial Innovations, Inc.

Sam was bored. So bored, in fact, that he was lethargic. Bored because he was lethargic, all stemming from his boss’ quaint request to “Build up a universe, Scout.”

“Scout.” He hated that name. His boss thought it was some sign of camaraderie to make up pet names for all his employees. Bill was “Clown.” James was “Duder.” They all put up with it because it kept the boss in a good mood—The boss of Celestial Innovations, Inc.

“What a neat job,” he thought when he was hired. “Where else can you build your very own moon?” That went on for the first week, when he was still in training for designing craterscapes. Now he built universes. That was a bit trickier.

He couldn’t simply tell the computer what he wanted it to look like, what kind of textures to put on it, and render it in the Celestial Replicator…It was a universe. A big blob of nothingness, when you think about it—but that’s the trick. You can’t precisely think about something that isn’t really there, and won’t be there even after you create it. It was the idea that counted.

“Be one with the universe, Scout.” That was his boss’ advice. It made him mildly suicidal, but he usually got over it.

He was cursing mildly and swiveling rapidly in his cushy-looking-but-not-really cubical chair. He swiveled when he was upset. If he was also bored he tended to curse mildly in rhythm with the clicking of the smoothly-operating-but-not-really Xerox machine. Good for something, he supposed.

His boss cuffed him on the shoulder. “How’s that universe coming, Scout?”

It wasn’t a question, it was a reminder.

Sam wasn’t ready for this. He hadn’t stopped cursing yet. “Damn good brainstorming, sir—gonna lay a good one.” Stupid machine.

“Keep up the good work, Scout, next Monday’s gonna be a real kicker!” Get on it or you’re fired—this is an important client.

“Like a fly on sh…shoo-fly pie, sir.”

His boss cheerily strode towards the next cubicle.

“Duder!” Sam heard from the next cubicle.

Yes, sir, kick ‘em in the client, sir.

He munched a Twinkie. They always helped him be one with the universe. There must be something deeply spiritual in those layers of synthetic starch and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. It was as if with every bite he was biting into a heavily seasoned—

BUG!

He impulsively leaned over and blew a sizely piece of Twinkie into the paper basket. The back legs were still wiggling. Must have been a cockroach—only a cockroach could survive inside a Twinkie.

After a bit more spitting and cursing he returned to his blank monitor. The computer had booted up and was ready for him to input his basic concept for the universe. He was mildly excited about trying out the latest version of Headspace.

The latest innovation was for the program to immediately put the computer into power saving mode while you thought up the basic concept. He hadn’t expected that. Go Microsoft.

“Basic universe, no specific purpose. Capable of containing planets, stars, solar systems, galaxies, but currently does not.” (Planets, stars, solar systems and galaxies are an extra charge.) “Age: one trillion years. Size, four-thirds pi fifteen zillion light years cubed. Linear travel speed: 25 times diameter per second. Four-dimensional—standard settings.” That oughtta give it something to complain about. Much to his dismay, the monitor only stared back at him blankly. He shrugged.

Now was the tricky part. What was this universe to become? How long would that take? Was it moral to decide it? What was moral in that universe? Would people obey those morals? He proceeded to dig the project request form out of his lunch box. It would make a good napkin—it wasn’t a carbon copy.

To create a strictly moral universe capable of recreating itself in the event of collapse, overexpansion, or any other ill effects pertaining to old age.

That was the gist of it. The rest was the kind of corporate mumbo-jumbo that keeps lawyers employed.

By moral, they probably meant something to the extent of protecting the young and helpless, not stealing, killing, giving to the needy—all the usual Christian stuff. That ought to be easy.

“Morality.” The screen blinked on. “New Testament values, strictly obeyed. Complete reproduction as needed, brief pupation.” The program ignored the error in syntax and proceeded to display his requests. It was about time somebody made a program for language-deficient techies.

Sam spent the next couple days setting up probabilities. He put a time flow hub at the center just for kicks. The computer handled all the mathematics.

Replicate.

The machine whirred into action, opening an inter-dimensional portal to the new universe. It was done in five minutes.

Five minutes?!

The last one he made took almost a week to replicate. Something wasn’t right.

“Replicate miniature, .75 inch diameter. Present space.”

The machine started up and instantly replicated a scale model of the universe. Sam’s instructions popped up on the screen. A wasp flew out of the replicator and landed on his shoulder.

“SHIT!” he screamed and began spinning violently in his chair, in hopes of losing the troublesome insect. The wasp didn’t move. After a minute or so of this, Sam stopped spinning and stared at the crowd that had gathered to watch the spectacle. His boss elbowed his way to the front.

“Sam!”

Uh-oh.

“What is the meaning of this? Have you lost your mind?”

“Technical difficulties, sir, it’s all under control.”

His boss looked angrily around the cubical. It looked all right. The crowd was breaking up.

“Stay focused, Scout.”

That was all. He sat dazed in his reclinable-but-not-really cubicle chair. What a horrible time for a buggy program. Sam winced and then laughed.

Why not? It met all the requirements—“To create a strictly moral universe capable of recreating itself in the event of collapse, overexpansion, or any other ill effects pertaining to old age.”

A wasp would reproduce, it would protect its young, it had no problem with community housing…The boss isn’t going to like this, but how’s he going to know—he only needs to see the specifications, anyway. Besides, it was his wasp. He was in complete control of what it did.

He turned his head to see the wasp. It was crawling up his neck. It would be better not to let the boss see the evidence of his mistake. He picked up a newspaper and rolled it up. The wasp was sitting still just under his chin. Just one quick whack…

Whiff! The wasp stung him and flew away. Sam cursed loudly and gripped at his neck. It was swelling rapidly. As he went to the restroom to wash it off, he realized his universe simply wouldn’t do. It was dangerous. No other time, in the history of Celestial Innovations, Inc., had anybody’s creation ever backfired like this. What was he going to do? Destroying a brand new universe wasn’t generally a big deal, just as long as it wasn’t inhabited; but a living one…?

That was unthinkable. But neither could he give it to some client. He would have to hide it somehow. That wouldn’t be too hard—he could simply delete the coordinates from the mainframe—he had access to most files pertaining to his creations. His boss wouldn’t have to know.

But the program said it would replicate. Then what? He couldn’t remove that part without destroying the entire universe—it was in the imperatives. He would have to let it go.

Let go of his creation. He realized, almost abruptly, that he could not own a living universe. Besides, he’d never be able to hide it from the IRS. He only hoped that he could leave it something to remember him by. He could be its mentor.

He sat on the counter and tried to come up with some way of showing his presence in that universe—he wanted it to have purpose, unlike the one he lived in. He wanted only to create something beautiful to listen to, watch, love—it was his universe, but it could never belong to anybody—it had to have a free will—it had to act of its own volition—it wasn’t just a universe, it was his creation, and he would leave it a gift.

Sam returned to his cubicle, his head burning with joy. He sat down at his computer and ran the program. Yes, this was what he wanted. He pressed his lips to the microphone and spoke shakily.

“To present universe, add.” He swallowed deeply. He had to get this right.

“Love.”

By Dane Mutters, 2000.

Uneventful Day


Since everyone seemed to enjoy my other creative writing posts so much, I’m going to post some of my short stories over the next few days.

This one is my favorite of the bunch (though you might like another one better).  It’s humorous and hopeful, and heavily inspired by the (farcical) work of Douglas Adams (whose Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency I’d recently read).  I wrote it when I was 17, in Junior-grade English class.  Initially, we’d been given a pretty dull assignment, so I decided to cheekily recycle some other assignment that I’d done years before.  As it so happens (and as it rarely did, when I set out to be mischievous with my classwork), the teacher caught on and made me re-do the assignment, forcing me to actually put effort into it.  This resulted in the story below.  (Yes, she was right, for a change.)  😉

Unexpectedly, the teacher then suggested that I submit this to the youth writing competition that was being held by the local Rotary Club at the time.  I’ve never really been interested in competitions of any sort, but since I had a bit of a crush on a very “preppy” girl who was rather used to winning things–and who was entering that competition (of course)–I decided to enter the competition, and win (if possible)–mostly to annoy her.  This story did, in fact, win, and I got to read it in Barnes and Nobles, plus I got a $50 gift card to the same.  (I don’t think girl ever got the joke, but she did look properly sullen at the award ceremony where I read my story.)

This version has very little alteration from the one submitted, with the exception of minor punctuation tweaks and a correction related the the life-cycle of a flea (don’t worry, the original joke is basically intact).

Uneventful Day

He sat in his office building going through paper work. He did this every day; the same old numbers, the same old requests. He was tired of it. He leaned back in his chair and looked out the window, down 34 stories onto the large green field on which the whole building stood.

“Nothing ever happens around here,” he thought.

A bird flew by his window. It was a pigeon from the city not 20 miles from here, and with it was its mate. They banked steadily away from the window and glided smoothly down, flapping their wings in unison, and watching the grass gain detail as they approached it. They pumped their tails and came up slightly so that they could see the whole countryside. It truly was a beautiful countryside. They went left on the pleasant airy plain and flew boldly over a gray sleeping cat. They fluttered off towards the ville.

The cat heard its name. Everyday, somebody called it, not because it had a master, for it was a stray who enjoyed basking in the mid-afternoon sun, but because for some reason—perhaps its coy yet nonchalant scruffiness—people were drawn to it.

“Kitty, kitty!” cried the young girl exuberantly as she began running toward the nestling feline. “Kitty!” The cat looked up indifferently as the young girl plummeted toward it. It was still deciding if it should worry. No, not this time.

“Mommy! Aaaaa…aaa…” A woman in her thirties with dark hair trotted over.

“I told you not to run on rough ground like this! Now look what you’ve done to your knee! Oh, let me see…” she peered fumblingly into her purse, “Is there any Kleenex in here? Here’s a band-aide.”

“It hurts! Mommy, it hurts! Owwwmmm-mmm-mmmm…” She was now lying on her right side, clutching at her left knee, which was only mildly scratched, but looked a bit awful with all the mud on it. Her new blue dress was going to have to be washed.

“We’ll have to get that cleaned off; you don’t want to get any germs in it, do you?” But for the germs, it was a different matter.

One particular bacterium was panic-stricken over its sudden displacement. It was no longer contently wading through an abundance of newly decomposed grass, but was now caked in some manner of iron-rich gel, and things weren’t getting any better. It had been squirming to break free of this plasmatic goo with only minimal success. Its food supply looked like it would hold out, but something was eating through its cell wall, and this made things very uncomfortable, indeed. It was beginning to worry about whether or not it was going to complete all of its biological imperatives or if it was simply going to end up on some foreign surface as no more than a small pile of denatured protein particles. Things didn’t look good at all.

Just then, it was enveloped in water and sent tumbling down in a thick stream of muddy liquid. It landed with a splash in a vast ocean and began to slowly bob back up to the surface. By now, many of its organelles had stopped functioning, but it probably would have recovered if it wasn’t at that moment lapped up by some larger creature and digested in acid.

The dog wagged its tail. It was in a good mood today because it was finally being allowed to go for a walk. It wagged its tail some more and began to pull at the collar, signaling that it was time to get moving again. Its master, however had other ideas. He was sitting, looking quite relaxed on the park bench, with a clump of old newspapers held close to his face. He pulled firmly on the leash with his age-spotted hand.

“Settle-down, Peaches.” The dog whined a bit and plopped down on the ground. Suddenly it felt an itch near its shoulder and scratched it with its hind leg. It yelped because it had scratched too hard, and proceeded to try and lick the spot, which only served to make the itch worse. The dog wanted to go home.

As the flea bit, she didn’t consume much because she was sad. She had spent a lot of time lately contemplating her purpose in life, and today had come to the conclusion that it was simply to reproduce and bite whatever it was that she was standing on. What made it even more depressed was the fact that she didn’t have a mate. Mind you, she didn’t need a mate just yet, and would surely survive waiting an hour or two to get one; but the flea found it awkward to be alone, and even more awkward to be with other fleas, being that some of them already had mates. She rubbed her head sorrowfully on the base of a nearby stalk of fuzzy white hair, and in frustration bit deep into the dog.

Under the flea, under the dog, a groundhog burrowed diligently. He had no idea about why he was burrowing, but thought it to be a good idea anyway, and if he was going to be doing something, he figured that he had best do it diligently. So he scratched feverishly at the wet soil, making a long trail of uprooted roots and shredded worms. He made extra sure every few minutes or so to trek all the way back to the surface and deposit the castaway dirt so as not to bury himself without knowing it. His tunnel was growing quite big. Every now and then, he would pluck out a large root and taste it. Some were quite bitter, but others tasted nicely and he made a habit of devouring those completely.

He was starting to get tired, but still wanted to finish his tunnel. Every day he made a new tunnel so that he wouldn’t have to go back and repair an old one, and this day was no different. But now he was starting to feel the pull on his eyelids, and thought that after this one was done, he would have to go to sleep. He had no real idea of when a tunnel was done, just that at that point it was time to go to sleep. But as he was pondering over these things, something odd struck him… It was metal and it got him right in the head. He wasn’t sure what to do about it, so he stopped and thought a bit. The act of thinking made him very tired and he fell asleep.

This particular metal object just happened to be a ground post for the office building, and this particular ground post just happened to lead directly to the office block on the 34th floor. It ran up through the brick and drywall and stucco and branched out into many wires at various points in the elevator shaft. One of these wires served as a surge protector, which unfortunately wasn’t doing its job because it had been severed last week by a nail driven into the wall to support a picture frame containing an indiscernible scribble of modern art. The man stared at this, hoping finally to figure out what it was, and perhaps remember why he had spent thirty dollars on it. He scratched his head with the worn down eraser-side of a dull yellow pencil.

“Nothing ever happens around here,” he thought to himself.

By Dane Mutters 1999

Thank You


One more.  I also composed this one in college.  The sentiments expressed herein aren’t ones I’m permitted to feel often, but they’re nonetheless valid, and worthy of the wish to feel them more often.

Thank You

Monday morning, an alarm clock buzzes loudly in my ear.
Monday morning, my dream suddenly vanishes.
Monday morning, my fingers grope for the button.
Monday morning, I push the button and the alarm clock ceases.
I drift off to sleep.

Monday morning, my alarm clock buzzes its disapproval.
Monday morning, my dream suddenly vanishes.
In the cold, I count the hours of sleep.
Monday morning, my fingers grope for the button.
Monday morning, I push the button and my alarm clock ceases.
I drift off to sleep.

Monday morning, my alarm clock buzzes.
Monday morning, I press the button on my alarm clock.
Monday morning, sleep dust scratches my eyeballs.
Monday morning, I rustle the covers and turn on some music.
Monday morning, I sit in bed with my eyes closed.
Monday morning, I wrestle with the decision to get up.

My alarm clock sounds.

Monday morning, I rub the dust away.
I open my eyes.
Monday morning, I am amazed–

When I know the glory of the Creator
as he paints onto the world
yet another beautiful day.

Monday morning, I stretch the tiredness from my muscles.
Monday morning, the sky is blue and the grass is growing.
Monday morning, white flowers have appeared on the oleander bush.
Mist has adorned the wolf spider webs.
Monday morning, the trees spread their leaves for the pleasure of our eyes.
Birds flutter to and fro, shaking the mosaic branches.

Monday morning, a train glides by, greeting the neighborhood.
Monday morning, the house next door is white and tan.
Monday morning, cool air stirs my room from the open window.
The city is breathing in long easy gasps.

Monday morning, I remember the beautiful music of yesterday.
I remember the harmonies of the choir.
Monday morning, I remember the covenants I’ve made.
I remember the rewards of doing good work.
Monday morning, I think of the lessons I’m here to learn.

Monday morning, I rejoice to be on Earth.

Servitude


Seventh and (for now) final in the series.  I never actually gave this poem a title.  I wrote it in high school, drawing inspiration from a scene I saw while sitting at a coffee shop’s outdoor table in Downtown Chico (back when I drank coffee).  It’s not as “sophisticated-sounding” as some of my other poems might be (well, I can hope), but it happens to be one of my favorites.

 

He sits outside the coffee shop,
Watching passengers in strange vehicles go by.
This is his peace.

He glances back, hearing a strange noise.
He still wears his apron
Because he never knows who the next customer will be.
He goes on watching.

He is void to his own thoughts.
He knows only his work and the street.

Loneliness.
Servitude.
Drifting.
Today,
He awaits tomorrow,
It continues.
This is his life.

Others have been here before him.
Others have served before him.
He knows not that the servant is highest,
Yet…he knows servitude.

His day is lit by the helping of others.

Someday a new job,
A new place.
Some fortune awaits him.

A day goes by,
Two years go by,
A new job, new life.

When he is there,
He’ll know what he had.
Until then, he waits.