Friday, June 25, 2010


Coda: A Play in One Act

(a post vaguely in the style of Acephalous *)

[A MAN and A WOMAN are at the science fiction section of a Barnes & Noble. A MAN is 45-ish and is dressed in the drabbest possible outfit of undecorated T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers, A WOMAN is apparently in her 50s and is in a dress and sandals. They have just done that strange social interaction in which two people who don't know each other happen to slowly walk through the section, peering at the titles, more or less at the same speed and in the same direction. Although they are 3/4 of the way through, neither of them is holding a book.]

A MAN: Whoever's been buying science fiction for this store hasn't been doing a very good job.

A WOMAN: [looks displeased, makes hand motion to encompass shelves] Yes. It's ... too many vampires. There shouldn't be so many things with vampires, you know?
There should be, well, real SF... I like Neil Stephenson.

A MAN: [slightly encouraged] You know who you might like? Adam Roberts. He's a British writer. He's pretty good ... um, his day job is as an English professor. So, you know, he knows how to write. **

A WOMAN: [nods] Robert Adams you said?

A MAN: Adam Roberts.


[A MAN realizes that this Barnes & Noble has no books by Adam Roberts.]

A WOMAN: Robert Jordan. I really, really like Robert Jordan.

A MAN: Mmm-hmm!

[Both turn back to the shelves. Boggled, A MAN covertly glances to see if a liking for Robert Jordan means that she's wearing anything that might indicate that she likes to be spanked. She's leaning forward to see the books with her hands behind her waist, wearing many fake-gold bracelets. Hmm.]

* If this really were an Acephalous post, it would be better written and would include not only a claim that this really happened, but would also be followed by a claim that there is some kind of ill-defined documentary evidence that it really happened. This did really happen, although I of course have no documentary evidence.

** I am fully aware that being an English professor does not mean that one knows how to write.


  1. Your Barnes and Nobles has no Adam Roberts? For shame, Rich. If you request they shelve one of his books, they'll order all the others. That's real money for him, which you've denied by passively looking for his books.

    As for me and evidence, well, at this point, if you don't believe what happens to me happens to me, I'm probably a lost cause, as you've been there for it all.

    (And you've missed a bit, as you're not on Facebook, which is where most of the drama unfolds now, as I'm trying to ... well, needless to say, I've was nearly arrested for beating down a body-builder last week, and that's all I'll say.)

    (And yes, I do, of course, have evidence. That's what separates me from the fabulists, after all: if you search out my publicly available records, you'll see that I'm not making shit up.)

  2. Oh, I believe that it actually happens; I don't believe that you're a fabulist. I just still think that it's amusing that you always insist that you have evidence. I mean, is anyone really going to search out your publicly available records? Or if they do, what would they find, exactly? I mean, if I tried to confirm that you were nearly arrested for beating down a body-builder, where would I look? The "nearly arrested" records? Maybe there's a police blotter column somewhere with "An altercation occurred at (address) in which etc. etc.", but how would I possibly verify that one of the un-named altercators was you, even if I could recognize the altercation?

    It's just sort of funny. I mean, yes, I believe that the stories are more or less truthful given a minor fudge factor, but I don't believe that anyone has successfully verified one of them, or even could.

  3. I mean, if I tried to confirm that you were nearly arrested for beating down a body-builder, where would I look? The "nearly arrested" records?

    Actually, that's one of the things I taught my students how to do in LJ 20. All of that ends up in the blotter, even if it ends up, as mine did, with the Hot Cop looking at me, remembering what the guy who was charging me assault looked like, and decided to give him a talking-to instead of arresting me. It's all in that blotter. That's where some of the best stories come from. ("He says, pretending he's still teaching literary journalism.")

    If there is a minor fudge factor---and there is, of course---it's the same one that "mars" every account of actual events: the language's is cleaned up, the "ums" and "ahs" eliminated (unless they provide vital pauses, for effect). Which, of course, I'll readily admit to doing. Because, in the end, at least with me, the improbable events matter more than the rearticulations of them...

    ...but I'm hijacking your post, and will stop now.

  4. Hijacking the post from the hordes of other commenters? Only like four people read these things anyways.

    Let's say that I did look in the blotter, and found a story corresponding to this beat-down. How would I know that you didn't read the blotter and then think something like "Hey, there's a good story. Maybe I'll re-tell it on my blog as if it happened to me"? Not that I think that you did, I'll hasten to add. I suppose the next step would be to verify that you could have been there at that time, perhaps even to interview the cop, etc. In theory, this is all checkable.

    But why would anyone bother? To really verify the story, one would have to approach detective-like or at least reporter-like levels of inquiry. And this would be done ... why? By whom? There is nothing really riding on it. Or rather, you have an understandable desire to not have people thinking that you're a fabulist, but the mention of unspecified physical evidence really does nothing to forward that. Even specified physical evidence really wouldn't -- I remember the chain letters that used to quote a section of postal code that supposedly said that chain letters were legal, and of course the code said the opposite but that didn't matter because no one would bother to check it.

    So I think of the "I have evidence" thing as a sort of nervous tic, mildly funny as long as you don't get carried away with it. Yes, I believe you. But saying that you have evidence is sort of similar to the way that I say that I'm a poet. I am, but ... what's someone going to do? Evaluate my stuff to see whether it qualifies?