Trigger Snowflake and the Catchy Thing

By Ingvar: “Trigger, darling?”, said Coraline. “I just saw a really interesting, and disturbing, letter-of-comment.”

“Hm?”

“It’s from this Sean Massdriver, he’s on one of those terminator-chasing cities on Mercury.”

“You mean the ones on rails? Just on the night-side, keeping track with Mercurian dusk?”

“Yes, one of those. He’s writing about this new disease that’s starting to pop up in one of the other terminator cities, Yannis. It’s apparently already killed several people and seems to have just popped up from nowhere.”

“Oh, that doesn’t sound good. Do we know anything else?”

“Not at this time, we don’t, no. I’m heading over to the Emporium, to meet Barbara. I’ll be back in an hour or so.”

Trigger was still busy reading the latest legal updates as Coraline closed her reader and headed downstairs. He’d just reached an interesting update on profiteering as the door closed.

#

Barbara Dimatis was in the back office, looking through a combination of news feeds, literary magazines, and the order book for the Emporium. Presumably, there was a pattern to how she did this, but for an external observer, it would have looked random.

She was just finishing a most interesting letter-of-comment from a Sean Massdriver when she heard, faintly, her name being mentioned out by the counter. She stopped and listened. Yes, it was definitely Coraline, what a pleasant surprise.

“Are you sure Barbara is busy? It’s important I get to speak to her?”

“Well, Mrs. Snowflake, she said she’d be busy with some office work, and not to be disturbed.”

“Oh. In that case, can I have the House roast, drip, a quarter spoon of sugar, and maybe a Vienna on the side?”

Barbara stepped out from the office door. “Make that twice, Angelique, dear. I will join Mrs Snowflake for refreshments.”

“Barbara! Have you seen….”

“I think I have, Coraline. Would you join me in the office?”

The two friends sat down at the small table in the corner of the Coffee Emporium’s rather large office, nicely decked out with a white linen cloth and small, fragile-looking lace placemats.

“So, you’ve seen the Mssdriver LoC, Coraline?”

“I have indeed. And I am troubled. If what he writes is real, we have a new disease on our hands, and no one will be immune.”

“It is on Mercury, though.”

“True, but people travel from Mercury all the time, even if it is deep in the Sun’s gravity well. And we have no idea what incubation times look like.”

“No, I think the best we can hope for now is that no one is infectious before symptoms show, and stop being infectious before the symptoms go away.”

“We should be so lucky. Well, if it looks like it’s a new sysdemic, I will do what I can to keep Fort Corallium safe. I will talk to darling Trigger. And you, Barbara, should consider closing the Emporium down for over-the-counter business. This is very much a place where everyone meets, and if the new disease is sturdy on hard surfaces, this could become the one place that infects our whole delightful town.”

“I will take that under consideration. If nothing else, we could expand the delivery business.”

With that, the coffee was finished, and the two pastries eaten. Coraline brushed the few remaining crumbs off the table into her hand and deposited the detritus in Barbara’s waste basket.

“It was delightful, Barbara, to talk to you, even if the subject matter leaves something to wish for.”

“Likewise, Coraline. Don’t be a stranger. Take care of Sheriff Snowflake for us, will you?”

#

Trigger was walking down Main Street, nodding a quick “hello” to people as he passed. It was a beautiful day, the sun a small, bright star on the horizon, and the gas giant bright and bold, covering a substantial portion of the sky.

Such a day really demanded a good cuppa, and a grilled synthecheese. His feet quickened by the thought, Trigger sped up somewhat, as he headed for the Coffee Emporium.

“Sheriff Snowflake!” Barbara said as he entered. “Welcome. The usual?”

“Thank you, Ms Dimatis, if you would?”

“Say, Sheriff, would you feel horribly imposed on, if I were to give you a second synthecheese, on the house?”

“Is this an attempt to curry favour from a lawman?”

“No, Sheriff, I have been tracking the progress of SoVID-59, and I have taken the decision that the Emporium will close its doors to walk-in customers, when we close for the day. And, so, I am trying to empty the cupboard of perishables. As well as leaving our loyal customers with a happy feeling that we here at the Emporium are trying to do the right thing.”

“Sous Vide? Isn’t that a cooking technique? What does that have to do with…”

“Have you not heard, Sheriff? The new Mercurian flu. It’s caused by the Solaris virus.”

“Ah, Solaris-virus. I’ve heard of that. It’s that thing that started in a Mercurian terminator-town, by someone having illicit contact with Mercurian soil in the market, no?”

“No, Sheriff, we don’t actually know how it started. But we do know that the first cases were in Yannis.”

“Oh, this is the thing Coraline talked about a couple of weeks ago. I remember now. So, what does that have to do with sous vide?”

“Not sous vide. SoVID. ‘Solaris Virus Infectious Disease – 2359’. It’s spread at least as far as Mars now, and I think the most responsible thing I can do now is to shut down and prepare for what’s coming. You may want to alert our shop keepers that they should limit essentials to only a few items per customer. If I am extrapolating the numbers correctly, we will hear something official in the next few days.”

“I will do that, Ms Dimatis, I will do that.”

In silence and contemplation, Trigger finished his coffee and grilled synthecheese. With the bill paid, he left the Emporium, to pass the information he’d been given o the shopkeepers of Fort Corallium.

#

Trigger had just finished his breakfast, when his teleprinter beeped. It only did this for incoming priority communication from Law Inc. Headquarters. He headed down to his office, plucked the still-warm sheet from the output hopper and rapidly read the text.

“Coraline, dear! Looks like Fort Corallium has been put on Antisocial Distance, it’s come.”

“Told you! Good thing that Barbara closed down the Emporium two days ago, should put us in a better situation to weather this. I guess this means no patrolling Main Street?”

“On the contrary, I am to double the frequency, and ensure that no one is within spitting distance of anyone else.”

“Poor, beloved Trigger! I know how much the friendly conversations and gatherings in our town mean to you. But, in this time of infectious disease, we all have to do what we can to curb the spreading!”

“Right as always, beloved. Right as always.”

Trigger put on a pair of vinyl gloves, and set out for his morning stroll up and down Main Street. The street was emptier than normal, but up ahead, he saw a small group of people gathered outside the General Store.

“Citizens! I must ask you to stand further apart. You can still form an orderly queue, but please keep a distance of at least 1800 millimetres between you. This is to stop the spreading of the Solaris virus!”

The crowd slowly expanded, to comply with what the lawman had just said.

“Thank you, Sheriff Snowflake” said Joseph Lilyberg. “This new Antisocial Distance has us all confused. We’re all quite social, at heart you see.”

“I know, Lilyberg, I know. I would say go with it for now. You can be close to your family at home. But, please keep your distance in public. And do NOT try any panic-buying, because I would be unhappy having to arrest you. And then I would need to deep-clean the cell, which is really rather annoying. Take care, now.”

#

Several months later, the doors of the Coffee Emporium burst open and Barbara Dimatis stepped outside, bull-horn in hand.

“The medical authorities have declared the crisis over. I have spoken to Sheriff Snowflake, and the Antisocial Distance decree has been cancelled. Your first cuppa is ON THE HOUSE! And we have fresh pastries. Welcome all!”

Trigger Snowflake and the Prize

By Ingvar: Trigger walked into the Coffee Emporium, looking forward to an excellent cup of coffee and a delicious grilled synthecheese. What he actually saw was his wife, Coraline Snowflake, more or less dancing around with Barbara Dimatis, whooping with what sounded for all in the world like joy.

He stopped a few steps inside, staring wordlessly at the scene in front of him. A few seconds later. Barbara and Coraline stopped, turned to Trigger and laughed.

“Oh, darling Trigger, Barbara has given me the best of news, POAOU is a finalist for the Best Services prize! This is huge!”

“Beloved Coraline, what prize? And what’s POAOU?”

“Oh, I sometimes forget that you are not as deeply interested in literature, poetry, song and the arts as I am. You remember when we helped Kochs with the Separable Rock? Well, Best Services is handed out by the same organization and at the same ceremony. It’s the prize for the most valued service or services to literature in the previous year. And POAOU is a finalist. This is huge!”

“I am still not sure what POAOU means?” said Trigger.

“Let me explain”, said Barbara, “POAOU is a collective that writes adjacent poetry, reinterprets literature and extends songs. It is a collective of artists from various backgrounds, and they’ve gathered under the name of ‘the Poetry Of All Of Us’, to POAOU for short. And last year, they finally completed their automated context finder, that by automatic means sorts written works into various categories, to give a context in which the work is similar to other things. And that’s huge, and well worth winning Best Services!”

Trigger took a slow, deep breath.

“All of this sounds absolutely exciting. When will we know?”

“Oh,” said Coraline, “the awards will be handed out at SysLiCon in four months.”

“Sheriff Snowflake”, said Barbara, “before I forget, would you like your usual?”

#

Several months later, as the afternoon turned into evening and it was time to shutter the Sheriff’s Office, Coraline walked down from their apartment above the office.

“Trigger, darling, we should watch the telecaster. The Prizes were announced live just a short while ago, and the signal should be arriving just after dinner. We can watch it as live as possible! It will be so exciting!”

“Of course, beloved Coraline. Prizes on the telecaster it is!”

They sat through the first few winners, before the prizes they were most concerned with were coming around.

“And, next, the Separable Stone Award for Most Obvious Slate For The Exploding Star! It was a tough field this year, but our indefatigable panel went through the entire shortlist. Among them, one slate in particular caught their attention. And, without further ado, I present the Separable Stone to Slem ven Pocketry, for his tireless pumping of Venusian Sulphur Poetry! Understandably, he has chosen to not give an acceptance speech, but we will forward the award to his current permanent residence.

“Finally, and with extreme joy, we come to the Prize for Best Service to the Poetic Arts. Again, the field this year was, as always, completive and it was quite hard to decide from the shortlist who was best placed to receive the award. But our illustrious voters managed to crown a winner. And this year’s winner of the Systems Literature Convention for Best Services Award is… The Poetry Of All Of Us! Accepting the prize on the collective’s behalf is Natalia Newbay. Natalia?”

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! It is with great joy I am standing here. I have been part of the POAOU since about a month before the collective was formally convened. I think what POAOU do is brilliant. And I am so, so happy that the SysLiCon membership have graciously agreed that POAOU is worthy of the Best Services award. Naturally, I am not POAOU, since it is, indeed, the collective all of us. But I doubt I fail to speak for any of us, when I say ‘Thank you!'”

“And, with that, our final prize for the evening has been awarded. What remains is simply saying thank you to the SysLiCon committee, without whom we would not be here. And a big thank you to all attending and supporting SysLiCon members, without whom we would not know what we would’ve done in the ceremony that is now coming to an end. I have been your host, Ioannis Ruste.”

Coraline turned to Trigger, “POAOU won!”. Trigger was not entire sure what to say, when there was suddenly a sharp knocking on the front door.

“Beloved Coraline, here’s someone knocking on the door. I need to answer it, in case it is urgent.”

Trigger hurried down the stairs. Not quite a run, but definitely fast-stepping down the stairs. He unlocked the three locks, and lifted the bar blocking the door.

“Just about to open! Please refrain from knocking, so you don’t hit a lawman!”, he shouted, just as he pulled the door open. Standing on the porch outside, Barbara Dimatis was actually bouncing up and down, squealing with delight.

“Did you hear? Did you hear? POAOU won! I must speak to Coraline, at once! It is so exciting!”

“She’s upstairs, please come in.”

#

Olaus Frond woke up, and checked the announcements from yesterday. The Prize for best Services to Literature had been announced inconveniently late, after Olaus’ accustomed bedtime. But that meant he could break fast and take part of the news at the same time.

Mr Frond was a long-time contributor to, and member of, the Poetry Of All Of Us, and he had hopes, nay a strong wish, that POAOU had indeed managed to take home the prize. It would be an unprecedented first, as he was sure that the literature world at large sneered at POAOU and their mission of bringing, extending, explaining, and exploring context in literature was childish and foolish. Well, at least that is what many said, and he had no wrong reason to doubt it. It was a well-known fact after all.

He started on his toast, with mild cheese and the best synthetic Martian orange marmalade. Just a thin smear, enough to bring some citrus to the cheese, but not so much that it was overpowering. Then he brought up the news from yestereve.

“We won!”, he thought. “We actually did it! This is a system first. I must immediately write a letter of comment!”

The Poetry Of All Of Us – an unprecedented victory

By Flapping-in-the-wind Leaves

Yesterday, we saw something wonderful. Together, we have pulled off something unprecedented. Together, we have made the Poetry Of All Of Us into a prize-winning literature collective. This is something that none of would have dared dream of, only a decade ago. But, by our collective expertise, effort and guidance, we have created a context-extraction machine of unheralded power. It is only because of all of us that we have achieved this. So, say together with me, sisters, brothers, siblings. We won! We have done it! We made the Poetry Of All Of Us what it is. Rejoice!

#

As Trigger entered the Coffee Emporium, Barbara Dimatis came up to him.

“See, Sheriff Snowflake, they’re still at it!”

Trigger hummed non-committaly, as Barbara places a print-out in front of him. He scanned the plastisheet.

Why POAOU’s win is important

– Godrune Schutler

Today, I woke up to the news that I am 0.0000435% of a winner of the Exploding Star Prize for Best Services. This is clearly something to celebrate! I will do this by spending 0.0000435% of the year crowing my win to the skies, and maybe have 100% of a glass of Champagne. I hope everyone else who is also a partial winner will join me in celebrating our new, exalted, status with the seriousness that it requires.

Trigger put he sheet down.

“Miss Dimatis, I fear you are over-reacting. This is clearly someone writing in jest and there is no way you can consider this a smear on the dignity of the Exploding star?”

“But! They’re joking. About the Exploding Star!”

“Which, surely, is allowed. Do you not remember that Martine E. E. George hosts a Brown Dwarf party for everyone who was a finalist, but did not win? Is that not poking fun at the Exploding Star? It definitely feels as if this super-small fraction joke is merely in the same vein. To me, at least.”

“But! The dignity of the…”

“Brown Dwarf party. This is clearly no different. Dear Miss Dimatis I beg you to stop trying to find outrage in everything people of the POAOU do.”

#

Charles Tayroth woke up, head spinning. Only yesterday, it had been announced that his context-extension had won the SysLiCon prize for best. It would certainly not have happened unless for him. It was time, therefore, to shout his victory from the rooftop. Or, at least, updating his social media profiles, all over the place.

First, time to put an update on ShortCom, the interplanetary service for extremely short letters-of-comments. Only 140 code points allowed.

“@TheRealTayroth: Yesterday, I earned my first well-deserved SysLiCon Prize for Best Services. I am the best.”

Then, time to update his profile.

“@TheRealTayroth – Business man, leader, master of the shuffle – Exploding Star Winner”

Almost done. What was that? Someone complaining about Charles talking about his well-earned victory?

“@TheRealTayroth: Did too! POAOU would not have won without me. I *am* a winner. So there!”

Nothing would spoil this glorious day, it was truly time to bask in the glory of being a winner. It was probably time to jazz up a lapel pin, a tie clip and possibly an embroidered linen shirt, proclaiming “Charles Tayroth – Winner”, over the Exploding Star logo. And, maybe, in white, on a stylish, brightly coloured fedora.

#

Almost a week into the win, and Barbara Dimatis was almost regretting that POAOU had won. Too many people were simply not taking the orbit-shattering newness of POAOU’s win with the seriousness that it should earn. Was it not enough to say “we, the collective, won”? Must it always be turned into the personal? Or the comedic? Sure, in the most technical sense possible, she was herself a 0.000003017% of a prize winner, but why was it not enough to say “POAOU won”?

She would write to the Exploding Star committee and ask them to talk to POAOU’s board, to make sure this all stopped.

Yes, that would be a good thing, with no possible drawbacks.

#

The Poetry Of All Of Us letters-of-comment section had a new post. Unusually, it was from the board. It read:

It has been brought to the board’s attention that some members of POAOU are calling themselves winners of the Best Services to Literature Prize. As a matter of fact, the prize was awarded to POAOU, not to any specific individual. We have been asked, and now ask all of you in turn, to please not drag the POAOU’s glory in the dirt by referring to yourself as a winner of the prize.

Also, please don’t sell merchandise with the prize’s logo in your march stores. It is trademarked, and if you do, people will have to come after you for it.

Sorry to be buzz-kills, we wish we didn’t have to.

— The Board

#

“No, I think you’re cherry-picking data, Barbara”, Coraline said. “I think it’s an extremely small minority that are saying ‘I won’ in all seriousness. Yes, there are many people that have put it in their social media bios, but so far I have only seen one that actually seems to believe it.”

“Who? Ah, TheRealTayroth? Yes, he seems to actually believe it would not have happened without him,” Barbara responded.

“Yes. And looking at who’s been saying things, I think what you’re seeing is a digging-in of metaphorical heels, and a circling of the wagons, as it were, to show collective strength in the face of opposition.”

“But! They’re wrong!”

“No, they’re speaking (or typing) from anger. I think everyone who’s put down an indication of a small percentage of a win, is doing so in surprise that POAOU won, and use this to show pride in the win. Not to actually pull the tail of the prize, as it were.”

“So, a sign of respect?”

“Of sorts. It’s probably also the case that most POAOU members don’t realize how small the voting contingent for the Best Services prize is. There’s, what, 300 million POAOU contributors? And about 4,000 voters. So, they probably do see themselves as the downtrodden minority, because in general they probably only know 10-15 other POAOU contributors personally, so it feels like a small group.”

“That might be true. So you are saying I shouldn’t be angry?”

“No, I am saying that expressing and feeding your anger is not a useful endeavour. And if all of us stop being angry, maybe all of the other us stop being angry as well.”

“Thank you, Coraline. Would you like to come over to the Emporium, for a cuppa on the house?”

Trigger Snowflake and the Imploding Composers

By Ingvar: Trigger walked down the street, looking forward to a quiet morning of a grilled synthecheese and a cup of the new special down at the Coffee Emporium. Hoping nothing untoward would happen, he stepped through the doorway and walked towards his normal table.

“Sheriff Snowflake, welcome. The usual?”

“Thank you. Everything all well with you, Miss Dimatis?”

“As well as can be expected. But I am a little bit worried, it seems as if there’s something odd happening with the Ballad Composers of the System organization. Apparently, they’ve just recently punished Venice Aresian for speaking out against planets behaviors, and stripped her of her membership.”

“Is this something that concerns the law?”

“Not as such. Or, at least not yet. But it will have repercussions for SysLiCon, so I thought I would brief you, in case Coraline takes it up.”

“Forewarned is forearmed. Tell me as I devour your delicious grilled synthecheese.”

Not long after, breakfast was served and Barbara Dimatis sat down across the table from Trigger.

“Now, something with the Ballad Singers?”

“Ballad Composers of the System, BCS for short. This is what we know, at the moment. Seven months ago, Ms Aresian wrote an LoC, calling out Suzette Hitchtale for having badly written a Martian character in a recent ballad of Hitchtale’s. This apparently ended up in a disciplinary complaint to the BCS’s ethics committee.”

“Well, at least they have processes and procedures for this, it seems.”

“This is where it starts taking a turn for the weird. The chair of the ethics committee was Ms Aresian. So the BCS board formed a shadow ethics committee, entry pulled from new members.”

“To avoid bias, I guess?”

“Well, apparently in the past, the ethics committee members have been pretty good at stepping out when bias could have been an issue, so it’s a little bit weird.”

“Fair enough. What else?”

“So, three days ago, the board published a statement, saying that Ms Aresian had been forced out of her position as head of the ethics committee, and from that point was barred from any position of trust in BCS.”

“That seems a bit harsh?”

“Maybe. I haven’t read the full text of the LoC that spurred the whole thing. Maybe it is warranted. Now, worse, it turns out that letters of comment are actually explicitly excluded from the BCS code of conduct. And since she was punished based on a breach of code of conduct, this all seems a bit odd. And, since then, multiple LoCs weighing in on one side or another have been written and published, in a variety of venues.”

“If that’s all, I shall thank you for an excellent grilled synthecheese and the information. I shall see you tomorrow, at the same time.”

After a full day of putting in a presence and patrolling Fort Corallium, Trigger eventually returned home to the Sheriff’s office.

“Beloved Coraline, I am home!”

“Trigger, darling! Have you heard?”

“The BCS thing? Yes, Ms Dimatis saw fit to brief me over morning coffee.”

“There have been developments! Seems as if the decision and support material that the ethics committee based their recommendation to the board on have been expunged! And the liaison between the new ethics committee and the Board is the Chair-Elect of BCS! And the previous Chair just stepped down! And the Chair-Elect is the new Chair!”

“Ooof, that sounds messy. Well, I guess we’ll see what happens.”

#

The next morning, Trigger was about half done with his grilled synthecheese when Barbara walked up to the table.

“New developments! Suzette Hitchtale, as it turns out, was not in a position to file the complaint in the first place. She’s not only a ballad composer, but also runs a company printing note sheets. As such, she’s not allowed, under the BCS rules, to file complaints against composers, but only against other sheet-music publishers.”

“More BCS? What is this, a detergent musical?”

“It certainly seems like it. Have Coraline said anything?”

“I got the same brief, in full, when I got home. With the new developments on the Chair. I think she would be delighted if you give her a call to come down and discuss the BCS Affair with you, here at the Emporium.”

“That sounds like a good idea. Coraline is so lucky to have such a considerate husband. I hope today’s patrolling stays quiet.”

“Now you’ve doomed it, Ms Dimatis.”

“Sorry, Sheriff Snowflake.”

#

Let us delight in our omniscient perspective and zoom not only out, but into the past. We find ourselves in a plush office, on Earth.

“Ms Hitchtale, I suspect you wonder why I invited you here?”

“Yes, Mr Nappa, I do.”

“We have an interest in common. As you are well aware, filthy no-Earthers have inveigled themselves into the very core of the Ballad Composers. Ballads are, as you know, a pure Earth form of poetry, and as such, Martians, Venusians, and other non-pure-Earth stock have no place in our hallowed halls.”

“I am not quite sure I follow, Mr Nappa?”

“Oh, call me Immanuel. I saw that nasty LoC that Aresian wrote last week. And I think this is our opening.”

“I am still not sure I follow, Immanuel? I do agree that what the Martian wrote was totally uncalled-for, and hurtful to boot. But, what does that have to do with you?”

“Ah, I have a master plan. Let me detail it for you. It is very clever and not capable of failing. You see, Aresian is the head of the BCS ethics committee…”

“I am well aware.”

“And, as such, were there to be a complaint filed against her, the existing ethics committee would all be biased.”

“Ah, so we could get a fresh ethics committee under our control in place?”

“Just so. I am also campaigning for the position as Chair-Elect, and as I am running unopposed, I am virtually guaranteed to get it. And I have some contacts in the BCS office, so we can hold up the processing of the complaint until my Chair-Elect position is confirmed.”

“How does this help us?”

“We ensure we get a new emergency ethics committee that’s under our full control. We then make a recommendation to sever Aresian from BCS, rescind her membership and throw her out. This will cause our bleeding-heart Chair to step down, rocketing me into the Chair six months ahead of schedule. We can then drop the horrendous code of conduct and emplace one that forbids speaking out against Earthians, and does not punish talking about off-planetarians.”

“I am starting to see the appeal in this line of thought. And this is a clever scheme indeed.”

“It is very clever, and I have ensured there’s no possible way this could ever come back to us. I will send you my written analysis of the plan, so you can study it at leisure. I think two-three days should be enough? I will know that you have agreed that the plan is infallible by your filing of a complaint.”

“Mr Nappa, it’s been a delight to talk to you. I look forward to a long and fruitful association.”

#

Trigger was slowly sipping his occasional evening tipple of Victory Wishkey, when his slow contemplation of things of legal significance was interrupted.

“Trigger, darling! Have you heard the latest?”

“No, beloved Coraline. What news?”

“It turns out the Chair, Immanuel Nappa is not actually qualified for either the Chair-Elect position, or the Chair. It seems that the Chair and Chair-Elect must have had a ballad printed in the two years preceding their taking office as Chair-Elect, or have a ballad currently under contract with a printer. And it seems that Nappa’s last ballad was printed four years ago, well outside the time limit. Apparently, he had a sworn affidavit from HitchTale’s company that he had a ballad under contract, but his husband swears blind that it is not the case.”

“Curiouser and curiouser. I am actually starting to wonder if this is not starting to encroach on my professional interests.”

“It is quite strange, isn’t it? I am sorry to have disturbed your weekly contemplation. Should I bring the Wishkey bottle, for a quick top-up?”

“No, this is, I think, more a Djinn moment. Maybe even going as far as a Djinn and Bitter Orange. Yes, Djinn and Bitter Orange, dearest.”

“Coming up, darling Small glass or large?”

#

The following morning, as Trigger was making his way to the Coffee Emporium, he was met by an out-of-breath Barbara, running from the Emporium to meet him.

“Trigger! Sorry, I mean Sheriff Snowflake! Have you heard the latest?”

“Now, now, Ms Dimatis. Let us not make a scene in the street. Instead, follow me to the Emporium, where we can discuss this over a cup of your most excellent Purple Granite and a grilled synthecheese. Or, if it is large news, maybe even two?”

“Right as always, Sheriff Snowflake.”

A cup of the latest beans, and a plate with two grilled synthecheese and a side of fresh chives (grown in the small hydroponic plot behind the Emporium, freshly harvested that very morning), Trigger and Barbara were sitting at a table.

“Well, Sheriff Snowflake. You will NOT believe the latest development in the whole BCS thing. It now turns out that most of the board have resigned in protest. And the expunging of the ethics committee report? It’s against process, procedure and policy! Not only that, many planetary chapters of the BCS have filed official requests to have the board forcibly stood down, an emergency election, and for the whole thing to be investigated by the Lunar Tax Office attack auditor squad!”

“Weighty news indeed.”

“The general feeling seems to be that this has all been carefully orchestrated in a vain hope that it would just slide past. I do not understand how they could not have foreseen this result?”

“Now, now, Miss Dimatis. I know that I am more familiar with the minds of ne’er-do-wells, and I hope you never gain that hard-won experience, but this does not actually surprise me at all. They probably simply thought that the bulk of the BCS membership shared their beliefs and thus could not foresee how a more enlightened population would rise up against their bad-will.”

“You are right as always, Sheriff Snowflake.”

#

“Hm”, said Immanuel Nappa to himself. “I should soon be able to cement my absolute power of the Ballad Composers of the System.” He walked slowly from his office door to his desk, gesturing dramatically with his right hand in the air.

“Once my absolute power is in place, I shall look into expanding my domain. I have my eyes set on the Madrigal Writers of All Planets. I feel that ballads and madrigals go together like sunshine and surf. Yes, most probably the Madrigal Writers. And the current campaign against Aresian is progressing well.”

On his desk, his phone started ringing. He lifted the bakelite handset from its resting position.

“The office of Chair  Nappa, Nappa speaking.”

“Immanuel, it’s Suzette. Have you seen the latest?”

“I do not have to consider small trivial things like that, my schemes are progressing apace and according to plan.”

“No, Immanuel, they are not. It seems you have been a bit liberal in interpreting the requirements for your position, and that is now coming home to roost. You need to do something, quick.”

“What do you mean?”

“Did you read the requirements for being Chair? You are at least two ballads short of the composing and publishing requirements.”

“Ah not to worry, I have a tame printer of sheet music at hand, I will simply have them re-print a few of my old ballads with verses jumbled up and a new interesting title.”

“Oh, that’s clever. It might just work.”

“It is my plan, it is obviously flawless. Was there anything else?”

#

After yet another long day of patrolling Fort Corallium, Trigger returned home to the office. Wearily, he stepped through the front door and walked to his desk. He unstrapped his laser revolver belt, hung it from the hook under the desk and sat down for a few moments of blessed rest.

“Trigger, darling?”

“What, beloved Coraline?”

“It seems that Nappa has stepped down as Chair for the Ballad composers.”

“He’s the one who might not have been qualified?”

“Yes, the very one.”

“Well, I guess he finally saw the writing on the wall.”

“I think the fact that someone started looking into his ballad composing in depth is what did it. Looks like he really didn’t have the proper prerequisites, and for at least one of the things that was listed on his life curriculum actually seems to have been faked by one of his sheet music printers.”

“I guess it is true, what they say. Love songs conquer all!”

Trigger Snowflake and the Secret Guild

By Ingvar:  Timo Tay sat at the short end of the meeting table, looking down at the two lines of Guild members seated before him. He lifted his small wooden mallet.

“As chairbeing. I declare the fourth annual general meeting of the Guild of Copycats and Plagiarists open.”

The mallet thudded onto the small protective butt, rather than the table.

“First item is the financial report for the previous year. Could Miss Cristina Blatante please read the economic report?”

Cristina stood up and cleared her throat. “The Guild received 81,000 Solar Credits in membership dues. The Guild spent 147 Solar Credits for buying off one complainant. The Guild member whose unsubtlety caused the ruckus has been fined 500 Solar Credits. We further spent 40,000 Solar Credits on legal insurance. In total, last year saw a gain in the funds of 41,353 Solar Credits. The Guild has no outstanding debt to service. This concludes the economic report.”

“Thank you, Miss Blatante. Anyone opposed to adding the economic report to the Guild’s archives? Hearing none, the economic report is filed. Next, we need to elect Guild heads for the coming year. The proposal is that Timo Tay is elected as Guild Master; Cristina Blatante is elected as Mistress of Treasure; and, a change, Slem ven Pocketry is elected as Voice to the World, replacing the esteemed Anna min Scortch, who has decided to step down for personal reasons. Anyone opposed to this proposal in bulk?”

A voice rang out from the far end of the table. “Yes!”.

“Having heard an objection to electing in bulk, I will proceed position by position. Anyone opposed to Timo Tay staying on s Guild Master? Hearing no objection, I find myself elected Guild Master. Anyone opposed to Cristina Blatante as Mistress of Treasure? Hearing none, I find Miss blatant re-elected as Mistress of Treasure. Anyone opposed to Slem ven Pocketry being elected as Voice to the World?”

“Yes!” rang out from a single voice.

“Anyone in agreement with electing Slem ven Pocketry as Voice to the World?”

“YES!” rang out from most of the assembly.

“Finding that the voices in agreement vastly outnumber the voices in opposition, I find Slem ven Pocketry elected as Voice to the World.”

“Next, we have a motion to amend the rules of acceptable standards for Guild members. Mr ven Fengsler, if you would be so kind?”

John ven Fengsler stood up and cleared his throat.

“Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I find it still necessary to proceed in front of this august assembly. I have put forward a motion to amend the rules of acceptable behaviour of Guild members. Having perused the Guild archives, I have found that many of our esteemed members have, in the last five years, neither plagiarized nor copied. As the Guild rules stand, this is not required. But my motion purports to make it mandatory to commit at least one plagiarism every three years, for continued membership. With a sunset clause, requiring any member who does have more than three years since the last plagiarism to commit one in the next 18 months, or risk expulsion after investigation by the board. The full text has been duly added to the agenda, and everyone should have a copy. As a side note, the motion is a slightly edited copy from the Performing Works section of the constitution of the Sulphurian Society, so technically counts as a plagiarism.”

“We have heard Member ven Fengsler present his motion, and will now proceed to debate. Debate will start with those opposed, alternating between supporting and opposing, until such a time as we have exhausted one side. Who is first? Ah, proceed, Voice ven Pocketry.”

“I am, as is Member ven Fengsler, part of the Sulphurian movement. I was one of the people arguing for our movement having a similar rule, but I oppose it here. For one simple reason. Sulphuric poetry, song and art is tolerant of mistakes. But, in plagiarism, there can be no margin for error. If you plagiarize unwisely, we would attract the notice of the authorities. And as we heard, even without this policy, in the last year our Guild have spent over 40,000 Solar Credits either to preemptively protect us, or as a direct result of someone having been caught. And for that reason, I am opposed.”

“Very well. Anyone speaking for? Member ven Fengsler has the floor.”

“We are a Guild of plagiarists, for a guild of plagiarists. It is imperative that our members actually practice the trade we propose to regulate and foster. And in plagiarism, as in many things in the world, skills decline if left unused. I have not looked deeply into our member that was caught, but I would not be surprised if the time since last registered plagiarism before unfortunate most recent is more than four years. My research shows that plagiarism skill declines slowly over a period of 20-26 months, then with an accelerated decay from there to 34-40 months, at which point it normally drops below the level we would accept from a competent Guild member. It is for this reason I urge the Meeting to pass this motion and add it to the Laws of our Guild.”

“We are now looking for someone in opposition? No one? That means the floor is open for either opposing or supporting. Ah, Member min Scortch wishes to speak.”

“Beloved Guild members. Member ven Fengsler consulted with me before putting this motion to the Meeting. At that point, I was in favor. But, I must say that Memb, ahem, Voice ven Pocketry have convinced me that this is a cure that is worse than the disease. For that reason, I urge the Meeting to oppose this motion.”

“Well spoken, and clearly against. We are now looking for a speech supporting. No one? Anyone wanting to argue against? Finding none, I will now take votes. Anyone opposed? I see a raised hand. Member Bobbingsley, what is the matter?”

“I call for this Meeting to vote via secret ballot. It is far too divisive a question for open voting.”

“Secret ballot has been called for. Every member should have been given two stones, one white and one teal. In an orderly queue, please walk to the voting table, then deposit your vote into the urn marked ‘Vote’ and your other stone in the urn marked ‘Discard’. If you would like the motion to pass, please deposit a white stone as your vote and if opposed, the teal one.”

The meeting dissolved into a chaos of people moving about, slowly forming into something that looked like a pale imitation of an orderly queue. When people eventually returned to their seats, Chair Tey picked the urn marked “Vote” and spilled it onto the table in from of him.

“I have not yet done a count, but from the look of the pile of voting stones in front of me, I would say that the Ayes have it. I will now proceed to do an accurate count.” A few minutes later, the stones had been separated into one white and one teal pile, the white pile towering over the teal. “Having counted the votes, the Ayes have 48 votes, the Nays have 17. The Ayes carry the vote, and we now have a rule requiring committing at least one plagiarism every three years. As of this moment, all members with more than three years are on an eighteen-month grace period.”

This is the point where we leave the remainder of the annual general meeting of the Guild of Copycats and Plagiarists to wend its own way.

#

Trigger was sitting at the kitchen table, his morning bowl of cereal and syntxemilk in front of him, spoon in hand, chewing the first mouthful of cereal, when he decided something was definitely not as it should be. He wasn’t quite sure what was wrong, but something was. This, this was not normal.

“Beloved Coraline, did we get the right cereal?”, he asked.

“Dearest Trigger, it should be Nutty Neptune Nuggets, as usual”, his wife replied.

“Hmm. Something’s not right, then.”

Trigger stood up and walked to the dry-goods cupboard, opened the doors and looked. He could see the cereal box, and it looked as it should. Wait. No, something was off.

He looked carefully at the package again.

“Beloved Coraline, it seems we have purchased a box of Nütty Neptüne Nüggets?”

Coraline darted out from the bedroom, hair still in disarray from the night. She stopped beside Trigger and looked at the cereal box.

“Why, indeed. This is not Nutty Nuggets, at all. Whyever did this happen? Let me telephone the General Store right now!”

After having dressed, Trigger walked downstairs, to his office.

“Dearest Trigger”, Coraline said, “I have spoken to the store manager and he is as surprised as we are.”

“What I shall do, beloved Coraline, is to walk over and talk to him in person. We know this is not right, and it needs to be investigated.”

Trigger walked through the front doors of Fort Corallium General Store.

“Abner? It’s Trigger. What’s up with the cereal delivery?”

“Well, Sheriff, I have looked at the shipping manifest and we should have received a pallet of Nutty Neptune Nuggets, half a pallet of Sugary Snowflakes, and half a pallet of Maize Crispies. But, looking carefully at the contents, it seems that a full third of the Nutty Nuggets are these… Nütty Nüggets, And all of the Sugary Snowflakes are, instead, some sort of impostor Snowy Sugarflakes, that I have never seen. Most of the Maize Crispies are right, but one out of about ten is a Maze Cruspies packet. I have checked and double-checked, and it just makes no sense.”

Trigger scratched his square, manly jaw with his right hand. Something was afoot, and it was not good game.

“Odd indeed, Abner. Odd indeed.”

#

Slem ven Pocketry sat down in front of the table. On the other side sat Timo Tey, in the middle, flanked by Cristina Blatante and Lena Bobbingsley.

Timo cleared his throat.

“Member ven Pocketry, you have a report?”

“Yes, chairbeing Tey, I have a plagiarism to report. I have successfully infiltrated fake cereal onto the market, at normal market price, at a 55% profit on my initial investments. As a dues-paying Guild member, I wish this to be recorded in our books.”

“Well done. Does any of the other members of the inquisitors panel have any remarks or questions?”

“Member ven Pocketry, could you explain why you chose cereal products for your plagiarism, instead of something more conventional, like books, illustrated magazines, or art?”

“Certainly, member Bobbingsley. It is actually a much higher return on investment. Having previously primarily focused on plagiarizing furniture and sculpture, my profits tended to be in the 5% to 20% range, but in cereal, my initial probing attempt incurred a 40% profit and with some streamlining of my counterfeit production line, I could easily realize the current 55% profit margin. It is thus much more profitable and I envision the ability to expand this to plagiarizing and counterfeiting other food items. Alas, my learnings really do not carry over to luxury items, all my attempts at counterfeiting caviar have, for example, all fizzled out. While I can make a convincing replacement, I do so at a cost higher than what I can sell it for.”

“And how, exactly, are you recouping your costs?”

“Ah, this is possibly the most clever bit. I have contacts at a wholesaler, and I am using that to essentially pad their stocks and shipping my copies out mixed in with shipments of the originals. Quite ingenious, even if I say so myself.”

#

Trigger Snowflake had checked up on the transport company that had sent the shipment to Fort Corallium General Store, and they were headquartered in Ytterbium Valley. While outside his jurisdiction, he had a pretty good feeling he would be able to get permission from the local law to investigate.

He arrived at the Ytterbium Valley Sheriff’s Office and knocked on the door.

“Sheriff Scrogginski? It’s Trigger, from Fort Corallium. I need to be accredited to do some investigation and a few interviews here in Ytterbium Valley.”

“Trigger! You know you can call me Urbel. What’s up?”

“I have this weird case with counterfeited breakfast cereals, and I thought I would simply go and talk to the next step in the transport chain. I’ve already interviewed the store manager and he seems to be on the up and up. Next, I thought I would talk to the transport company, but since they’re here, I either need you to do it, or you can deputize me and I can use that to ask the questions that will be needed.”

“Hm, well, that seems quite straight-forward. Let me just give you a deputy star to complement the one you have from Fort Corallium.”

About an hour later, properly deputised, Trigger arrived at Intersolar Transports, the transport company he was after. He walked up to the reception, where a young man was sitting behind the counter.

“Hello, I am Trigger Snowflake, deputy to Sheriff Scrogginski. I need to interview a few people in regards to a crime. Who would be the logical first person to talk to?”

“Ah. Eh. Well… You probably want to talk to the general manager, who can guide you further?”

“Excellent, can you give me directions to his office?”

“Who? Ah, the general manager. Yes, if you walk down this corridor, her office is the thrird door on the right-hand side. It says ‘General Manager’ beside the door. I’ll just give her a call and tell her to expect you.”

Trigger knocked on the door, and a gruff voice called out “Come in”. He opened the door and quickly scanned the room, not really for threats, just out of sheer unbridled habit. Angled against the far right corner was a sturdy desk, behind which was sitting a woman, dressed in tough-wearing coveralls.

“Hello, I am Trigger Snowflake, deputy to Sheriff Scrogginski. I am here to investigate a crime discovered in my home jurisdiction of Fort Corallium, where counterfeit cereal was shipped to our General Store. The shipment came from this company, and I would like to get to the bottom of this.”

“Cereal crime? This is unheard of! Oh, pardon me, I am Jenna J. Jameson, the general manager for Intersolar Transport in this orbit. Well, if you can tell me, roughly, when the shipment was delivered?”

“Two, maybe as many as four, days ago.”

Ms Jameson hummed, as she walked over to a filing cabinet. She pulled open a drawer, rifled through the paperwork, then slammed it shut, only to open another one and rifling through some more papers.

“Aha. Yes, this is a shipment that came in from Luna, a week ago, and was delivered three days ago, to the Fort Corallium General Store. The shipment should have been half a pallet of cereal boxes, a quarter pallet of canned goods, and a quarter-pallet of chocolates and other sweet items. Let me see… Ah, as I thought. You need to speak to Ear-John. Follow me.”

After about five minutes of rapid walking, they arrived at a small glass-walled hut, in the middle of a gigantic warehouse. Inside was a man, again dressed in the seemingly ubiquitous hard-wearing coveralls. Stitched to the right breast of the man’s coverall was a name badge, reading “J Marriott”.

“Ear-John, this is Sheriff Snowflake, from Fort Corallium. He’s been properly deputized and is here to ask you some questions. Please answer them as fully as you can.” With that said, Ms Jameson turned around and walked away, at quite a pace.

“Hello, I am John Marriott, foreman of local loading. They call me Ear-John, because I have a good memory for details and, for this noisy environment, good hearing. What can I help you with?”

“Three days ago, you sent a pallet of goods to the Fort Corallium General Store. Was there anything unusual about it?”

“Not really. We used a new subcontractor to ship it from Luna, but other than that, it was all pretty standard. Why Was there any damage?”

“No, no. Well, not damage as such. It’s just that when the shipment arrived, a large proportion of the cereal boxes had been substituted for fakes.”

“That must’ve been before it arrived at this warehouse. Hm. Actually, I think we have a representative from the subcontractor, over by the arrivals processing area. If you follow me?”

Another few minutes of brisk walking, then Ear-John walked up to a man dressed in a sharp suit.

“Mr ven Pocketry? From Sniiki Transport? I have someone who wants to talk to you.”

When Slem ven Pocketry turned around, he saw Trigger Snowflake and went suddenly very pale, as if all blood had just left his face. “It wasn’t me, Sheriff. I don’t forge cereal. You can’t prove ANYTHING. I want my lawyer!”

Trigger Snowflake was stunned. Not only was this a ne’er-do-well that he had encountered before, but ven Pocketry had pretty much confessed without a single question being asked.

“Slem ven Pocketry, I am placing you under arrest, on suspicion of cereal forgery. Anything you have said, are saying, or will say can and will be held against you in a court of law. Will you follow willingly, or will I have to hand-cuff you?”

Back at the Ytterbium Valley sheriff’s office, ven Pocketry was sitting in a straight-backed wooden chair, looking morose.

“Urbel, we can either do the interview here, or if you rather I take the suspect back to Fort Corallium?”

“Might as well do it here, Trigger. I have this nagging feeling that you want to be close to the spaceport.”

After some extensive interrogation, which we will skip, since it is no fun at all, ven Pocketry had duly confessed to forging the cereal boxes, and had named three other persons involved, all based on Luna.

#

Trigger and his prisoner arrived at Luna Spaceport, having duly sent ahead a message listing the Luna-based suspects. As they passed through the arrivals check, the processing officer suddenly froze.

“Aha. Sheriff Snowflake. I have a note here that you should go straight to the Office of the Peace, where you and your prisoner are needed as soon as possible. I will now take the liberty of requesting a buggy to take you there, unless you strongly prefer to run?”

“A buggy will be fine, gentle herm. Will it be long?”

“It is just pulling up behind the door to my right. If you walk through, you will be taken to the Office of the Peace.”

Some quick driving through Luna Colony later, they arrived at the Office of the Peace, the main office of the organization that appointed sheriffs throughout the Solar System. Trigger had only been at head office twice before. Once for his official swearing-in, and once to receive his transfer order from being a sheriff-at-large on Mars, to his posting at Fort Corallium. They walked the limestone stairs up to the main entrance.

“Sheriff Snowflake, Fort Corallium, with a prisoner, as ordered. What next?”

“Ah, excellent. We have the suspects you named under arrest, and we’ve started interviewing them. It seems, from all we can tell, that the only counterfeiter among them is ven Pocketry here, who will be prosecuted under the False Pretenses act, while the rest of them mainly seem to be in it for the opportunity to defraud the shipping industry, also a serious crime.”

“That is good to hear. Will you need me to give further statements?”

“Not as such, we just need you to counter-sign the telefacsimiles you have sent, in order to make it less of a contentious point at trial. Would you like to stay for the proceedings?”

“No, Officer, I would rather go home to my beloved wife, not having to think about cereal trials.”

Pixel Scroll 5/20/19 My name Is Elmer J. Fudd, Millionaire. I Own A Pixel And A Scroll

(1) I SEE BY YOUR OUTFIT. You know what they say about the love of money. Patch O’Furr’s “How furries resist a commercialized fandom (Part 1)” begins a three-part series at Dogpatch Press.

Fandom roots were growing independently. Influential fans of these times included Fred Patten, who helped import anime to America, founding a fandom for it, mingling it with science fiction fans and their conventions. Anime was a breath of fresh air with robots, monsters, science fiction and serious adult stories. Patten was also a bridge for funny animal artists with self-published APA’s and zines. In the early 80’s, Steve Gallaci put furries in military science fiction illustration that energized these artists.

At conventions, there was a certain social split among artists and fans. Serious-minded artists wanted to launch respectable careers, while orbiting ones hoped to ride along. But others looked to themselves as sources for fandom for its own sake — and respectability to outsiders wasn’t the main point. While other fandoms took different paths, this one branched off towards a subculture.

At 1980’s sci-fi conventions like Baycon in the San Francisco Bay area, the split was felt with separate room parties (separated by elitism or even cliquish mocking at “skunkfvckers”). It eventually spun off into the first furry con, ConFurence 0 in 1989, a test put together by fans in Southern California. (Mark Merlino, cofounder of Confurence, told me about the fan split in a long email exchange in 2017.) Others spun off from Chicago (Duckon), Philadelphia (Philcon) and elsewhere when furry fans wanted cons of their own….

Tomorrow, Part 2 will look more at how fandom grows with free expression, its own cottage industry and independent media, while making a certain fandom identity. Then Part 3 will look at how fandom can work like counterculture (or even punk) and how commercialism creeps in and complicates it.

(2) X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS. The late Len Wein gets a lot of love in the video that launches this series – “The History of the X-Men Part 1.”

Starting today through the end of May, Marvel will release the four-episode series online to celebrate the X-Men series that changed the Marvel Universe forever: Giant-Size X-Men, 1991’s X-Men #1, Age of Apocalypse, and New X-Men. Sponsored by this summer’s blockbuster HOUSE OF X and POWERS OF X series, these new retrospectives will take both longtime and new X-Men fans back to some of the greatest moments in the Marvel Universe, setting the scene for the most important story in the history of mutantkind.

Each of these shorts will feature voices from Marvel’s past and present – including legendary creators like Adam Kubert, Chris Claremont, Larry Hama, Jonathan Hickman, Al Ewing and more – as they look back and share their thoughts (and inside looks) into the most influential moments that redefined and reignited the X-Men, leading to bold new directions that drew in generations of fans around the world.

X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Series Release Schedule:  5/20 – X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Episode 1: Giant-Size X-Men (1975);   5/22 – X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Episode 2: X-Men #1 (1991);  5/24 – X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Episode 2: Age of Apocalypse (1995);  5/28 – X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Episode 2: New X-Men (2001)

(3) A MARTIAN ODYSSEY. Ingvar (of Trigger Snowflake fame) livetweeted his tour of the Sweden Solar System, starting near the Sun and ending right by Mars, “Using just feet and public transport, it takes about three hours to go from the Sun to Mars.” The thread starts here.

(4) PINNACLE OF SFF. The winners of the 2019 Colorado Book Awards were announced on May 18. (Via Locus Online.)

  • Juvenile Literature
    Del Toro Moon by Darby Karchut (Owl Hollow Press)
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy
    While Gods Sleep by L. D. Colter (Tam Lin Publishing)

(5) HIGHER AND HIGHER. Did you know that Godzilla suffers from inflation? Bloody Disgusting has a lovely diagram: “Artist’s Epic Godzilla Size Chart Highlights How Much the King of the Monsters Has Grown Over the Years”.

…Artist Noger Chen put together this epic size chart in advance of King of the Monsters, putting every single live-action Godzilla (from 1954-2019) side by side, in order of height.

Godzilla measured just 50m tall when he first debuted on the scene, and here in 2019, he’s grown to a staggering 119.8m – the largest Godzilla, in front of Shin Godzilla, ever on screen!

(6) DOWN THE RIVER. Casting choices are named for a new sff movie in “Cannes: Anne Heche, Thomas Jane Join Sci-Fi Film ‘Salvage'” at The Hollywood Reporter.

Salvage will tell the story of two couples fighting to survive on a houseboat as it moves down river in a post-apocalyptic America: Everyone is out for their own survival, nothing is as it was and brutality is the new normal. Each of the characters discover sides of themselves they never knew existed, some valiant and some violent.

The film also boasts an original score composed by Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains.

(7) CROWDSOURCED STAFFING. [Item by Dann]. Grimdark Magazine is losing their cover artist. They are asking fans who are subscribed to their Patreon to help them select their next cover artist.

Help us shortlist a new GdM cover artist

Right-o grimdark horde! I need your input to decide upon a shortlist for a new cover artist to replace our outgoing legend Jason Deem.

When I put out the word for a new artist we got a very tall pile of entries–fifty or sixty or so. I had to cut most of them either for their art not being aligned with what I want on our covers, or their rates being a bit too far out of budget, and got the list down to four. I’d love to get your opinion on them.

The artists are:

(8) DC SAYS STOP WONDERING. After the comic debuted a lawyer letter arrived —“DC Sends Cease And Desist Demand Over Wonder Woman AOC Cover”Bleeding Cool has the story.

This week, Devil’s Due published the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez & The Freedom Force: New Party, Who Dis? comic book. A number of comic book retailers ran exclusive retailer covers, including this one for NY Collector Cave by Carla Cohen which Bleeding Cool posted a couple of weeks ago. In which AOC bears a stunning resemblance to Wonder Woman. Too stunning it seems for DC Comics whose legal team, after reading the article on Bleeding Cool (Warner Bros IP traffic spiked in the days after we posted that article), sent a cease-and-desist notice to DEvil’s Due and the NY Collector Cave demanded that the comic in question not be distributed, but recalled and returned or destroyed.

(9) PUSHING THE NARRATIVE. Is Grumpy Cat dead, or already reincarnated as Craig Martelle? Camestros Felapton has a few quotes from the 20BooksTo50K leader that raise the possibility: “Wrapping up the LMBPN Kerfuffle and the Nebulas”. Martelle told his FB group —

…Six indies nominated for Nebula awards last night and zero indie winners. What matters most is which stories resonate best with the readers and which ones will lead to new stories bringing more readers on board. Who is going to be the most professional of the authors? Out of our six finalists? Only one is not a full-time author and that is by choice.

I am not talking down about any winners or any other authors – being a full-time writer comes with great risk….

Camestros follows up with some earthy opinions of his own.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 20, 1911 Gardner Francis Fox. Writer for DC comics who created The Flash, Adam Strange and The Atom, plus the Justice Society of America. His first SF novel was Escape Across the Cosmos though he wrote a tie-ie novel, Jules Verne’s Five Weeks in a Balloon, previously. (Died 1986.)
  • Born May 20, 1928 Shirley Rousseau Murphy, 91. Author of the Joe Grey series of mysteries. It’s a cat who solves mysteries. Surely that’s genre. Excellent series. She also did some genre, none of which I’ve encountered, the Children of Ynell series and the Dragonbard trilogy.
  • Born May 20, 1946 Cher, 73. In The Witches of Eastwick which is her main genre credit. She did appear as Romana on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in “The Hot Number Affair” and she voiced herself in the “The Secret of Shark Island” of The New Scooby-Doo Movies which despite the name was actually a series, but that’s it. 
  • Born May 20, 1960 John Billingsley, 59. Phlox on Enterprise, a series I really liked despite the fact it seems to have many detractors. His first genre role was in A Man from Earth as Mr. Rothman, a film in which the scriptwriter riffed off the immortality themes from the “Requiem for Methuselah” episode he did for Trek. He’d later reprise that role in The Man from Earth: Holocene. He’s had one-off appearances on The X-Files, Stargate SG-1, Duck Dodgers, Twin Peaks, Lucifer and The Orville. He had a recurring role on Stitchers as Mitchell Blair. 
  • Born May 20, 1961 Owen Teale, 58. Best known role is Alliser Thorne on the just concluded Game of Thrones. He also was Will Scarlet in the superb Robin Hood where the lead role was performed by Patrick Bergin, he played the theologian Pelagius in 2004 King Arthur, was Vatrenus in yet another riff on Arthurian myth called The Last Legion, was Maldak in the “Vengeance on Varos” episode in the Era of the Sixth Doctor, and was Evan Sherman in the “Countrycide” episode of Torchwood. He’s currently playing Peter Knox in A Discovery of Witches based on the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness, named after the first book in the trilogy.
  • Born May 20, 1992 Jack Gleeson, 27. Joffrey Baratheon on the just concluded Game of Thrones. Earlier genre roles are all nameless but are Reign of Fire, Batman Begins and Shrooms, the latter being an Irish horror film. 

(11) IN THE LID. Alasdair Stuart says The Full Lid for May 17 includes a visit to the UK’s phenomenally good National Video Game Museum, a review of Vylar Kaftan’s excellent new novella and a look at Directive, a short run podcast with endless tricks up its sleeve. The Hugo Spotlight this week is Foz Meadows. Here’s an excerpt about the museum —

…Some of them are demos or in beta testing like Lightmatter, which I spent a lot of time with. You’re visiting a science facility built into a mountain when the science becomes Science. Guided out by the grumpy Cave Johnson-alike whose project it is, you have to manipulate your surroundings to stay in the light. Because every shadow will kill you. It’s got that Portal ‘feral science’ feel to it mixed with a great, monochrome graphic palette that throws stark light and shadow everywhere. Once this is done, I’m going to pick it up.

So that’s a game I would never have known existed. That’s still being built. And you can play for free in a museum….

(12) AZAD SFF REVIEWED. NPR’s Caitlyn Paxson says “Language Has Magic In ‘The Candle And The Flame'”.

A fantastical silk road city comes to life in Nafiza Azad’s richly detailed debut novel, The Candle and the Flame.

Fatima works as a messenger in the melting pot of Noor, a bustling desert city where humans and djinn live side by side. Once Noor was only a human city, but an attack by a chaotic tribe of djinn called the Shayateen wiped out the entire population — all except for Fatima and her adoptive sister and grandmother. After the massacre, a new maharajah took charge of Noor and turned to the Ifrit, powerful djinn who strive to keep order in the world, to help drive out the Shayateen and keep the city safe, for its new human and Ifrit inhabitants alike.

(13) AVOID BLOGGER BURNOUT. Fine advice from The Little Red Reviewer: “Dear Book Bloggers, I’m worried about you”

Dear book bloggers of the world:  I’m worried about you. Please be kinder to yourselves.

Book blogging is not and was never meant to be something you are required to do every day or three times a week or on any arbitrarily defined schedule.

Book blogging is not and should not be about keeping up with other bloggers. There isn’t some prize for reading the most books, or downloading the most eARCs from Netgalley or getting the most ARCs in the mail.

Book blogging should not be something that comes before selfcare, or before your family, or before the big things in your life. Some days watching TV should come before book blogging, because we all do #selfcare differently….

(14) BEFORE LIGO. NPR looks at a “Billion-Dollar Gamble: How A ‘Singular Hero’ Helped Start A New Field In Physics”.

Imagine spending 40 years and more than a billion dollars on a gamble.

That’s what one U.S. government science agency did. It’s now paying off big time, with new discoveries about black holes and exotic neutron stars coming almost every week.

And while three physicists shared the Nobel Prize for the work that made this possible, one of them says the real hero is a former National Science Foundation staffer named Rich Isaacson, who saw a chance to cultivate some stunning research and grabbed it.

“The thing that Rich Isaacson did was such a miracle,” says Rainer Weiss, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the 2017 Nobel laureates. “I think he’s the hero. He’s a singular hero. We just don’t have a good way of recognizing people like that. Rich was in a singular place fighting a singular war that nobody else could have fought.”

Without him, Weiss says, “we would’ve been killed dead on virtually every topic.” He and his fellow laureate Kip Thorne recently donated money to create a brand-new American Physical Society award in Isaacson’s honor.

(15) WESTEROS’ FOURTH ESTATE. Esquire’s Gabrielle Bruney suspects a bunch of writers are going to have to get real jobs now that the show’s ended: “Game of Thrones Created a Vast Media Ecosystem. We Talked to the People at Its Center.”

…”I think that when the show first started, it was the book reader base that really got it going,” said David “Razor” Harris, editor of Thrones news, recap, and discussion website Winter is Coming.

“This is a show that both debuted and ran in an era where live-tweeting, after episode breakdowns, and podcasts are the norm,” said Myles McNutt, a media studies expert and assistant professor at Old Dominion University, who reviews the show for The AV Club. Twitter was barely five years old when the program debuted; Instagram would make its appearance six months after Thrones did. Earlier generations of web-savvy fans had been consigned to wikis and message boards, corners of the internet the uninitiated found easy to overlook. But instead, Thrones content was “popping up in your YouTube related videos, on the the Apple front page of top podcasts,” said McNutt.

“It sort of feels like it’s part of your feeds and your daily existence online,” he continued. “I do think there’s ubiquity to it that has encouraged people to jump onboard that might not have otherwise.”

(16) SIREN SONG. Air New Zealand encourages George R.R. Martin to finish the books — after flying to the country on one of their planes.

(17) NOT THIS FUTURE? BBC’s Jane Wakefield analyzes “The Google city that has angered Toronto”. Key quote vs. genre: “The smart city model is all about hype. They believe that if we have enough data we can solve all our problems, and we need to be skeptical about those claims.”

It was meant to be a vision of how we will all live in future – a smart city built from the internet up – offering citizens the chance to experience the very latest technology.

That would include autonomous cars, innovative ways to collect rubbish and shared spaces for communities to come together in new ways.

Sidewalk Labs, a sister company to Google, had acquired disused land in Toronto, Canada for this bold urban experiment, which it hoped would become a model for other cities around the world.

The fact that it would be collecting a lot of data from sensors placed all around the harbourside development unsettled some.

Now many are asking whether a private firm should take charge of urban improvement at all….

(18) NOT SO FAST! Indications that another much-touted idea doesn’t work to spec — “Warning over using augmented reality in precision tasks”.

People who use augmented reality headsets to complete complex tasks fare worse than those with no high-tech help, a small study suggests.

In addition, those fitted with headsets over-estimate how well they perform.

The discovery might limit the usefulness of augmented reality, which has been finding a role in medical and engineering jobs.

The problem arose because of the way that human eyes focused, researchers said.

(19) FACING THE FUTURE. “Hershey’s Tries to Woo the Youths With Emojis”MyRecipes tells how.

…Are the emojis just an attempt to sell more chocolate to youths? Probably. But they’re also designed to do the one thing that advertisers and brand managers speaking at industry conferences love most: starting a conversation. The press release states that the selected emojis were chosen because they “feature meanings that would help to spark a conversation.” The idea that chocolate could get people talking was based on market research which concluded that 87% of kids would want to share chocolate that features emojis with others.

(20) WESTWORLD SADDLES UP AGAIN. The third season trailer has dropped — Westworld III – HBO 2020.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Patch O’Furr, Andrew Porter, Dann, Alasdair Stuart, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Acoustic Rob.]

Trigger Snowflake and the Metamorphic Rock

By Ingvar: “Beloved Coraline, the muffins are toasted, and the coffee has just been poured. Breakfast is ready!”, Trigger said.

“Coming!”, Coraline replied. “Thank you for making breakfast, darling Trigger.”

Normally, it was Coraline who took care of the morning meal, but Trigger had some special news and thought it would be appropriate to also do some housework just before announcing it.

“Beloved wife of mine, I have had a request from my brother, Kochs. He would like both of us to come to the family home for Wheelmas, to celebrate the first space station’s 200th anniversary of becoming operational. He also says there’s a few more surprises in store.”

Coraline sipped her coffee, thought for a few moments then replied “I would be delighted to finally meet your parents. Will all your family be there?”

Trigger shook his head. “No, only my mother and father, and my brother Kochs, and my sister Precious. Apparently, Precious’ husband and her kids are out by Pluto and can’t make it in time and Kochs, well, Kochs never married.”

Breakfast finished, Trigger quickly checked the regulations again. Nope, there still was no way of casting this as a work-related trip, they’d have to go by normal space liner. This was no big problem, it would just take longer.

That evening, they had finished all their packing, for the two weeks away, and went to bed, sleeping the sound sleep of upright citizens everywhere.

#

Trigger pressed the bell button of his parents’ habitat module. A scant four seconds later, the door slid sideways with only a quiet whisper of bearings and lubrication.

“Trigger!”, his father said. “You’re here, excellent! This must be your wife, Coraline. Coraline, I am John, Trigger’s father, it is a pleasure to finally meet you. Come in, come in. Delicate is in the dining room, but I think we can get some coffee and cookies in you, if you want.”

They walked through the door, through a hallway, into the dining room on the right side. Seated at the table was a woman who clearly was Trigger’s mother, she had the same nose and eyes.

“Trigger!”, the woman said. “And this must be Coraline? Welcome, welcome. Would you like some coffee? We have fresh cookies! Oh, forgive me. I am Delicate, I am Trigger’s mother. Would you like some cookies?”

After plenty of cookies, some cake and some really rather good coffee, Trigger and Coraline sat down on the sofa in the front room. They’d been relaxing for two, maybe three minutes when a man entered, looking as if he was just a few years older than Trigger.

The man looked at seated couple, his gaze piercing Trigger. “Ah, excellent.” His gaze shifted, and lessened in intensity. “And you must be Coraline. I am Kochs, Trigger’s brother. I need the help from both of you.”

Trigger looked stunned, “But? Kochs? Why would you need our help?”

“I have been tasked, by the Solar System Literary Review magazine, to form a small panel and award the lesser-known Separable Stone prize.”

“Separable stone?”, Trigger queried.

“Aha! That’s how it works!”, exclaimed Coraline.

“What works?’, said Trigger.

“Kochs, do you mind if I explain this? I mean, if you really want, I am sure you know it at least as well as I do, but it is well within my sphere of knowledge as a board member of SysLiCon, a former poetry slam chair, and generally involved in the literary scene.”

Kochs guffawed, “No, by all means, go ahead. I am sure you actually know this better than anyone. Frankly, I am a bit surprised I was picked.”

“So, the Separable Rock. It is the prize for the most blatant slate in the nomination phase of ethics Exploding Star annual literary award. I know it has been given out, in a quiet ceremony behind the scenes, but I was not sure how it was actually selected. Now, the way the nomination for the Exploding Star works is that every subscriber to one of five literary magazines is allowed to nominate four works first published or performed in the previous year. From these four nominations, the five most popular works are selected, as well as the five most popular authors.”

Trigger nodded, “So it would be advantageous both to have many people nominate one specific work of yours, as well has having many people nominate more than one work of yours?”

Kochs nodded emphatically. “Yes, yes. Excellent! Now, I have been charged with forming a panel, and with both of you having been in literary news recently, and Coraline obviously being someone of standing in the literary community, I have chosen you two to my panel. We have been sent five candidates, and we need to rank them from least to most slate-like and send tae back. We had there days. I suggest we go through them one by one, then rank them as we go through the list.”

#

Kochs pulled out a printed paper. “This is the first candidate. I have seen all of them, but I will try to not influence you in advance of our discussions. So, without further ado, candidate A”

The best fifteen poems I read last year, by REDACTED

In no specific order, these are the fifteen best poems I read in the last year.

* “The sweet smell of flowers”, Rick ven Fleerbo

* “Bec de Corbie”, Sean Hantap

* “Ares”, Sine Nomine

* “A winter’s morning”, Erica Youngsblood

* “And ode to Black Forest Ham”, Rick ven Fleerbo

* “The teacup”, Leanne Ackie

* “The Sun, blazing like a star, at the centre of my heart”, Erica Youngblood

* “Papercuts”, John ven Fengsler

* “Clients, clients, clients”, Susan Doed

* “Planets, spinning like children’s toys”, Leanne Ackie

* “Oceans”, Sine Nomine

* “Heyyeh”, Anna min Scortch

* “Visits from the Suck Fairy”, Whalie Correadore

* “Waltz, and other standing up with clothes on”, Anna min Scortch

* “Saturn, a Jupiterian tragedy”, Ortho King

After the three of them had skimmed the list, Kochs said “Well? What do we think? How does it place on the slate scale?”

Trigger stroked his square, manly jaw. “Well, my understanding of a slate is that it is tries to guide nominations in a specific direction. And this, well, doesn’t seem to do that. It just mentions things. And it’s by a pretty random selection of artists, as far as I can tell. I mean, I am by no means as well-versed in these things and my beloved Coraline. But, look, different names. And not seemingly in any order. So, pretty low? Coraline?”

“As Trigger said, this is an impressive array of different styles. Some Sulphur poets, not necessarily my favourite, but when they’re good, they’re pretty good. A few that I’ve read and liked. And a few by artists I have read in the past, even if I hadn’t read that specific poem. I see this more as a ‘I liked this, if our tastes are similar, you may want to evaluate these as well’, rather than an actual slate.”

Kochs nodded, “That was my thought as well. OK, so for the moment, this is the only one we have, so it’s the only candidate on the list.”

#

“We have looked at the first, no let us look at the second.”, said Kochs. “Then we can rank the two.”

The best four poems of the ones I read last year, from the desk of [REDACTED]

Of all the poems I read last year, and the ones you should truly consider for your Exploding Star nomination ballot. In order from the one I liked most, to the one (of the four) I liked slightly less (and there are another five or so I consider to be nomination-worthy, just they weren’t as good as these four):

* “Bec de Corbie”, Sean Hantap

* “The teacup”, Leanne Ackie

* “And ode to Black Forest Ham”, Rick ven Fleerbo

* “Clients, clients, clients”, Susan Doed

If you nominate these, you will make me a happy [REDACTED], and I urge you to do so.

Kochs waited for everyone to have finished reading. “What do we think? I would say that this is definitely more slate-like than the first.”

Coraline put two fingers to her chin. “Yes, but there’s something missing. There’s no, well, agenda here. It’s simply a list of four fairly solid poems. But, yes, of the two we have seen, this is definitely the more slate-like.”

“We’re all happy ranking exhibit B higher than exhibit A, then?”, said Trigger.

Kochs replied, “I’d say you have that right, brother.”

#

“Next, we have yet another one. This is perhaps a bit harder to judge. But, as usual we will red it, then discuss it.”

My Exploding Star poems from last year, by [REDACTED]

We’re coming up on nomination season and like all of us, I find it hard to navigate all the poetry written last year. To at least make it easy for you to find what I’ve written, I have composed this letter-of-comment to at least have a full list of my works, and where to find them.

               *             [REDACTED], published in [REDACTED]

               *             [REDACTED], published in [REDACTED]

               *             [REDACTED], published in [REDACTED]

               *             [REDACTED], published in [REDACTED]

               *             [REDACTED], published in [REDACTED]

               *             [REDACTED], published in [REDACTED]

I hope that at least one of them will make you consider it worthy of a nomination, but as always, you must let your conscience be your guide.

Trigger looked up from the paper. “Hm, I am conflicted. There’s less work on this than there was on exhibit A. But, it clearly has a message encouraging a free choice. And if we take it at face value, it is simply a list of what the poet produced.”

“I concur, brother. For me, this falls somewhere between A and B, but much closer to A, and I wouldn’t necessarily call it a slate at all.”

Coraline scrunched her normally smooth forehead. “Yes. But… It is short. Not short enough that all of them would fit on the nomination ballot. But short. All things considered, I still think we have the ranking correct. This is definitely less of a slate than the second.”

#

“Three down, we only have another two before we’re done”, Kochs stated. “So, let us get on with this, so we can finish up.”

The Sulphuric Manifesto, or How You Should Nominate In The Exploding Star, by [REDACTED]

With the attacks on Sulphur artists over the last few years, there is a need for all of us to band together, and forcibly encourage the wider literary establishment to recognise our undoubted brilliance in all forms of written and sung art. To that extent, I have (with some help from other sulphurists) prepared a short-list of poems for you to nominate for the exploding star. In no specific order:

* “The sweet smell of flowers”, Rick ven Fleerbo

* “And ode to Black Forest Ham”, Rick ven Fleerbo

* “Papercuts”, John ven Fengsler

* “Waltz, and other standing up with clothes on”, Anna min Scortch

There were other noteworthy sulphur poetry that could have needed up on the list, but some consideration was taken to promote those of us who have in recent months had more public defeat than others.

Coraline laughed. “Well, this is definitely a slate. There’s exactly four, there is an explicit call to use the list as-is. And, furthermore, it pretty much states exactly what the intent and motivation behind it is. This is the most slate-like we have seen. Or, at least, that is my opinion.”

Kochs grunted assent. “I’d say you have summarised my thoughts for me.”

Trigger nodded. “Yes, in order from least to most slate-like, as things stand, it is A, C, B, D, for me.”

#

Kochs grabbed another set of papers from his briefcase. “Well, then. Only one more to go. Let us red, then discuss. That process seems to have worked well so far.”

PoetsForProsperity and how you can help, [REDACTED]

Dear fellow PoetsforProsperity members, We all know that great income and fame can be generated by writing quality poetry in the forms that people are willing to buy. And to further our great cause, I have prepared a list of poems composed by members of our tribe. S you can see, some of the poems have been marked by a star, those are the ones that my sources in the receiving department of the Exploding Star office have assured me had not, at the time of writing, received a single nomination. If you nominate from this list, consider nominating one of those.

* “Bec de Corbie”, Sean Hantap {*}

* “Ares”, Sine Nomine

* “A winter’s morning”, Erica Youngsblood

* “The Sun, blazing like a star, at the centre of my heart”, Erica Youngblood

* “Oceans”, Sine Nomine

* “Visits from the Suck Fairy”, Whalie Correadore {*}

* “Saturn, a Jupiterian tragedy”, Ortho King {*}

* “Pluto, planet or dog?”, Ortho King

* “This thermocline of mine.” Sean Hantap

As you all know, if we can get our nominations in, the chances of one or more of us ending up on the list of finalists is just that much larger. And if we can but get one or two of us on the finalist list, I think the chances of joint success and wealth next year will be that much higher.

Trigger sighed. “This one… is tricky. There’s a fair few number of poems on the list, but there’s a definite pressure to pick all nominations from the list itself.”

Kochs nodded. “Yes, what makes this slate-like, to me, is the explicit ‘especially consider these, as they are under-nominated’ aspect of the starring.”

Coraline nodded with vigor. “Yes, that takes it from a recommendation list, into something that I can only see as a slating attempt.”

Kochs sighed. “Well, then, for me the most slate-like is the fourth, with the fifth, the second, the third and the first being in order less and less slate-like.”

Trigger said “Yep, for me it’s D, E, B, C, A, in that order.”

Coraline put the paper down on the coffee table. “I concur, the fourth is definitely the most slate-like of these. I am not sure how I rank this and the second. I mean, there’s definitely a wider choice here, but there’s also some agenda divorced from quality exhibited here.”

Kochs let his eyes scan across the faces of his brother and sister-in-law. “We’re agreed, then? The fourth is the most slate-like? It is our final choice for the Separable Rock?”

Trigger and Coraline both nodded.

#

Later that evening, they were all sitting down for dinner. A fairly quiet affair, with roast beef, a variety of vegetables, and homemade lemonade to drink.

Coraline put her cutlery down and cleared her throat. “Delicate, dear mother-in-law, there is one thing  I don’t, quite, understand. How is it that you have a name suited for the surname Snowflake, and yet that is your married name?”

Delicate hummed. “Well, I guess you weren’t to know. I was actually born Delicate Snowflake. On marriage, John took the Snowflake name, to keep it alive I was a single child, and if he hadn’t, the name would’ve melted away on my marriage. John?”

John guffawed. “Yes, I was born Schnee John Wain, a name I did not like. And when my darling Delicate explained that she was the last of the Snowflakes, I could not in good conscience let the name simply disappear. We discussed it, between us, then I had a brief chat with my dad. And, here I am, John Snowflake. And with both Kochs and Trigger to take the name forward, our daughter Precious is free to stay a Snowflake. Although, I understand that she’s actually considering taking a new name on marriage. She’s currently courting Amanda Gemstone, and sees some amusement taking her name on marriage. Anything else we can clear up, before dessert?”

Trigger Snowflake and the Meltsygate

By Ingvar: Trigger looked at the street outside his office. For once it was utterly calm and no dust in the air. To the extent it was visible, this far out in the Solar System, the Sun was providing some comfort light, although not much heat. It looked like a perfect day to visit the Coffee Emporium.

“Coraline, darling? I am walking down to the Coffee Emporium, would you like to come?”

“Sorry, Trigger, I have a few things to finish up. By all means try their new Softly-Softly roast, I understand that it is delicious.”

“Thank you, I will. I may be an half an hour, maybe a full hour?”

“Don’t you worry, I have plenty to keep me busy.”

Walking down the street, Trigger nodded his head and touched the wide brim of his hat at the people heading the other way. It was not long until he arrived at the Coffee Emporium. Once inside, he took his hat off and strode up to the bar.

“Ms Dimatis, it has been said that you have a new roast in?”

“Ah, the Softly-Softly? Yes, Coraline was in only yesterday for a cup. Would you like one?”

“That sounds like a marvelous idea.”

“Would you like a grilled synthecheese and a vanilla Danish to go with that?”

“Ms Dimatis, you…”

“Oh, I think you are allowed to call me Barbara now.”

“Barbara, you know me too well. Maybe it is time that I patronize another coffee shop.”

“You jest, Sheriff Snowflake, you jest.”

Trigger headed for an empty table, and had just sat down when his coffee and a pastry was placed in front of him. He lifted the cup, savouring the pungent smell of the bean extraction. It did smell quite delicious. He took a sip, and the coffee rolled over his tongue, coating the inside of his mouth with a rich, earthy, warmness. Coraline was right, this was coffee well worth having. He took a bite from his Danish, and as he returned the pastry to its plate, his grilled synthecheese arrived. It was made just the way he liked it, one slice of wholemeal sourdough, one slice of rye, both toasted, with a healthy chunk of synthecheese between them. Then fried, on both sides, in plenty of butter, with just a hint of black and white pepper. It was a flavour that paired surprisingly well with the coffee.

He was just about done with his late morning snack, when Barbara Dimatis, the proprietor, walked up to his table.

“Sheriff? Mind if I sit down?”

“Oh, no, not at all Ms Dim.. Barbara. What’s the matter?”

“Well, I am sure it is nothing, really. But, there’s this weird thing starting to go around in the periphery of the literature comment-sphere. And I don’t quite know what to make of it.”

“Oh? Weird thing?”

“Yes, it’s nothing, I am sure, but there’s a few of the Sulphur crowd, you are familiar with Sulphur artists?”

“I am, indeed, aware of them. I’ve even had a few run-ins with some of them.”

“Ah, yes, ven Fleerbo, wasn’t it? So, in the last few weeks, I’ve seen a few of them refer to me, as far as I can make out from context. But they keep calling me ‘Meltsy’, and it is making me slightly uncomfortable, the whole thing. And I was wondering if I should do something? Or if there’s something you can do?”

“I don’t know Barbara. But if you can forward me some of the letters-of-coment, that’s what you call them, yes? I can have a look in my office. It’s not quite the thing I normally deal with, since it’s clearly out of Fort Corallium and I am only charged with enforcing the law here. But, as you know, I know law-keepers elsewhere, and if there’s something that seems to be dubious, I can always ask if there’s something someone else can look in to. And my beloved Coraline has spoken quite highly of you, and how you’ve stepped into her shoes here at the Coffee Emporium. So, certainly, forward me these comments and I will have a look for you, it’s the least I can do.”

Barbara Dimatis sighed with relief, stood up and started back towards the counter. About halfway back, she stopped, turned back to face Trigger and said “Thank you, Sheriff Snowflake. It lifts a heavy weight off my heart.”

#

“Trigger, darling?”, Coraline’s voice easily carried to the upper floor. “Barbara Dimatis is here, with some papers for you?”

“Thank you, beloved. I will be down in but a few moments.” Trigger hastily put his bolo tie on. It would not do to greet Ms Dimatis in such an informal state of dress. He quickly descended to the ground floor, and the Sheriff’s Office proper.

“Ah, Ms Dim… Barbara. These are print-outs of these letters?”

“Yes, Sheriff Snowflake, these are the relevant letters-of-comment from a variety of magazines dealing with literature and poetry over the last six weeks. Plus one that arrived only after you’d left the Emporium. Coraline, you may want to look through them as well. Based on the latest, this very much is all of our concern. It seems like one of the Sulphurs, not one I’ve seen much from before, but he’s done some inspiring poetry, in a cross-over Sulphur/Beat style, quite a challenging form really… Where was I? Oh, yes, ven Fengsler claims to have irrefutable evidence that I am actually Trigger Snowflake.”

Coraline looked at her husband, then looked at Barbara. Then looked back at her husband, for a few seconds more. Then, slowly, turned her head back to Barbara.

“You? Married to me? What is he basing this fantasy on?”

“As far as I can tell, it’s because he’s seen a copy of an envelope, from a letter I posted, that was clearly stamped by the Fort Corallium post office, not long after the SysLiCon security report was published, last week.”

“But, you live and work here?”

“Yes, I know. Apparently it is obvious that because I like coffee, don’t write frequent LoCs, have once or twice mentioned legal matters, as well as now that you’re on the SysLiCon board that I must be a legal professional, married to a former coffee shop manager, and live in Fort Corallium.”

Trigger took a deep breath. Then a second. And, for good measure, a third.

“Ms Dimatis, can you please step into my office. We should probably not continue to have this conversation half on the street. I think we need to look carefully at these. If nothing else, this ven Fengsler is accusing you of being a lawman impersonating someone else. Or me. I am not sure. But it does not sound right.”

Barbara stepped through the door, and closed it after her. Trigger walked to his chair, clearly surprised and concerned by the news he’d just received. Before he sat down, he swept his right hand, indicating the chairs in front of his desk.

“Please, sit, both of you.”

Coraline shook her head. “No, I will make a pot of coffee. And I may just bring down one of the bottles of Saturn Sippin’ Whisky, this all seems like coffee would not quite be enough.”

Trigger waited to sit until Barbara was safely in one of the visitor chairs.

“Let me get this right? Because you know about coffee, and have posted a letter at our post office, and Coraline is on the SysLiCon board, you are me?”

“That is how I understand these letters.”

“Hm… Interesting.”

They both furrowed their foreheads, deep in thought, when Coraline came down the stairs.

“There is coffee and sandwich in the kitchen. And please tell me what is going on.”

Trigger and Barbara both stood up, and as Barbara headed for the stairs, Trigger picked one of the magazines off the pile. They seated themselves around the kitchen table, Coraline and Trigger sitting next to each other, opposite Barbara.

#

“So,” said Coraline, “what is this whole identity confusion thing?”

“Well…”, said Trigger. “As far as I can tell, this is something that started in, and is mostly contained within, Sulphur Artist circles. Here is a letter to a publication called ‘Yellow Flowers Of An Elemental Nature’.”

“Aha!”, said Barbara. “Yellow Flowers is a poetical allusion to flaky, elemental sulphur. And it is indeed a publication that most frequently circulates in the Sulphur crowd. But one of my contacts mentioned that I should look at the latest number, so I had it facsimiled on the far-sender network. Pray tell us, Sheriff Snowflake, what it says?”

Transcription of a round-table conversation of the Elemental Smartalec Group, planetary day 7643

John ven Fengsler: To the matter of Meltsy. I have, as you all know, spent some time researching this “Barbara Dimatis” and there is no question that Barbara is actually just a cover identity for Trigger Snowflake.

Rick ven Fleerbo: Are you sure? No question or doubt?

JvF: No doubt indeed. I have, no expenses spared, managed to retrieve a true copy of the envelope in which last month’s letter from Meltsy to “The Jupiterian” arrived. It is very clearly post-stamped in Fort Corallium, where we all know that Meltsy lives.

Anna min Scortch: This sounds a bit thin?

JvF: Not in the least. We can see from multiple letters that this “Barbara” is well educated in coffee. And Meltsy married that Hoyter woman, you know. The one who sent Rick packing, for no good reason. And she, I tell you, was the proprietor of a coffee shop. So, the link is clear and indisputable.

RvF: Indisputable indeed. That Trigger, he’d stoop low enough to use a woman’s name as a gym, every day of the week. Or at least days that have both consonants and vowels.

AmS: Ah, so every day.

RvF: Indeed!

AmS: I… Yes, the evidence seems fairly clear. Anything else?

JvF: Indeed there is. These “Barbara” letters became more frequent after Trigger had that court case on the Moon. Clearly an event that would fuel his anti-Sulphur resentment. And they’re all, or so I have from reliable sources, post-stamped in Fort Corallium. Incontroversible evidence, the post stamps do not lie!

AmS: And what do we do with this information?

RvF: We destroy him, and his career, and his marriage! I believe that Coraline Snowflake will NOT stay married to a man that stoops to impersonating a woman.

JvF: We are all clear, then, that we need to spread the good word, and terminate Meltsy’s letter-writing career, once and for all?

AmS, RvF: Sulphur! Sulphur! Sulphur!

End note: Anna bestowed John ven Fengsler with an admiration gift mostly composed of Martian Ares-fruit compote, with a fetching hint of Venusian bacon from her breakfast. Rick ven Fleerbo, due to his current circumstances, was forced to limit his admiration to just Venusian bacon and beans.

“This… This… This makes no sense”, sighed Trigger.

“Post-stamped in Fort Corallium. Of course my letters are post-stamped in Fort Corallium, that is where the Coffee Emporium is, and since I live in the rooms above, I would of course use the post office across the street”, said Barbara. ” Anything else would be deranged.”

Coraline sniggered. “At least they haven’t, yet, decided that we are the same person, Barbara.”

Trigger flipped pages in the magazine. “Ah, there’s another letter about that specific fact.”

Transcription of a round-table discussion at the Elemental Smartalec Group, Planetary Day 7652

Anna min Scortch: John, I have spent some time digging into this Meltsy business. You are clearly right. Not only does Meltsy have a passing knowledge of gourmet coffee. Not, I might add, as good as yours, but decent nonetheless. But, look, in this letter to “The Plutonian Argus”, there’s this one sentence that gives no doubt to the theory that Meltsy has an interest in the law. And do you know who has an interest in law? A sheriff!

John ven Fengsler: Anna, my dear, it’s good that you have found this further evidence. I know that it has been said that we may be wrong, but the coffee, the law interest, and the post-stamps all paint an undoubtable picture. And, furthermore, that very same letter is also clearly written y a man. Look, it uses forceful words. And it is rude, something that we all know is outside the scope of any planet fearing woman’s vocabulary.

AmS: Yes, I saw that. But I was never in doubt that this “Barbara” was secretly a man, all along. It’s just like those lily-livers to hide behind a woman.

Rick ven Fleerbo: I say, should we get Slem involved? This might just be the crowbar we need to break open that disgusting verdict Meltsy masterminded on me?

JvF: If you think that is the right course, we shall of course proceed with this excellent move in our hyper-dimensional game of Walk.

RvF: I will send him a missive, anon.

End note: Rick again could only provide Venusian bacon and beans for admiration. John bestowed a gift of Saturnian plum wine to Anna, and the same for Rick. Both Anna and John provided gifts on Rick, for his excellent idea of contacting Slem ven Pocketry.

#

The three of them continued to peruse the letter columns, growing more and more amused, and in Barbara’s case, distressed, at the confusion spreading through the Sulphur community.

Trigger suddenly lifted his head, staring into infinity.

“Beloved Coraline, Miss Dimatis… I have a seed of a plan. We know they’re completely wrong. We also know that Sulphur artists never miss a chance to gloat. And it’s been months since we last had a poetry slam at the Emporium. So, my thought here is that we arrange one for next month, and make sure all three of us are there to introduce it. “

Barbara thought for a few moments. “Yes, as long as there’s enough time to come out from the inner system, we can be assured there will be at least one Sulphur artist in attendance, for an attempt at some sort of public unmasking.”

With preparations made, and the Poetry Slam duly announced in the relevant magazines, the day finally arrived. As the start time of the event finally ticked on the clock, Coraline Snowflake walked up to the microphone in front of the counter.

“Hello, and welcome everyone. I am Mrs Coraline Snowflake, the former proprietor of the Coffee Emporium. It is my honour to bid you all welcome to Fort Corallium’s fourth Poetry Slam.”

From among the crowd, someone yelled “Where’s Trigger, then?!”

Trigger walked up to the microphone. “Hello, all. I am Trigger Snowflake, and I am the sheriff of this town.”

The same voice yelled again, “Trigger? Hah! What about Barbara Dimatis, Meltsy? What about Barbara? We know that’s what you go by in the magazines!”

Barbara walked up to the microphone. “Hello, all. My name is Barbara Dimatis, I am the proprietor of the Coffee Emporium and I have arranged this Poetry Slam, with some help from my predecessor and good fried, Coraline.”

It was at this point that the proceedings were interrupted by someone rapidly standing up and running out of the Emporium, shouting “Ooooh! Oooooooooh! I can’t believe I believed ven Fengsler!”

Trigger Snowflake and the Conference

By Ingvar: “Trigger, darling?”

Sheriff Snowflake looked up from his desk, at Mrs Coraline Snowflake, his beloved life.

“Yes, dearest?”

“I’ve been invited to join the board of the System Literature Conference.”

“You have? That’s marvellous news. SysLiCon is truly the biggest event in poetry and other fine written art.”

“But I am a wife now, how could it possibly be correct for me to participate?”

“Beloved Coraline, you are indeed a wife, and it is therefore no longer proper that you own and run a business. But SysLiCon is a charity and volunteer organisation. And thus entirely proper.”

“Well, they’re planning on holding the next conference over in Ytterbium Valley, so it would be quite close, as well.”

“That’s excellent news. Would you like me to talk to Sheriff Scrogginski about possibly helping him out with public order during the event?”

“Would you? That would be lovely.”

“I will despatch a message this evening, that’s early enough. Was there anything else?”

“No, dearest husband. And thank you, for being such an understanding and gentle husband.”

Trigger let his eyes wander back down to the paperwork. While Fort Corallium was, on the whole, a quiet settlement, it seemed that the day-to-day life of half a thousand people still managed to generate more forms in a week than Trigger could easily file away in half a morning per week. Sometimes, growth comes with pain.

#

“Welcome, all. This is the third meeting of the board for this upcoming SysLiCon.”, John De Viance lifted his chair’s mallet. “I wish to, on behalf of the entire board, extend a warm welcome to Mrs Coraline Snowflake, hopefully well known to all of you, by name and reputation if nothing else. Any other remarks before we start?”

Thirty seconds of quick glances being exchanged in silence. John took a deep breath, “No pre-meeting business, good. Hereby I declare the third SysLiCon board meeting open.”

The mallet landed on a small leather pad, with a satisfying thunk.

“First item, where are we with the venue? Pete?”

Pete Gentle grunted quietly, “Spoke to Ytterbium Valley Lodge, there’s been a delay with the extension. But everything is still on track to be finished three weeks before we open our doors. That means we won’t have final floor plans until about then, rather than the three months we were hoping for. Still, on track.”

“Good, good. Next, Erica,  membership?”

Erica shuffled the papers in front of her, then looked at the top one.

“We have 764 signed-up attending members. They have all acknowledged our Code of Conduct, as simple as it is. Looking at the names, I recognise five to ten known Sulphur artists, but as they’ve all agreed to the CoC, I feel we don’t need to do anything. We’ve also received a supporting membership from Rick ven Fleerbo, which I guess most of you have heard of. I think that’s about it from the membership division.”

Pete nodded, “good, good. And, finally, from the security division. Urbel?”

Urbel Scrogginski took a deep breath, then slowly exhaled.

“Well, these Sulphur artists, I am not so sure about. They’ve caused some problems over in Fort  Corallium. But, I guess, as long as they behave, they’re as welcome as anyone. We could probably do with some more level heads during the event, though. So I would ask the board to allow me to inquire of Mrs Snowflake, if it would be possible to have Trigger Snowflake available for the conference?”

The entire board looked at Coraline. She fidgeted, not used to being under such obvious scrutiny. “If it is the wish of the board, I will certainly ask my dear husband if he can find the time.”

#

It was a fine morning, the dust haze at an all-record low, as the doors to SysLiCon opened. A long queue of raucous novelists, poets, song-writers and others who express themselves through textual forms started snaking through the wide double doors, up to the reception, where they were duly signed in.

Standing just inside the doors, to either side of the queue, were Trigger Snowflake, on the left, and Urbel Scrogginski, to the right. The attendees walked past them, both Trigger and Urbel scanning them for signs of problems.

About an hour later, the queue had dwindled to nothing, and the two lawmen nodded to each other, walking separate ways to give the halls a quick once-over.

Half an hour later, they met back at the security office. Urbel sat down, looking at Trigger.

“Did you see anything, Trigger? Far as I could see, it was quiet.”

Trigger looked at the other empty chair in the office, sighed quietly, then walked over and took a seat.

“Saw? Well, I did see Slem ven Pocketry, who represented ven Fleerbo at Luna, ix months ago. Problem? Don’t think so, he’s signed off on the conduct code, hasn’t he? So it should all be well. Might behoove us to keep an eye on him, but unobtrusively, of course.”

Urbel scratched his chin.

“He one of those Sulphur poets?”

“Don’t know, actually. I suspect he runs with the Sulphur crowd, otherwise I can’t see why he represented ven Fleerbo. And he’s Venusian, of course. Most Sulphur artists are, although I can’t right say how many of the Venusian artists run in Sulphur circuits.”

“Well, we should make sure one of us is in this office throughout the conference, this is one of those touchy matters I would prefer is handled by a full lawman, rather than a deputy.”

“As you say, Urbel, as you say. Touchy things, literary conferences.”

“Especially SysLiCon, we’ve so far had a perfect record, and I would really prefer nothing happens on my shift.”

As the days of SysLiCon passed, this was as exciting as the security office managed to get. There was one instance of a member being over-inebriated and gently escorted back to his room, and one misunderstanding that was quickly straightened out, stemming from a dialectal difference, where one person expressed admiration for another’s work, with words that were insulting in the recipient’s dialect.

#

With SysLiCon over, and his beloved Coraline fêted and celebrated for he stellar contribution on the committee, Trigger relaxed back in his comfortable office. All of a sudden, Coraline burst down the stairs, waving a magazine of some sort in the air.

“Trigger, darling, have you seen this?”, she said in an obviously distressed voice.

Trigger looked at his wife, “No, beloved, I have not. But if you give it to me, I can read it now.”

She handed the magazine over, opened to a page head-lined “Why I Will Not Go To SysLiCon Again”.

Why I Will Not Go To SysLiCon Again

By @SlemVenPocketry

This past week, I attended SysLiCon, a literature conference that I have for a long time considered my “home conference”. And I will never go back. When I started going to SysLiCon, it was a warm and welcoming event, where everyone was treated well and everyone respected one and each other. There were even displays of extreme gratitude and respect, once in a while. But over the eleven years I have been attending, I have noticed that SysLiCon have slipped further and further into Social Justice and Safe Space worship. No longer are Sulphur artists welcomed with open arms, instead they’re only catering for non-Sulphur poets, writers, song-writers and others.

They have even instated a so-called Code of Conduct, that require and mandate certain behaviours. It is disgraceful. I no longer feel welcome in such a stifling environment, coddling people and demanding that the conference is a “Safe Space”.

I had heard that this trend so common in the literature circles had finally caught up with SysLiCon, but being that I have so many fond memories of chats, talks, panels, workshops, and, yes, excellent food at previous SysLiCons, I did not believe what I had been told. But, this year, as I was about to demonstrate thankfulness and respect, having earlier had an excellent half lobster, some asparagus and some delicious Sauce Bearnaise, something quite suitable for the level of respect I felt, I was told, in no uncertain words, by a known hater of Sulphur artists. I was told that showing my respect would be against the Code of Conduct, by no one else but Trigger Snowflake, who abused the court system to have my dear friend and Sulphur colleague Rick ven Fleerbo legally required to stay on Venus! Yes, this is clearly an injustice and an obvious sign that the Safe Space mentality has finally conquered SysLiCon!

From now on, I will only attend literary conferences where Sulphur artists can feel free to show gratitude and respect, in our own manner!

Annoyed,

Slem ven Pocketry

#

Trigger looked at the article. Then he looked at Coraline. Then he looked back at the article. After a while, he sighed.

“Beloved Coraline, nothing in this article seems to bear any resemblance to what I saw in the security office. None of our deputies reported any interaction with ven Pocketry, and trust me, we made it very clear that any incident involving a Sulphur artist should be reported. I will confer with Urbel, I suspect we’ll have a written report from our end for the Board, within a few days.”

Later that day, Trigger knocked on the door of the Sheriff’s office in Ytterbium Valley. A few moments later, the door opened and Urbel Scroggisnki looked, with quite a surprised face, at Trigger.

“Sheriff Snowflake, what brings you to Ytterbium Valley? I take it from your serious face that his is not a simple social visit?”

“I wish, Urbel, I wish. No, I am here on a SysLiCon matter. We need to get all the deputies in, one by one, and compile a report for the Board, in regards to this.”, Trigger handed the magazine over, opened to ven Pocketry’s article.

A few minutes later, Urbel nodded.

“Yes, I think you’re right. If you step in, I will start making calls.”

A considerable number of hours later, with much paperwork, the final report for the board was completed. In essence it read “We have read the SysLiCon report by Slem ven Pocketry. While we cannot comment on his state of mind, we can with confidence say that none of the people in the security division interacted with him in any manner, especially none that corresponds to anything in his report”.

And with that, the wrapping-up of the latest SysLiCon could continue unhindered.

Trigger Snowflake and the Legal Clothes

By Ingvar: Having finally tied the nuptial knot with his beloved Coraline, Trigger Snowflake slowly walked through the front doors of the chapel, out onto Main Street, Coraline’s dainty hand cradled in his elbow. The general admiration and happiness from Fort Corallium’s inhabitants beamed at them in waves. Trigger and Coraline both waved, when all of a sudden, Trigger froze.

Coming up the street, begging-pan in hand, was Rick Ven Fleerbo. This was unconscionable, he had certainly been put in his place, but compounding that by illegally pan-handling on Main Street was definitely a few steps too far.

“Dearest Coraline, I know it is uncouth to leave the bride alone this soon after the wedding, but I see misdeeds in our community and I feel compelled to act.”

“Trigger, dear, I would not love you if it was not for your steadfast and slavish attention to rooting out wrong-doers and miscreants By all means tell this… this… this PAN-HANDLER what for.”

Trigger gently straightened his arm, adjusted his formal clothing, cleared his throat and walked towards Ven Fleerbo.

“Rick Ven Fleerbo, you have been found pan-handling on Main Street. This is not allowed. Please cease immediately, before I am forced to use stronger measures!”

Ven Fleerbo froze, his eyes darting to the dressed-up lawman. His prominent Adam’s Apple jostled up and down, as if he just swallowed some saliva. He rapidly grabbed the few coins and the single note from the pan, shoved his ill-gotten gains into his pocket, then nodded and ran away.

Trigger walked back to his wife, bowed his head in apology and extended a bent arm.

“Coraline?”

Mrs Snowflake placed her hand yet again into the crook of his elbow, as they walked back to the Sheriff’s Office.

#

Trigger woke up, for the first time beside his beloved Coraline. She was still fast asleep as he sidled out from under the covers, put on some clothes and headed for the kitchen. Then he remembered that his BrewMatic 3000 had not yet been repaired and in the plentifulness of yesterday’s schedule, he’d completely forgotten to stock up on breakfast cereal.

With a quiet sigh, he reached for the communicator. It was normally reserved for official business only, but this once it was a luxury he would allow himself.

<

p style=”padding-left: 30px;”>To: barbara@coffeeemporium.fortcorallium.io
From: snowflake@sheriff.fortcorallium.io
Subject: Breakfast/brunch order

I know this is irregular, but this once I thought I would allow me the luxury of ordering food in, although using the communicator is quite expensive. Never mind, I shall just have to cover this cost out of my own pocket. Where was I? Oh, yes, brunch. I would like to order three grilled synthecheese, four of your delicious danishes, one black fresh-ground Colombian coffee for me, and you are probably better placed to choose the exact coffee that Mrs Snowflake would like, seeing as how you have been working next to her these last few weeks. It would be good if you can send a runner with the brunch.

When they had finished the delicious delivery brunch, Trigger finally got properly dressed and headed out for a somewhat later than normal customary morning stroll up and down Main Street.

On the second round, he heard something unusual, as well as unexpected.

“… for my taking Fort Corallium and that Snowflake to justice? Anything would be helpful, seeing has how it is not cheap, and the Sheriff has deprived me of my income, by destroying my chances to sell my work as Fort Corallium’s most prominent local poet.”

He lengthened his steps, this was clearly something for the firm arms of the law. He turned a corner and saw, not entirely unexpected, Rick Ven Fleerbo, holding a kettle, begging for money from people passing by.

“Ven Fleerbo?! What did I say about pan-handling?”

“Well, Sheriff,” smirked Ven Fleerbo, “I think the exact thing you said was that pan-handling on Main Street was out of the question. I did some quick checking, and it turns out you’re correct. Thus, I am kettle-handling, and I am doing so no less than five feet from Main Street.”

“I… I… You are correct, Ven Fleerbo. But you watch yourself, I am keeping an eye on you.”

Ven Fleerbo waved at the Sheriff. Unfortunately, this jostled the rather heavy cast-iron kettle in his off hand and he ended up taking two steps forward to recover his balance.

“Aha!” said Trigger. “You are now only three feet from Main Street and engaged in illegal begging. I shall again be lenient, just stop this obnoxious behaviour and be on your way.”

Rick Ven Fleerbo uttered a long string of crude and vile Venusian curses, then skulked off.

#

It was a month after the wedding, and Trigger still enjoyed every moment of being a married man. He and Mrs Coraline were currently enjoying a most excellent Sunday roast, in the upstairs dining room, a room that had been unused during Trigger’s time as a bachelor. But now it was used for their joint Sunday lunch, as well as for the occasional hosting of dinners, as the entertainment expected from recently-married couples.

Trigger was just about to put his fork to a bowl of delicious Neptune Mess, a dessert of sponge cake, ice cream, fruit jellies, jam, and several custards, swirled in a manner as to evoke the surface of the gas giant, when there was a loud knocking on the front door.

“Bear with me, beloved Coraline, as I check what is up?”

“You do that, dearest Trigger, the Neptune Mess will hold.”

Trigger went downstairs and opened the door. Outside was a courier, with a large box.

“Sheriff Trigger Snowflake? Of Fort Corallium?”, said the courier.

“Speaking,” said Trigger, “what is this?”

“Package for you. Sign on delivery, sir.”

Trigger accepted the package, quickly signed the counterslip and let the courier be on his way. As he placed the box on his desk, he heard Coraline’s voice from upstairs.

“What was it, Trigger?”

“A package of some sort. I have not opened it yet, I believe it can wait until after dinner.”

Having finally finished the Neptune Mess, as well as some cookies and coffee after dessert, Trigger headed back downstairs. It was a sturdy box, plywood and space tape. He drew his Stardust knife from the sheath on his right thigh, and slit the tape. He lifted the lid off the box and gasped loudly.

“What is it, dearest Trigger? You sound surprised?”

“Beloved Coraline, this is completely unexpected. I have received a law suit. I have not yet checked the inner pocket for the circumstances, but I have a sinking feeling I know exactly what this is about.”

Trigger unpacked the clothes, and felt in the left pocket of the vest, where by custom the reason for the law suit was stashed, so as to make it possible to construct a coherent defence. Looking at the paper slip, it seemed he could linger as much as three hours before he needed to start for Luna, where the Planetary Alliance System Court had its offices and court rooms.

Sheriff Snowflake went upstairs, heart heavy in his chest.

“Beloved Coraline, the knock at the door was a court courier, delivering a law suit, bought by that odious bore Ven Fleerbo. Unfortunately, I need to set off for Luna in a few hours, and I must ensure I am properly packed.”

“Dearest Trigger, it is true that I will miss you while you are gone, but you are true and just, and so will prevail.”

“I wish I had your faith, but I have been these things go unexpected ways before. Sure, it’s uncommon, but that does not mean one shall completely discount the possibility. Ah, well, the suit has been brought, and I shall simply have to Sheriff up and do the needful.”

#

“This is Luna Traffic Control. Inbound sheriff shuttle SGW-2249, please vector on landing beacon Zed Zed Alpha. Once landed, please proceed to bay 58.”

“This is SGW-2249, vector on Zed Zed Alpha, then bay 58, understood.”

Trigger relaxed, the shuttle was sufficiently clever to follow a landing beacon and doing collision avoidance. This was possibly the most relaxing bit of the whole journey, since the autopilot definitely wasn’t smart enough for computing transfer orbits. Thankfully, the common misconception that the asteroid belt was neck to jowl with rocks was false, but that did not mean that needing to traverse it was stress-free. But, for the next 20 minutes, Trigger could simply relax, before needing to find the bay where his shuttle would refuel and wait for him, should the legal case go well.

Half an hour later, Trigger finished getting dressed in the law suit, the only clothes he would wear until he was fully a free man again. With a snort and a shake of his head, he stepped put of the shuttle. As he locked the shuttle up, a young woman walked towards him.

“Sheriff Snowflake? I am Herm Kiselo Rockblaster, clerk to the honourable Judge Belfries. Thank you for sending a signal with your estimated arrival, this has allowed the System Court to schedule the first, preliminary, hearing in fifteen minutes. If you would follow me?”

Trigger blushed, how could he have missed the signs? Not a woman at all, but a hermaphrodite. His only excuse was out in the frontier, where he lived, herms were primarily seen in popular entertainment, and as such were a bit more obvious.

“Certainly, Herm Rockblaster. Lead away.”

A few minutes later, they entered an opulent court room, panelled in what looked like genuine wood, definitely an imported luxury on Luna. Seated on the left, Trigger could see Rick Ven Fleerbo, sitting next to what looked like another Venusian. If he’d had more of a chance to prepare, Trigger would have brought an advocate, too, but hiring one was no trivial matter, and he had hoped he’d be able to see to that before even the preliminary hearing. Thankfully, Luna being the centre of legal wrangling that it was, it would not be hard finding an advocate that he could trust and work with.

Ven Fleerbo turned his head, as Trigger was walking down the aisle, to take his place on the front right, where the defendant’s assigned seating was.

“Snowflake! At least you’re not enough of a lily-belly to coward out. Would’ve been quicker, but this is more fun.”

Ven Fleerbo’s advocate tapped him on the shoulder, making a hushing gesture.

Trigger simply tilted his hat, then sat down.

The court room basked in an uncomfortable silence, until the door behind the judge’s podium opened and Judge Belfries stepped out.

“Let it be known that Honourable Judge Belfries is in the court. The court will now start preliminary hearings for Ven Fleerbo v Snowflake, in a matter of racial discrimination.”

Trigger took a deep breath, glanced to the left and saw Ven Fleerbo sneer in an unpleasant manner.

“This law suit has been bought by Rick Ven Fleerbo, a Venusian and a professional Sulphur Poet, against Trigger Bolt Snowflake, a martian, and a professional sheriff.

“If counsel for Ven Fleerbo would like to start?”

Ven Fleerbo started to stand, but his advocate quickly put a hand on his shoulder and whispered something in his ear.

“I am Slem Ven Pocketry, a Venusian and advocate for Rick Ven Fleerbo. We are here, because the defendant, Snowflake, has maligned my client, conspired to deprive him of income, caused hm to be ejected from poetry slams, and in other ways harmed my client, my client’s pride, and worst of all, deprived my client of income that was rightfully his. We intend to prove that this is because Snowflake hates Venusians, hates Sulphur Poetry and specifically has done all of these things because he wishes to deprive my client of all these things specifically because Rick Ven Fleerbo is Venusian.”

“Thank you. Advocate for… Ah, would the defendant please speak? And before you start, are you intending to stand pro se, or are you intending to find an advocate, should this go to full proceedings?”

“I am Trigger Bolt Snowflake, a Martian and a Sheriff. My intention was to find an advocate before the preliminary hearing, but with only fifteen minutes from setting down, I deemed it more appropriate to appear in person and on time. I will search for a suitable advocate, once this preliminary hearing is over.

“It is true that I was one of three people who caused Ven Fleerbo to be disinvited from the Coffee Emporium Poetry Slam, about two months ago. The person who made the actual decision was the manager of the Coffee Emporium, then Miss Coraline Hoyter, now Mrs Trigger Snowflake. But the chief reason Mr Ven Fleerbo was disinvited was because despite multiple pointed letters, verbal warnings, gentle reminders, pointed remarks and the like, Mr Ven Fleerbo failed to understand that what is polite in Sulphur circles is not acceptable behaviour on the moons of Jupiter. Simply stated, Mr Ven Fleerbo’s behaviour is incommensurate with furnished spaces, and that and that alone is the reason he was disinvited.”

“I have heard both sides in this preliminary hearing. I find that neither side has convinced me beyond reasonable doubt that their side will prevail. In accordance with the Planetary Alliance System Court’s rules and procedures, I declare that this law suit will proceed to full session. The court will reconvene tomorrow, at 09:07, for the start of the proceedings. I, Honourable Judge Belfries, hereby declare this court adjourned.”

#

Trigger left the third prospective advocate, glumly starting to think that he might, after all, have to represent himself. He stopped at a street corner, contemplating the pros and cons of such a strategy, when a familiar face walked past.

“Lilyberg? I thought you were still in Fort Corallium?!”

The man stopped, turned his head and started at Trigger.

“Pardon me? Do we know each other?”

“Ah, I am terribly sorry. You look very much like a man I know, Joseph Lilyberg.”

“Joseph Lilyberg, jeweller in Fort Corllium?”

“That’s the man. Again, terribly sorry.”

“Ah, no, it is no problem. Joseph is my brother. I am Emmanuel Lilyberg. May I trouble you for your name?”

“Trigger Snowflake, at your service.”

“Ah, Sheriff Snowflake? Joe has spoken well of you. What brings you to Luna in general, and Practice Street in particular?”

“I have had a law suit bought for me, and the preliminary hearing is already over, and I would very much like to find an advocate I can work with before the main session starts tomorrow.”

“Hm. If you have a few minutes, you can follow me to my office and I can do some due diligence. If this is the Flerrbo v Snowflake case, I believe I have an opening in my calendar, if primary session starts in the next day or three.”

“Tomorrow, 09:07, Mr Lilyberg.”

“Ah, excellent. If you would follow me?”

#

The following morning, Trigger followed Emmanuel (‘Manny’) Lilyberg into the court room. They were the first to arrive. They’d only been seated for a few seconds, when the doors slammed open. Rick Ven Fleerbo entered the court room, with swaggering steps, his law suit adorned with a yellow cape.

Ven Fleerbo and advocate sat down in the Plaintiff’s Section, smugly waiting for the proceedings to start. Trigger fidgeted a bit. He was surprisingly nervous, seeing as how he’d faced down multiple armed assailants, more than once. But, then, a duel on High Street at noon was a battleground he understood, whereas a court was well outside his comfort room.

The door behind the judge’s podium opened, and Judge Belfries stepped out.

“Let it be known that Honourable Judge Belfries is in the court. This court is now in session for Ven Fleerbo v Snowflake in a matter of racial discrimination. Is the plaintiff present?”

“Aye!”, said Ven Fleerbo, as he quickly popped to standing, then sat down again.

“Plaintiff is present. Is the defendant present?”

“Aye!”, said Trigger, simply raising his right arm over his head, fist clenched.

“Defendant is present. I see both plaintiff and defendant have advocates present. Excellent. Yesterday, we conducted a preliminary hearing, which did not firmly establish one way or another where the truth in this matter lies. The purpose of this session is firstly to establish the truth. Secondly, based on the truth found, determine where guilt lies. And, thirdly, dispense justice, retribution and corrective measures as the court sees fit.”

The judge paused, to allow for any questions from the floor. A few seconds later, no questions raised, the judge continued.

“The court calls Rick Ven Fleerbo, Venusian and Sulphur Poet. Please take the witness stand, and place your hands on the truth sensors on the railing. Tell us what your perception of the events are. Remember that you will be under oath. Lying to the court is perjury and punished by fines in minor cases, all the way up to imprisonment and work camps for severe cases. Your pulse, skin conductivity and the like will be measured and analysed after the session.”

Ven Fleerbo walked to the witness stand, placed his hands on the metal pads on the stand’s railing, took a deep breath and started.

“Judge Belfries, the court, the audience. I am thankful that the court has decided there is merit in this suit. Mere words cannot express the depth of my gratitude.”

Ven Fleerbo turned to the judge and demonstrated an infallible aim, projectile-vomiting straight onto the centre of the judge’s chest.

“It all started when my publicist tried to censor…”

Judge Belfries stood up and roared.

“The Court finds Ven Fleerbo in contempt! Without taking the witness stand, as it is not usable at the moment, defendant Snowflake, is what we just witnessed symptomatic of why Ven Fleerbo was disinvited from the poetry slam?”

Trigger stood up. “Yes, your Honour. It has been my experience that the plaintiff is incommensurable with furnished rooms, especially when he feels a need to express gratitude.”

Judge Belfries ripped his robes off. Thankfully, he wore a full set of clothing beneath.

“This court now dismisses Ven Fleerbo v Snowflake. With prejudice! Furthermore, the court finds Ven Fleerbo in contempt, and issues a fine of 500 Solars, to be paid no later than the end of the week. Even furthermore, the court charges Ven Fleerbo with an induction to not demonstrate gratitude in public, anywhere within the Planetary Alliance, except within Venostationary orbit. This session is now concluded.”

#

Trigger shook Manny Lilyberg’s hand, then entered his shuttle. It would be a long trip back, but at least he would be able to change back into his own clothes. And at the end of the journey, his beloved Coraline would be waiting. And hopefully this would be the last anyone heard of the odious Rick Ven Fleerbo.

Trigger Snowflake – Prominent Local Poet

By Ingvar: Trigger Snowflake woke up, and as he normally did, he walked downstairs, to the kitchen in the Sheriff’s Office. He loaded his trusty BrewMatic 3000, and pressed the start button. Most mornings, this was an uneventful routine, but this morning, the BrewMatic 3000 made a few distressing coughing noises, then simply ejected tepid water and all the coffee grounds in a distressing spray.

Trigger sighed, went over to the refrigerator, grabbed some milk and went to prepare his customary morning bowl of Nut Neptune Nuggets. Unfortunately, it seemed as if he had not been paying attention the previous day, as he only had enough Neptune Nuggets for half a bowl.

After a less than completely satisfying breakfast, Trigger was busy doing weapons maintenance on his trusty revolvers, when the door was flung open.

“Sheriff, sheriff, I am being blacklisted, oppressed and simply denied my rights as a free man!”

Trigger looked up from his half-dismantled guns, seeing Rick Ven Fleebro, a Venusian who’d arrived a few years ago.

“If you take a seat, and describe the happenings to me, while I finish up maintenance?”

“I will do this, Sheriff Snowflake. I have been most unfairly maligned, lied about, and now blacklisted from the Poetry Slam!”

Trigger’s forehead lifted a small amount, the Poetry Slam would be taking place at the Coffee Emporium, under the kind and welcoming oversight of his fiancee, Miss Coraline Hoyter. Surely nothing underhanded could be happening?

“As you know, I am a prominent local poet, and six months ago, I published a defining work of Venusian Sulphur Poetry. It all went well, to start with, but after a short while, my publicist and publisher sent me a letter, asking me to please stop showing people what I ate for dinner the previous night, which is considered polite on Venus and especially among Sulphur artists. Of course, I did not pay her rude interjection any heed, as I am polite, well-spoken and generally considered to be a model Venusian. Then, probably forced to do so by the namely-pappy weakling brigade, she worded it a bit stronger. She sent a letter that said that I would have to only show my dinner on my own time, not during publicity speeches for my book, during interviews about how I am a prominent local poet and the like. Which, as you can tell, not only offensive but also a direct attempt at curtailing my free speech.”

Trigger nodded, it was a fiddly piece of disassembly in progress, the firing mechanism had to be daintily disconnected from the plebotium power core.

“And, then, this morning, out of absolutely nowhere, I received a card from Miss Hoyter, at the Coffee Emporium, saying that due to my Venusian background, I have been stricken from the Poetry Slam line-up. You must do something, Sheriff Snowflake. Arrest all of these people!”

Trigger finished cleaning the parts of hs weapons and looked up at Ven Fleerbo.

“First, I need to reassemble my proton shooters. After that I will make inquiries and arrests as appropriate.”

#

Susan Doed was heads-down in her paperwork, when a firm knock sounded from her door. She re-assembled the papers into a neat stack and went to unlock the front door.

“Ah, Sheriff Snowflake, what a pleasant surprise. What can I do for you?”

“Perhaps pleasant is overstating things, Miss Doed. I am here on a matter of law.”

“Oh. Well. Let me not keep you standing in the door. Come in, can I get you a cup of coffee?”

“Some coffee would not sit amiss. I will be taking notes, since this is after all a work visit.”

“Sure. Do you take sugar or milk?”

“One sugar, brown if you have. No milk. Now, Miss Doed, I understand you are the publicist for a Mr Ven Fleerbo?”

“Am, was, that is a little bit unclear. We have not formally dissolved the contract, but Mr Ven Fleerbo has made it blatantly obvious that he no longer demands my services.”

“Hmm?”

“Well, only two weeks ago, he stormed out of this very office, screaming ‘You will be sorry for this, you slimy porcupine-loving equality-fighting shnipty!’ Yes, he even used the S word!”

“Anything more you can tell me about your association with Mr Ven Fleerbo?”

“It’s probably better if I just go through this from the start. About a year ago, Rick Ven Fleerbo came to my office, with the manuscript for a Venusian Sulphur Poetry collection in hand and asked if that was something I would be interested in publishing. I said, as I normally do to walk-ins, ‘Leave it on that shelf, with a note giving your contact details, and I will get back to you as soon as I can.’ About two, maybe three, days later, I had time to look at it and it was good. I mean, it was good Sulphur. A somewhat specialised kind of poetry, as you know.

“I decided it was worth getting it typeset and printed. We agreed that I would also help Mr Ven Fleerbo with promotional work and arrange a few readings. And that’s when the problems started. You see, it’s a tradition among Sulphur artists to, as a sign of thanks and respect, regurgitate their last meal during a recitation, or upon receiving strong compliments. And it is then expected that the person, or persons, being thrown up on, should at least taste the effluvia.

“I didn’t initially know this, so I was, as they say, somewhat surprised having a grown man throw up all over the front of my dress. I informed Mr Ven Fleerbo that engaging in this habit would probably limit his ability to sell his volume of poems. At first, he seemed to take this in an even stride, but when I reminded hum, a few weeks later, after he’d thrown up all over the stage as the applause broke out during a recitation, he started getting angry, and screamed something about being oppressed.”

“And?”

“Well, this has been going back and forth, for a while. I have now stopped trying to book him for readings, because quite a few venues simply decline having Ven Fleerbo on stage, citing local health inspectors, clean-up costs and rapidly declining attendance numbers on any event where Ven Fleerbo is listed on the billboard.”

“Thank you, Miss Doed, I may return for some more questions, later.”

#

Trigger arrived at the Coffee Emporium as the lunch crowd petered out. He boldly went in, waving at his fiancee, striding up towards the counter.

“Good afternoon, dear Coraline, I am unfortunately here on business. Can we talk in the back room?”

“Certainly, Trigger. Let me just hand the counter over to Barbara, she can certainly use the experience.”

They went through to the back room. Miss Coraline Hoyter sat down behind the manager’s desk, sighing with slight relief as her weight transferred from her dainty feet onto the chair.

“So, beloved Trigger, business you say?”

“Unfortunately so. I was approached this morning by a Rick Ven Fleerbo, a prominent local poet. I take it the name is familiar?”

“Ah, yes, Mr Ven Fleerbo. I am assuming this is in conjunction with next week’s Poetry Slam?”

“How perceptive of you. Yes. Could you please recount your view of what’s happened, while I take some notes?”

“There’s nothing much to tell. Having had reports from poetry slams throughout the entirety of the mining colony, from Fort Hamhock, Duralumin Gulch, and even Beryllium City, I learned that Mr Ven Fleerbo has a tendency to engage in… certain behaviour that is not really appreciated by the audience. I wrote him a letter, saying that his attendance as a poet at the Slam was conditional on a promise to not vomit all over my Emporium. My expectation was that he would respond with a promise not to, or at least a non-committal ‘I will do my best’. His actual response was profanity-laden and contained a promise to sup on the most foul dishes on the previous evening, so he could truly show the Fort Corallium public in how high of an esteem he holds them.”

“Hm?”

“Yes, it is the tradition among Venusian Sulphur artists. You consume things, in order to absorb and filter the more exceptional of their foods, then you simply void your digestive system and let people partake of slightly less vile foods.”

“So, your response at this point was?”

“Well, I wrote back and simply said that as I’d previously told him, his attendance was conditional on the opposite that he had promised. So with some regret, I cancelled him from the line-up and that, as far as I am concerned, is that. Now, dear Trigger, why are you asking about this, is there some sort of problem, here?”

“Yes, I wish I could tell you more, but the integrity of law enforcement, etc, etc.”

“Oh, my beloved darling, it must be such a troublesome balancing act for you.”

“It is not the most pleasant situation, Miss Hoyter. Not the most pleasant.”

#

The following day, Trigger woke up and went to the kitchen again. As he was about to open the cabinet, he suddenly remembered that yesterday had seen neither the repair of his DripMatic 3000, nor a purchase of more Neptute Nut Nuggets. With a blue word, he slammed the cabinet door shut, all ready to go down to the Coffee Emporium to break his fast there, when the front door slammed open.

“Sheriff Snowflake! It is I, prominent local poet Rick Ven Fleerbo. You must immediately arrest the vile women at the Coffee Emporium! They have now moved into complete slandering of me!”

“Mr Ven Fleerbo, I would appreciate it if you depart my office, for at least one hour. I have not yet had a chance to break fast and I am not in the best of moods.”

“Ah, that is at least easy to repair!”

With those words, Ven Fleerbo inserted a quick finger into his mouth, tickling the top of his throat. And in a magnificent display of respect deposited all of yesterday’s evening meal, all over Sheriff Snowflake, the floor, the kitchen cabinets, and counters.

“Mr Ven Fleerbo! Have you no concept of how to behave in a non-Venusian setting? Depart immediately, or I will have you arrested for obstruction of justice!”

Half an hour later, after a change of clothes and the second shower of the morning, Trigger arrived at the Coffee Emporium. He entered, fund his accustomed chair empty, sat down and leaned his head heavily into his hands, elbows firmly planted on the surface of the table.

“Beloved Trigger! Such a face, this early in the day! The usual?”

“Yes, Coraline, the usual.”

He proceeded to eat his pastry, finished his coffee and was seriously considering having a second cup when the door was flung open and Ven Fleerbo entered.

“Collusion! You are conspiring with these vile women. I should have known it!”

“Mr Ven Fleerbo!”, Trigger shouted, “You are factually incorrect. Having considered all the evidence, I can find no conspiracy to put you down for your Venusian background, only for the complete and utter inability to be kept in furnished rooms. It is very possible to be a Venusian Sulphur poet without engaging in such graphic shows of gratitude as you are prone to. In fact, Morpo Ven Eensam, prominent planetary poet, has succeeded in doing the very same for near on ten years. You, Mr Ven Fleerbo, are just an uncouth bore. Now, leave my fiancee’s Coffee Emporium, before I have you arrested for bringing false accusations.”

With that, Rick Ven Fleerbo turned around and left the coffee Emporium.

“Oh, dearest Trigger, such a manly outburst,” gushed Miss Hoyter, “let me tell you what I have been working towards.”

Trigger let his gaze move from the now-empty doorway to the breathtakingly beautiful face of his fiancee.

“Plans, Coraline?”

“Yes, plans. As you know, it will be impossible for me to continue to run the Coffee Emporium, once I am a wife and married woman, as I will have to focus completely on the household. But, fear not! I have trained a replacement, to take over the Coffee Emporium.”

“Marvellous! Have I met her?”

“Yes, you saw her yesterday, she is Miss Barbara Dimatis and has shown a suitable strength of will and honesty. And to that effect, I have spoken to the Preacher and he can join us in matrimony this evening, if that suits?”