Trigger Snowflake and the Goings-Away

By Ingvar.

A round-table conversation of the Elemental Smart-Alec Club, planetary day 7928

Rick ven Fleerbo: I guess you have all heard that them there Anti-Sulphurists are trying to Going-Away me. I am not sure what imagined grief they have with me, this time. Probaby as made-up as everything else they’ve chased me for.

John ven Fengsler: I hear you. I have seen it myself. There’s been many LoCs that have tried to make you a Persion Without Grater in the literary magazines.

Anna min Scorch: I cannot believe the things they make up. Chasing after innocent Sulphurists for no reason what-so-ever. We should write angry Letters of Comment, denouncing all Going-Awayists!

RvF: Yes. It is all so bad.

***

A Letter of Comment, published in Smelly Compounds

Venus, planetary day 7931, from the pen of Anna min Scorch

Fellow Sulphurists!

We need to do something! As late as yesterday, my oldest child arrived home from school, telling me that they’re forced to study hydro-carbons in chemistry class! Hydro! Carbons! Not a single pure yellow atom of Sulphur in that! Only icky hydrogen and dirty dirty carbon!

Please, fellow Artistes. Join me in a letter-writing campaign to have my oldest child’s chemistry teacher fired! It is for a good cause! These things must not be tolerated! Something must be DONE!

***

Trigger Snowflake walked down the Main Street of Fort Corallium, doffing his hat towards, and greeting, his fellow citizens. It had been a quiet few weeks. Not much happening, locally. In the larger Solar System, however, things were not as quiet as they could be. The Saturn Federation had been making noise about the moons of Uranus. To the point of sending liner ships into Uranian orbit.

No matter, Trigger’s responsibility was Fort Corallium, not the system at large. However, other members of the Sheriff’s Union may end up in trouble because of it.

He tried, as much as he could, leave these intrusive thoughts behind him, as he was just about to finish off a day of patrolling the neighbourhood, making Fort Corallium safe for law-abiding citizens. And soon, it was time to return home, to say a hearty “good evening” to Mrs. Snowflake. Trigger could not quite make up his mind if that “good evening”, the customary “sleep well”, or maybe the first “good morning” was the best part of the day. But it probably was one of them.

***

Coraline was down at the Coffee Emporium, just finishing a last cup and reading through this week’s selected Letters of Comments from her clip-and-file service. After sorting through them, one caught her eye for immediate and detailed reading.

\[Cut from “Venewsian News”, LoC column\] Uranianism is a Rock-Planet

Sponsored Misconception

by Briney ven Pommeln

I have been asked multiple times, as a resident on the Saturnian moons, been asked how I view the recent liberation mission of the Saturnian space force to Uranus.

Well, it is quite simple. There is no such thing as a Uranus nationality. Uranus was until very recently a member planet of the Saturnalian Federation. It has been a part of Saturnalian national identity for centuries.

The so-called Uranian Identity is manufactured and sponsored by state actors from rocky planets. Living on the moon of a gas planet, I know that they are not to be trusted, and all we can do to liberate the Uranian moons is right, just, and should be done.

Only two weeks ago, there were fervent pleas from the moon of Miranda, to the Saturnial parliament, to come and liberate them from their Uranian oppressors. And now that the Saturnalian fleet is on its way, we can look forward to a Uranus, returned to the Saturnalian crowd.

Peace to our gas giants, in our time.

***

Coraline dropped her stack of papes down onto the table, as she audibly gasped.

“Coraline, dear, what is it?” enquired Barbara.

“Barbara, I have just read the most horrible thing, from the QuicksilverCon Guest of Honour.”

“Briney ven Pommeln? What’s he written now?” “Oh, I cannot possibly summarise it quickly, please read yourself!”

Ms. Dimatis read through the clipped LoC, then also audibly gasped.

“Oh my. I wonder if QuicksilverCon will have to disinvite him, now?”

Trigger Snowflake and the Debacle At SysLiCon

By Ingvar: “Trigger, dear?”

Trigger Snowflake was shaken out of his tired musings by the voice of his beloved wife Coraline. “Yes, Coraline?” he replied.

“Are you packed? You know we’re heading to Mars tomorrow, for SysLiCon.”

“I have not forgotten, beloved wife. I only have my holiday hat left to pack. Just finishing up some paperwork, then I’ll come to bed.”

*      *      *

The next morning, fast duly broken, the couple walked to the Fort Corallium spaceport, where they boarded the small vessel provided for Sheriff Snowflake. They’d have to reimburse the Solarian Police for the fuel used, but it was definitely worth the cost for having private transport to the Mars SysLiCon.

It was a momentous SysLiCon. For the first year, Mercury was bidding for an upcoming SysLiCon and it stood between Luna on one hand and Mercury on the other.

The general feeling in the Literature community was that while it would be interesting to have SysLiCon on Mercury, it was not safe for the bulk of the SysLiCon attendees.

And the initial processing of the absentee ballots would begin while they were in transit. Naturally, Trigger and Coraline were eagerly awaiting any and all news beams.

*      *      *

“Oh. Trigger, have you seen?”

“No, what?”

“A telefacsimile transmission just arrived. It seems as if OlympiCon have dropped Urbel as chairperson for the con-meeting.”

“That’s unusual. Why?”

“I am not actually quite sure. But, you’ll have to enquire when we get to Mars.”

*      *      *

“Trigger, there are more updates! Apparently, he has also been dropped from the SysLiCon-on-Luna bid committee.”

“This is very unlike Sheriff Scrogginski. I will need to talk to him, once we get to Mars.”

*      *      *

Trigger expertly maneouvered the ship down onto the landing pad. They still had a few hours before the official opening of OlympiCon, the Mars Systems Literature Convention.

Trigger debarked, then helped Coraline to step down on the landing pad.

“Dearest Coraline, would you excuse me? I need to find Sheriff Scrogginski and see if I can get any clarity in what has been happening.”

“Darling Trigger, you do that. Come back and tell me, once clarity has been achieved.”

*      *      *

“Urbel! Urbel! It’s me, Trigger.”

“Ah, Sheriff Snowflake, a familiar face!”

“So, this whole thing? What happened?”

“Well, as you know, I was on the SysLiCon-on-Luna bid committee. And as such, I was an observer for the initial processing of the absentee future site election. As such, I used the bid committee observer privilege to get some data from the absentee ballots. Specifically, the planet of domicile for the absentee voters.”

“Hm, so far, I see nothing untowards?”

“No, neither did I. So, then, I sent out a Letter of Comment, with the planetary domicile breakdown, highlighting that almost 7 out of 10 were domiciled on Mercury.”

“Well… The on-site voting in the future site selection has a deadline in three days?”

“Yes.”

“But, Urbel, culd this not be construed as election interfering?”

“I very clearly sent the LoC as myself as a private individual.”

“Nonetheless, you are well-known as being the chairperson, and you are, well were, on a bid committee.”

“Yes. In retrospect, I suppose it was not as well-advised as I thought at the time.”

*      *      *

Coraline walked through the main hall of OlympiCon, soaking up the heady atmosphere of literature discussions, happening all around her. It felt so good being back at an actual convention, after all the SOVID issues.

She suddenly stopped, staring at a book propped up at one of the fan tables. It was titled “An Elemental Mess – a History of Sulphurian Actions in Literature”.

She picked the volume up, and only then did she see who was also standing by the table.

“Barbara! I did not know you were here. It is so good to see you!”

“Coraline! I see you have seen my new book. I was inspired to write it, after the whole thing when they thought I was Trigger. I just didn’t know what to call it.”

*      *      *

A few days later, Trigger, Coraline, and Ms Dimatis were taking coffee in one of the convention cafés.

“Ms Dimatis”, Trigger said, “did you know that danishes are actualy called Viennas in Denmark?”

“Yes, Trigger, I knew that. They were apparently first made by a baker from Vienna, who had moved to Copenhagen. Oh! Look! They’re just about to announce the results of the future site election!”

“I wonder how it all went? Ah, yes, I did speak to Urbel. Apparently about 70% of the absentee ballots were from Mercury.”

“Oh, if that had been published in… Wait, is that why he was dropped as chair?”

“Yes, apparently neither OlympiCon nor the SysLiCon-on-Luna concoms thought it was a good look, having someone so well-known doing something like that, even as a private individual.”

“Well, looks like Mercury won the election. So, SysLiCon will be on Mercury in two years.”

“Good for them. I hope they will get many off-planet attendees. But I for one will not go, as I fear being that close to the Sun.”

Never Mind The News – File 770’s Best Feature Articles of 2021

Was the year too heavy, deep, and real? Yes, but it was also rich in creativity, humor, and shared adventures. It’s a gift and privilege for me to be continually allowed to publish so many entertaining posts. Thanks to all of you who contributed!

FEATURES

David DoeringMost Remote SF Bookstore in the World?

Meet “Book Island” in the town of Saint Denis on Reunion Island—a small speck in the vast Indian Ocean

Pierre E. Pettinger, Jr.Never Too Late To Start: Guest Post by Pierre E. Pettinger Jr.

… Like many fans, I had tried my hand with writing, especially as a teenager. I wrote notes, drew weird aliens, and even wrote a novel which will never see the light of day. But during all this I did noodle, consistently, with several recurring characters and a story line. It shifted and changed, of course, as I matured and different interests came into my life, and eventually they just settled in the back of my mind.

John HertzAt the Height of His –

… Once when [Tim] Powers was being interviewed at an SF convention someone asked “Do you actually believe in this stuff?”  He said “No.  But my characters do.”  As Gordon Bennett wrote, and Frank Sinatra sang, “This is all I ask, this is all I need.”

JJ2020 Novellapalooza

… I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story Synopsis had some appeal for me). …

Patty WellsLearn About SAFF, the Space Agency Fan Fund

… The mission of SAFF is to keep the factual progress of space exploration out there for our community and to help individual Worldcons and other conventions in dealing with the arrangements and funding of space experts as special guests. 

JJWhere To Find The 2020 Nebula Finalists For Free Online

To help propel you into your awards season reading, here are links to excerpts or complete works from the 2020 Nebula Award finalists.

John HertzGood Names for Bad Guys

 During 1937-1956 a radio program called “The Answer Man” was broadcast over the Mutual Broadcasting System….  

Wolf von WittingInexplicable Phenomena and How To Approach Them

… Another solved mystery was that of the vanishing pancake. A friend of mine, by profession police officer, was standing at his stove, frying pancakes. As we both did with pancakes, we flipped them around in the air. So did my friend on this day.

His mystery was that the pancake never came back down. It vanished. There was no trace of it….

A Multitude of FilersOpening Lines Rewritten for a Pandemic — By Filers

Eli Grober’s “Opening Lines Rewritten for a Pandemic” in The New Yorker humorously changes the beginnings of famous books to suit life as we knew it in the plague year of 2020…. Filers answered the challenge to add to the list. Here is a collection from yesterday’s comments….

The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed, being careful to maintain a distance of at least six feet.

–Nina Shepardson

Brendan DuBoisIn Happy Pursuit of Jeopardy!

… It was the Jeopardy! gameshow display screen one saw all the time on television, in real life, just yards away, here inside the cool Sony studios.   Six rows across with the categories, columns of five numbers under each.  To the right of the large display was Alex Trebek’s podium, and nearby were the three contestant stations. 

There were sixteen of us here, and before the end of the day, all of us but one would have our thirty minutes of fame — or infamy — in this very special place.

But how did I get here?

John HertzAnother Well-Titled Book

Glorious, the Greg Benford – Larry Niven novel appearing last year, is one of the more ambitious SF stories.  

Rich LynchRocket Boy

… The model took off and rose straight up for maybe 100 feet or so before the second stage kicked in, but then there was trouble.  Instead of continuing its upward flight, the thing veered to the right and zoomed away horizontally, slightly descending all the while.  It went directly over a house across the street and continued on, neatly bisecting the span between two tall trees behind the house.  And then it was gone from sight.  I remember that my uncle gave me a quizzical look and asked, “Was it supposed to do that?”…

IphinomeFour Reviews by Iphinome

Reading. That’s what I do, I read and I snark things.

IphinomeIphinome Reviews Novik’s A Deadly Education

El (Galadriel) is pissed off. Her classmate Orion just rescued her for the second time –needlessly. She’s capable, more than capable, El’s powerful – El, power, get it? Get it?…

Lyrics by Aydrea Walden and Jocelyn Scofield“All Because of You” Lyrics from the Nebula Awards Ceremony

But then I had a spark, a realization
While floating here all by myself
I’m actually in the best of company
Because you’re on my shelf

Mark L. BlackmanDeath and Doom (and Cats) at the KGB Bar with Seanan McGuire and Nadia Bulkin

On the evening of Wednesday, June 16, 2021, the Fantastic Fiction at KGB Reading Series, hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, presented authors Seanan McGuire and Nadia Bulkin in livestreamed readings on YouTube. (Neither reader is running for Mayor of New York.)

This is the 16th month of virtual readings, in place of in-person reading at the eponymous bar in the East Village in Manhattan, noted Kressel. New York City may be “open,” added Datlow, but they don’t yet feel comfortable “going into the crowd” at the Bar for at least a few more months….

Mike GlyerSmell Like A Superhero

Is there a science fiction movie character you want to smell like? Forget Swamp Thing, c’mon, he’s not in Fragrance X’s catalog. Otherwise, there’s no end of superhero and genre branded colognes you can buy.

Sara FelixWhy I Work on Worldcon: Guest Post by Sara Felix

There was a post a while ago on twitter that asked, “So what motivates y’all to continue entering bids to host Worldcons? Genuinely curious.”

And I responded with, ”I think there are some great bids out there like Glasgow 2024 that you can genuinely tell they are enthusiastic and want to put on a good show.  Working on Dublin was like that for me as well.  I am not saying they are perfect but the excitement is really important.”

But that is just the tip of the iceberg of what I wanted to say…

Cat EldridgeLeague of Extraordinary Gentlemen Film Anniversary: Celebrate or Not?

… Now back to Connery. The film would leave him with such a bad experience that claimed he the production of the film and the film’s final quality was what he caused his decision to permanently retire from filmmaking, saying in an interview with The Times that, “It was a nightmare. The experience had a great influence on me, it made me think about showbiz. I get fed up dealing with idiots.”

Martin Morse WoosterSpace Jam: A New Legacy – A Review

Space Jam:  A New Legacy is a fun-free synthetic entertainment substitute.  Its many writers (six are credited) created a screenplay from artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, and gas….  

Mark L. BlackmanTwo Too-Near Futures from Kim Stanley Robinson and Nancy Kress

… Datlow asked Robinson, “How can you be so optimistic?” He replied that his mother was; she felt that it was our duty to be optimistic and to help people….

Mike GlyerLe Guin Stamp Issued Today

The Ursula K. Le Guin commemorative Forever stamp was officially unveiled today during a ceremony at the Portland (OR) Art Museum.

Steve VertliebCelebrating The Wonderful Nehemiah Persoff At 102

… I began to wonder whatever became of this marvelous actor and so, before retiring for the evening, I started to research Mr. Persoff’s whereabouts on my computer. As luck would have it, I found him and wrote him a rather hasty letter of personal and lifelong admiration. To my shock and utter astonishment, he responded within five minutes….

Melanie StormmEmails From Lake Woe-Is-Me: Links To Every Installment

Stormm began her humorous series about the misdirected emails she gets from Writer X in August and has done 17 regular and two bonus installments. It swirls together comedy, horror, and the pitfalls of being a writer.

Robin A. ReidWriting Against the Grain: T. Kingfisher’s Feminist Mythopoeic Fantasy

The purpose of this presentation is to place Tolkien’s theory of mythopoeic fiction in dialogue with fantasy series by T. Kingfisher in order to argue that her work is feminist and mythopoeic. While there are a number of elements of Kingfisher’s fiction that are relevant to my purpose, I’ll be focusing on two: her version of Faërie and system of magic, and her portrayal of female characters whose relationships are with failed warrior heroes….

Brian Z.A Modest Proposal for the Very Retro Hugo for Genre-Related Work

The talk of time capsules and 1000-year M-discs in the Pixel Scroll 8/12/21 discussion of item (16), the Louis XIII Cognac 100-year sci-fi film vault, got me thinking that Worldcon should do Hugos for Best Genre-related Work Created 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 and 40,000 years ago….

Sultana RazaHergé’s Multi-Layered Worlds

… Considered to be a genius by many, not only was Hergé skilled at drawing, he was also good at fascinating his readers with mysteries, and intriguing situations. For example, why was Prof. Calculus going into the heart of a volcano, following the agitated movements of his pendulum, instead of running away, like all the others? Perhaps he was so oblivious to his real surroundings, and was so desperate to find the cause of the wild swinging of his pendulum for the sake of science, that inadvertently, he was willing to risk his very life. Or was he running away from mundane reality? And why did Tintin rush back to save his friend from going deeper in the maze of the mountain? Possibly because that was Tintin’s nature, to rescue not just the innocent people of the world, but it also showed his deep friendship with the absent-minded professor….

Robert RepinoConsequences as an Engine of Storytelling: A Guest Post by Robert Repino

…After watching [John Wick: Chapter 3], my friends and I got some drinks at a nearby bar. There, I found myself repeating a single word from the movie: “Consequences.” Wick utters this word whenever one of the characters points out that his past may have finally caught up with him. Since I like to drive jokes into the ground, I began to say “Consequences” in response to everything that night, in a poor imitation of Wick’s scratchy voice. Why did we need to buy another round? “Consequences.” Why should someone else pick up the tab? “Consequences.” And maybe I should call out sick tomorrow? “Consequences.”…

Mike GlyerHallmark Rolls Out 2021 Ornaments

Right after the Fourth of July might not be when I shop for Christmas ornaments, but somebody does, because that’s when Hallmark runs its Keepsake Ornament Premiere.

If the timing is for the convenience of retailers, there is also a certain logic in picking a spot on the calendar that is as far away as you can get from a date associated with Christmas trees. It’s plain some of these ornaments are intended for a Halloween or Thanksgiving tree, while others probably are destined never to decorate a tree at all but to remain pristine in their original wrapping on collectors’ shelves….

Craig MillerPreview of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

In, I believe, 1927, the Academy of Motion Pictures was founded.

In 1929, they decided there should be a museum of motion picture history and memorabilia.

In three days, a little shy of a hundred years later, the Academy Museum will open to the public….

Martin Morse WoosterReview: Museum of the Bible

Continuing my reports on museums that might be of interest to Filers coming to Washington for DisCon III, I offer a report on the Museum of the Bible, which I visited recently.  (I had a Groupon!)…

Glenn HaumanOh, The Place We Boldly Stop.

The Dr. Seuss Enterprises lawsuit against us is finally over….

Esther MacCallum-StewartCOP26 and Glasgow in 2024

… COP26 has produced an enormous impact on Glasgow….

Sultana RazaFan or Spy?

… I couldn’t help thinking of the passage from The Lord of the Rings, where the Crebain go searching for the Fellowship. In fact, there are many birds as spies in fantasy fiction, such as the Three-Eyed Raven, the, One-eyed Crow, or Varamyr Sixskins warging into an eagle in A Song of Ice and Fire, to mention a few…. 

Mike GlyerShould the Best Series Hugo Category Be Kept?

The Best Series Hugo category was added to the WSFS Constitution in 2017 with a sunset clause requiring a future re-ratification vote to remain part of the Worldcon Constitution. That vote happens next week at the DisCon III Business Meeting. If you were there, would you vote yes or no on keeping the category?

Shana WorthenTwas the Night Before DisCon III

Then down the long hall there arose so much chat,
that I sprang from my chair to see what was that?
Through archways, past plant pots, I slipped through the throng
as the loud murmuration came strolling along.

Colin HarrisThe World in Worldcon

… In reality, China is a huge country with a vast population and an expanding middle class; an enormous SF field and well established fandom. Chengdu is an established international convention site as well as a centre for science and technology.

I rather suspect that from the Chengdu bid’s viewpoint, the US-centric history of Worldcon is at odds with the very name of the event and its claim to be the leading global celebration of the genre. I do not need to believe there is anything suspicious about the bid, because it only needs a tiny percentage of Chinese fans to get behind it to make it a success….

Sultana Raza (and others)International Interactions with Tolkien – A Roundtable

Though Tolkien’s novels were very successful in the last century, after the Peter Jackson trilogy in the early 2000s, their reach increased to encompass the globe. Irrespective of geographical or linguistic differences, they spoke to us in different ways. In an informal Discussion Group at Oxonmoot 2021, (held online), participants were welcome to share their thoughts/reactions/ take on various aspects of Tolkien’s works, mainly his Legendarium….

Mike GlyerThe Twenty Percent Solution: A Self-Published Science Fiction Competition Judge’s Upvotes

… Based on reading 20% of Team File 770’s assigned books, I found there are actually 12 I’d say yes to – so I am going to need to cut two more before I finalize this list….

TRIGGER SNOWFLAKE

The saga of Sheriff Trigger Snowflake, the lovely Coraline, and the shenanigans of the Solarian Poets Society added several chapters this year that were not so much ripped-from-the-headlines as amused by the news.

Ingvar Trigger Snowflake and the Election

… Trigger put his cup down, as he saw Coraline wave a paper in the air.

“Trigger!” she said, “Look at this! Look who’s standing for president!”

IngvarTrigger Snowflake and the Dessert

A few days later, down at the Coffee Emporium, Trigger was having breakfast. A nice cup of Bean of the Day and a grilled synthecheese. As he finished the last bite of the synthecheese, Barbara Dimatis walked up to his table.

“Sheriff Snowflake, may I sit?”

“Why, sure, Ms Dimatis. What troubles you?”

“You’ve heard of Bistro Futuristo? Well, turns out that the editor and owner of Futuristo Magazine has made an announcement.”…

Ingvar Trigger Snowflake and the Grand Reopening

“Sheriff! Sheriff! Have you heard?”

“No, Ms Dimatis, I don’t believe I have?”

“The Bistro has re-opened!”

“Bistro Futuristo?”

INTERVIEWS

Brandon Sanderson WFC 2020 Interview Highlights – Conducted by David Doering

Far Sector Round Table with N.K. Jemisin – Conducted by James Bacon and others

CHRIS BARKLEY

ConStellation Hat. Photo by Craig Glassner/Pinterest/Hat of the Day

… Needless to say, I have witnessed or participated in a number of remarkable, bizarre and historic incidents during my tenure working at Worldcons. I not only know how the sausage was made, I helped make it as well….

… Before I reveal my BDP Hugo Nomination Ballot choices, let’s contemplate these ten outstanding films from 2020…

So forget about what the naysayers are saying; Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a big, exciting, sprawling, violent, intense, profane, beautiful and ultimately moving film.

DECLASSIFIED! Seven Secret and Untold Stories From the Worldcon Press Office

CONVENTION REPORTS

Commemorative button.

CHRIS BARKLEY’S DISCON III REPORTS

Ride along with Chris at this year’s Worldcon, everywhere from major events to favorite restaurants.

JAMES BACON

In addition to reviewing comics and graphic novels, James used his camera and descriptive abilities to take us along on visits to all kinds of fascinating exhibits and pop culture events.

CATS SLEEP ON SFF

OBITUARIES

[date of publication]

Trigger Snowflake and the Grand Reopening

By Ingvar: Trigger was just about done with his pre-lunch stroll through Fort Corallium, when an almost out-of-breath Barbara Dimatis came rushing towards him.

“Sheriff! Sheriff! Have you heard?”

“No, Ms Dimatis, I don’t believe I have?”

“The Bistro has re-opened!”

“Bistro Futuristo?”

“Yes!”

“Well, I hope this is after a thorough investigation of all the alleged shenanigans around the dessert stations.”

“The editor’s column in the latest issue of Futuristo Magazine has some commentary around it. I believe Coraline should have a copy.”

Trigger finished off his patrol, then walked back to the office. This was clearly something well worth checking up on.

***

> What I saw in the Bistro over the last year by James ven Sveller

> I have now had time to review the allegations made against Bistro
> Futuristo, both specific and general.

> And I can say with confidence that they are all fabricated. What I
> have seen is a vibrant community of literary people, discussing art
> and curating the buffet in a civilised fashion, ranging from arranging
> or peeling grapes to the intricacies of experimental grammar in the
> works of Snorkly ven Ziploque. I have investigated tens of
> serving-related tools from the buffet, if not all of the thousands
> used to serve, and served from, during the years that the Bistro has
> operated.

> Were there dishes served I would not eat? Yes, some I would not touch
> with a three-metre pole. But, such is taste.

> When I first shut down the Bistro, I was overwhelmed with the love
> that past and current patrons of the Bistro expressed. It is now my
> privilege to re-open Bistro Futuristo again. And to distance the
> magazine from it, I have created a company I call LiteratureSalons to
> manage the Bistro going forward.

> We did make some changes during the close-down. Some areas of the
> buffet that were not well-trafficked (the spiced butter section, among
> them) have been taken out, and some have been moved, to better
> facilitate the serving flow.

> And remember that there are rules in the Bistro. No bringing in food
> from other Bistros. No disparaging the contributors to Futuristo
> Magazine.No pan-handling for causes not previously OKed by one of the
> curators.

> Also, in order to ensure we don’t get any of these blatantly false
> allegations in the future, we have made the Bistro a members-only
> establishment. To enter, you must have purchased a Futuristo Magazine
> in the last Earth year. Any visitor to the Bistro in the last 12
> months has been grandparented in.

Trigger could not quite believe what he just read. Was ven Sveller completely out of touch with reality? Was the clearly documented presence of emetics in the Cleveries not enough of a “there is a problem here” signal?

***

The following week, as Trigger entered the Emporium, for a sneaky afternoon snack of coffee and a danish, he was not expecting the extra item served with his between-meals snack. A letter-of-comment, printed out, next to his coffee cup.

> More Bistro Shenanigans? Leanne Ackie

> You have all heard the news that Bistro Futuristo has re-opened. As
> someone whose visiting privileges was grandparented in, I recently
> paid a visit to the re-opened establishment.

> Like previous times, I took samples from multiple stations and had
> them sent off to a laboratory for analysis. The situation with the
> purple Cleveries is the same. Roughly one in five is covered in
> emetics (and, mind you, this will eventually, through agitation,
> dissipate onto other candies in the same bowl).

> For the chocolate truffles, I sampled in total seventeen, from four
> different truffle plates. Of those, a whole five were now spiked with
> emetics.

> Based on this, I think we can simply conclude that the Bistro
> management were fully aware of what was happening and that they are OK
> with breaches of the “no forcey” rule, if that is in furtherance of
> Sulphurian appreciation demonstration customs.

“Ms Dimatis? Am I reading this correctly? That ven Sveller closed the bistro, only to re-open it and concluding that nothing untowards ever happened?”

“Yes, Sheriff Snowflake, I think that it is the only thing we can conclude. Did you like the latest roasted beans?”

Trigger Snowflake and the Dessert

By Ingvar: Trigger arrived back at his combined Sheriff’s Office and home, after a productive day of patrolling Fort Corallium. All the citizens seemed happy, and he was looking forward to a nice, relaxing evening in the company of his beloved wife, Coraline.

He opened the door, hung the belt with his twin laser revolvers on its assigned hook and locked the door behind him.

“Coraline, I am home!”, he shouted, then proceeded to climb the stairs from the office space to his domicile. Once unencumbered by his street clothes, Trigger leaned back in his comfy chair and relaxed.

Not even fifteen minutes later, his reveries were disturbed by Coraline’s agitated voice.

“Trigger! Trigger! You won’t believe it!”

“Hmm?”

“You know Futuristo Magazine? There’s just been an article published about one of their side businesses!”

“From the sound of it, nothing good?”

“No, I am wondering what they’re going to do about it?”

“About what, beloved?”

“So, Futuristo Magazine have this, well, salon. It is called Bistro Futuristo. And apparently, Sulphurists have been putting emetics in the buffet. And until just recently, it had just never been spoken about. I mean, imagine it, you go to a poetry and literature salon, and the next thing you know, you’re spilling your figurative guts over everything.”

“I’m sure we will see a sensible response from the editors and owners of Futuristo.”

“I so hope that is true, Trigger.”

          #          #          #

A few days later, down at the Coffee Emporium, Trigger was having breakfast. A nice cup of Bean of the Day and a grilled synthecheese. As he finished the last bite of the synthecheese, Barbara Dimatis walked up to his table.

“Sheriff Snowflake, may I sit?”

“Why, sure, Ms Dimatis. What troubles you?”

“You’ve heard of Bistro Futuristo? Well, turns out that the editor and owner of Futuristo Magazine has made an announcement.”

“From what my beloved Coraline said, I hope it was a sensible and well-reasoned announcement?”

“Not so much. Actually, it may be easier if you just read it yourself.”

> It has been brought to our attention by some helpful folks, that emetics that not everyone want to ingest have been present in Bistro Futuristo. In order to fully investigate these serious allegations, and the Bistro’s ‘no forcey’ rules, we will be closing the Bistro from Wednesday at noon, and all patrons will have to take their lawful acts of appreciation elsewhere.

“Now that,” said Trigger, “is not the response I would have expected.”

“Well, ven Sveller, the owner and editor of Futuristo Magazine, have shown Sulphur sentiments in the past, but, the way I read this is that there’s basically no way he didn’t know.”

          #          #          #

A long and tiring day of patrolling the neighborhood later, Trigger arrived home.

“Trigger, darling, have you heard?”

“The ven Sveller apolonot? Yes, Ms Dimatis showed me at the Emporium this morning.”

“No. Well, related, but not that. Here, read this!”

An outrage of cancel culture run amok! by Whalie Correadore

As a poet and contributor to Futuristo Magazine, it has been my custom to visit the Bistro, to bask in the presence and splendour that is the collective intelligence and with of the Bistrovians, as we jokingly call ourselves.

I have been an active Bistrovian for 23 years, and I have never had a problem of being slipped emetics. But, I normally stick to the coffee and the Danishes. I mean, people who go for the candy get what they deserve, right?”

Trigger blinked. Was this the beginning of a brewing storm?

None of the sections I curated and collected recipes for ever had a problem. Therefore, this report of inserted emetics is pure hogwash, constructed by the rabidly anti-Sulphur literati. Not, mind you, that I am a Sulphurian myself, but I know several of them.

Trigger shook his head. This was obviously not heading anywhere good.

“Oh, darling, here’s another LoC that you should read.”

Cancelists by Carl Sparkrock

I have been a Futuristo contributor for 30 years. I am probably the most anti-Sulphur Futuristo contributor there is. And I condemn everyone for these false emetics allegations. Why, I used to be a regular in the Bistro, and there was never anything like that going on then.

Sure, I have been on a different planet for 15 years, but I am sure that nothing would ever change in the Bistro, as it is so lovingly curated and managed by not only James, but by several community curators. They ensure that fresh fare is brought forth and every bowl, carafe and pump thermos is kept in good order.

They’re a good bunch, the Bistrovians, I am sure they would never do anything like that.

Trigger simply shook his head. This whole story was becoming more and more unbelievable, for every single report that came out of the Bistrovian camp.

          #          #          #

Later that evening, Trigger found further letters of comment, touching on the matter of the Bistro Futuristo.

My thoughts, by Anna min Scotch

There have been overblown reports of emetics all over everything in the Bistro. As a regular Bistrovian, I can say that this is blatantly false. I have a strict “no emetics” policy for the salad bar. Over in the dessert section, I guess there’s some emetics in among the Cleveries. It’s a known thing and it’s not as if everyone doesn’t already know to stay away from the candy section in general and the Cleveries in particular.

No, this is clearly overblown and there is no emetics problem at the Bistro. I am outraged that James has been forced by these anti-Sulphurians to need to shut the Bistro down. It is a valuable resource for us who publish with and contribute to Futuristo Magazine. They should be ashamed for closing the Bistro down.

This Bistro Futuristo thing. Leanne Ackie

I have occasionally visited Bistro Futuristo. Mostly, I would say, it is a nice, clean, and food-safe environment. But, there are sections that are definitely not.

I am not going to name names, because I do not know them. But, having taken samples from various parts of the Bistro’s buffet of comestibles, I can definitely say that in my sample, one out of roughly every five purple Cleveries candy was absolutely coated in emetics. I also found a single chocolate truffle that had emetics on the inside.

Based on this, I think these self-congratulating reports about “no problem at all” are interesting and show, possibly, a tendency to defend the Bistro while either intentionally obscuring what they know (or should know) or (as some did) simply not knowing, on account of not having visited the Bistro for well over a decade.

Make of this what you want. There was a problem, and either James ven Sveller knew and let it continue. Or, probably worse, ven Sveller didn’t know what was being done in the name of his magazine. Either way, a temporary close-down to ensure that there are no stray emetics, as well as making a strong statement that it is not acceptable going forward, is necessary.

          #          #          #

The next morning, Trigger woke up to Coraline pacing in the bedroom.

“Beloved, what is the matter?”

“Well, it seems that there have been threats against the person who first reported the Bistro Futuristo problem.”

“But? What? Why? That makes no sense. At best, it accomplishes nothing, at worst it puts the Bistrovians in an extremely bad light?”

“Honestly, dear Trigger, I don’t understand it and I am not sure I want to.”

“Threats for what reason?”

“Apparently for not having engaged with ven Sveller before publishing the report. Or possibly for having brought it to light. Something like that.”

“Metaphorically putting my Sheriff’s Hat on, I don’t see why that would have been necessary. We can safely assume that ven Sveller has been aware of what’s going on. I mean, it’s not as if the other Bistrovians weren’t aware, they just chose to declare it ‘not a problem’. And as the proprietor, ven Sveller is fundamentally responsible for the quality of food served in his establishment, even if he has volunteer curators assisting with quality assurance. Also note that, if I understand correctly, the person dosing the Cleveries with emetics was a volunteer curator, pointing towards failures in judgment by ven Sveller. Now, I will go to the kitchen and make us a nice, nostalgic, breakfast of beans on toast.”

Trigger Snowflake and the Election

By Ingvar: Coraline came up the stairs, just as Trigger took a sip of coffee. The DripMatic 3000 had been behaving oddly the last week, but today’s coffee was pretty good. Well on the right side of “drinkable”, at least.

Trigger put his cup down, as he saw Coraline wave a paper in the air.

“Trigger!” she said, “Look at this! Look who’s standing for president!”

Trigger swallowed his coffee. “But, Coraline, the presidential election isn’t for another four years.”

“Oh, sorry. Not for the Solar System. Just for the Solarian Poets’ Society.”

*    *    *

We now take our omniscient view back a week or so in time, to see how the candidacy that upset Coraline started.

Charles Tayroth woke up, bright and early, just before brunch, as he normally did. This day, unlike most days, he was pondering the upcoming election for the SPS board. “I am a successful poet.”, he thought. “I am a winner. I should clearly be the new president of the SPS.”

With thought and deed being one, he rapidly declared his standing for election.

I, Charles Tayroth, will be standing for president for the Solarian Poet’s Society. I am the most logical choice, because I am rich and successful. I even once won the Best Services to the Poetic Arts. Based on this, you would be a fool to vote for anyone else.

Remember, when it is time to mark your candidate, anything but marking Charles Tayroth for president is foolish and misled. Vote me. Make the Solar System Poetic!

*    *    *

“But, beloved Coraline, who is this Mr Tayroth?”

“Trigger, dear, do you remember, back a while ago, when me and Barbara were upset over the Poetry Of All Of Us win, and what came after? Well, Tayroth is the one who ended up declaring himself the sole reason for the win, and misusing logos for pins, embroidered shirts and other merchandise.”

“That doesn’t necessarily sound like the best person to head a trade association for poets.”

“You are so right. I will need to go speak to Barbara, immediately.”

*    *    *

As Coraline entered the Coffee Emporium, she was met not only by the delicious smell of freshly brewed coffee, but also some strong words and a flung newspaper.

“Barbara? What is happening?”

“Oh, Coraline, the most awful thing. Charles Tayroth is standing for SPS president. Something clearly must be done. But, I do not know what.”

“It is beginning to become clear to me. We need to get a second candidate to stand. Someone who is more liked by poets in general, and who has a chance to win. Someone like you, Barbara.”

“No, Coraline, I could not possibly do that. What would happen to the Emporium, were I to become president of the SPS? I would not have enough time to oversee all the roasting and synthecheese printing. You know how much work it is. And you were possibly even more involved in writing letters of comment than I was.”

“It is a thorny problem, Barbara. Let us sit down with a cup of something to fuel our thoughts.”

*    *    *

“Anna, have you seen? Charles Tayroth is standing for president of the SPS!”

“I have, Rick. It is a wondrous thing. While not a Sulphurian, he has at least showed himself sympathetic to the Sulfurian creed. There is no possible chance that he will lose.”

“I will take it upon myself to spread the good word, to every single poet within venostationary orbit. Personally, if needs be. I will ensure that I do all I can to safeguard Tayroth’s future presidency.”

                    *    *    *

Olaus Frond dropped the newsletter from his surprisingly uncooperative hand. Normally, he had no problem holding on to multiple sheets of paper, but what he just read was so out of the normal that minor bodily malfunctions was a small price to pay.

It was, nonetheless, time for a sharply worded letter of comment.

Charles Tayroth standing for the SPS presidency – an unprecedented crisis in poetry?

   By Flapping-in-the-wind Leaves

   This morning, I saw something that I could not even have anticipated in my most febrile nightmares. Charles Tayroth has declared his candidacy for the presidency of the Solarian Poets’ Society. And at this point, he is standing unopposed.

   To most of us, Charles Tayroth is only known as a businessman. To some of us, he is also known as the person who sullied the collective win of POAOU a while back, by trying to make it his win. To me, and a small number of others, Tayroth is a cruel abuser, who kicks those who happen to have fallen down in his vicinity and, if they haven’t fallen on their own accord, will happily push and trip them.

   I know, because I am one of those he has pushed, tripped, kicked and generally abused. I have hesitated to say something. I am not actually sure why, in retrospect. Maybe my silence has helped him get further than he deserves. But, no longer. My love for SPS is greater than my fear of personal ridicule.

   I am not in a position to stand for the presidency myself, but what we need at this point is a candidate everyone can get behind. Someone with impeccable organizational skills and a good reputation in poetry.

*    *    *

Barbara Dimatis sat down, head between her hands, elbows on the table, almost pressing down. She had just finished reading the letter of comment from Flapping-in-the-wind, and was now in visible distress.

She walked from her office, towards the entrance of the Emporium. “Sophonta, I will be out for a while. You’re in charge.”

She turned left and walked up Main Street. After a few minutes, she reached the Sheriff’s Office, where she paused, hand raised as if ready to knock.

A few seconds later, she knocked on the door, first hesitantly, but by the third knock, it was a firm, almost urgent, knocking.

The door opened. In front of her stood Sheriff Snowflake.

“Ms Dimatis? What a surprise. How can the Sheriff’s Office help you today?”

“Oh, Trigger, I need to speek to Coraline, urgently. You have no idea.”

“Certainly, won’t you come in and sit down, I will tell her that you have arrived.”

Trigger walked up the stairs. Muted voices filtered down from upstairs, but Barbara could not rightly say what was being said, even if the tone was calm and relaxed. As she fidgeted, Coraline came down the stairs.

“Barbara? What’s wrong? Trigger said you seemed upset? Won’t you come upstairs?”, the two women started towards the upper floor. “I won’t offer you coffee, you can have much better at the Emporium and I know that. But, dear, sit down and I can offer you a small sherry, it is good for the nerves and from the looks of you, a pre-noon sherry is exactly what the Doctor would order.”

“Barbara, have you read the latest from Flapping-in-the-Wind Leaves? He has accurately described the whole Tayroth situation. It is a big problem. I fear that SPS will fall down around us, unless something is done.”

“No, Barbara, I have not. Did you bring a copy?”

“I brought the whole issue. Here it is, right there. Read it, please.”

Coraline took the magazine and quietly read, while Barbara took a cautious sip of sherry.

“You are right, Barbara, this is worse than I thought. But, who could we possibly find on short notice, with extensive experience in organizing, as well as an active connection to poetry and the arts?”

“I don’t know, for sure. But, I just had a sudden idea.”

“Do tell, do tell.”

“It just occured to me that you have been on the board, now, for multiple SysLiCons. You also have a proven passion for the arts.”

“What? Me? I could not possibly…”

“Let me get a semi-independent second opinion. Trigger?! Could you come up here? We need your advice.”

Several seconds later, Trigger appeared in the kitchen.

“What advice, Barbara?”

“Well, you know the whole Solarian Poets’ Society presidency election thing?”

“Yes, some Treerot standing, wasn’t it?”

“Tayroth, yes. Well, it turns out he’s even less suitable for president than we thought. And he is still standing unopposed. And without a suitable candidate, with organizational experience, a good reputation in the arts, as well as an active love for the world of poetry, the SPS is basically doomed.”

“Sounds like it. Well, I can think of a few that fits that bill, off the top of my head. Barbara, have you considered…”

“Yes, I have. But, that would mean giving up the Emporium and at this point I am not quite ready for that.”

“Well, the second name that occurs, not because it is necessarily better nor worse, just later in the alphabet is my beloved Coraline. What do you think? Would that be something that would suit you?”

Coraline’s jaw dropped. “What? But? What? No? I mean, yes. But? How much time would it take? Could I possibly…”

“Coraline, darling. It is for the betterment of the arts. I was a single sheriff before I met you and should this take enough time that you would find yourself unable to do all the small things that we jointly have become accustomed to, well, it just means I have to do a bit more. Or that things stay undone. I definitely think that you should consider it.”

*    *    *

“This meeting of the Elemental Smartalec Group is declared open. Anna, could you report on Tayroth’s campaign?”

“We have a second candidate, Coraline Snowflake. But, as we all know, she is deeply unpopular and thus has no chance of winning. Tayroth’s presidency is all but guaranteed.”

“Excellent. We will finally have the president that poets and artists demand. Do we have any contingency plans?”

“Based on the numbers, we don’t need any. A poll last week had a reassuring 100% vote for Tayroth. As I said, despite a new candidate in the field, our victory is all but guaranteed.”

*    *    *

Barbara finished off counting the last few entries on the pre-election poll. Based on the latest polling, Coraline would win by a comfortable margin. A full 68.3% of the SPs electorate had a preference for Snowflake for President. She looked up from the results sheet.

“Coraline? Almost 7 out of 10 prefer you for president. I would consider it time to start writing your acceptance speech. It is by no means a guarantee, but two weeks ago, you were polling at around 30% and now you’re well into a majority. It is of course just a poll, but we may just pull this off.”

“I am so nervous, Barbara. I am almost as afraid of winning as I am of losing. But, yes, I will cautiously start writing my acceptance speech, that is good advice.”

*    *    *

The Solarian Poets’ Society Presidential Election – A Report

    This presidential election campaign is unprecedented. For the first time ever have the SPS stood with a single candidate for president for over half the campaign period.

   When the campaign started, only Mr Charles Tayroth was standing for candidate. But, just over halfway through the campaign period, a second candidate, Mrs Coraline Snowflake, entered the field, campaigning on a basis of proven volunteering within the field of poetry.

       Now that the election is over and the votes have been counted, it is the pleasure of the Electoral Committee to present the results.

    Runner-up, with 6.06% of the vote, is Mr Charles Tayroth. Winner, with 92.24% of the vote, is Mrs Coraline Snowflake. In total 1.7% were write-in candidates, blank or otherwise spoiled votes.

 *    *    *

Slem ven Pocketry dropped the official election results on the table, “This is an outrage. How can Tayroth possibly have gone from an assured win, to a humiliating defeat in only a few months? This makes no sense.”

John ven Fengsler cleared his throat, “Slem, you know as well as I do that numbers do not lie. In the polling, Tayroth had close to all the votes. The only explanation possible here is election fraud. You’re well-versed in the law. Is there anything we can do?”

“Hm, well, we can probably show election fraud. And that’s illegal. Not as illegal as in an official election. But, yes, I am pretty sure we have room to bring a law suit to the SPS election board. We should probably also tell Tayroth that he’s not lost because election fraud. This all makes sense. John, could you ask Anna min Scortch, Rick ven Fleerbo and possibly a few others to start working on slogans and memes?”

   *    *    *

Emmanuel Lilyberg opened his front door, “Lilyberg, what do you want?”

“We have a package for you, if you could sign here?”

Manny signed and brought the package into his home. He had a nagging feeling this was related to all the false rumours going around related to the SPS election. Deep down, he knew that accepting the position as chair of the electoral board would eventually have come to this.

He opened the package. It wasn’t even a good law suit, definitely pre-used and still whiffing slightly of the dry-cleaning fumes. Hopefully, the legal matter would be better. Thankfully, he was in a good position to make an estimate of the chances of the opposing side taking the matter home.

    A suit of law, brought from the Campaign for Tayroth for Solarian Poets’ Society President against the Solarian Poets’ Society Electoral Board.

       We, the Campaign for Tayroth for Tayroth for Solarian Poets’ Society (hereafter “the Campaign”) bring this law suit against the Solarian Poets’ Society Electoral Board (hereafter “the board”) for malicious interference in election, electoral fraud, and the stealing of the presidency of the Solarian Poets’ Society (hereafter “SPS”).

   We have ample evidence that this is the case. In exhibit A, we demonstrate that in a polling on Soldate 17-5, every single polled individual who stated a preference preferred Tayroth as president of the SPS. It is thus not mathematically possible for Coraline Snowflake to have gained over 90% of the vote a mere four months later.

   We will demonstrate how the board interfered with the free will of the electorate. We will show how they maliciously transferred votes from Tayroth to Snowflake. We will demonstrate that they were indeed up to no good at all.

     *    *    *

A few days later, Manny walked over to the court room where the case would be heard. At least, living on Luna, it was easy to get to the central court.

He seemed to be among the first to arrive, the plaintiff had yet to show up. Manny sat down in the Defendant’s Section and waited.

Within a few minutes, everyone had arrived. Slem ven Pocketry seemingly representing the plaintiff. But, at least this time there were no yellow capes signalling Sulphur allegiance.

“Let it be known that Honourable Judge Baycove is in the court. This court is now in session for The Charles Tayroth Campaign for President of the Solarian Poets’ Society v The Solarian Poets’ Society Electoral Board, in a matter of election shenaniganery. Is the plaintiff present?”

“Aye!”, said ven Pocketry, rapidly standing up. “Well, a representative for,” then sat down again.

“Plaintiff is present. Is the defendant present?”

“Aye”, Manny sat down again.

“Defendant is present. I can see that both plaintiff and defendant are not advised by advocates. We have not had a preliminary hearing. The purpose of this session is first and foremost to establish the truth. Based on that truth, we will determine where guilt lies. After that, this court will dispense justice, retribution and corrective measures as it sees fit. Any questions?”

No one spoke, for a few seconds. The judge checked the documents in front of her.

“The Court calls Slem ven Pocketry, Venusian and representative for the Tayrorth Campaign, that is clear enough for now. Please take the witness stand and place your hand on the truth sensors. Please tell us your version of the events. You will be under oath. The truth sensors will signal any perjury, which is punishable all the way up to imprisonment. Please now proceed to the witness stand.”

Hands on the sensors embedded in the railing, ven Pocketry cleared his throat. “I am one of the people who have been working for the Tayroth Campaign. We have seen the Tayroth popularity go from overwhelming in polling to devastatingly low in the actual election. We put forth that this can only be explained by election fraud, in various forms.”

The judge’s gaze wandered across the court room. “Would the defense like to cross-examine at this point?”

“Gladly, your Honour. This over-whelming polling, when was that?”

“It would have been about five months ago?”

“Could the overwhelmingness of the Tayroth polling at that time be explained by Tayroth being the only candidate standing for president at that point? And the decline then be explained by a second candidate, offering a choice between candidates?”

“It is simply not mathematically possible that people would change their preferred candidate.”

“Again, going back to this poll, about five months ago. Could you present it in full?”

“Tayroth was overwhelmingly popular?”

“As it happens, I ordered a copy of the full report from the polling firm. Looking at this breakdown, it seems the actual numbers are 15% for Tayroth, 30% for ‘I will spoil my vote.’ and 55% for ‘if he wins, I will leave the SPS.’ Could this not explain things?”

“Note that the 85% of spoiled votes would not count. This is 100% of the valid votes being for Tayroth. Not mathematically possible!”

“The defense would like to enter this polling document into the evidence. We don’t think we need to do more to demonstrate our innocence in this matter.”

The judge gazed at ven Pocketry in silence. As the Venusian started to squirm, she spoke. “The Plaintiff can leave the witness stand. This court is now ready to pronounce judgment.”

When everyone were back in their assigned seats, she continued. “In the matter of the Tayroth Campain v The Electoral Board, we find that the plaintiff has a sufficiently vague grasp of basic statistics and such a tenuous connection to consensus reality that we cannot put a perjury claim on them. However, we also find that the Electoral Board is completely free of any wrong-doing. In the interest of the legal system, anyone involved in the Tayroth Campaign is hereby instructed to not raise any matter involving mathematics without at least three independent mathematicians checking their basic assumptions. This case is dismissed, with prejudice. For the Court, Judge Baycove presiding.”

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.”