Regular readers of this blog as well as the Pegasus Pulp blog may recall that I occasionally enjoy doing writing challenges such as the eight hour fiction challenge.
The story I want to announce today (which I actually should have announced two weeks ago, except that life got in the way) is the result of another writing challenges, namely the “Not Really SF Short Story Challenge” issued by writer E.P. Beaumont.
As anybody who has not been living under a rock this past month may have noticed, the SFF sphere is currently embroiled in a huge controversy due to some rightwing US fans and writers unable to cope with the fact that the genre is shifting away from their particular preferences.
One of the complaints raised is that SFF has been invaded by literary fiction and that awards and other accolades increasingly go to works that are “literary” rather than good old proper SF.
The “Not Really SF Short Story Challenge” is a response to these complaints and proposes a counter-invasion of literary fiction by SF. The idea behind the challenge is to write a perfectly mundane short story, the sort you might find in any literary fiction mag, but write it in the clunky style of Golden Age science fiction complete with “As you know, Bob…” dialogue and overexplanation of every single bit of technology the characters interact with, no matter how mundane.
I really liked the idea of the challenge, so the next thing I needed was a story. And the first idea that popped into my mind was, “Why not write a story about a couple arguing at the breakfast table, something like Loriot‘s ‘Breakfast Egg’ skit, only with extensive explanations of everyday household technology?” And then I thought, “Why the hell don’t I simply take ‘The Breakfast Egg’ and do an SF-nal parody of the skit?”
Das Frühstücksei (The Breakfast Egg) is a short skid by the brilliant German comedian Vicco von Bülow a.k.a. Loriot. If you’ve lived in Germany for any extended time in the past forty years, you’ll have come across The Breakfast Egg at some point. It frequently shows up on TV in compilation of Loriot skids and it’s a staple of German textbooks along with another Loriot skid, Die Bundestagsrede (The parliamentary speech).
Personally, I don’t think either of these skids are particularly good choices for highschool textbooks, for while many Loriot skits are suitable for all ages, “The Breakfast Egg” is not one of them. And “The Parliamentary Speech” requires more insight into politics than teens usually have. Never mind that broadcasts of parliamentary debates are no longer as ubiquitous as they used to be in the three TV channel era of the 1970s and 1980s and have largely been relegated to niche channels no one watches, so many teens will never have seen more than very brief clips.
However, while “The Breakfast Egg” may not the best text for highschool students, it’s still a brilliant bit of comedy and also the ideal basis for a mundane story (for what could be more mundane than a long married couple arguing at the breakfast table) told in the style of Golden Age science fiction.
The result is The Four and a Half Minute Egg (because that is how long the breakfast egg from the skit was supposed to be boiled), 3500 words of prime technobabble embellishing 379 words of plot (I checked).
The story required quite a bit of research, because it turned out that I didn’t know what Formica actually is, how the heat resistant glass from which coffee pots are made works and a lot of other stuff about common household technology. For maximum alienation, any biological specimen mentioned (cows, chickens, coffee beans, wheat) are referred to exclusively by their scientific name. And BTW, it’s depressing that the top ten search results for “wheat” (I needed the official Latin name) are all for books and articles of highly dubious scientific merit explaining why wheat is totally evil and bad for us and will kill us all.
So I give you:
The Four and a Half Minute Boiled Egg
Bertha and Alfred, married for twenty years, enjoy all a truly science fictional life in the twenty-first century. But in spite of all the technological marvels surrounding them, an argument at the breakfast table about egg boiling times escalates and threatens to end their marriage.
This parodistic piece is a mundane short story of 3500 words, written in the style of science fiction’s “golden age” of the 1940s and 1950s.
Length: 3500 words
List price: 0.99 USD, EUR or GBP
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