Thursday 5 May 2011

The Automatic Marlboro - Section I, sub-section (a)

This evening I'd like to introduce the first installment of a new multi-part tale, The Automatic Marlboro. I haven't prepared static HTML or tablet-reader versions of the text at this point because I'm a bit overloaded right now, but they'll come in time. For now it's a blog/RSS exclusive.

Without further ado, let's begin:



I only talk with an Earthish accent when I'm talking to my parents. The rest of the time the only things that give me away are my name, my complexion and my height. In the dark, sitting down, anonymously, and with my family nowhere in earshot, I am the very model of a modern Martian man.

Except I tend to slouch. And my facial hair is sparse. My voice isn't all that low. I dress in clothes too big for me because sometimes I can convince myself this disguises my proportions, though it isn't true.

But I can vote and drink. I can rent cars, either terrestrial or airborne. I have my very own apartment, a decent line of credit, and am responsible for the stability and fecundity of an entire race of intelligent robots.

It's true.

I majored in exterior carapace systems with a minor in robotic neurosociology, right here at the University of Huo Hsing. Which is where I still am. Seven years later. Now that my loans have been repaid I'm considering doing another degree. My parents worry.

"I'm worried about you," says my mom. "You should have a successful career and get married."

"Thanks for the tips."

"You're being sarcastic. It sounds so Martian."

I roll my eyes. "Aresian, Mom. Only Terrans say 'Mars.'"

"I'm not ashamed of my heritage, and neither should you be."

"Listen, I've got to go."

Pulse is my pal. He's the number two man at our operation. Born and bred onworld he's tall and rich-skinned and his accent melodious. He speaks six dialects of Marsgo and two kinds of Putonghua. He doesn't bathe as often as he should but he's the smartest person I've ever met.

Pulse is my best friend.

"Think fast, ugly!"

He takes me out with a foam football. I stumble back, pinwheel my arms for balance and then lurch in the general direction of the ball just in time for it to bounce back up into my face. My hands close around empty air.

"Three point seven meters per second squared, man," he says. "Get used to it."

"Stupid weak gravity," I mumble. "Throws off my timing."

"Because back on Earth you were an elite athlete, right?"

"Shut up."

We share a lab. It's a mess. Which doesn't really matter because nobody ever comes around except machines.

To read the rest of this story, buy it now from Amazon for just $2.99!


Unknown said...

"Cheeseburger Brown" has been included in this weeks Sites To See. I hope you like the image I featured, and I hope this helps to attract many new visitors here.

SaintPeter said...

I presume you decided on the smaller chunks?

I love the bit about the accent. When I was a teen I went over to a friends house for the first time. As far as I knew he was as American as apple pie. Then his mother came in and asked him to do something in a bright British accent . . and he responded in the exact same accent. Totally blew my mind! I asked him about it and he hadn't even noticed that he'd spoken differently. I've heard that it can be like that with languages for young kids too . . .

I'm excited about the story - we have not gotten a lot of early Mars stories and it sounded from the other stories like there were some neat things going on there.

(Word Verification: Derelit - n. a post modern writer down on their luck.)

Teddy said...

Because the accent is mentioned so early on, in my head it's all a sort of Australiany sort of thing. Think Mad Max. This is how I hear it in my brain, and I somewhat suspect you were going for something like that.

Pretty sparse for an opening chapter. We've got a little bit about the sociology of Ares right around the transition from Mars to Ares and essentially a short bio of our main character - he moved to mars to get away from his folks who annoy him and he works in a lab. I've noticed a strong trend - names are for the weak, it seems. I wonder if you have a game of sort that you like to play, where you go as long as you possibly can without giving us an actual name of a character.

It's interesting and definitely sets your writing apart because you make it work, it helps let us know, "you're in the burgerverse now".


Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear FishHawk,

Thanks kindly for including my stuff in your roundup!

Since you've chosen to highlight Simon of Space and your blog masthead is explicitly evangelical, I'd like to know -- if you've read the story -- do you see a Christian message in Simon's travails?

I ask because I once had a long and interesting conversation with a literary agent who put some time into shopping the work around Hollywood a few years ago, and it turned out part of his enthusiasm for the story was that it spoke to him as a Christian. I've also had several faithful write to me to express similar ideas.

Is that your opinion as well, FishHawk, or did you just think the picture was eye-catching?

Cheeseburger Brown

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear SaintPeter,

The truth is I took a hybrid approach. As originally written this story was broken up into tiny little sections each no more than a few paragraphs, sort of like Kurt Vonnegut's "bits of paper" novel Hocus Pocus.

However, at final count that would have made almost thirty micro-posts and it seemed a bit too much of a dribble, so I recast the first couple of chapters to amalgamate the micro-sections into somewhat longer bursts (which get longer and longer as the story proceeds).

I'm still working on the final section.

With regard to accents, I find that I'm drawn to stories featuring immigrants. There's just something about being unintentionally on the wrong side of normality that generates interesting perspectives. I'm influenced, of course, by the fact that I house in my basement two ancient immigrants who will, if prompted and sometimes if not, narrate at length about growing up in Displaced Persons camps and hiding in haylofts from Nazis and Soviets and so on.

The way people talk -- especially in certain circumstances -- can be a clue to a whole personal history. Which is nifty.

Cheeseburger Brown

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Teddy,

I try not to pay much attention to the so-called "rules" of creative writing. While good advice is good advice, learning laws by rote about what is and is not kosher is confining.

I mention this because one of those dumb rules people who attend too many workshops like to mention is, "Don't leave me wondering what your main character's name is."

That rule pops into my head from time to time, because I realize how egregiously I ignore it. (Candidly, this is likely connected to the handicapped way I often mishandle people's names in real life -- as a pre-emptive defense I often find myself unconsciously trying to dodge the whole name issue at all by just not using proper names, which I know is antisocial and so on...I still have things to work on).

I couldn't find a way to shoehorn his name into the first post (and that's how it always feels to me -- shoehorning), but I did manage to suggest what his name is in the second post before we're explicitly told in the third.

Cheeseburger Brown

Tolomea said...

ticking the comments box

Unknown said...

You are most welcome, and thanks for being so considerate!!! Well, I must admit that it was just on account of the image being so eye-catching, but now that you have my curiosity peaked, I am going to have to read the story. Since I suffer from very poor health, it may take some time, but I'll get back to you on it.

Nightfire08 said...

Dear Cheeseburger brown-

You're right, I am.

Aren't you that shitty writer?

See, we both know each other! Awww, making friends already!!!

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Jason,

Yes, making friends is nice. Now that you've surfaced why don't you make your pitch?

Tell us more about Bay and Rex: Galactic Consultants and why someone who enjoys scifi might give it a whirl.

You've whinnied for attention, now you've got it. Can you persuade anyone it was worth their notice?

Cheeseburger Brown

Anonymous said...

@Jason: I gave it a whirl but sloppy sentence structure offends me, so I didn't make it past the first few paragraphs. Cool story, bra.

Sheik Yerbouti said...


It had never occurred to my conscious mind, but that "what's my name" feel does give your work a distinctive feel.

As usual, my curiosity is piqued and I can't wait to learn more about this fellow. In addition, I'm curious as to how the word "fecundity" has come to be applied to robots (short of Human Executives or that Equivalent rabble).