I just finished a draft of a humorous/surreal/fabulist/sci-fi/fantasy short story draft of a loose parody of Plato's "The Republic" called "Pluto's Republic." Just a little bit of silliness. Unfortunately, I'm having trouble finding people who are familiar enough with "The Republic" to get the humor (If it's even funny, at all) and the thematic elements. Like "The Republic," it's written mostly in dialog and has an archaic structure.
The piece needs work, and I was hoping that some people on the site wouldn't mind giving it a read-through and critiquing it. Any bit of input, no matter how small, would be helpful.
Be as brutal as you see fit, and comment on any aspect of the story--prose quality, thematic misses, misinterpretations, etc. As author James Fry once said, "Steel is forged in a blast furnace, not a hot tub."
For compensation, I'll critique or proofread something of yours, if you like. I'm sure there are plenty of writers, here. Otherwise, I'll cut your lawn.
NOTE: A vagrant astronaut is teaches cosmic history to a class of 7th graders, and the setting occasionally changes from the historical account back to the story "now" from outside the astronauts ship. My draft uses italics to indicate the shift, but the italics are either not functioning in this program, or I'm doing something wrong, so I used double lines to cue the changes.
Tachy Black Harmonica, wearing spurs over this P-Suit boots and a ragged black derby atop his EVA helmet, is tethered to a sub-light junker and making his way to ]the bow‘s external cameras. He’s late, and pushes hard off the hull to glide into frame.
“Comin’ in hot, wranglers!… Buenas noches from outside the bow of the Ptolemy, puny Earthlin’s. Y’all ready to wrangle? I know I am. And, a one, and a two, and a…”
EVA wranglers don’t pan a lot,
searchin’ in the starless freeze;
and EVA wranglers don’t duel a lot,
lonesome in the mortem freeze;
cause EVA wranglers don’t need a lot,
‘Cept ditties and a tank of O-twosies.
‘Cept them ditties and a tank of O-twosies.
Tonight’s wrangle: ‘The History of the Moon.’ Where did it come from? Why is it there? Are there other moons, and, if so, why do we call the moon the moon if every moon is a moon? Why is there a lunatic but not a lunatoc? Wrangles like that, and others, aplenty. So, Gracias for tunin’ in. You’re watching EVA with Tachyon Black Harmonica,”
“Well?” asked Apollo
“Terraformers,” confirmed Thetis.
“I knew it.”
“Did they find the rest of the crew?”
“Trace sweeps showed 7 crew squishes, but non-associable. They were under the hull and close together. There was 1 signature squash found outside the Futura on Hong Kong Phooey, 2.4m from the hatch. That was Dr. Demeter. Also, there’s a demi-flat on the near slope of Mt. Hades, I was able to speak to him before he died. He said his name was Thithyphuth. ”
“Suspects?” asked Apollo.
“None, yet, but a big rock was found within the splat zone.”
“Is SofA on this?”
“They sent an envoy to Delphi Fissures to consult an oracle.”
“SofA consulted an oracle?” asked a stunned Apollo.
“On the hush-hush.”
“They threw her down the fissure.”
“I meant, what did she say?”
“Inquiries are pending. They couldn‘t decipher the message, themselves, so they sent it to SofA SAD at Sogood.”
# SofA; Sogood Facility;
MT. Garden Sandals;
SMARTEST OF ALL, Inc.
SMARTEST OF ALL DECRYPTIONS
Inquiries are pending = niger si in puni rae. QED.
= IF IN THE DARK EARTH HE PUNISHES. TA-DA.
“Who are they talking about?” asked Apollo
“Shuar Puni,” answered Thetis. No contact with him, yet, only his former sweetie, Persephone, but she didn’t know anything. She hasn’t spoken to Plato since he was a dwarf planet.”
“I mean, Pluto.”
“Pygmy planet in the Kuiper Belt. Pluto is Puni.”
Brothers A’a a’aia and Alohalohalo filled their calabashes and the two young men rowed their canoe along the Wailuku River toward the plush mosses and primordial mists of Rainbow Falls, behind which stood the entrance to the Menehune-Pygmy2 shadow temple, Cave of Wailuku‘s Heir3. The cave was the birthplace and home of the great demi-god, Maui, whose mother was the powerful moon goddess, Hina, who, incidentally, was in charge of coconuts.
Until a few days ago, Alohalohalo worked as an long-range survey pilot for SETI, but was let go for an unauthorized attempt at FTL. Brother A’a a’aia owns a small thatch-roofed beach bar called Kissing Koconuts, which is now the family’s only source of income. Unfortunately, since the Moon’s departure, a great coconut shortage has plagued all of Hawaii, which is why the brothers were en route to the Cave of Wailuku‘s Heir. A sacred Lono Fire is said to burn within it , and the brothers were going to supplicate for coconuts.
Beyond its vine-draped mouth, the cave was deep and darkened quickly. The two
saw the orange glow of a sacred Lono Fire. In front of it, the backs of a small group of
people whose heads and bodies were immobilized, capable only of staring at the
shadows on the cave wall. Alohalohalo and A’a a’aia approached them.
The two moved in front of the fire, casting their shadows on the cave wall
“ I’m Clayton Alohalohalo Fig III . This is my step-brother, A’a a’aia ‘Fat A’a a’aia’ A’a’ua.” .
“I have a question,” heard Harmonica over his com.
“Uno momento, wranglers. What’s your name, filly?”
Peaches. I’m 13, and I’m in the seventh grade.”
“Honored, Peaches. Now, ask your question, and let Tachy Black dazzle you with his wranglin’.”
“What‘s your real name?”
“Tachyon Black Harmonica is my real name.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Is that so? Well, I consider that an indictment of my character and an affront to my individuality, Miss Peaches, and I resent it, but Tachy Black doesn‘t quarrel with children, so we’ll just return to where we lrft off at the Cave of Wailuku‘s Heir.
“No, I’m not psychotic!” insisted Alohalohalo.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Fig, but that‘s my diagnosis.”
“I never asked you for a diagnosis, ma‘am.”
“Nevertheless, let‘s return to your perception of material and spatial reality. I have a
series of questions. Are you OK with that?”
“I‘m in kind of a hurry.”
“Well, while we chat, your brother--Fat Aaa iaaiia ai, is it?--can “pray” for the coconuts. Will that do?
“Splendid. Let’s start with a coconut. That seems apropos. Describe one with as much
detail as you can.”
“Well, they’re round.”
“Perfect. Next question--”
“Actually, spherical would be more accurate.”
“ Mr. Fig, the matter at hand is your demented perception of reality, not theoretical physics.”
“ Coconut spheres are not theoretical. They’re big brown nuts. They grow on palm trees, and people make cream pies and Pina Coladas out of them.”
“Coconuts, or Cocos nucifera, are drupes, not nuts. Why don‘t you lie down.”
“In the dirt?”
“Please don’t insult my home.”
“Are you finished, A’a a’aia? ” asked Alohalohalo.
“Nice meeting you.”
“Oh. What do I owe you?”
“What the hell is a drachma?” asked A’a a’aia.
“Let’s go,” said Alohalohalo to his little brother.”
“You’ll be hearing from my attorney!” Alohalohalo and A’a a’aia heard as they left the
Cave of Wailuku‘s Heir.
After rowing ashore on Kona, Alohalohalo and A’a a’aia were making their way along the coastline when they spotted a Nui-Niu, a colossal coconut which was spinning itself ashore. Flocks of sunbathers rushed toward it, and the brothers beached their canoe and joined them . No one in modern Hawaii had ever seen a colossal coconut, built by the fabled Menehune pygmies, the great craftsmen of Hawaii.
Cupped by a large divot in the hot sand, the coconut cradled to a stop. The brothers heard a light, wooden tapping coming from within the giant shell, which teased and delighted the hundreds of onlookers until the hatch dropped off and a knot of infuriated Menehune pygmies collapsed onto the beach. Eight in all. Alohalohalo and A’a a’aia fled immediately, along with everyone else, but the Menehune recovered
quickly and sprung after them, yelling and assaulting Alohalohalo and A’a a’aia with sandals and fists of dried sand. The brothers swam for it and narrowly reached safety behind the breakers.
“What the hell was that?! ” yelled Alohalohalo over the foaming surf.
“Aren’t they gnomes?”
“Not necessarily. Some are fates.
“ Yes, Peaches?”
“We took a vote, and we think your real name is Tacky Slack Jawmonica.”
“Yet another unwarranted attack on my person. I thought peaches were supposed to be sweet.”
“I’m not ripe yet.”
“ I’m gonna tattle on you, Peaches, but I have to admit, that was a dang amusin’ wrangle.”
“You ain’t welcome.”
After losing the Menehune in the slips of the Kailua Yacht Club, the brothers swam ashore. Alohalohalo decided to return to space. He knew SETI would never hire him back, so when the brothers returned home, defeated and exhausted, Alohalohalo contacted SETL, and they hired him right away. That evening, Alohalohalo shuttled out of Kona airport and Earth orbit with a contract to pilot SETL’s sub-light Bucketeer-class, Fetch n’ Scrape.
Kailua-Kona beach was deserted, except for the Menehune. Beware the Puni! they shouted to the tourists staring from the balconies and hotel windows. Before dark, the homesick Menehune Coconauts re-boarded and rolled their colossal coconut over Kona’s shaded sands and into Kailua Bay. A light wake followed them out to sea, to an indigo Pacific toward a tangerine Sun.
En Route to Jupiter …
Instead of flying into the asteroid belt with a crew of bucketeers, Fig’s first assignment included ferrying sacrifices and a SofA emissary to Jupiter. On the day that SETL announced the Sol Terraformation Initiative, Ceres, Luna, Oberon, Rhea, Titan, Titania, Triton and Venus hurled themselves into the Sun. The only remaining viables--Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede--were Jovian, so SETL hired SofA to diffuse Jupiter’s objection to involuntary terraformation. Also on SofA’s agenda was a request to Jupiter that he allow R&D funding for a method to terraform every other celestial body or phenomenon in the cosmos that was in some fashion terraformable. News of that passed quickly spread through the universe.
“It was then, wranglers, that SofA learned that Helios was considering leaving Sol, so they agreed to send Sir Phegalese to Jupiter--but not to negotiate for terraformation as SETL intended, but to set Jupiter on fire…We have Peaches on com, again. Now, I ain’t one to hold a grudge, Peaches, so I’ll answer your question, but only if it’s respectful and wrangle worthy.”
“Are you lying about the stars, hayseed? PS. Where’s the stable?”
“Knew it. First of all, missy, I ain’t seen no stars, yet, as you can plainly see. Second of all, there ain’t no lyin’ in space. There ain’t no standin‘, neither, furniture-wise. The wrangler gets to decide. You just have to close your eyes so you can convince your head that you’re lying down. Watch me. Ok, I’m lyin’ down…I’m lyin’ down…I’m lyin’ down…And, open! Presto, I’m lyin’ down. Simple. Look it… I’m standin’ up…I’m standin’ up…I’m standin’ up…And, open! Voila. Now, I’m on my feet. That’s the power of wranglin’. Lyin’ down…lyin’ down…lyin’ down…And, open! Whewoffmyfeetlongday.”
As they waited for the go-ahead from Einstein Mission Control Control, Fig pointed his cams toward Europa. The Fetch n' Scrape was holding on the dark side of Jupiter, but Europa was lit in the distance, beyond Jupiter’s shadow.
“What are we doing here, Sir Phegalese?” frowned Fig. You know that Jupiter would never let SETL terraform any of his moons, especially if they don‘t want to be.”
“This is a ship of becoming, Ficus Carica, not being. Mankind’s puerile perpetual pirouette of being has been the most destructive and embarrassing exercise of sustained retardation in cosmic history, and it will find no fellowship aboard the Fetch n‘ Scrape. Do we have cherry pie, Carica?”
“Relax, Ficus. I loathe cherry pie. I was only punctuating a mini.“
“What‘s punctuating a mini?”
“For focus, Ficus…Ficus?"
“Control! I think I just saw Shuar Puni enter Jupiter’s atmosphere!”
“Are you sure? What ‘s his position Fig?” asked Control.
“Atmosphere is too dense to scan, but he‘s hiding under there, somewhere.”
“Fig, we have Ares on com. He’s en route to arrest Puni.”
“Where is he now, Control?”
“He’s near your coordinates. Scan your port.”
“I have him, Control.”
“He’s about the size of a chick pea.”
“Copy pea, Fig.”
“I’m not crying.”
“What brings you to Jupiter?”
“Merc to Jupes!”
“Pardon, Signore Pluto. Si, Mercury?”
“I am upon you!”
(tzzip!) “Message for Shu Pu!”
“May I, Signore Pluto?”
CHANGE IN STATUS NOTICE FOR: SHUAR PUNI
CURRENT CLASSIFICATION: PYGMY PLANET
NEW CLASSIFICATION: LILLYPUCIAN PLASTEROID
INTERNATIONAL ASTRONOMICAL UNION
“Ah, si… Oh, a silly face! Bello!”
“Goodlucky-type inny three ever-puffers.”
“Smarty-blue curly-growing dripsters!”
“Hmm! Time to be knowy! Hmm! Look, I’m a knowy! Hmm! Watch me, a lot! Hmm! I’m a busy head, so make way! Hmm!”
“I’m the knowiest! I get copulations and slaves! Hmm!”
“Enough, Signore Pluto!”
“I was sorry to hear of Persephone, but you‘ll find amore, again. I am certain of this. Trust Jupiter. It is everywhere, my friend. Other moons, too.”
“Time for new beginnings!”
“Are you a secret fathead?”
“Let me guide you, Pluto.”
“The answer to our problem is a merging.
“What problem, Signore?”
“The you’re my binary answer problem.”
“Binaries? You and I, Signore? Grazie grazie, Pluto, my friend, but that’s impossible. We‘re not--”
“Ares to Mighty Zeu--uh, stupid--Pardon me, good King. Ares to Stupider!”
“Shhh! That’s Mars-kabob!”
“Si, Signore Ares?”
“Calamity, good King! There were squishings afoot!”
“Entrare, Signore Ares, rapidamente. I am sorry, Signore Pluto. We shall talk again on your next visit, my friend, but for now you must excuse me, as I have urgent matters. ”
“Fire the sacrificial ewe, Carica!” ordered Sir Phegalese.”
“Baa. Baa. (thwoosh!) Baa!!! Ba--”
Soon after it descended into Jupiter’s thick clouds, the ewe exploded with the force of a dark-matter neutron bomb.
“Fire on Jupiter, Control!”
“Put him out before he notices, Fig!” ordered Control.
“Forget that, Carica. Launch another sacrifice.”
“Sir Phegalese, warn Jupiter!”
“Carica!” Sir Phegalese shouted, but he quickly reversed tack. “Ficus. Have you ever seen a squishing? I mean, close up?”
“Because I have, and they’re nauseating.”
“Agreed. I have conjured a squishing, and they must truly be thus.”
“Now, let us imagine further, a squishing from the mortified eyes of a squishee.”
“A frightful proposition, Sir Phegalese, but I will do as you ask.”
“And your squisher, Sir Phig?”
“Dreadful! I must appoint my own squisher, Sir Phegalese?”
“To reach the truth of the matter.”
“Then, I choose Hyperion for the task.”
“But, he is deformed, Sir Phig!”
“This is certain. A colossal coconut, then, with its complement of Coconauts, therein.”
“Another flawed selection. You will forgive me, Sir Phig, if I press you for a third?”
“If I am able, Sir Phegalese… Io, then. It is settled. I will have Io as my squisher.”
“A better symmetry, Sir Phig, yet imperfect.”
“Then, to this I confess, Sir Phegalese, as I am threefold perplexed!”
“Ha! Forgive me, friend Phig. I will torment you no further with this inquiry.”
“You have shamed me, Sir Phegalese, and it is I who require forgiveness. I have failed your challenge and the truth that it seeks.”
“Allow me to assign Shuar Puni to your squishing, Sir Phig.”
“You have shown me a gruesome end, Sir Phegalese. I should not like to meet it.”
“Of course not, but he’s going to squish every last one of us if you don‘t launch that sacrifice. Now, Fire gnu!”
“Do you value your life, or don’t you, Carica? If you don’t, then you’re no better than those animals in the launch bay. Now, fire another sacrifice! The sick one, with the fuse.”
“No!” cried Fig, but Sir Phegalese barreled him aside and fired the launcher.
“Moo. Moo.” (thwoosh!) “Moo!!! Mo--”
Sir Phegalese took off for the lower deck. Fig had to stay on the helm. His eyes swept across his control console as the Fetch n' Scrape cleared the dark side of Jupiter. Before bringing the ship about, he glanced through the main aft portal and saw Europa racing straight at them.
Back on Jupiter…
“Again, Signore Pluto, if you don‘t mind--I‘m a little under the weather.”
“I’ll take that favore, now. Do we have any crushed ice?”
“Magnificent Jupiter! Jovis Rex, Wielder of Thunderbolts, this is Sir Phegalese
of SofA. On behalf of all life on Earth, I greet Thee and pledge homage and feast. Are
you on fire?”
“If you’ll pardon my impertinence, Your Eternal Reverence, God of Sky and Guardian of Justice, Your Mighty Beneficence.”
“Va bene, ” smiled Jupiter. “You honor me, friends, and with a lightened heart I say to you, Saluti, Earth. I am not on fire.”
“Noted, for the record. Farewell, me lord. You have important matters, and we don‘t want to put you out.”
(crackle) “Scusi! Forgive, Signore Phegalese, but it would seem that I am on fire, after all.”
(crackle) “Not so, Signore! Assistance, if you please.”
(crackle) “Your aid please, Signore!”
“Madness to Ares' ears?…Nay! A conflagration, by the gods! Ares attends, Mighty Jeus!”
Europa was gaining so quickly that Fig couldn’t see past her. Before he knew it, the ship was less than a kilometer above her northern pole. As Europa’s surface closed on the Fetch n' Scrape, Fig pressed his forehead to the cold starboard glass. Through casts of wintersun and long-shadow, she was glaciers of cyan crystal, horizons of farlight opal, and wafts of gossamer frost. To Fig, she was irreducibly beautiful; an apparition of essence, formed by prisms of grace, and dreams of light and ice.
“Two-legged featherless animal, within!”
“I’m Clayton Alohalohalo Fig III,” he whispered.
“An inferno grows in my king!”
“Pour me on it!”
“Won’t something die?”
“Your laser, Earthlican! Swiftly!”
“Control, scan the sacrifices. I’m landing on Europa.”
“Fig, get back to your ship before that old gnu goes off!”
“Taking her top off now, Control!”
“Haste! Please, Earthlican!… He’s my king… Swiftly!
“The danger is too grave! Flee for your life, Earthlican!” cried Europa.
“Phegalese, help!” Fig shouted just before Sir Phegalese fired the Fetch n’ Scrape’s engines and lifted off without him. Fig turned back and slid as quickly as he could to the middle of the cap. When he reached it, he dropped flat and clung hard to the quivering ice until Europa set it free. The cap pitched when they separated, and Fig never saw her, again.
Einstein Mission Control Control…
“Lt. Er14 to Commander Well…Commander Well, please com Astrometrics, right away.”
“Er, sir. Yes, sir.”
“Yes, sir. Sir…”
“Yes, sir. I sent you the latest recon SAT’s.”
“You better look at them, sir…Commander Well?”
“My God, Erser! No stars!”
“Not just the stars, sir, but spacetime, itself! No nebulae. No galaxies. No matter, at all. No detectable energy. No gravitons. Nothing beyond Sol.”
“Let‘s get SofA on this, Erser.”
“Yes sir! Dr. Um, report to Astrometrics!”
Europa poured herself into the flames, but with all the plutonium pellets in the gnu it wasn’t enough. Ares crash landed on the Fetch n’ Scrape, but he survived. Pluto was blown clear, but lost 14% of his mass. Io picked up Fig. Europa wasn’t gone, but she was mist.
Helios left Sol and took everyone else with him, except for Pluto and Earth.
As the celestial pilgrims journeyed into the unknown, Jupiter, roaring gloriously, enraptured his companions by speaking of a space yet unknown, one of reunion and kinship, wisdom, harmony, and justice. Visions of the new horizon, Spacetime-upon-Uh-Oh, painted their dreams. They sang and spun and laughed and hoped together as they sailed off until all, even Jupiter and Helios, could be seen no more.
Pluto was unjustly locked into earth’s orbit and set ablaze.
(tzzip!) “Merc to Shu Pu!”
CHANGE IN STATUS NOTICE FOR: SHUAR PUNI
CURRENT CLASSIFICATION: LILLYPUCIAN PLASTEROID
NEW CLASSIFICATION: TEMP
International Astronomical Union
“…. because F2 wasn’t the first Clayton Fig to make it into space; it was his pa, For almost t-minus ago 2 the thousand, all I’ve ever heard is that F1 was nothing but a drunk, and about as useful as an unclosed door. That’s the biggest pile of pluto [sic] I‘ve ever wrangled. Here’s what they ain’t tellin’ you: Clayton [/color]Fig I spent exactly 14.2 in outer space on anti-March -2π ago t-minus 948. Now, he didn’t know he was there, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t. In addition to being the first Fig in space, he was the first person to die in space, and as far as I know, the only person who has ever smelled it. Not to mention, he’s distant kin to yours truly, so I would be e’er grateful to you, young Peaches, if you might consider pausin’ in contemplation of my feelin’s on these matters before wranglin’ them in front of the class.”
[b]FTL Hangar, Main Control Room
Einstein Mission Control Control Control
“He can’t go this fast.”