The Glittering World

Nothing exists in a vacuum, including this project. When I heard about the first Machine of Death contest, it irked me that the idea of the Machine seemed solely attributed to a semi-random (but hilarious) web comic. Then I likely got distracted by something shiny.

However, my annoyance was rekindled with the announcement of the second volume and contest earlier this year. How dare these jokers continue to claim credit for the idea without mentioning anywhere prominent the obvious influence of one of my favorite authors?!

This sort of irrational overreaction is the typical motivation behind many of my endeavors. Also, I really could have used that $200.

I am pretty sure random internet rants rarely accomplish much so I determined to sneak my own credit into Volume 2, hence the secret code. Of course, in order to have a chance at success I needed to write a short story of sufficient quality to get accepted. Clearly this was a tall order.

Only two of the friends who helped me with this project knew what I was ultimately planning so I probably should apologize to the others for having kept them in the dark. I realized that if I could slip a puzzle by some experienced ARGers I would have a good chance of getting it past the contest censors as well. Again that just left the quality issue, which I reiterate only because for a time it did rule the writing process.

It turns out to be pretty difficult to write a good short story even when not attempting to include the seeds of several other layers of meaning. On the other hand, it is pretty easy to include lots of words starting with the prefix un- and to break as many of the general rules and contest guidelines when plotting.

I remember going through one of the editors' blog posts repeatedly muttering, "Oh, yeah? I bet that could work!" Part of me felt guilty about pursuing this idea and potentially offending some innocent people but at the same time, they were in complete control of admissions, so whatever.

We've pretty much mapped the story itself by this point and are sort of in meta-orbit around it but if one demands more symbolism, with this stage I considered Certainty Inc. to still represent the contest and the Service the author. Her character represented Heinlein's original concept and his character represented the corruption of it by "these jokers." In retrospect, it still feels a bit dickish.

It is fun to speculate how events might have unfolded had the story been accepted (although it was a tense and uncomfortable waiting period). How long would it have taken for some random reader to start asking public questions? Would anyone else have been interested? Unfortunately, I'll never know if the editors copped to the secret or just rejected the story based on general crappiness.

So yeah, technically this project started as a bit of attempted trollery. But it's okay now because it's no longer the entire point. Right? Please don't sue/hate me.

Kindly post your comments in the discussion thread linked from the trout icon below.

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233KB PDF, 13 pages, approximately 5,000 words

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Big thanks go out to my friends Krystyn, Andrea, Jon, Cary, and Dina, whose assistance was invaluable in constructing this series. Thanks also to the guys at the Machine of Death for the inspiration.

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