This is a work of fiction. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is completely intentional. Except for Emma Watson, who seems like a perfectly nice woman. Inspired by One More Thing.
“Artificial amateurs aren’t at all amazing. Analytically, I assault and amaze…”
Daniel Radcliffe pressed “pause”, then “back”. He glared balefully at his iPod.
“No! That’s not right.”
He pressed “play”. The song began again:
“Now it’s time for our wrap-up. Let’s give it everything we’ve got!”
Daniel nodded in time with the beat. This time, he thought, I’ll get past “D”.
Adapted from something I wrote in Yale’s “Daily Themes” class. (Great class, by the way!)
Write twelve possible first lines to twelve different stories (fictional, non-fictional, or some combination of both). For a real challenge, let those lines start to feel like they hold together by juxtaposition. See the work of David Markson for a model.
These aren’t good sentences, but I wrote them hoping they could become first lines for first drafts of good stories.
I haven’t written those stories yet, but if you’d like me to write one, let me know and I will do that, just for you.*
- Our god is cruel and jealous, and we wish we had a better one.
- Today my Anti-Procrastination Friend saw me on Facebook and…
- We know that our island is an experiment, run by someone we don’t understand.
- The main character of this story was hit by a car just after you finished this sentence.
- “This has been my favorite funeral of the year.”
- Gambling is for suckers, he thought, and pushed the button again.
- There he was, waving his sign like a madman and shouting the true heights of various mountains.
- This is my history of the world, factual and proportionate, slave to neither narrative nor…
- We abandoned the Earth in our ships, but we left the Amish behind.
- You might think that even a very intelligent cloud could never kill a person, but…
- According to the actuary table, one of us was dead by now.
- They were looking for souls all along!
- “This week, life was just one long fire alarm.”
- She’d learned to run on water, but that wouldn’t save her when she came back to shore.
- You do not fuck with Liz when she’s delivering a pizza.
*With the exception of #9, because the Amish deserve an entire novel. And #8, because it’s the friggin’ history of the world.
(To see all 60+ prompts from Daily Themes, click here.)
My latest post for the humanist blog Applied Sentience is up:
It’s a pretty strange post, but I think that the issues I raise around the utility monster problem are important. If you care more about a randomly selected human than a randomly selected chicken (and I think you should), you accept the existence of utility monsters — thinking beings which are worthy of greater moral consideration than other thinking beings.
Right now, humans are the world’s reigning utility monsters. That may not be true forever.
I think we are likely to eventually create machines which possess a kind of consciousness that is deeper and richer in certain ways than our own. Whatever metrics we can use to measure the “value” of a human life (and we all have them), we know of no reason that advanced computers will not eventually score higher on said metrics than we do, whether it’s in 50 years or 500.
And before we can make decisions about how to react to this situation — or whether we should work to prevent it in the first place — I think that we should do our best to understand what it might be like to be a superhuman utility monster. Empathy shouldn’t just extend to beings with lesser mental capabilities than our own.
Some outtakes from the most recent issue of The Yale Record.
The League of Slightly Extraordinary Gentlemen
Chaos: Can generate perfectly random numbers using only his mind. Never needs to flip a coin to make a decision.
Firebrand: Can light a match on the first try, every time. Currently battling Stage 2 lung cancer after a lifetime of looking really cool while smoking.
Puberty Boy: Able to increase his body mass by seventy percent in only three years.
“Two muffins are sitting in an oven…”
In the vein of The Aristocrats. This time, built around a joke that was popular with my fifth-grade classmates.
Here’s the story.
Warning: Contains profanity, and one instance of extreme pain.
If you know of any jokes you’d like to submit to this treatment, send them to aaron at gertler dot com. These are pretty good writing exercises!
I’m fond of thinking about stuff that must have happened, even if nobody ever saw it—probably for the same reasons as the good people of Cracked. Famous people and people in the past lived real human lives! They lived those lives for many years. And they all got their hair cut at some point, which is the inspiration for this short screenplay.
Here’s the story. I still need to work on my dialogue and character development before I make any short films, but for a conversation that happened in my head over the span of a single shower, it could be worse.
Partly inspired by B.J. Novak’s One More Thing, perhaps the best book of short stories ever written by a well-known television actor. Lots of celebrities in that book—though I guess B.J. knows them all personally.
I do not know Skrillex personally, but I’d love to meet him: He seems like a really nice guy.
Before you read this, if the title doesn’t remind you of a certain joke, click here.
Warning: Risque. Not especially polite. 72% meta-fictional.
The story is long enough that I’ve linked to it here rather than keep it on the main page.
(I’m hoping to publish it somewhere, so let me know if some or all of it is not funny and/or readable.)
“It’s The Breakfast Club meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
Sleepy town in semi-rural America. Small public high school, too small for any actual cliques to form. Some kids are more popular than others. Every one of them is an individual with goals, hobbies, and a detailed personal life, though they are not, on the whole, especially introspective or knowledge-seeking.
In addition, each member of the senior class spends much of their time fighting the forces of darkness.
- A shy boy with controlling parents is also a sorcerer who deals with eldritch monstrosities whenever they rise from the town’s lake in the dead of night.
- One of the school’s three cheerleaders woke up one day with impeccable hand-to-hand combat skills, which is good, because that was the same day the ninjas started showing up.
- An aloof contender for the state tennis championship duels featureless, humanoid ghouls armed with a steak knife and a can of pepper spray.
And seventeen other stories, besides.
None of these characters has any inkling of the others’ struggles; teenagers are very good at hiding their secret lives from others. But one day, all the hidden stories intersect, and the senior class will have to band together if they want to save their town…
…and the world? No, probably not the world. The world is a big place, with millions of hidden stories. But one town is enough.
This might be a metaphor for the fact that everyone has a unique set of problems and we shouldn’t judge from outward appearances, but it’s mostly a way for me to deal with real high school social dynamics (few books do this well) and also write lots of supernatural fight scenes.