The Lie of the World, Part 19

The huge, bearded Head Publisher put down the last page of the close-typed printout and swore colourfully. He reached across his desk and pressed the button on his intercom. “Secretary, send Wilson Paperclip in here.”

“At once, sir. I am your secretary,” Paperclip’s neat, polite British accent came back through the speaker. “I replaced that last one because she was stealing pens, if you recall.”

That was true enough. The Head Publisher fervently hoped he would never see another Nielsen-Hayden. Interfering busybodies to a man, and altogether too snappy on a computer. He trusted plain, simple, efficient old Paperclip a hundred times further than he could throw him – which, he’d discovered at the Tor Christmas Party, was almost seven feet. Of all the employees, only Beardo Bill himself had managed to fling the Brit further.

Wilson Paperclip stepped into the expansive office. “Ah, I see you have finished the preliminary reports,” he said with a pleased smile. “Interesting, yes?”

“Very damned interesting. Cape Beard will kill us if he finds out about this.”

“He never will, sir. Once the final drafts are done, we can publish it under a wholly new name. From the looks of things, it will be completely unrecognisable once the whole product is completed anyway,” he spread his narrow, perfectly manicured hands innocently. “It has satire value, and fantasy readers will flock to the sense of familiarity, but once our guinea pigs have finished with it, not even, ah, Richard Beard will recognise it. It will be about as similar to the Wheel of Time as Wheel of Time was to its sire-narrative.”

The Head Publisher grunted. “These guinea pigs of yours have already picked up on that one. I think it was a mistake. We can’t just keep on copying the same story. They’re not stupid.”

“But they are, sir! And this is an all-new way of re-writing the story – even if it is a re-hash, I guarantee they will lap it up. However,” Paperclip hesitated artfully. “There might be a slight problem, as far as recognisability goes. There are several parties wandering through the … environment, not role-playing at all, but rather trying to keep the original storyline intact. If they are not derailed, they might force the narrative back onto its original track.”

“What do you suggest?”

“Quite simple, sir,” Paperclip smiled. “New characters.”

The Head Publisher was unimpressed. “But didn’t Jordan already try that?”

“They were boring characters. And they did not mix up the script at all. They weren’t pro-active. They weren’t in-your-face,” Paperclip smiled as the Satanic by-words, known to all media consultants and other minions of darkness, escaped his lips in a kind of evocation. “And besides – they weren’t from this newsgroup. It’s like a gold mine.”

“Alright, dammit,” the Head Publisher nodded and slapped his hand down on the printout. “Let the Lord of Marketing rule.”



“Hi everybody!”






“My wife’s a bisexual and I am incredibly good in bed!”






The End

of the First Book

of The Steal of Time

About Hatboy

I’m not often driven to introspection or reflection, but the question does come up sometimes. The big question. So big, there’s just no containing it within the puny boundaries of a single set of punctuationary bookends. Who are these mysterious and unsung heroes of obscurity and shadow? What is their origin story? Do they have a prequel trilogy? What are their secret identities? What are their public identities, for that matter? What are their powers? Their abilities? Their haunted pasts and troubled futures? Their modus operandi? Where do they live anyway, and when? What do they do for a living? Do they really have these fantastical adventures, or is it a dazzlingly intellectual and overwrought metaphor? Or is it perhaps a smug and post-modern sort of metaphor? Is it a plain stupid metaphor, hedged around with thick wads of plausible deniability, a soap bubble of illusory plot dependent upon readers who don’t dare question it for fear of looking foolish? A flight of fancy, having dozed off in front of the television during an episode of something suitably spaceship-oriented? Do they have a quest, a handler, a mission statement, a department-level development objective in five stages? I am Hatboy.
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