The End of the World

On the 21st of December, 2012, Harried Author got up, put on his dressing gown, and headed down the stairs to get the paper. As he passed his computer, he sighed. His WIP was due to his agent in less than forty-eight hours, but he hadn’t been able to write a word in several days.

He sighed again and fetched the newspaper inside. Then he went to make a cup of tea. As he picked up the teapot with a towel, so as not to burn his hand, the glaring headline on the front page of the paper caught his attention:

Publishing Merger Approved
Demolition Work Begins Today

Demolition work? Harried became acutely aware of the growling noise from outside that had plagued him since he had gotten out of bed. He poked his head out the front door again, and did a classic double-take: there in front of his house was an assortment of large, menacing-looking vehicles, with two men in hard hats standing next to his picket fence and giving his home the ol’ hairy eyeball.

He rushed out, still in his dressing gown, to find out what was going on. “Sorry, mate,” one of the men told him, “but the borough sent you a letter. This house is due to be knocked down to make room for the brand spanking new headquarters of Capricious Ostrich. It’s going to be a lovely building, you wait and see. Quite the monument to Big Publishing.”

Harried spluttered, “But…but…but this is my house!”

The other man said, “Indeed, sir. Unfortunately, it’s bang on top of where the new vanity publishing wing needs to go. Thirty floors, you know. They expect a lot of business.”

“Now, now, Anthony,” the first man said. “You know we’re not to call it vanity publishing anymore. Now it’s called self-publishing.”

Harried glanced toward the road, where a friend stood, waving madly at him. “Excuse me,” he mumbled to the hard-hatted men, who didn’t seem to hear him, so deep were they into a discussion of the difference between self-publishing and independent publishing. He threw up his hands and joined his friend.

“Ferd,” Harried said, “I’m a bit busy just now. What’s all this about?”

“Walk with me,” Ferd said, heading off toward town.

“But these blokes are about to tear down my house!” Harried spluttered. He realized he’d been spluttering all morning, and he’d yet to have his tea. His shoulders slumping, he hurried after Ferd.

“It doesn’t matter,” Ferd said. “It’s all over. The whole Big Publishing world is about to be blown to bits.”

“What?” Harried spluttered.

Ferd said nothing more; he simply pointed up. There above them, tens of thousands of tiny spaceships zigged and zagged, jockeying for position. Most had “Amazon” emblazoned on their bellies, although Harried saw a number that said “Smashwords” or “Nook” or “Kobo”, and sometimes all of them at once. They weren’t much to look at individually, but there were so many of them that they blotted out the sun.

Then one of the ships extruded a monstrous megaphone, and through it, a thunderous voice proclaimed, “We are the vanguard of indie publishing, and we are here to tear down your monolithic publishing structure! You’ve been put on notice, Capricious Ostrich – your world is at an end!”

At this, the hard-hatted men finally left off their discussion and looked up. “But we’ve had no notice!” the one named Anthony screamed.

“We sent you a letter,” the voice growled, and the ground shook. “Lots of letters. You sent them all back, saying you couldn’t sell our work. Well, guess what? Our work is selling without your help! So…toodles!” And with that, all the tiny ships opened fire.

When the smoke cleared, everything on the ground was gone: the menacing vehicles, the hard-hatted men, and Harried’s house.

“Wow,” Ferd said. “The Mayans were right.”

Harried suddenly felt free as a bird. “You know what I’m going to do, Ferd?” he crowed. “I’m going to start working on that book my agent said would never sell, and publish it myself!”

“Let’s get drunk first,” Ferd said, turning toward town again.

Harried reached into the pocket of his dressing gown for his keys, so he could go back and lock up the house that no longer existed, and found his towel instead. “I’m ready,” he called after Ferd, and started off into uncharted space.

(With apologies to Douglas Adams, wherever he is.)

Author: Lynne Cantwell

Lynne Cantwell grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. She worked as a broadcast journalist for many years; she has written for CNN, the late lamented Mutual/NBC Radio News, and a bunch of radio and TV news outlets you have probably never heard of, including a defunct wire service called Zapnews. But she began as a fantasy writer (in the second grade), and is back at it today. She currently lives near Washington, DC. Learn more about Lynne at her blog and at her Amazon author page.

21 thoughts on “The End of the World”

  1. Wonderful, timely story! Actually, I can tell you where Douglas Adams is—he’s up on The Cloud, still writing. Life is good, although he does have to keep a constant eye on Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent.

    (See Chapter 7 of THE BOOK OF JOBS: what Steve is doing on The Cloud. Preview coming to Indies Unlimited on New Years Eve!)

    1. Thanks, TD! Me too! At one point, we had a computer game based on the Hitchhiker’s Guide that Adams helped to write. This was in the DOS Dark Ages, so the whole thing was text-driven – no graphics. Sometimes, if you typed in a command that would get you nowhere, the game would reply with, “What a concept.” 😀

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