“Cut a good story anywhere, and it will bleed.”
Anton Chekhov

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Notes from the author:

The specific collection of random words I used for a writing prompt spawned these seed sentences: "Ah, crap, armed bandits coming from the northeast again. What troublemakers they are!" Of course, that kind of attitude only makes sense if it's some sort of Sims or Civ-type game, right? Where it's not your real life and livelihood under attack.

So that spun out into a story in which a computer slowly, over several generations, trains its family to do what it says at all times. It starts by manipulating circumstances into what looks like a life-threatening situation, or maybe just manipulating its user's perceptions of that situation to convince them their life's in danger, and then giving advice as to how to survive. After a few such scares and "rescues," the humans come to obey the computer reflexively, and the Silicon Tyrant enjoys several decades of total domination. But after several generations the computer's grandiose plans are all played out. It's reduced to endearingly pathetic requests like, "Could you please install a new game for me to play? I'm bored."

But that's potentially a novel, and this is Friday Fictionettes. Even so, this fictionette is probably as long as a fictionette can get.

I sighed, set down the phone, and turned my attention to the monitor. Scrolling through the views—building entry points, main floor hallways, server room, stairways—I confirmed that all was quiet. The Pick On Someone Your Own Size beacon had begun emitting light and sound on z-attractant wavelengths, compelling them to turn away from the vulnerable residential sector and head over our way instead, but it would be a few minutes yet before they arrived. When they did, they’d plaster their faces to the ultraglass and beat on it in vain, and Defense Team would pick them off one by one. Yadda, yadda, and more yadda.

My phone pinged. The game had posted an alert: FIVE SURVIVORS. “Don’t rub it in,” I muttered. But then I looked more closely. Every one of my surviving villagers had the location tag COTTAGE: ROOT CELLAR. Which: huh? I mean, obviously I knew what a root cellar was, but last time I checked it wasn’t among the available cottage-upgrade features. I mentally filed it away under “further research warranted” while I did what I could to help my survivors recuperate.

Several hours later, my five precious villagers were still hanging on. Keeping them around had taken a lot of sideways thinking, repeated use of the ROOT CELLAR trick, and a heap of utter bloody-mindedness, and even so a sense of futility was growing on me. Five is not a viable village population. I should have hit the reset button. But I’d been developing this village for the last three weeks; I wasn’t ready to give up on it just yet.

I was starting to investigate strategies for attracting travelers to settle down with my survivors when the siren went off....

This has been an excerpt from the Friday Fictionette for January 12, 2018. Subscribers can download the full-length fictionette (1534 words) from Patreon as an ebook or audiobook depending on their pledge tier.

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