MUSIC VIDEO DRILLDOWN #10: Q.U.E.E.N. by Janelle Monáe

written by David Steffen

This is one of a series of articles wherein I examine a music video as a short film, focusing on the story rather than the music, trying to identify the story arcs and characters motivations, and consider the larger implication of events.

The film this week is the 2013 film Q.U.E.E.N. by Janelle Monáe, a freedom anthem in a science fiction dystopia, part of a series of interconnected films based in the future city (city-state?) of Metropolis, and in particular The Ministry of Droids of Metropolis.

Note that I covered one of Janelle Monáe’s films previously in Music Video Drilldown #1 about her film Tightrope. Tightrope has a number of similarities to Q.U.E.E.N. and although I think one could make an argument for them being part of the same continuity (more on that later), I don’t see anything that makes it obviously meant to be related from the films I’ve seen so far.

“It’s hard to stop rebels who time travel. But we at the Time Council pride ourselves on doing just that” a recorded video introduction welcomes visitors as they enter the Living Museum, with mellow string music playing the background.

An emblem in the background of the video gives us a great deal of information about the setting. Around the edges of the circular emblem is written “MINISTRY OF DROIDS” and “METROPOLIS”. Neither of these names is further mentioned in this film, but this makes clear continuity connections with other Janelle Monáe films like Many Moons which will be a subject of a future Music Video Drilldown. In the inner circle of the emblem the motto is “Vita En Machina”–I am no Latin expert, but I think it means something like “Life to a Machine” or “Life Within a Machine” which makes sense as being related to the Ministry of Droids which create artifical humanoids. And at the bottom of the inner circle, the year they were established, which at least on my screens is a little bit too blurry to read, but I think it might be in the 2700s, perhaps 2710?

This is no ordinary exhibit, as the narrator explains, “rebels throughout history have been frozen in suspended animation”. The particular exhibit that we are viewing is titled “PROJECT Q.U.E.E.N.”, featuring the rebel group Wondaland and their leader Janelle Monáe (played by Janelle Monáe herself, naturally), as well as her accomplice Badoula Oblongata (Eryka Badu). Project Q.U.E.E.N. is described as a “musical weapons program in the 21st century”, the nature of which is still not understood (at least, by those who prepared this exhibit). It mentions that they are still hunting the various “freedom movements that Wondaland disguised as songs, emotion pictures, and works of art.” So this is not only an exhibit about Janelle Monáe, what strolling museum visitors are looking at is actually the Janelle Monáe themself who has apparently been captured and is being held prisoner here. Within this first half-minute or so the film has set the stage for multiple interconnected films, establishing Janelle Monáe as both an actor and a character, and largely establishing her goals to fight the establishment.

Two young black women enter the scene. Unlike the other museum goers who are wearing formalwear (black suits and black dresses), they are dressed more casually. As the narrator finishes her spiel about disguised freedom movements, one of the young women pulls a vinyl record labeled “Q.U.E.E.N.” and places it on a display with a skull record player, and starts it playing. The mellow instrumentals are replaced with a more jazzy beat (electric guitar). This change in music alerts the museum guards and the women act quickly to incapacitate the guards and duct tape their unconscious forms to keep them from interfering.

The music begins to wake Janelle Monáe and the other members of Wondaland, and Janelle Monáe begins to sing: “I can’t believe the things they say about me”, “they call us dirty ’cause we break all your rules now”. She speaks on how they are criticized for not fitting into the roles that are expected of them, and muses aloud whether it makes her weird or makes her a freak to dance alone late at night. “And tell me what’s the price of fame”–although Janelle Monáe came from humble beginnings in a working family, now that they have become a major celebrity in both music and film, what is the cost of that? How can she stay true to herself with all eyes on her, with the temptations of celebrity lifestyle that are available?

It’s not only her identity as a Black person who has a strong sense of integrity at stake, as they reference their queer identity as well with lines like “is it weird to like the way she wears her tights”. This is a segue to religion as she asks “Hey sister am I good enough for your heaven? Say will your God accept me in my black and white? Will he approve the way I’m made?” The colors of black and white are repeated multiple times during the song as well as the visual design: much of the exhibit is in stark black and white colors, and almost all of the costumes are entirely black and white apart from a red sash on Janelle Monáe’s initial costume. Her conclusion to this self-reflective musing is the declaration: “Even if it makes others uncomfortable, I will love who I am.”

These questions are asked from a different scene, rather than the Janelle Monáe at the museum, it features Janelle Monáe in a couple of different outfits with a group of Black women dressed in black and white striped clothes. Another analysis I read of Q.U.E.E.N. indicated that the character portrayed in at least one of those scenes is not meant to be the character Janelle Monáe herself but is instead meant to be the android Cindi Mayweather (who is not explicitly mentioned in this film, but who will be discussed at greater length in the next Janelle Monáe film analysis in this series, of the film Many Moons). It is entirely possible that that IS meant to be Cindi Mayweather, it’s possible that there are some visual indications that this is Mayweather, or it’s possible that Janelle Monáe has stated this in an interview or something, but the only ways I know how to differentiate Cindi Mayweather from Janelle Monáe visually is: 1. Cindi Mayweather’s skin color is configurable, seeming to default to a chalky white, but she can configure her skin to look exactly like Janelle Monáe’s skin, so this would only be a clear indicator if she did look chalky white. 2. She has a function button on her left temple as seems to be standard droid design in Metropolis, but in the scene in question her hair is covering the area where the button would be present.

At this point in the film, Badoula Oblongata rouses from her suspended animation and joins the song. In the exhibit at the beginning she is shown wearing a white coat that resembles a doctor’s coat, worn as a dress, with golden forearm guards, accompanied by two men in pristine white suits and white berets overlooking a table that has a camera and some rolled up papers that might be blueprints. She is walking a gray standard poodle.

Badoula Oblongata has a solo section of song where she has a more mellow musical line with lyrics including: “Baby, here comes the freedom song” “There’s a melody, show you another way” and coming to what seems to be the thesis statement of this section: “you gotta testify, because the booty don’t lie”. My interpretation of this is that she (along with Janelle Monáe who is dancing and lipsyncing along to this with supporting gestures) that the way to get through to people about matters of equality of justice is to incorporate it into music that is extremely catchy–so that people will be attracted to the music to sing and dance along to it, and will absorb the truth of the underlying lyrics as they do this. This ties into the museum’s statements about it being one of a number of a series of what they consider to be “musical weapons programs”. This is especially apt in a film which establishes the musician Janelle Monáe themself as a rebel who time-travels because this well describes Janelle Monáe’s music which is incredibly catchy, especially when combined with the visuals from her films, but always (or at least always in the subset of their music that I have heard so far) contains an underlying message about equality and justice and the state of our world which is all the more effective at getting into your head through the medium of an “earworm” song that gets in your head and you find yourself singing the lyrics days or weeks after you last heard it–how can you help but consider and examine lyrics that are constantly repeating in your head?

As the music continues, one of the members of Wondaland sits at a typewriter and types the same line of text over and over again: “We will create and destroy ten art movements in ten years.”

At this point in the film Janelle Monáe says “I don’t think they understand what I’m trying to say” and changes musical format to finish the song with a rap, now wearing her iconic tuxedo for the first time in this song–talking about being part of a lost generation of people “add us to equations but they’ll never make us equal”. I think this may be referring to several things, but the first that comes to mind is Jim Crow laws and other societal structures that perpetuated the oppression of Black people even after slavery was officially ended. “They keep us underground working hard for the greedy, but when it’s time to pay they turn around and call us needy” and makes it clear that she is tired of watching her people be taken advantage of. She ends the film with a call to action “Will you be electric sheep, electric ladies. Will you sleep? Or will you preach?”

In an interview with Fuse HQ Janelle Monáe explains the acronym of the title of this song:

“‘Q.U.E.E.N.’ definitely is an acronym,” Monae explains during an interview at Fuse HQ. “It’s for those who are marginalized.” She says the “Q” represents the queer community, the “U” for the untouchables, the “E” for emigrants, the second “E” for the excommunicated and the “N” for those labeled as negroid.  “It’s for everyone who’s felt ostracized,” she adds. “I wanted to create something for people who feel like they want to give up because they’re not accepted by society.”

Back to Tightrope for a moment. There are similarities between the two films. They both star Janelle Monáe playing Janelle Monáe. Both films begin with Janelle Monáe held prisoner (in this case a museum, in Tightrope, an asylum), along with members of Wondaland, with music identified as the source of their power (in Tightrope dancing was outlawed because of subversive tendencies and that it leads to illegal magic). There might not be a clear contuity between the two, the powers that are holding her prisoner in each film appear to be very different… but given that Janelle Monáe is canonically a time traveler, it’s entirely plausible that these are different organizations, perhaps in entirely different centuries or that one organization developed into the other over time. The only other clue to the connection might be the shoes on one of the pedestals at the exhibit which seem to be the same shoes Janelle Monáe and her entourage wore in Tightrope (although it’s possible they wear the shoes at other times, I know Janelle Monáe wears tuxedoes many times especially in their earlier work but I’m not sure about the shoes). Are the shoes on the pedestal a hint that this is a single continuity? Or since this exhibit is about Janelle Monáe is that a hint that that was a music video made by Janelle Monáe in the history but not necessarily a historical record? Or was it just an Easter egg with no particular meaning?

Janelle Monáe is a master at doing exactly what is described within this song–writing songs that are catchy as hell, that make your foot tap, that make you want to dance (even for those of us who have never had a talent for dancing), that are full of truths about the problems with our social structure that you find yourself singing along to and getting in your head.

A future Music Video Drilldown will feature Many Moons by Janelle Monáe. I am greatly looking forward to that one because that one has clear connections with this one–not least of which that both take place in Metropolis and involve the Ministry of Droids, but that one stars the android Cindi Mayweather, which to this day is referenced in the dual name of Janelle Monáe’s Twitter account.

The next Music Video Drilldown will be for the film Firework by Katy Perry.

MOVIE REVIEW: Insurgent

written by David Steffen

Insurgent is a 2015 dystopic science fiction film based on the 2012 novel of the same name by Veronica Roth, both of which are the 2nd installment in the Divergent series. The first movie, Divergent, was reviewed here, and the Insurgent book was reviewed here. Much of the general summary of the plot here is the same as the review here of the Divergent book because the basis of it was reasonably closely adapted.

These stories take place in a future Chicago which is walled-off from the rest of the world and has been split into five factions: Candor (who value truth, Abnegation (who value selflessness), Amity (who value harmony), Dauntless (who value courage), and Erudite (who value intelligence). This order has existed for a long time, relatively undisturbed, but now the world is reeling from coordinated attack masterminded by Erudite that involved turning much of the deadly and well-trained Dauntless into mindless killing drones. Now the remnants of Dauntless are scattered and trying to figure out how they’re going to fit in in the new shaken order.

Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley)was born Abnegation but chose to switch to Dauntless when she turned sixteen, the one opportunity anyone has to switch. Although she is officially Dauntless, she has shown tendencies that seem to say she is actually “Divergent”, which means she has aptitudes for more than one of the factions, as does her boyfriend Tobias (Theo James). This is considered very rare, and very dangerous–others have died for even being suspected of being Divergent. This unusual trait may have saved many lives because she was able to resist the conditioning that turned much of the rest of Dauntless into mindless killing machines.

She and many of Dauntless are now hiding out in Amity, trying to find their next plans. It is a troubled truce with Amity, who value harmony and thus do not get along well with the violent and impulsive Dauntless. But their refuge isn’t going to last very long anyway, because the other members of Dauntless, the ones who sided with Erudite after the original conflict, are coming.

The first movie was a very close adaptation, but this movie, about halfway through, has quite a bit of divergence (ha)from its source material. The characters are the same, the setup is the same, but it ends up in a significantly different place than the book its based on, even though they’re kindof thematically connected. I admit I found this quite distracting, having read the book first, trying to figure out if this was one of those cases where an author lost the creative control over their own work and this was some Hollywood creative going wild making an adaptation into something completely different, or if Veronica Roth did have a say and decided she wanted something significantly different from her book. Still plenty of action and intrigue, but if you have already read the book you may find yourself distracted by the changes that didn’t really seem that necessary and which interfere with the third book being able to be set up in the same way.

MOVIE REVIEW: Divergent

written by David Steffen

Divergent is a 2014 dystopic science fiction movie distributed by Lionsgate, based on the 2011 book of the same title by Veronica Roth. Much of the general summary of the plot here is the same as the review here of the Divergent book because it was very closely based.

The story takes place in an isolated city-state that used to be Chicago in the future, where it is walled off from the rest of the world where no one seems to know what is happening outside of it. Almost all of society is split into five factions, each of which values certain human traits above all others. At the age of sixteen, every person must decide which faction they will belong to for the rest of their lives or risk falling into the huddled masses of the factionless who are barely acknowledged by the society.

The Abnegation values selflessness, and expect its members to never think of themselves. Dauntless values courage, its members are like a trained military force, expected to take on dangerous challenges without hesitation. Candor values honesty, and its members are expected to always tell the truth in all situations. Amity values harmony, and wants everyone to get along peacefully. Erudite value intelligence, they’re the inventors of the society. Every person is expected to be a clear fit for one of the factions or they are an outcast, but there are whispers that some people are “divergent” who have tendencies toward several factions at once, these people are considered dangerous to their social order.

Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) is born and raised as Abnegation, but although she sees the worth in Abnegation’s values, she feels like an impostor because she can’t seem to hold to those values. On her Choosing Day she has to choose between staying with her family in Abnegation or leaving them behind to join one of the other factions. She joins the Dauntless faction because it seems to be the closest to what she wants to be, there she is trained by a mysterious man who calls himself Four (Theo James).

This is a reasonably faithful adaptation of the movie. The main difference overall seems to be that it feels like the Dauntless acts are dialed up even higher so that rather than being simply reckless they are borderline suicidal, I guess to punch up the movie shock effect. But this is still an interesting look at a really terrible social structure that I would never recommend (particularly that you have to choose your faction at sixteen and can never change it forevermore). Worth a watch!



BOOK REVIEW: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

written by David Steffen

Allegiant is a 2013 dystopic science fiction novel by Veronica Roth, the final book in the Divergent trilogy after Divergent (reviewed here) and Insurgent (reviewed here).

These stories take place in a future Chicago which is walled-off from the rest of the world and has been split into five factions: Candor (who value truth, Abnegation (who value selflessness), Amity (who value harmony), Dauntless (who value courage), and Erudite (who value intelligence). This order has existed for a long time, relatively undisturbed, but now the world is reeling from several major disturbances in the social order that began when Erudite converted much of dauntless into mindless soldiers and slaughtered much of Abnegation before they could be stopped. The factionless who have lived starving and forgotten in the background for much of recent history have risen up under a new leader, and now on the heels of that change, a video has surfaced that shakes the foundations of their whole world.

The video shows a woman claiming to work for “an organization fighting for peace” says that the world outside of Chicago had been corrupt, and that the city was sealed to allow the Divergent population to increase and that this recent increase means that it is time to reopen the city to the outside world again.

“Divergent” is this society’s name for people who don’t fit into one of the five factions. Many have considered such people dangerously unpredictable, and some have been killed to prevent their unpredictability.

Tris Prior and her boyfriend Tobias are both Divergent, both members of Dauntless that switched from Abnegation at the age of choice, and because of these traits have saved many people when they were able to resist the conditioning that other Dauntless fell prey to.

Now, Tris and Tobias and some others allied with them are venturing outside the city, the first time anyone has done so in generations. No one has any idea what they will find out there, what the society on the outside looks like, if it has survived at all. And now they’re going to find out.

The previous two books were told in first-person from the point of view of Tris. This one takes a little bit new angle on it, by having dual first-person points of view: both Tris and Tobias. I found that I had trouble keeping track of who was the first-person at any given time since they have similar backgrounds and are similar in several ways, I would think I was following Tris until something was mentioned about the character’s parents that didn’t fit Tris and then I would realize it was Tobias. I think multiple first-person can work, but I don’t think it worked very well here because of the similarity between the characters and their situation.

Much of the plot of the story also revolved around romantic tension between Tris and Tobias. In the book, both of them get jealous of the other talking to someone of the opposite sex, and then immediately go and do the same thing themselves. It gets pretty old after a while, especially since they are in a series of life and death situations where their actions affect the lives of hundreds or thousands of other people, and they’re worried about this. I wanted to take them both aside and just tell them too that this is their first relationship and it might not last forever and it’s not worth ruining your entire life over, but that doesn’t seem to be a popular angle to take in a book written for and about teens, so I guess that wouldn’t work.

I didn’t really care for the ending, though I won’t say anything else about that. Overall, I thought this one was the weakest of the three books, though if you’ve read the other two you’re probably going to want to find out how the whole thing turned out–I would!

BOOK REVIEW: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

written by David Steffen

Insurgent is a 2012 dystopic science fiction novel by Veronica Roth, the sequel to Divergent (reviewed here) and the second in the Divergent trilogy.

These stories take place in a future Chicago which is walled-off from the rest of the world and has been split into five factions: Candor (who value truth, Abnegation (who value selflessness), Amity (who value harmony), Dauntless (who value courage), and Erudite (who value intelligence). This order has existed for a long time, relatively undisturbed, but now the world is reeling from coordinated attack masterminded by Erudite that involved turning much of the deadly and well-trained Dauntless into mindless killing drones. Now the remnants of Dauntless are scattered and trying to figure out how they’re going to fit in in the new shaken order.

Tris Prior was born Abnegation but chose to switch to Dauntless when she turned sixteen, the one opportunity anyone has to switch. Although she is officially Dauntless, she has shown tendencies that seem to say she is actually “Divergent”, which means she has aptitudes for more than one of the factions. This is considered very rare, and very dangerous–others have died for even being suspected of being Divergent. This unusual trait may have saved many lives because she was able to resist the conditioning that turned much of the rest of Dauntless into mindless killing machines.

She and many of Dauntless are now hiding out in Amity, trying to find their next plans. It is a troubled truce with Amity, who value harmony and thus do not get along well with the violent and impulsive Dauntless. But their refuge isn’t going to last very long anyway, because the other members of Dauntless, the ones who sided with Erudite after the original conflict, are coming.

Another quite good book, Tris is an interesting and compelling protagonist, though she is very hard on herself for some of the things she did when she was trying to save Dauntless in the first book and it is hard to see her tear herself down that way when her decisions were understandable in the circumstances. She makes a good pair with Four, also from Dauntless, who is now her boyfriend. Solid book, well worth reading.

BOOK REVIEW: Divergent by Veronica Roth

written by David Steffen

Divergent is a 2011 dystopic science fiction novel by Veronica Roth, the first of a trilogy of books. The story takes place in an isolated city-state that used to be Chicago in the future, where it is walled off from the rest of the world where no one seems to know what is happening outside of it. Almost all of society is split into five factions, each of which values certain human traits above all others. At the age of sixteen, every person must decide which faction they will belong to for the rest of their lives or risk falling into the huddled masses of the factionless who are barely acknowledged by the society.

The Abnegation values selflessness, and expect its members to never think of themselves. Dauntless values courage, its members are like a trained military force, expected to take on dangerous challenges without hesitation. Candor values honesty, and its members are expected to always tell the truth in all situations. Amity values harmony, and wants everyone to get along peacefully. Erudite value intelligence, they’re the inventors of the society. Every person is expected to be a clear fit for one of the factions or they are an outcast, but there are whispers that some people are “divergent” who have tendencies toward several factions at once, these people are considered dangerous to their social order.

Beatrice Prior is born and raised as Abnegation, but although she sees the worth in Abnegation’s values, she feels like an impostor because she can’t seem to hold to those values. On her Choosing Day she has to choose between staying with her family in Abnegation or leaving them behind to join one of the other factions.

The basis of this society is ludicrous (but of course it is a dystopia, not a proposal for a new social order, so I’m not saying it’s a bad idea for a book!). The people in this society have been raised with these ideals since birth so they take them for granted. It can be a difficult task for an author to build this world in a way that the reader can understand it without killing the pacing with an infodump, but this book does a very nice job of it, letting us see what it’s like to live in Abnegation day to day, then meet members of other factions and see how their behavior is different, Beatrice goes through the testing to see her faction leanings and etc.

If there is value in such a segregated society, the worst part of it is that you have to choose for life at the age of sixteen with very little information. People change! What if someone is very like Erudite as a teenager, but tends more toward Amity as they age? Well, too bad, you can either stick with your faction or you can go starve in the factionless.

Beatrice is in her head a lot, examining each angle of the situation, so I related to that a lot, as I am always examining every angle of situation before I make a choice about it, whenever I can. There are a lot of strong conflicts between Beatrice and the other initiates who have just chosen their new faction as they compete with each for entry. The book is full of action and worldbuilding and well written, a great start to a trilogy.

DP FICTION #58A: “Consequences of a Statistical Approach Towards a Utilitarian Utopia: A Selection of Potential Outcomes” by Matt Dovey

Maximised Total Happiness

Michelle smiled, exhausted, as her baby’s cry filled the hospital room. The lights above her were harsh and cold, and the sheets beneath her were tangled and scratchy, soaked in her sweat and stinking of iodine, but none of that mattered against such a beautiful sound. She heard it so rarely—just once a year.

“Congratulations, Mrs Bergeron,” said the midwife. “It’s a girl.”

“Oh, thank you so much! I’m ecstatic!” She looked over at Nathan, cradling baby Danielle face down in his strong arms. A Happiness Moderator stood by them, uniformed with the usual black suit and easy smile; he lined up a large needle at the base of Danielle’s skull and implanted the HappyChip with a swift movement. Danielle’s cries quieted, then turned to a happy giggle.

“You should be very proud,” said the midwife, smiling. “What number is she?”

“My 22nd!”

“Well, congratulations again. I look forward to seeing you next year for number 23.”

Highest Possible Mode

Raj stepped into the kitchen and the welcoming arms of Alejandro. The air was heavy with spice and the sizzle of frying pork, the promise of a celebratory dinner as only Ali could prepare.

“I knew you could do it,” whispered Ali, embracing him. “Team manager!”

This, more than the promotion, was what made Raj happy: that he had made Ali proud. Falling in love with him had made everything click for Raj, and he understood, at last, what it meant to call someone your other half: not just a casual joke, but an honest statement that I am not me without them. Seeing Ali’s pride made him swell. It meant more than anything.

A firm knock sounded at the door, and Raj all but floated down the hallway to open it.

Pain flared in his toes. Raj crumpled, grasping at his right foot. He looked up; a Happiness Moderator stood in the doorway, already filling out his worksheet on a tablet. The Moderator had stamped on Raj’s foot as soon as the door had opened, breaking two, maybe three toes by the feel of it.

“Why?” gasped Raj.

The Moderator didn’t look up from his monitoring tablet. “Your level of happiness had risen to be equal to a large number of other citizens, but was nonetheless lower than the current societal mode. As such, your happiness threatened to establish a lower level as the new mode, undermining government targets.”

“Couldn’t you have given me some flowers or something? Made me even happier and lifted me above the others?”

“Sorry sir,” said the Moderator. “Pain is easier to invoke, and longer lasting. Have a happy day!

Highest Possible Mean

Roger cackled as he switched the traffic lights to red again, having let only three cars through the intersection. He was watching the drivers on an array of video monitors that glowed in the dim control room, displaying an orchestra of impatience rendered in drumming fingers and revving engines.

“Sir,” said a Happiness Moderator, stepping up to the desk. “Please be careful not to cause too much irritation. As soon as their combined frustration outweighs your delight…”

Roger looked up, a manic, almost hysterical grin on his face. He hadn’t had this much fun in years! Lights go green… lights go red! Pedestrians cross now… and again… and again! But not for too long—got to make them run once they’re halfway across! He laughed uproariously.

“Never mind, sir,” said the Moderator, stepping away.

Smallest Possible Standard Deviation

Cecile clicked the plastic lid onto the latte and passed it across the counter with a smile. The businesswoman smiled back with the same easy contentment and stepped away into the chatter of the airport, merging seamlessly into the efficient flow of foot traffic.

A cry went up from the arrivals line: Delphine! Oh Delphine! Two silver-haired women ran towards each other and embraced, clinging to each other with a frantic longing, their shoulders shaking as they sobbed on each other’s shoulder.

Cecile’s eyes welled up. She suddenly missed Nicole desperately, a huge hollow of longing opening up beneath her heart. It had been two months now, and Cecile still had no idea when the Venezuelan dig would be completed and Nicole would be home again, curled up on the sofa with Cecile under blankets and cushions and Henri the cat purring between them, a shared bottle of merlot by candlelight…

Happiness trickled across Cecile’s body like warm water, flowing out from the base of her skull, dampening her sadness and leaving it as an academic awareness of loneliness to be acknowledged with a smile. The two women in arrivals broke apart, arms dropping to their sides and broad grins smoothing down to gentle smiles. The same gentle smile as Cecile. The same gentle smile as everyone. Easily-maintained, easily-controlled, for everyone everywhere, always.

Highest Possible Median

Moderator Laidlow looked up from her monitoring tablet into the crying man’s puffy eyes. He stood in his doorway, dressed in a grey, ratty dressing gown, his hair unkempt and face unshaven. His bottom lip wobbled as he explained.

“Honestly, I’ll be fine again in a couple of hours. It’s just—my cat died overnight, and I might be a little down now, but I’m getting over it, I promise!”

He danced a sad little jig in the sour morning light as if to demonstrate, but he only made it four beats before sagging in defeat.

It wouldn’t have mattered. The tablet had already confirmed his status: he was the saddest person in the local area, with the least chance of improving above the median before the end of the day, judging by his current emotional trajectory.

She nodded at Moderator Rence, who reluctantly drew his HappyTaser. Laidlow had noticed his increasing reticence through their recent duties, though she struggled to understand it. She took great pride and satisfaction in her work; in knowing that she was improving society. Rence’s mood was completely at odds with her own approach to the work.

Without ceremony, he pressed the HappyTaser to the man’s forehead and executed him. He stood for a moment as the body crumpled, jerking slightly with the electric discharge, then slowly lifted the Taser and examined it.

“Do you ever wonder,” he said, “if what we do actually helps? Does it fix anything, or are we just papering over cracks? Does our work merely hide society’s ills behind an artificially inflated number, not only doing nothing to help directly but actively preventing greater self-examination of the true causes of our problems? Does the work not, in fact, burrow under your skin and eat away at you in the cold hours of the night, leaving you filled only with doubts and a raw, jagged uncertainty? Having walked out of the darkness of ignorance and come to find the truth beneath the façade, I do not know as I will ever be truly happy again.”

Laidlow said nothing. She swiped about on her monitoring tablet, looking for the next unhappiest person in the vicinity now that this job had been completed.

Moderator David Rence said the display.

She raised her HappyTaser to his temple and executed him.

Well! she thought, smiling. That was efficient! What an excellent day!


© 2019 by Matt Dovey

Author’s Note: I can’t recall precisely what triggered the combination of utilitarianism and statistics in my mind—just the general everyday mush that is my brain, one supposes—but I never expected anyone else to find it funny. There’s not much more to be said for it than that, perhaps, except perhaps it shows the absurdity of taking any system to its logical extreme without constraint. I wonder if that will ever occur to the free market adherents selling off all the public infrastructure in Britain. Special thanks must go to Ric Crossman (@SquidFromSpace) for his statistical consultancy, in particular pointing out a far more efficient method for maintaining the optimum median value, an idea that will surely make him a hero come the revolution.

Matt Dovey is very tall, very English, and most likely drinking a cup of tea right now. He once got too happy after finding a packet of Golden Crunch Creams at the back of the cupboard, and has a scar on his arm where the Moderators intervened. He now lives in a quiet market town in rural England with his wife & three children, and despite being a writer he still hasn’t found the right words to fully express the delight he finds in this wonderful arrangement. His surname rhymes with “Dopey” but any other similarities to the dwarf are purely coincidental. He’s an associate editor at PodCastle, a member of Codex and Villa Diodati, and has fiction out and forthcoming all over the place, including all four Escape Artists podcasts, Flash Fiction Online and Daily SF. You can keep up with it all at mattdovey.com, or follow along on Twitter and Facebook both as @mattdoveywriter.


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TV REVIEW: The Handmaid’s Tale, Season 1

written by David Steffen

The Handmaid’s Tale is a TV show presented on the Hulu streaming service, based on the 1984 Margaret Atwood novel of the same name, which was previously reviewed here, about a near-future dystopia in which the USA has become an extremely oppressive theocracy in which women are second-class citizens, especially the handmaids who are little more than breeding stock. Season one aired on Netflix in 2017.

In the near-future world of the story, a worldwide infertility epidemic is affecting the whole world, and the United States has been overthrown by a violent fundamentalist Christian regime and renamed Gilead. The leaders of Gilead think that the world’s problems are a punishment from God for their wickedness, and have taken over to enforce their own view of morality on their citizens.

One of the largest of these changes is the introduction of handmaids, fertile women who are assigned to commanders whose wives have not borne children, to be raped every month when they are ovulating with the intent of bearing a child that will then be taken by the commander as his own child.

The protagonist of the book is June (Elisabeth Moss), who is a handmaid officially known as “Offred” (as in “of Fred” because Fred is the first name of the commander she is assigned to(Joseph Fiennes)), who had a husband and a young child before the rise of Gilead and she was made a handmaid because of past infidelity. She is trying to survive despite the extreme circumstances, and she is trying to make her place in this new world with potential friends like the commander’s driver Nick (Max Minghella) and maybe make a difference to someone and if she is very very lucky, make a mistake.

Besides the monthly “ceremony” when she is ovulating, she also has to deal with the passive-aggressive tendencies of the commander’s wife Serena (Yvonne Strahovski), and the overbearing leadership of Aunt Lydia who oversees all of the local handmaids.

For those who have read the book, the first season pretty much matches the timeline and major events as the book, also ending in pretty much the same place. It has been a couple years since I’ve read the book but the parts that I remembered matched the book quite closely.

The writing, the casting, the music, the production, everything about this show is done very well. It is not a show for the lighthearted, and is as relevant (or more relevant) than the story was when the book was originally published in the mid-80s–it is all too easy to believe some of the dystopic religio-political beliefs in Gilead taking root in some current trends. The Handmaid’s Tale is a good story, but even more so than other dystopias it is a warning about where we might end up if we don’t resist changes that would take us to that dystopia.

Highly recommended, if you feel you can handle something so dark.

DP FICTION #42B: “The Vegan Apocalypse: 50 Years Later” by Benjamin A. Friedman

Dear valued McFleshy’s patrons,

On this, the solemn 50th anniversary of the Vegan Apocalypse, we’d like to thank you — our loyal Consumers-of-the-McFlesh™ — for relying on McFleshy’s (and only on McFleshy’s) for all your dietary needs. As you know, without your loyal patronage our tremendous planet would have surely long since fallen prey (yet again) to the Vegans. Instead, thanks to your fortitude — we’re still here. And thanks to us (and the delicious McFlesh™) — you are too!

For it is only together by consuming at least three juicy Fleshies™ a day, that we can be certain to avoid the fate of our Beloved Billion™ — keeping the Earth safe for all our children…and all our children’s children – etc.

We know this. And we know that you know it too:

“McFleshy’s means survival!”™

McFleshy’s also understands, however, that some of you — too young to have witnessed the Vegan Apocalypse firsthand — have begun to ask troubling questions like: “Why?”

• Why must we consume the McFlesh™ (and only the McFlesh™)?

• Why must we devote so many tens of millions of acres of precious above-sea-level topography to beef, pork, and horse production?

• Why do the Crazy Ones claim that we are the cause of the Great Flooding, the average life-span of forty-two, the balmy winters in Canada, and, of course, Brown River Stench?

As though these were not the Natural Order™ in our Post-Vegan world!

McFleshy’s knows such dangerous murmurings are nonsense…but this is not enough; you must know it too. Yet many malignant myths keep popping up – like fungi – in the minds of today’s youth. And just like that often-poisonous gateway protein, we must eradicate such mental spores before they lead us down the slippery slope to soybean – and annihilation.

It is in this spirit that we hereby set the record straight on this, the solemn 50th anniversary of the Vegan Apocalypse, upon this complimentary maple-glazed, pressed-pork parchment (the text and flesh of which you do hereby agree to consume immediately and in totality after reading under penalty of…etc.).

Thank you again for your McPatronage™!

 

1. A Clarification of Terms: on vegan vs. Vegan 

Today, even 50 long years after our Beloved Billion™ were torn away from us, there are still those among you who hold to the falsehood that there is a distinction to be drawn between a capital “V” and a lowercase “v” as applied to the suffix “-egan.” But the hard reality is:

THERE IS NOT.

At least not in terms of culpability.

FACT: Those humans who embraced the death-cult known as “veganism” are every bit as much to blame for the fate of our Beloved Billion™ as the Vegans.

LET US REPEAT: Both vegans and Vegans are equally to blame for the fate of our Beloved Billion™ — anyone who insists otherwise is a Crazy One.

 

2. Etymology and Origins

It is still important, however, to clarify the distinct yet interconnected roles these two groups played in the Vegan Apocalypse. And for this, we must revisit the origins of both little “v” and big “V” – to see how their phonetic overlap was anything but random.

 

a. The cult of veganism

It was in 1944AD, during the height of the Second World War, when an alleged Homo sapiens named Donald Watson coined the term “vegan” – as an abbreviation of “vegetarian.” Promoting an even more radical form of the perverse anti-flesh ideology championed by Adolph Hitler, “The Vegan (sic) Society” formed by Mr. Watson demanded the elimination of not only animal flesh from the human diet, but all animal-based proteins. Followers of “veganism” insisted this diet would prove highly beneficial to both body and spirit, as well as to the environment…

Oh how the Vegans must have been laughing at us, 25 light-years away!

 

b. Vega/Alpha Lyrae

As for those other Vegans…12,000 years before veganism took wicked root here on Earth, the brightest star in our Northern Hemisphere was the star Vega, in the constellation Lyra.

Appearing in the night sky of today as a blue-tinged white prick of light with a declination of 38-47 and an apparent magnitude of 0.03, the Vegan System is now also known to possess a single earth-like planet that we call Vega-1.

(Obviously we cannot print its more popular name here, as McFleshy’s is a family establishment).

Now you may ask, what else has Vega been called by us humans?

Well, in both ancient Egypt and ancient India, Vega was known simply as:

“The Vulture.”

Just as telling is the name that the ancient Assyrians assigned to it:

“The Judge of Heaven.”

Meanwhile, our own designation of Vega – as Vega – actually comes from the Arabic phrase an-nasr al-wāqi, meaning (again):

“The descending bird of prey.”

And so an undeniable pattern crystallizes into view:

Whether hunter or scavenger, judge or executioner, human stargazers have long intuited some dark truth about our celestial neighbor, winking at us from a mere 25 light years away…

Just ask the Quixotipl Tribe of 12th century Peru.

Oh wait, you can’t…

The Vegans ate them.

 

3. On “Synch,” or: “As above, so below.”

Now, to fully understand the connection between Vegan and vegan, one must first recall how human vegans behaved – specifically, what a demoralizing experience it was to eat of the tasty flesh in their vicinity.

For those of you not old enough to remember, let this quote from one of Pre-VA America’s greatest voices be your guide:

“With the narrowed eyes of a harridan and the high and mighty tones of a hypocrite…they let loose upon you a litany of falsities, until appetite herself has not one inch of space to breathe free. Yes, my brothers and sisters, to eat of the delicious flesh near a vegan…is to be circled overhead by a vulture readying to descend.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.
(Source: Facebook™)

Let us also consider for a moment what was lost when the supposed-Mr. Watson removed the letters “E-T-A-R-I,” from VEG[ETARI]AN. Some of you may assume this change was inconsequential, but it was anything but; rearrange the missing letters and we find an immediate clue to their meaning:

T-E-R-A-I.

AKA: the Latin word for: “Earth.”

Rearrange them again and we get:

“E-A-R-T-I”

Only one alphabetic unit away from “Earth” in English (again).

Now you see, don’t you??

By removing these five letters, vegans and Vegans were brazenly announcing their unholy alliance and ultimate goal – to take out Earth! At this point, to call the phonetic overlap mere coincidence is to deny the obvious: that vegans and Vegans were linked from the start, in the same interpsychic web of reality-manipulation they would later use in concert with one other – to ensnare our Beloved Billion™.

And what do our McFleshy Scientists call these manipulations of reality?

“Synch™”

For if the Vegan Apocalypse has taught us anything, it is that alien mind penetration can and will cause a toxic run-off of strangely interconnected coincidences (linguistic, logistical, and otherwise) in one’s vicinity.

This is why the last months of our Beloved Billion™ were spattered with such a perverse abundance of what vegans called “signs and miracles”…and our McFleshy Scientists now call “mind-bait and psycho-spam.”

AKA: Synch™

 

4. Historical Context 

These days, it is a challenge for young people to imagine what our planet was like prior to the Vegan Apocalypse. Many of our oldest citizens have contributed to this confusion by characterizing the years pre-VA as a simpler, more innocent time: lower sea-levels, cleaner waters, fewer colostomy bags…

But this nostalgia, sadly, is misguided.

In truth, it was in the deceptive calm of 2012AD-2022AD that the seeds of our Beloved Billion’s™ destruction were being planted. So we must now look back – with eyes tinted-not – to reconstruct how we missed the many signs of impending catastrophe. Only thus may we ensure that NOTHING ALIEN EVER CATCHES US OFF-GUARD AGAIN.

 

a. The Fate of the Quixotipl (2012AD)

We begin ten years prior to the Vegan Apocalypse, in 2012AD, as a great upsurge of interest in the ancient Mayan calendar reached its zenith.

This archaic time-keeping system was just then concluding an epochal cycle, and many in the New Age spirituality movement (a hot bed of vegan activity) were predicting that the world was about to end as a result – not violently, but in some nebulous sociological transformation often described as:

“Crunchy.”

That same year, archeologists in Peru discovered the remnants of the tiny civilization of Quixotipl, whose own astronomically-calibrated calendar was also set to conclude a cycle – ten years later, in 2022AD.

A series of Quixotipl wall glyphs depicting the last time a Quixotipl Age ended (in 1101AD) was discovered as well; in these, the star Vega is depicted as a gaping maw from which a spiraling vortex of sharp-beaked “bird men” are swooping down to Earth…to carry the Quixotipl people away…

Ironically, those excavating the Quixotipl site at first believed its inhabitant to have been a decent, flesh-eating folk– on account of the thousands of hastily discarded bones found at the top layer of the dig. As soon as the archeologists realized these unburied, unburnt skeletons (all carbon-dated to the 12th Century AD) belonged to men, women, and children, however…they changed their tune.

The Quixotipl, it turned out…held to an entirely flesh-free diet.

 

b. The Blowing Winds of Vega (2012AD-2016AD)

To understand what destroyed the Quixotipl people over one thousand years earlier, we must next look to the disturbing transformation of Stephan Mallik, aka: “Starfalcon” – once a mild-mannered PhD student in the archeology department of the University of Virginia…now a footnote in history – right alongside Benedict Arnold.

After conducting extensive field research on the Quixotipl site in 2012AD and again in 2013AD, Mr. Mallik’s scholarship helped popularize the theory that the Quixotipl had died in a mass ritual suicide – just as the last cycle of their calendar was concluding. Mr. Mallik explained the absence of sacrificial relics at the site (e.g. blades and chalices) by proposing a slow-acting poison ingested away from their final resting place as agent.

Many archeologists praised this hypothesis.

But then, in 2014AD, just as Mr. Mallik was completing his dissertation on the subject, he began to behave erratically. “What if there IS a deeper cosmic order embedded in The Calendar?? Now that I’ve eliminated ALL meat and dairy from my diet, there are so many ENERGIES I’ve grown attuned to…forces I never imagined possible before…”
(Source: Reddit.com/r/vegan [defunct])

Thus began one of the first internet posts attributed to Mr. Mallik under the pseudonym “Starfalcon,” and thus – like Saul of Tarsus – did Mr. Mallik discover his “calling” as both apostle and evangelist for Vega.

(Of course, unlike Christianity, the so-called “Gospel of Vega” had a dark side!)

According to Starfalcon – and his dozens of disciples – only those who cleansed themselves of the tasty flesh would ascend to the “next level” of human evolution. This Grand Shift was set to correspond with the next turn-over in the Quixotipl calendar– in 2022AD – in communion with the “enlightened” beings of Vega-1.

Apparently, the more ancient alien civilization had been guiding humanity towards veganism (and “salvation”) for millennia…

The acolytes of this radical, esoteric strain of veganism converted many poor bodies throughout the 2010’s by tapping into the irrational hodge-podge of mytho-mystical belief still plaguing humanity at the time: utopian fever-dreams, socialist messiahs, drug-fueled raptures, quantum physics, sweaty yoga, string theory, artificial intelligence, and the false-promise of singularity…they even identified the children’s novelist Arthur C. Clarke as a Vegan prophet, claiming he had encoded many of his adolescent fictions with “messages” for true believers.

Many thousands would perish as a result of such nonsense.

Of course, this death count was just a drop in the ocean – a trifle, really – when compared with the seeds of mass slaughter that the “respectable” vegan community was planting, concurrently, in the secular, “more rational” worlds of academia, business, and politics…

Here we discover the true depths of vegan treachery!

 

c. The Anti-Flesh Crusade (2017AD-2020AD)

Today, thanks to the tireless research of our Scientists here at McFleshy’s, we can affirm with 100.00% certainty that both Global Warming and Brown River Stench were ALWAYS inevitable — historically and geologically.

That’s right: no matter what we as a species did or did not do to prevent them, they WERE coming for us.

LET US REPEAT: the rising tides in Ohio and Nevada are NOT our fault.

It’s a McFact™.

So how then to explain the obsessive efforts of the Environmental Lobby of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries AD to prevent the unpreventable?

Two words: “vegan infiltration”

Using the Sword of Damocles of “Climate Change” to instill fear and panic, vegan infiltrators pointed their crooked fingers at the embryonic meat industry, trumping up ridiculous charges of causality between then meager modes of tasty flesh production and incipient global warming. For instance: they claimed that methane gas emissions from livestock were heating up the Earth’s atmosphere.

Just imagine that for a moment, would you…?

Farts!!

They also claimed that the removal of millions of acres of swelteringly hot jungle and rain forest– to make room for much breezier grazing pastures – was making Earth hotter too. Looking back, the vegan infiltrators’ accusations appear backward, irrational, and unscientific – of course. At the time though, many were desperate to believe there would be some way to avoid the onslaught of Brown River Stench. And who can blame them?

Sadly, the notion that Homo sapiens had a choice in this matter is hubris.

Or as we like to call it: McHubris™

The truth is, we humans have the tendency to believe whatever supports our preconceived worldviews…and many good-intentioned environmentalists were turned against the Great Meat Makers as a result of these untruths.

Everywhere one looked, vegan distortions were sweeping into the collective consciousness, not just through the Environmental Lobby, but through the worlds of business and healthcare, in the ideologically corrupt productions of Hollywood and academia – even through children’s television!

Yes, everywhere they could, the vegans waged their deadly war:

• At major universities, they wrote venomous screeds on the “human rights” of animals. (Just think about that for a moment!)

• Student unions promoting radical anti-flesh lifestyles soon became entrenched. (Mass protests and boycotting against the meat industry followed in abundance.)

• Meanwhile, in science and medicine, vegan propagandists paid off corrupt “experts” to assert that flesh-consumption levels in impoverished nations (like Mexico and Africa) were healthier than those in the one exemplary flesh-eating nation in the world: The United States of America. (Fortunately, most Western doctors ignored such findings.)

• Unfortunately, in food manufacturing, vegan “entrepreneurs” began churning out an endless supply of flesh-substitutes, from oft-carcinogenic sources like soybean, pea protein, and the aptly named seitan.

And so it was that the developing world remained nearly fleshless, while in first-world kitchens, kale and squash proliferated.

In other words: at the very moment when humanity NEEDED to be manufacturing as many gross tons of cow and horse protein as possible, we were instead flapping about with our pants around our ankles.

Until finally…the stage (and table) for the Vegan feast…was set.

 

d. The Rising Horror (2021AD)

Imagine if you will…a morning like any other…

You replace your Clara-Lung Breathing App™ with a fresh mask, report any dissonant dreams you may have had to our McFleshy-Care™ “We Care!” Reps, punch your request for AM-McSustenance™ into your breakfast console, and begin to serve your toddler its delicious McFleshy Baby Slur™ (so that it may grow up big and loyal). Only this time, for the first time ever, your precious babe turns its mouth from the McSpork™ – refusing to consume even one bite!

Of course, you know your child needs to be ingesting at least three iron-rich gelatinous cubes of Slur™ per meal to be truly safe from Vegan mind-rape. Yet for some reason, on this terrible morning…your precious one will NOT submit.

“No, mommy,” it cries. “No, daddy!”

“But this Slur™ is packed with the same McFleshy-Blend™ of 743 tastes and flavors that you adore so very, very much,” you assure your stubborn child. “You LOVE consuming your delicious McFleshy’s Baby Slur™! Whatever has gotten into you, toddler!? Why don’t you EAT IT already?! Are you turning into one of THEM?? ARE YOU?!”

But it’s to no avail; your baby will not eat its Slur™.

Now…if you can imagine such a nightmarish ordeal, you should likewise be equipped to envisage the UTTER HORROR facing so many billions back in 2021AD, as they watched mothers, fathers, siblings, and children…begin to slip away from them…by refusing the precious flesh.

Of course, the first signs of Vegan mind-infection were considered by some to be minor, even pleasant…

In addition to low-grade Synch™, many of The Affected™ reported strange dreams…of remarkable vividness and power, uniformly alike in content.

Here is how one notable victim described the experience:

“I found myself soaring bodiless…across multiple otherworldly landscapes at once…yet feeling no sense of fragmentation or even disorientation in the process. Only pure, transcendent bliss…”
-George W. Bush Jr.
(Source: The New York Times, 2/14/21)

Indeed, the Affected™ universally reported feeling embraced in their dreams by some vast intelligence, which they (somehow) felt both a part of, as well as separate from, throughout…

Soon—

• Affected™ politicians were retiring from public life in droves –with hauntingly authentic farewell speeches.

• Affected™ painters were painting images so sublime that art galleries had to start stocking tissue boxes.

• Affected™ poets were composing verse so sensitive to the depths of The Human Condition™, that several poetry books almost cracked a Best Seller List.

• Etc.

Yes, for one brief shining stretch of months in early 2021AD, even the most skeptical of flesh-eater could be excused for wondering…if maybe, just maybe there was something to this supposed Gospel of Vega after all…

 

e. The Saviors of the Flesh (2023AD – HAPPILY EVER AFTER)

Of course, we don’t want to re-traumatize you with the gory details of 2022AD:

• You know all about the terrifying intensifying of Synch™ and the psychological withdrawal of the Affected™ that followed already.

• You have heard – again and again – the audio recordings of their endless chanting…in that hideous alien tongue.

• You know too well what an eruption of Bright-Light-Madness looks like…as well as the ugliness of what follows…

• That is, Epilectic-Death-Syndrome (AKA: “the Vegan Slurp”).

• And of course, your brain is thoroughly seared with the millions of Instagram images of the Tragic Flesh Heaps™ – emptied of all that once made our Beloved Billion™ human. (For the record: our Beloved Billion ™ never included the deaths of self-identifying vegans – who numbered around 600,000,000, and were usually the first to go. All we can say of their flesh…is good riddance.)

Fortunately, you also know the happy ending to this story…

• How the corporate leadership of The Great Meat Makers™ banded together, forgoing profit, reward, and even vacation days – to rapidly ramp up production and distribution.

• How the brave Sizzle Queen, Fry Factor,  Chateau Du Burger, Taco Americano, Veal Deal, Nugget Town, and Roasties  corporations (to name but a few Heroes of the Flesh™) gave us the Force-Feed Initiative™, which spared so many millions on the brink.

• How these brave corporate entities mobilized the armies of Blackwater, Iron Eagle, et al to overthrow the political leadership of the day, installing us as Global Hegemonic Potentate For-All-Time™ (AKA: GHP-FAT).

• And how, finally, you helped rename us “McFleshy’s” after this bold public choice beat out write-in candidate: “SukDeezNutsVega!” in online polls, three years later.

After all, as we like to say here at McFleshy’s:

“Here at McFleshy’s, you get…HERD!”™

 

5. Winners and Losers

As we all know, it is a truism of human history that it is written by the winners…

Yet sadly, there are no winners in the intergalactic struggle we are currently waging on your behalf – at least not yet. And so this history of the Vegan Apocalypse must remain incomplete, even after 50 years of healing, rebuilding, and all-you-can eat March McRibble Madness!™

Yes, it is true that the vultures of Vega, along with their flock of human sheep, took us by surprise once. But now WE KNOW. And now that we DO KNOW, there is simply no excuse to ever deviate from the tasty flesh again.

Yet, even after all we’ve been through together, all the tasty flesh we’ve provided you and yours, there are still those among you who refuse to accept the Natural Order™. There are even those among you who are STILL trying to summon them back…

We speak, of course, of the Crazy Ones, those who forego the delicious McFlesh™ for whatever desperate scraps of fungus and algae they can summon into being – in hidden bathtubs and root cellars beyond the security-ensuring gaze of our benevolent McWatch™ lenses.

Yes, these maniacs would actually summon the Vegans BACK into our world!

• LAMENTING their absence from our mental airwaves!

• PRAYING for their immediate return!

• BLAMING McFleshy’s for clotting the arteries of consciousness so that the Vegan Mass-Mind simply cannot penetrate!!

As to that last accusation, all we can say is: HECK YEAH!

After all, history IS written by the winners!

And this war is one we can – AND MUST – win!

So please, if you do know of any Crazy Ones in your midst…sneaking a carrot here, whispering doubts about McFleshy’s there…report them to us IMMEDIATELY; we MUST quarantine ourselves against THEM.

So thank you once again for your ceaseless and unquestioning McPatronage™.

Now eat up! Chewing and swallowing every last bite of the complementary maple-glazed pressed-pork parchment upon which this unquestionable record of the Vegan Apocalypse has been printed – as prescribed by McFleshy International Law™.

We do so appreciate your cooperation and loyalty…

After all, this story won’t swallow itself 🙂

 


© 2018 by Benjamin Friedman

 

Author’s note: The germinal seed for “The Vegan Apocalypse: 50 Years Later” came to me back in 2011, during the height of fascination with the Mayan calendar and its impending terminus in 2012. At the time, I was working at a Yoga center in Massachusetts called Kripalu, where the thought of a collective shift in culture and consciousness was not just a laughable bit of New Age naivete, but a genuine and sincere hope for resurgent 60’s-style idealism. And with the Occupy Movement and Arab Spring then at their zeniths, it was true; anything seemed possible. Of course, as in George Lucas trilogies, so in historical dialectics…as the various “empires” of cynicism, despotism, corporatism, and the politics of propaganda and deception have all since “struck back” in myriad and disturbing ways. This story was my way of grappling with that great gulf between human possibility and reality. For just as the Mayan Calendar wasn’t the end of history for the good, the Vegan Apocalypse of my story isn’t meant to be seen as the end of all hope – just another chapter that depends on human agency for its sequel.

 

This is Ben Friedman’s first sale to an SFWA-accredited publication, an honor for which he is titillated to an almost obscene degree. Previous stories of his have landed at 365 Tomorrows, Every Day Fiction, The Story Shack, and Sonic Boom Literary Magazine, and his screenwriting has won the Golden Blaster Award at the Irish National Science Fiction Film Festival as well as the Grand Prize from the WeScreenplay Short Film Fund Competition. He currently is recovering from an inauspicious injury (that could be the punchline to a bawdy joke were it not oh-so-true) in his hometown of South Orange, New Jersey after a number of years of peripatetic soul-seeking throughout New England, Colorado, California, Israel, and Australia.

 


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MOVIE REVIEW: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

written by David Steffen

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is the 4th and final movie in the Hunger Games movie series, which is based on the second half of the third book of the written trilogy by Suzanne Collins, and was released by Lionsgate Films in November 2015.

Twelve districts are ruled over by the capital of PanAm.  In continued punishment for a rebellion 75 years ago, the capital rules over the districts oppressively, including forcing children from each community to participate in annual Hunger Games–tournaments to the death both for the entertainment of the capital and to send messages about rebellions.  Inspired by the rebellious actions of Katniss Everdeen of District Twelve, and from their new stronghold in District Thirteen that was previously thought destroyed by almost everyone, the districts are in open conflict with the capital for the first time in 75 years.

When the last movie left off, Katniss Everdeen, who has continued to play the hero for the cameras, now as an avatar of District Thirteen, has been reunited with her former Hunger Games partner and longtime love Peeta, but he has been brainwashed by the capital so thoroughly to twist his love for her into hatred, and he almost succeeds in killing her.  Their next move against the capital is to bring Katniss and Peeta through dangerous boobytrapped sections of the city to make their move against President Snow on-camera.  Katniss isn’t convinced that President Coin of District Thirteen is much better.

The trilogy of books this is based on is powerful and heartfelt, and the movies are reasonably fair adaptations of them.  As with most movie adaptations of books, I’d say the books are better if only because there is more space to spread out and we can get to know the internal conflicts of the characters in more detail, but these movie adaptations, including this one, are some of the best I’ve ever seen and are well worth watching, and I’m glad that because of the movies more people will be familiar with the stories.  Excellent conclusion to the movie series, well worth watching.