I got me some of that writing bug a-bitin’ again. So I just began to type and this came out. Thought I’d share it with you because I have no idea where it’s going. Maybe a short story. Maybe a series. Maybe a novel. Let me know what you think.
This is Clovenard.
Clovenard is an alien.
Clovenard doesn’t know he’s an alien, any more than he knows that his superiors gave him a stupid name before dispatching him to Earth. You’d think that with all their information and knowledge and science and technology those guys would have been able to come up with a name not quite so prone to elicit mirth from the earthlings, but there you have it. Managers at their finest.
Anyway, Clovenard is the protagonist of this story. And that’s good because Clovenard isn’t much of anything else on his home planet. Clovenard – whose real name is unpronounceable by the primitive human mouth-voice-tongue-whatever machinery – is one of those little Praxitans that came out of the left side of the conveyor belt.
That’s not a criticism, by the way. It’s an observation. You see, on Praxitus, they figured out how to mass-produce baby Praxitans. So when they made the first batch, they went all out and made them all gems. Smart, sophisticated, athletic. I mean, what kind of business wants to make defective products?
Despite their best efforts, the Praxitans discovered a universal law of life that transcends all creature endeavors: When everyone is special, no-one is. Somehow, there’s always someone lagging behind. Someone who just doesn’t cut it. Someone who can’t reach the bar because the bar is always being pushed higher.
On Earth, they call it natural selection. On Praxitus, where things are a bit more sophisticated, they called it product recall.
By the way, it wasn’t quiet, and it wasn’t pretty. Praxitans take product quality very seriously – especially when said products are supposed to be their children.
There were protests. There were riots. There was political dissent, separatism, terrorism, factions, tribes, military law, civil war. To this day, the Best Child revolution remains a dark time in the history books of Praxitus.
So the Praxitan marketing departments got together with their R&D departments, and the R&D departments got together with the Quality Control departments, and the Quality Control departments got together with the Manufacturing departments, and after brainstorming, evaluating, calculating, equivocating, ruminating, deliberating, assessing, leveraging, buy-inning, buy-outing, restructuring and complementing, the Praxitans finally found a solution to their problem:
In every batch, introduce a few sub-par specimens to hold the curve back.
In every generation, add a few nonathletic, slightly dim, low-expectation, underachieving babies that would make everyone else shine and restore balance to a hurting planet.
Throw a dunce in every gene pool.
And so, the Praxitans made a new batch modified with an idiot-introducing algorithm, which promptly assigned the vast majority of recessive genes to a single subject.
And so, the Praxitans made a subject that would surpass all expectations – but in the wrong direction.
And so, the Praxitans made Clovenard.
The Chemistry World editor wanted something about marketing feature-boasting on lab equipment and kits. They needn’t have said more.
Musing: Scientists have mixed feelings about kits. On one hand, they offer standardization across labs, save time, and make Method sections easy to write (“…as per manufacturer’s instructions”).
On the other hand, they can make researchers intellectually lazy, or limit creative scientific thinking. Also, kits ain’t cheap, and we all know that research grants don’t exactly make it rain in da club.
But I see a better way. I see a day where all research will ultimately be done out of a kit. You go online, order your kit, it arrives in the post, you open it, follow the instructions – and BAM! Complete PhD thesis. Nature paper. Science cover page. Nobel prize. All out of a kit.
It’s the dream. Or maybe a good comic idea. And neither comes in a kit.
Chemistry World said “do something about the LHC!” Not sure this was what they had in mind, but they liked it 🙂
My second comic strip for Chemistry World. The theme was “half-life”. So I did what I do.