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[P]
The Happiness Broker

By localroger in Fiction
Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 02:37:57 AM EST
Tags: You Know... (all tags)
You Know...

Before:

Hey, we need to talk! Don't you remember me? From school? Well I sure remember you! Look, let me buy you a coffee. Surely you have a few minutes to chat. A lot has happened since those days.


1.

I didn't remember the guy who flagged me down that day, but he certainly seemed to know me. I had the time and he was paying for my latte, and as he started talking it became obvious that he really did know me. Just as he seemed to know that I had free time that afternoon, and that I'd never turn down free Starbucks.

He ran down what had happened to all the people I'd known in those days, students and teachers alike. "You gotta watch your health though," he said ominously, looking at his watch. "You have what you think is a little fainting spell, and the docs don't really think it's all that serious, but if you were to have one of those new non-invasive CAT scan angiograms they'd find you were a week from keeling over dead without a a quadruple bypass. It happens a lot nowadays, even in people who don't have a history of heart trouble. Some people think it's the pollution."

"Well my family doesn't have a history of heart disease."

"Well there you go. You need to be aware of these things." He looked at his watch again. "Got to go," he said. "Here, take one of my cards. Maybe we'll be in touch again."

"Yeah, sure." I dropped his card in my wallet, where it would wait with the others I tend to randomly collect until I throw them all out.

2.

A week later I fainted dead away while I was walking back to my office from the restroom. The doc was more concerned with the bump on my head than my heart, but I asked about getting one of those angiograms just in case. Fortunately it was covered by the insurance, because a week after I fainted I was getting a quadruple bypass.

As I was coming out of the anaesthesia, my doctor said that my procedure had gone well and that I was lucky, because my condition was caught in time. Two of my arteries were almost completely clogged, and any simple thing like a blood clot or the slightest extra plaque would have finished me. "You'd probably have been dead within a week if we hadn't caught this with the angiogram," he said beaming. Modern medicine had triumphed again.

3.

Naturally I remembered the prophetic visit and as soon as I was strong enough I retrieved his card. It said:

Richard Hampton
Happiness Broker

Hope is the foundation of both Happiness and Despair;
Always place your Hope in the hands of a professional.

There was no phone number, and I gradually convinced myself that it was a kooky coincidence. I was having to do physical therapy to recover my strength, and my leg hurt like hell from the operation where they took the arteries for the bypass. The very first time I ventured down to Starbucks Richard Hampton was there waiting for me, with two cups of fresh latte.

4.

"It's the Happiness Broker," I said a little mockingly.

He nodded. "I owe you. Please sit. The healing will not go well. You will need another bypass within a year."

"And why would you be owing me for this?"

"I had a seven year old girl with leukemia whose biggest dream was living long enough to see Disney World. I'm afraid I was in a bind, so I used you against my own sense of ethics. I'm prepared to fix the situation."

"I fail to see the connection between my heart trouble and the unfortunate plight of a little girl I've never met."

"Come now. Surely you noticed that I knew what your condition would be. There are forces in the world that are required to balance out. My specialty is kids, especially kids with terminal diseases. Sometimes I can save them. More often I'm able to make their passing more bearable. When I can do nothing else I can give someone emotional strength. But there is always a cost. In this case that cost was your heart disease."

"Are you trying to say you caused my heart attack?"

"I'm saying that I caused your heart disease. I created it and gave it its character. That is why I was able to warn you about it and save your life. And your pain bought a little girl four months of relatively healthy life. It's not a fair bargain to make on your behalf without your consent, but as I said I was in a bind."

"This is crazy." I would have started to get up, but I was still too weak.

Richard swept his arm at the crowd outside. "Point out someone you don't like," he said.

"That guy leaning against the light post looks like a crack dealer."

Richard brought out a PDA. "Nelson Tyler, age nineteen, ten arrests and one pending trial which will result in conviction. Mr. Tyler is out on bail at the moment, and he is actually a heroin dealer, because that's his jones. The records haven't confirmed it yet but the bookmakers say he'll probably die in jail from withdrawal. Now watch ... that blue car."

As he spoke a seventies model blue Cadillac came into view. Suddenly there was a loud noise, and the Caddy's front wheels heeled hard to the right. It was very sudden. The young man Richard had called 'Nelson Tyler' was caught between the car and the light pole. His eyes registered surprise more than pain as he slumped over the hood and his blood drained onto the road. People began to scream.

"Did you ... you couldn't have done that."

"But I did. You have a knack for this. Mr. Tyler was an excellent choice; the world will be no poorer for his untimely demise, but it might mean three or four more years of life for some little child."

"But how ... why ... if that's so ... then why me?"

"There are all kinds of balances in effect. The most important is what might be called the 'Law of Conservation of Happiness.' The Powers that Abide will only allow a certain amount of happiness in our world; if we want to create more, we must offset it with suffering. My job is to try to migrate the happiness that's allowed to the people who will use it best. But for each agent like myself there is a kind of karmic balance, and my powers ebb and flow according to what I've been doing recently. At the time I was tapped, and under those conditions I can only reach out to people who have some kind of connection to me."

"Why would happiness be conserved? Is there some kind of thing like that for pain too?"

"Oh no, misery isn't capped."

"That is completely fucked."

Richard shrugged. "I don't make the rules. I'm just a small player; asking me about stuff like that would be like asking your real estate agent about macroeconomic fiscal policy. I just try to ease the way for terminally ill kids. There are lots of agents like me, working for all manner of sometimes contradictory purposes. Some of us are humans recruited like I was. Some are what you might call spirits or entities. Some of those are dead humans, and others are human creations. There are big players and small, and we all work to influence the distribution of the happiness that is allowed in our individual ways."

"So you caused my heart disease to cure a seven year old girl?"

"Actually it wasn't enough to cure her. But it made her happy in her last months."

"Well," I said. "Good for her. I guess now you can just reach out and touch random strangers."

"Not exactly. You picked our friend mister Tyler, whose body is already cooling across the way. I do a lot of work with Muslims. Their big contract makes it easy, what with the whole seventy-two virgins thing and all."

"Big contract?"

"You know, you'd really be better off if I didn't go into too much detail about this."

"But something tells me you have to if I ask."

Richard shrugged. "You're covered yourself under the American contract. Fundamentalist Christians get to bask in the presence of the Powers that Abide. Muslims, their deal is easy to work with. Very concrete. If they meet certain requirements they go to a nicely rendered heaven. The virgins are astral beings and there is a low overhead for providing them. Personally I think the Christians get a raw deal, the Powers that Abide don't have much to say to beings of our caliber."

"So there is an afterlife?"

"For some people. Some people get in on a package deal, some make arrangements for themselves. There's a lot of fine print."

"And the American deal? That didn't protect me much from you."

"No, it didn't, but America isn't concerned with individuals. The American Founders didn't negotiate for happiness per say, but for a nice stable arena upon which to pursue happiness. It was a very slick maneuver. That's why the biggest natural disaster in our entire history was the Galveston hurricane, and that a whole century ago, only six thousand dead. America has never had fifty or a hundred thousand corpses all at once like other places regularly do, even with half our cities built on the coast and the other half on earthquake zones."

"What about the Civil War?"

"We did that to ourselves. Also the wars we keep picking, which are the price of that security -- Conservation of Happiness again. Our leaders don't always know why they're doing what they do, but their actions are negotiated in ways you can't imagine and are often written into destiny even before they happen. Believe me, you have more free will than the President does. You will notice that for all our adventures we have never been invaded ourselves, and we have vanquished the few idiots who dared to attack us." He sipped his latte and continued, "Other contracts are just the opposite, and you have to tiptoe around the big picture. Like the Muslims. Their contract is all about individuals. That's why their countries keep falling apart even though their armies once swept the world."

"What about their women?"

"Conservation again. Somebody has to suffer."

"Like I had to suffer for your little girl."

"True. But I am here to make amends. As you can see my powers are once again waxing, and I can restore your health. You will not have the chronic pain or second heart attack which are now written in your future."

"Wonderful. Do it then."

"There's one small catch."

"Let me guess. Somebody has to suffer. Didn't the unfortunate Mr. Tyler over there..."

"No, but I'll make use of his passing elsewhere. In your case I have in mind a very old person, ninety-eight years old, and improbably healthy. She will have a short and completely unsurprising illness. She has had a long and fulfilling life."

"Which you will cut short."

"She's ninety-eight years old. You want to call that short, you can compare it to your own life expectancy if I don't fix what I've already done to you."

I stared at him for a long time.

"You don't have to actually believe in it you know. All I need is a sense that you agree with the plan."

I stared at him some more. "I don't really believe in any of this crap," I said. Meanwhile, the ambulance was taking away the unfortunate Nelson Tyler's body.

"That's all right."

"Then do it."

5.

The next day I woke up feeling better than I had in months. My leg wasn't sore. I had incredible energy. I felt like running around the park just for the joy of it. My doctors were mystified, but after a suspiciously grueling battery of tests they pronounced me healthy and my recovery miraculous.

Two weeks later I happened to open the paper and saw this:

Legendary prolific and socially conservative romance author Barbara Cartland passed away at the age of 98 after suffering "a short illness."
I went back to the Starbucks and fumed. Show up, Richard I demanded silently. After an hour or so he actually did show up.

"I guess this means I've figured out how to call you," I said flatly.

"I'll say, you're rattling the whole Database. What did you expect? I told you exactly what kind of person would have to pay for your rejuvenation. Most people have better sense than to go looking for that information."

"I didn't go looking for it, it leapt into my face."

"Well, sometimes that does happen. As I've said, you seem to have the knack.

"I didn't expect it to be somebody I'd heard of. Somebody famous."

"Well, famous people have to die too. People you've heard of will die. You will die. I don't make the rules."

"You just enforce them."

"Oh no, I'm just a little bitty player. I'm just as bound up by the rules as you are. I do what I can to move the suffering around where it will mean the least, but there are sharp limits to what I can do. It can be depressing as hell at times. You can never help everyone who deserves it."

"Then why do you do it?"

Richard looked thoughtful. "Well, I was recruited not long out of high school, and it seemed like a good gig at the time. The perks are great. You've seen some of the powers available to me. And I'm personally immortal. Even if I'm not omnipotent I get to work the levers of life and death, and leave my mark on the world. Would you want less?"

"You decide who lives and dies. You are Death."

Richard shrugged. "That character is based partly on actors like me. But even with all our meddling, Richard, most people just suffer and die at random. Being singled out by a being like me is an unusual ... privilege."

"Yeah, I sure feel privileged."

"You'd feel a lot less privileged if I'd just let you die. Give me a little credit, please. We work with the world we have, not the one we'd like to have."

"Are you through with me?"

"This transaction is finished. You called me to this table, remember. I have no further need for you at the moment."

"Does that mean I'll be seeing you again? Maybe to get cancer next time?"

"Most likely not. I have my principles, and I've already abused you more than I would like. But there is a connection between us, and the day may come when it's all I have to do something important. I won't lie to you and say I won't use that."

"Will you at least give me some warning next time?"

"I warned you this time, if you'll recall. And I will warn you if I need you again. Which, I sincerely hope, I will not."

6.

I didn't see Richard again for over a year. In that time my life resumed its normal pace, which was about two metronome stops below "interesting." Which was fine by me.

Then, one day, someone tapped me on the shoulder as I was waiting to board the subway. I turned, and it was him.

"What, no coffee this time?"

"I don't have much time, and I have to give you something." He offered me a thick stick. "Take it with your left hand."

Not thinking about the ramifications much, I grabbed the stick. Very suddenly we were alone; the crowd on the platform was just gone. The stick started growing, it grew an old bird's nest at its crown, and then a fat snake slithered out of nowhere to spiral around it. I tried to throw it down, but my grip was frozen and my arm wouldn't move.

"What is this?" I asked, terrified.

"That is the caduceus," Richard said. "The symbol of my power. My license, if you will, to practice as a Happiness Broker. Now your power."

Richard was circling me, and I was almost forced to face him. The caduceus started to shrink and, with a sudden whoosh, flowed into my body through my left arm. For a brief awful moment I actually felt it filling me. And suddenly, I knew what he had given me.

I reached into my pocket and found the "PDA," my connection to the Database. Its display said Welcome New User. My head was filling with knowledge, of my rights and obligations and powers and of all those balances that he had told me he had to respect.

"What have you done?" I asked, shaking.

"I'm retiring. I have given you the job."

"But why? Aren't you mortal now?"

"You'll find out tomorrow. Take my advice and stick to something simple like healing children. Don't try to run with the big players. It's like a poker game, and you can lose." There was a terrible roar and I realized it was the subway coming, just as Richard stepped off the platform in front of it.

His body was thrown twenty meters to bounce against the far wall of the station, which was once again filled with milling people. People who were now screaming in horror. It occurred to me that it would be a good idea to be elsewhere, and from deep within my new knowledge I realized how to best do that. I allowed myself the appropriate thought, and the next moment I was sitting at the Starbucks. I even had a latte in front of me.

I will always remember that day; heedless my new obligations I walked around town practicing small miracles. I could always worry about obligations tomorrow. I would, after all, live forever unless I threw my powers to another as Richard had done. If I live to be a thousand or ten thousand I'll always cherish that first day of total freedom, before I learned how careful I must be. The best day of my life will always be September 10, 2001.

After:

And so now you know my story. And now you probably suspect why I wanted to talk to you. Yes, it's about your daughter. I'm afraid the diagnosis is correct. But it was caught early, and I can save her. There's just a little catch.

I'm in a bind, and you're the only resource I have. You have a connection to me and to her, that's very powerful. You'll have to have a stroke, a big one. You might live, but there are no guarantees. And you might prefer not to. But you can save your daughter.

You don't have to believe me. All I need is a sense that you agree with this plan, and I can take care of everything.

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Poll
All I need is a sense...
o Yes, do it! 23%
o I don't believe in this so sure, "do it" 12%
o Get away from me you nutbag 7%
o Get away from me you monster 9%
o Let's you and me and Mr. 9mm here have a talk about the terms of this deal 47%

Votes: 91
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Also by localroger


Display: Sort:
The Happiness Broker | 105 comments (78 topical, 27 editorial, 0 hidden)
Writing talent broker (3.00 / 4) (#1)
by pdrap on Tue Dec 28, 2004 at 10:13:18 PM EST

I have no talent for writing, to an infinite degree. You have talent, and must balance out the cosmic talent forces by writing more stories.


is this science fiction? (1.46 / 13) (#2)
by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Tue Dec 28, 2004 at 10:37:21 PM EST

'cuz if it is i aint reading it. sci-fi = harlequin for nerds. less genre crap more stories about amerika and the bomb. please.

--
Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.

Good point! (none / 0) (#16)
by Stinky Bottoms on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 08:33:01 AM EST

Harlequin for nerds!

And, you should proud. kitten '0'd it.

Awesome.

[ Parent ]

Actually I'd say fantasy = harlequin for nerds (3.00 / 2) (#62)
by HyperMediocrity on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 12:38:56 PM EST

Yay, wizards and dragons!

[ Parent ]
Those knights are dreamy. (3.00 / 3) (#63)
by rusty on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 01:34:43 PM EST

Squee!

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Good story (2.00 / 2) (#6)
by Stylusepix on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 12:45:05 AM EST

That was a good story.

However, I find the After: a little odd. I certainly don't connect as the 'you', and there is a monologue addressed to no one. Is there a symbolism I'm not aware of ?

And what's the connection between the two brokers, is it more than high school ?

Go; you're an it-getter, but No; it's all in good fun (and games). Laugh, in stock?

The poll ? (none / 0) (#7)
by Stylusepix on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 12:49:16 AM EST

It was all about the poll, wasn't it ? Tell me, do you still long for the days of interactive TV :) ?
Go; you're an it-getter, but No; it's all in good fun (and games). Laugh, in stock?
[ Parent ]
I have another name for a happiness broker... (none / 0) (#9)
by Danzig on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 01:27:10 AM EST

can anyone guess?

You are not a fucking Fight Club quotation.
rmg for editor!
If you disagree, moderate, don't post.
Kill whitey.
pusher man? (none / 1) (#10)
by zrail on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 02:07:57 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Well, either that... (none / 0) (#39)
by Danzig on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 06:41:57 PM EST

or priest, pastor, guru, mullah, prophet, etc.

You are not a fucking Fight Club quotation.
rmg for editor!
If you disagree, moderate, don't post.
Kill whitey.
[ Parent ]
poof dispenser /nt (none / 0) (#53)
by fleece on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 02:45:32 AM EST





I feel like some drunken crazed lunatic trying to outguess a cat ~ Louis Winthorpe III
[ Parent ]
No. (nt) (none / 0) (#56)
by Danzig on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 04:54:39 AM EST



You are not a fucking Fight Club quotation.
rmg for editor!
If you disagree, moderate, don't post.
Kill whitey.
[ Parent ]
Needs more gay spaceships. (1.00 / 18) (#11)
by Tod Friendly on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 02:27:04 AM EST



echo ${BASH_VERSINFO[$[$RANDOM%${#BASH_VERSINFO}]]}
-1: AN EXERCISE IN MOUSE WHEEL (1.00 / 18) (#12)
by After The Gold Rush on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 03:04:21 AM EST

seriously, where's the incestual pedophilia ?

good (none / 1) (#14)
by mariahkillschickens on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 08:16:47 AM EST

i actually read the whole thing, that speaks volumes. i liked the characters, they had personalities. and the sneaky way you talked about 9/11 and other things. it's an interesting little piece.

"In the end, it's all dirt."
9/11 Reference (1.50 / 12) (#17)
by LilDebbie on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 11:28:53 AM EST

Okay, let me just say this once: it is highly inappropriate to use a national tragedy as a punch line. Whether or not you intended to be highly inappropriate is your business.

0; Six Feet Under fan-fic

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

define inapropriate (none / 0) (#54)
by fleece on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 02:46:22 AM EST





I feel like some drunken crazed lunatic trying to outguess a cat ~ Louis Winthorpe III
[ Parent ]
given the usual content on k5 (3.00 / 2) (#58)
by LilDebbie on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 10:17:53 AM EST

I see your point. I was thinking in a more polite context that what we have here, cock-gobbler.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
ror! (2.50 / 2) (#71)
by fleece on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 05:15:59 PM EST

would you care if it was another nation's tragedy?



I feel like some drunken crazed lunatic trying to outguess a cat ~ Louis Winthorpe III
[ Parent ]
Great, without the 911 reference (none / 0) (#85)
by matzie on Wed Jan 05, 2005 at 09:04:02 AM EST

The first time I read this I loved it, absolutely loved it... but then when I read the comments and saw people talking about the 9/11 reference, I didn't get it... you see I had read it so fast that I actually *missed* that 'punchline' altogether... when I went back over it, I felt disgusted.

Now with my mistake (ie, before I spotted the 9/11 connection), I felt messed with, stung, alive in the way that I love a good short story to do to me...

but with that connection back in... i just felt disgusted.  It ruined it for me... it was like drinking a strawberry milkshake, enjoying it and then getting to the bottom of it to find that the flavouring wasn't strawberry but blood.  

[ Parent ]

Decent. (2.50 / 4) (#18)
by bakuretsu on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 11:40:03 AM EST

I actually did read it all the way through. K5 has some pretty shitty fiction, as evidenced by the fact that "I actually finished this one!" was one of the most common compliments.

Anyway, it could be a little less cliche, I think, and needs to be fleshed out in parts and perhaps slightly less lost in the clouds during some of the dialog segments.

It's a great start, though, despite the Sept. 11 connection being almost a little too contrived. I would spend more time describing the "small miracles" so that the "balance of happiness" point comes through more clearly. That's just me.

-- Airborne
    aka Bakuretsu
    The Bailiwick -- DESIGNHUB 2004

IAWM(any)P here. (2.70 / 10) (#22)
by i on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 12:01:29 PM EST

Please lose the 9/11 connection. Get rid of it. Say it bye bye. Just let it go, dammit. It's amazing how one word and two numbers can completely, utterly destroy a good story.

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

But what instead? [nt] (none / 0) (#34)
by Ptyx on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 04:33:28 PM EST


-- "On voudrais parfois être cannibale, moins pour le plaisir de dévorer tel ou tel que pour celui de le vomir... " Cioran
[ Parent ]
Good question. (3.00 / 2) (#35)
by i on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 04:40:41 PM EST

If I knew, I would be writing prose instead of software.

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]
Let's say (none / 1) (#70)
by Tau on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 05:15:37 PM EST

The recent mass devastation in Asia. Or the whole Bhopal thing. Or pretty much any day in a warring African state that nobody gives a shit about. One might find this hard to believe but non-Americans are actually killed in their thousands by large catastrophes every now and again. Sometimes due to even more dastardly actions than a suicide plane attack. But of course all those silly brown people don't really matter...

For the record I think it's a nice premise, although it could have used way more fleshing out. There's no plot or character arc really to speak of. But honestly I would have -1'ed it for the 9/11 reference. It's been three years, and like I said plenty of other disasters have happened since then that you don't see many people weeping about. Let it go.

(I'm not trying to troll, honest, it's just one of those things that annoys me every so slightly... nothing personal meant by it)

---
WHEN THE REVOLUTION COMES WE WILL MAKE SAUSAGES OUT OF YOUR FUCKING ENTRAILS - TRASG0
[ Parent ]

Foreshadowed (none / 0) (#94)
by Maurkov on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 01:44:07 PM EST

After gabbing about the Muslim contract, it makes sense to use Islamic terrorism later.  Then he talked about the worst screwing the USA had yet received from the happiness brokers.  

Sure, he could have been more subtle (though you'll note that some folks missed it the first time through), but he had to use it.  Without 9/11, the whole thing loses focus.  It would have to be completely rewritten.

What bothered me was that they don't use leg arteries for bypass surgery.  They use the saphenous veins, or arteries from elsewhere.  That, and compared to the zipper, the graft site heals faster and doesn't hurt as much.


[ Parent ]

-1 Anti-drug (1.20 / 5) (#27)
by trane on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 02:26:34 PM EST

Instead of picking on the crack/heroin dealer, dude should have gone after the REAL culprits: those who keep prohibition laws on the books.

Goes to characterization (none / 1) (#32)
by localroger on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 04:07:48 PM EST

Personally I agree with you, but if you were asked to point out a random person in a crowd you think is a lowlife, who would you point out? Bearing in mind that you would not know what Richard was about to do?

Your decision would probably reveal you to have a much different personality than the narrator. (Same would be true for me, personally.) But that was the point.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

For the record (none / 0) (#36)
by trane on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 04:42:41 PM EST

I didn't -1 the story. I abstained - but only because it was obvious from the comments that it would get voted up, and I really don't think it's significantly better than a lot of other stories that have been voted down. The voting public is so fickle...

[ Parent ]
That would be... (none / 0) (#37)
by i on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 06:28:00 PM EST

let me guess... voters?

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]
Exactly (3.00 / 2) (#38)
by trane on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 06:32:50 PM EST

Pick the conservative-voting motherfucker sipping his frappacino and browsing stock quotes from his PDA.

[ Parent ]
The Poll (1.66 / 3) (#42)
by one time poster on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 08:10:52 PM EST

doesn't provide an option for believing yet declining the offer.

Good work. Thank you for sharing.

___________________

That does it, I wont post again...


Why couldn't you have broken your hands (1.00 / 9) (#44)
by The Black Ness Monster on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 08:46:38 PM EST

Instead of your ankle.

let's not forget nine eleven (1.03 / 30) (#46)
by football fan on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 09:32:02 PM EST

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nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh, nine eleven, september eleventh

Don't reply to my comment, RATE my comment

hey morons i was imitating REPUBLICANS (1.41 / 12) (#48)
by football fan on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 10:50:43 PM EST

not spamming you jerkoffs unhide this

it's in REFERENCE to the end of this piece mentioning 9/10/01

Don't reply to my comment, RATE my comment

[ Parent ]

They're just rating your comment.... (none / 0) (#89)
by Sgt York on Thu Jan 06, 2005 at 01:15:00 PM EST

nt

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

pretty good (2.66 / 3) (#49)
by forgotten on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 11:26:08 PM EST

this story reminded me of an episode of the twilight zone, where a person is given a box with a button on it, and told that if they press the button, they will get a million dollars but someone they dont know will die. the trick is, after they press the button, the same box is given to someone else ... that they dont know.

--

Me too (none / 0) (#50)
by rusty on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 11:58:13 PM EST

That was a great Twilight Zone. I thought of that one too.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
me three (none / 0) (#72)
by massivefubar on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 05:18:39 PM EST

I didn't remember the Twilight Zone episode exactly but it reminds of some of the Richard Matheson short stories of that era.

[ Parent ]
rah (1.66 / 21) (#55)
by fleece on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 03:05:05 AM EST

"Hi who are you?"

"I'm localroger"

"What are you doing here?"

"I've got the week off work, so I'm bored shitless, so I'm posting inane crap to K5"

"Aren't you embarrassed about that?"

"sure, but every other cunt is doing it, so I'm in good company."

"why is this conversation so disjointed?"

"It's a tribute to one of my stories. Dialogue was never my strong point. Plus nobody ever gives a fuck about my protaganist so why should I put in the effort?"

"That's because he's always a two-dimensional piece of cardboard that you just can't give a fuck about. Like that boring guy and the smart computer and the KABOOM and back to adam and eve thing. I mean the guy molested his own daughter, but I didn't care about either of them, so I was like, totally indifferent"

"That's fine, but you're teeth aren't as nice as mine."

"That's because I don't have third-world labour over the border walking distance from my house."

"Why do you hate localrangia?"

"Hah! Don't take it personally! This is K5, you might as well be a dog or a piece of cardboard in some two-bit story. Seriously, I don't know, maybe because you're a bloated fish in a stagnant pond."

"You know what, fuck off."

"Fair call..."





I feel like some drunken crazed lunatic trying to outguess a cat ~ Louis Winthorpe III
LOL... seriously... (none / 0) (#103)
by 123456789 on Fri Jun 10, 2005 at 05:58:43 PM EST

I don't usually literally laugh-out-loud at a comment, but this one had me. Genius.

---
People demand freedom of speech to make up for the freedom of thought which they avoid.
- Soren Kierkegaard
[ Parent ]
Not bad (none / 1) (#57)
by sab39 on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 10:17:48 AM EST

I liked the concept but it seemed to be missing some parts, like exactly what was going on with Richard that he had to give the power away. What could he have done that was worse than what the protaganist did later which apparently didn't have the same effect? Also as someone else pointed out, the "small miracles" really need to have a bit more substance to them. The conservation-of-happiness principle dictates that those miracles must have created a HUGE increase in net happiness to cause the net reduction in happiness that they did for such a massive number of people around the world. It ought to be explained how he managed to increase happiness so much within one single day without anyone noticing, or at least why the reaction seems so out-of-proportion to what he could have possibly done. I liked the Passages series better, though. Will there ever be another one of those?
--
"Forty-two" -- Deep Thought
"Quinze" -- Amélie

Damn, why does my format keep reverting to HTML? (none / 0) (#59)
by sab39 on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 10:20:17 AM EST

I've never selected anything other than "Auto Format" for any post since Auto Format was first introduced, but I still keep losing formatting because the default keeps reverting to HTML. Does anyone else get this behavior? Surely it should either default to what you last used, or default to something that isn't going to have ridiculous results if used unthinkingly?
--
"Forty-two" -- Deep Thought
"Quinze" -- Amélie

[ Parent ]
Ok, found comment prefs (none / 0) (#60)
by sab39 on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 10:22:33 AM EST

Buried pretty deep, though.
--
"Forty-two" -- Deep Thought
"Quinze" -- Amélie

[ Parent ]
Buried? (none / 1) (#64)
by rusty on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 01:36:13 PM EST

One whole click away from any page on the entire site? ;-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Well... (none / 0) (#66)
by sab39 on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 03:16:35 PM EST

Point taken, but a little hint (or better yet, a checkbox for "remember these settings") next to the place where you actually use it (ie near the dropdowns for "signature behavior" and formatting type as you post a comment) wouldn't go amiss.

It never occurred to me that this was a preference setting, just a per-post setting that ought to default to whatever I last used but inexplicably didn't.
--
"Forty-two" -- Deep Thought
"Quinze" -- Amélie

[ Parent ]

Yeah, I know (none / 0) (#67)
by rusty on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 03:26:09 PM EST

Also, it should default to what you last chose when posting, assuming you haven't logged out or changed computers. When you post, your preference should stick with your current session if you change it from the "Preferences" setting. If it's not doing that, then something is broken.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Well... (none / 1) (#68)
by sab39 on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 04:12:14 PM EST

I post rarely enough that it's rare for me to be within the same browser session as the last time. I'd prefer for my selection to be remembered with my user account than with my browser session.

That might also explain why I got so confused by the behavior - occasionally it worked (because I posted more than once from the same browser session, and browser sessions for me often last several days so that wouldn't necessarily be obvious) but often it didn't.

It seems that there are two settings stored, one transient with the browser session and one permanent. I think that's the main thing that confused me.
--
"Forty-two" -- Deep Thought
"Quinze" -- Amélie

[ Parent ]

Answer (none / 0) (#73)
by localroger on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 07:19:55 PM EST

The small miracles were really small, the dabblings of an introductory experimenter. I guess I should have been plainer that they had no effect the narrator couldn't readily fix with a little effort.

It was someone else who might have been unhappy with the limited number of people he could help who went mucking about with the people of other cultures, perhaps creating a backlash that he saw coming. Perhaps he thought he was using people whose system he thought exploitable, but they were really using him. It's like poker, he said, and you can lose.

If you think about it the events leading up to 9/11 were in motion long before 9/10. I suppose I could have been clearer on this, but it spoils the fun if you explain everything.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

Very good (none / 0) (#88)
by Sgt York on Thu Jan 06, 2005 at 01:13:10 PM EST

I must admit, I missed that hint about poker and his discussion of Muslims. I should have read it more closely.

Great story, but it does need some fleshing out. A few more interactions between the two that allow a little more insight into Richard's problems, without coming right out and saying it.

Excellent story, though. Great read.

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

Very, very good... (2.50 / 2) (#61)
by zecg on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 10:31:10 AM EST

If you want a critique, I wouldn't mind a few more casual metaphors and a little less explanation.
But you can just as well ignore that and accept my congratulations on an excellent story.

Kind of reminds me... (3.00 / 3) (#65)
by tchuladdiass on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 02:00:12 PM EST

I read a book a number of years ago, called "The M.D.", that was based on a similar principle. The main character in the book had a stick with a vine wrapped around it which resembled a serpant, which resembled a caduceus. He could use it to heal, but had to recharge it by causing pain and death. If you like this story, I'd highly recommend that book. I can't find it on line, don't remember the author. I'll post a follow up if I happen to dig it up.

it was by Thomas Disch (none / 1) (#69)
by localroger on Thu Dec 30, 2004 at 05:09:51 PM EST

And yes, it was certainly in my mind when I wrote this (though my cosmology isn't quite the same as Disch's). I shamelessly ripped off the caduceus idea since it was perfect, and the Greeks provided prior art on it.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]
It works really well in this context (none / 0) (#75)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 09:41:28 AM EST

given the serpent's symbolism in various mythologies.

RUN !! IT?S AN ATTACK OF THE ?WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS? NAZIS!!!! - Brian Crouch
[ Parent ]
Well, Hell. I hate fiction. Don't you know that? (none / 1) (#74)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 09:40:03 AM EST

Usually I don't even read it.

But this was really good. The only suggestion I would make is to delete that one sentence, The best day of my life will always be September 10, 2001.

The story works better if you let the reader wonder what it was that made him learn to be careful.

RUN !! IT?S AN ATTACK OF THE ?WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS? NAZIS!!!! - Brian Crouch

What I really should have changed (3.00 / 3) (#76)
by localroger on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 04:57:13 PM EST

I should have left out the whole bit about "small miracles" and had him sleep in on the 10th.

Really, wouldn't you otherwise think it a little odd that the previous owner passed his immortality and power on and threw himself in front of a subway?

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

Well (none / 0) (#98)
by eclectro on Sun Feb 13, 2005 at 10:46:55 PM EST

Maybe one of the tradeoffs for helping a kid and hurting an older person is that the older person would have made the call that would have stopped sept 11 somehow.

Off the top of my head.


[ Parent ]

it's spelled "per se" dammit (none / 1) (#77)
by ajaxx on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 07:32:35 PM EST

get it fucking right.

No, it's spelled "teh." /nt (none / 0) (#78)
by localroger on Fri Dec 31, 2004 at 09:54:29 PM EST



I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]
fic+ion (none / 0) (#79)
by taste on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 04:11:14 AM EST

The story started off great, but the ending just didn't win it for me.

I think there weren't enough subtle hints that explained broker's suicide.. in fact, the ending misleads the reader into thinking that the sept 11 event was caused by the protagonist.

anyway its a pity i couldn't be around to give my fic+1on vote but glad this made fp! you just can't not +1 a localroger writeup

Bad ending (none / 0) (#82)
by fairthought on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 09:21:26 PM EST

I was certainly misled into thinking the protagonist was the cause of the September 11th tragedy.

Rereading that last paragraph, I still want to interpret it as the protagonist causing it. After all, he was "heedless of [his] new obligations" and spent the day "practicing small miracles", not worried what the results would be. On reading that I was thinking, "Now he's in for it. He should be more careful." And expected soon to find out what the results of his carelessness would be. Although the September 11th connection seemed quite extreme, there was not enough linking Richard to the event to dispel that impression.

Overall though I did like the story.

[ Parent ]
my sentiments exactly. nt (none / 0) (#83)
by taste on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 11:24:00 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Yep... (none / 0) (#97)
by glenebob on Mon Jan 24, 2005 at 05:38:30 PM EST

I agree completely. The story was good and I enjoyed the style, but there was not enough (or really any) lead up to the Sept. 11 thing. There should have been subtle clues sprinkled throughout the story, all of which would have come to mind in a rush at the mention of Sept. 11. As it is, it's confusing as to who actually caused it.

[ Parent ]
Bah (none / 0) (#81)
by bugmaster on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 12:29:08 PM EST

The story started out well, but "chapter" 6 was just too abrupt. We switch from "we're learning how the devil's deal works" to "take this caduceus k thnx bye", with no transition in between. Talk about whiplash...
>|<*:=
agreed... (none / 0) (#84)
by angstRidden on Wed Jan 05, 2005 at 07:34:21 AM EST

great start, quick turn...

[ Parent ]
I liked it, localroger (none / 1) (#86)
by Drog on Wed Jan 05, 2005 at 10:17:01 AM EST

It kept me reading to the end, and that's always a good sign. I thought the very idea of a law of conservation of happiness was quite amusing--it had a very whimsical quality to it.

If you are interested in a bit of constructive criticism, I think your dialog is actually quite good, but the conversation between characters is usually just separated by paragraphs, which is not enough. Good dialog has little details about what the characters are doing/feeling/thinking peppered throughout to give it more immediacy and make it more and real to the reader. It gives it a breath of life.

Hope to see more stories from you in the future.

Looking for political forums? Check out "The World Forum". News feed available here on K5.

Look at the poll. (none / 1) (#87)
by Dont Fear The Reaper on Wed Jan 05, 2005 at 02:29:26 PM EST

The people who read this site are the people who would tend to ask for details about this deal instead of just going through with it. Of course that's not what the character does. Why?

Probably because localroger can't find a way to make the details hang together in a way that makes sense. Is that because he's not smart enough, or because it would be very hard and he didn't want to take the time, or because he was trying to write more of a style piece about a character instead of a piece about ethics? Probably some of each.

So why did a character study about a character that has little in common with the average reader get to the front page? Is it because localroger is a genius who writes incredibly wonderful characters that tap deep concepts which cross cultural boundaries, or because kuro5hin has gone to hell in a handbasket, and popular authors can post any kind of half-clever trolling or even unadulterated shit, and the mindless kuro-drones will vote it up? I guess that's for you to decide.

Personally, I read the whole thing, and yes, a lot of that was because it was localroger, and in the end I think it's a rorschach inkblot more than anything, and if you think that makes it a great style piece, then more power to you. I thought Richard jumped in front of the train because he was tired of immortality, and even more tired of perpetrating the whole idea that he could and should decide who could use happiness best, whatever that means. Apparently that's not what the author thought, but the author was too busy being subtle to communicate clearly. That's the tradeoff you make.

Caduceus vs. Rod of Asclepius (3.00 / 2) (#91)
by paranoid on Thu Jan 06, 2005 at 08:42:56 PM EST

If you are writing fiction, at least get your references straight. The caduceus is the stick with TWO snakes and wings, a symbol of commerce (in uneducated countries is often confused with the Rod of Asclepius). The Rod of Asclepius is a stick with ONE snake and no wings. It symbolises medicine.

google caduceus (none / 0) (#100)
by leukhe on Tue Mar 22, 2005 at 08:38:24 AM EST

i did not know what a "caduceus" was and looked it up in google, it showed a picture as the first result. First time that happend to me.

[ Parent ]
Incarnations...? (none / 0) (#92)
by Matadon on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 02:31:11 PM EST

Getting this, I got a deep feeling of reading a short-story version of one of Piers Anthony's 'Incarnations of Immortality' -- was one of those, particularly 'On a Pale Horse' the inspiration for this, or...?

--
"There's this thing called being so open-minded your brains drop out." — Richard Dawkins.
Not just Pale Horse (none / 0) (#99)
by hkhenson on Fri Feb 18, 2005 at 09:50:07 PM EST

I don't know how many other stories with a similar theme I have read, but it might be close to a dozen.  

There are only a limited number of themes a human story can have.  (Somewhere I have seen a list.)

Doesn't matter, this was well done.

Keith Henson

[ Parent ]

Soft (none / 0) (#93)
by labradore on Tue Jan 11, 2005 at 11:22:33 PM EST

Having very much enjoyed some of Roger's past work, I'm apt to overlook some problems with this story. However, it's telling that, as usual, I didn't check the authorial credit until I finished reading it and was surprised to find localroger's name attached. This simply isn't as good as the previous stories. The finite global happiness bank reminded me too much of the theory of finite distributed sanity (from "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?"). The writing itself was well-enough done, but not catchy. As others have said, the idea that the narrator caused Sept. 11 is annoyingly moralistic and the idea that Richard caused Sept. 11 is not obvious enough. Also, the bits about various contracts and afterlives is rather blandly done. There was certainly more than enough room for interesting takes on the afterlife. Original thoughts on the workings of greater metaphysical systems are always sure to catch people's attention.

Personally, I would have worked much harder to characterize Richard. He needs some interesting turns of phrase and more personality. If he's immortal and quite old, why isn't this showing up in his speech or his attitude? Maybe he's still young, maybe he's bitter about his fate or ambitious to move beyond his own bit part. None of this shows up. We know the broader strokes of his conflicts but miss the nuance of his own personality. To a lesser extent, the narrator needs the same kinds of detail added. For someone who's more interested in writing about the ideas--the happiness balance, the unseen world of the immortals--building characters could be tedious, but that's what really sells the story to the reader. As far as I can tell, Dave the spaceship (Passages in the Void), Lawrence, Richard and the narrator in this story, to a certain extent, feel like the same stock, smart, rational character placed in different lives or different circumstances with minor variations in temperament.

In any case, there is the potential here for a much better story if work is applied to detailing the characters and simply doing some things to emphasize the story-telling rather than the idea of the story.

Happiness Broker (none / 0) (#95)
by xmasha on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 08:34:03 AM EST

Amazing story, love the style, adore the concept. Very good ending. The personal touch is a really good idea here, makes you concider the issue seriously.
I do think you should reconcider the use of the date. I do see your point, but it seems to distract the reader's attention more than focus it. The balance motif is important here, and this seems to tip the scale too much.
But again, amazing story.

A change of tone (none / 1) (#96)
by Scrymarch on Mon Jan 24, 2005 at 04:10:32 AM EST

I like the breezy delivery of this story, it even gets over the chunky infodump in 4 without losing much pace.  Though the Passages Home seemed to be written well it wasn't really my style.  I enjoyed this, though, short and sharp.

Too religious (none / 0) (#101)
by Fen on Tue Jun 07, 2005 at 12:23:45 PM EST

The religious tones come out way too strong. You must be a fundie. I thought I detected a strain of Christinaity in MOPI with its anti-abortion theme.
--Self.
Well, it's about untranshumanist gods (none / 1) (#102)
by localroger on Thu Jun 09, 2005 at 09:26:34 PM EST

See, the traditional conception of gods as having male and female characteristics is just a metaphor for everyday experience. It does not reflect a properly transhuman understanding of the true possibilities. This is why MOPI is a classical tragedy, and this story is heading in the same direction, because people are weilding great power while they are essentially thinking with their testicles instead of their brains.

More or less, or something like that :-)

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

Boring and derivative (none / 0) (#104)
by 123456789 on Fri Jun 10, 2005 at 06:14:13 PM EST

To quote William Gibson, from "Pattern Recognition"

My God, don't they know? This stuff is simulacra of simulacra of simulacra. A diluted tincture of Ralph Lauren, who had himself diluted the glory days of Brooks Brothers, who themselves had stepped on the product of Jermyn Street and Savile Row, flavoring their ready-to-wear with liberal lashings of polo knit and regimental stripes. But Tommy surely is the null point, the black hole. There must be some Tommy Hilfiger event horizon, beyond which it is impossible to be more derivative, more removed from the source, more devoid of soul. Or so she hopes, and doesn't know, but suspects in her heart that this in fact is what accounts for his long ubiquity.

Now insert localroger for Tommy Hilfiger and that about sums it up...

---
People demand freedom of speech to make up for the freedom of thought which they avoid.
- Soren Kierkegaard
Thanks I enjoyed it (none / 0) (#105)
by MegaFauna on Thu Jul 07, 2005 at 11:01:29 PM EST

Will look up your other work.

The Happiness Broker | 105 comments (78 topical, 27 editorial, 0 hidden)
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