I think I offered this to a Creative Writing competition at PMC, probably at the end of academic 2006. As I remember it, there were several titles to choose from, and I opted to do all of them at once, remembering reading of Ravel doing the same in a music competition. Since I reckoned no-one was going to take my entry seriously, no matter how I dressed it up and, reckoning anything smelling of sci-fi automatically handicapped (since, in my experience, those who teach English have no intersection with those who like sf), I thought I might as well have fun. You may, by the end have a glimmering as to what the suggested titles were. I found this effort in 2010, so we are almost equally disadvantaged.

DJS 20100614

Yes, I know the dates don’t match, but once I decided to put numbers on the blog entries this one had to be No 45 or the title had to change.

It was a pleasure to burn. Wally liked fires. This one was special because Wally didn’t like books. Books were ancient; books were for fossils and books belonged back with the fossils. Wally didn’t read stuff on paper. If it couldn’t appear on his left eyeball, he didn’t want to know. And he didn’t want anyone else to either. This was a burn to pleasure.

It had taken Wally ages to track down the stories. Obviously, they weren’t on the net – that’s why they’d offended him so much. He had to rewrite a crawler and add routines pinched from (and by) a sniffer to pick up the faint traces. Then he’d had to work harder still to find where they were in the physical world. Location tended to be lost in transit. He was used to information being just ‘there’ at the twitch of a muscle and a little work with the new aug. That anything at all might be off the net was anathema, wrong, abhorrent and to be stamped out.

Travelling around the city had been an adventure. Wally had discovered whole tracts of the city he’d never seen before. The message headers had the originating source shown but it had taken a long time to dig out how to find where a source was – entirely different from what it was called. Wally himself used half a dozen different personae on the net and used and discarded avatars as he felt necessary. Not that he used avatars often; they tended to be expensive in several senses. Though he had enjoyed being that sexy teen babe on the beach two months ago…

Back to the hunt. Once he’d discovered how to access the files for net name applications it was straightforward to find the alpha addresses not just the regular four byte eye-pee. Changing that into sight of the building proved to be another surprise. It was ages since he’d been out on the town and he had forgotten how bland, how monochrome, all the buildings were. Stone really was no substitute for plascrete, with all its opportunities for colour.

And at last he’d found his grail. Thirty four stories not on the net, in a squat, a grey squat, Building 34 in Grey Street. He’d dickered with the tenants, filthy greys with no proper shape to their code. He almost enjoyed the trip; the dark-side danger. Both parties were (just) unhappy; that meant the right balance to the deal. He flicked through the seedies. Maybe he had his credits’ worth, maybe not. Creditable or bunk? He’d have to wait.

It took another age, maybe a megasec, to find something to cope with the formatting. He found a seedy player but the stuff he’d bought was tired and he had to guess many more bits than he liked. Still, it was interesting, this forensic stuff. Eventually he’d made enough progress to see some of what he’d bought.

The first text, as he scrolled it cross the old Mark One, was about some nonce in an office reading some ‘long memo that was slipping through his brain without leaving the slightest trace of meaning behind’. Wally knew about those sorts of things. They were called adz, not memo.

When he saw the pix, he still wasn’t sure. The stories weren’t much; the text was ancient and confusing, Text and pix didn’t gel, the action was sloppy but the hero had the most fantastic retro access screens and Wally thought the kid had credibility. Those screens just might make him some money. Start a fashion slide. Whole new meaning to credible.

Nothing ventured: nothing gained. Gotta spend to profit. So, put the stuff out, see what comes back: thirty four stories to set in storage; from a grey squat to a bright future. Well, here’s hope.

It’s a pleasure to burn.

Something about fires, the number 34, advertising and music media - I think. Maybe books that you like? Heather Chapman might remember. I resisted using meme and foreign-sic, but only just.

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