gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Illuminati!)
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Douglas E. Berry - Creative Writing
11 JAN 16


The Bar Story Every Science-Fiction Author Has To Write


I really don’t like large parts of the World Science Fiction Convention. Oh, the panels are always excellent, seeing internet friends in person is great, and you can find anything in the dealers room. . . but the sheer size of things puts me off. Just too many people in close quarters.

So I had decided to forego the human sardine tin that was the party floor in favor of relaxing at the hotel bar. Luckily, the bar in this hotel had non-alcoholic beer and really good nachos. Sitting in a comfy chair people-watching was a good way to kill a few hours.

I was enjoying my relative private time until this guy plops down in the chair across me. It’s a free country, and an open bar, so I couldn’t complain. I tried to go back to watching the parade of fans in the lobby, but this guy was staring at me.

“Can I help you with something?” I asked in my best ‘go away and leave me alone’ voice.

The guy gave me a really crazy smile. “You’re Douglas Berry!”

“Guilty as charged. . . do I know you?”

“No, no. But I’m very familiar with your body of work.”

My body of work? I’ve sold three short stories and some role-playing material. Unless this guy worked for one of the contractors I used to haul material to, I had no idea what he was talking about. I took a closer look. He looked like any other fan attending the con - smartphone, badge festooned with ribbons, old convention t-shirt. . . That’s when I did a double-take. The shirt was from MidAmeriCon, the 1976 Worldcon, and it was brand new. The stranger leaned forward, and I could see that his name badge read Demanu Meatempus. I took a swig of my O’Doul’s, wishing it was something harder. This guy was starting to weird me out. “Okay, who are you, and what do you mean my body of work?”

The strange guy laughed. “I’m gonna tell you a story, and you aren’t gonna believe me, but I swear to you every word is true. I’m from the future, and I have a gift for you.”

“Unless it’s a sports almanac so I can get rich betting on the World Series, I don’t know what you could possibly have for me.”

“Well, I could have financial information to help you invest; but no, I brought you something far more up your alley. Y’see, in my time, you are remembered as one of the Grandmasters of Science Fiction. A visionary. Possibly the greatest futurist ever to write.”

“Well, you’re full of shit, but I like your story. Please, tell me how great I am.”

Another laugh. “Oh, I could go on for hours, but I will tell you that I’m a recipient of the Douglas E. Berry Writers of the Future Award.”

“Isn’t that the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Award?”

“Who?”

Now I was the one laughing. “OK, there is hope for the future. Let me buy you a beer.” Demanu peered at the menu as I waved over one of the servers. With some trepidation, he told the waiting server “I’ll have a. . . Heineken?” Except he pronounced it ‘He-in-ek-in.’ A fan who doesn’t know beer at all? This was beginning to get spooky. The server just rolled her eyes and left, returning quickly with a familiar green bottle. He took a sip and grimaced slightly.

“But back to it. You are a time traveller from some undetermined point in the future. . .”

“August 27th, 2568.”

“. . . right, and you’ve come here because I’m going to be a famous SF writer. Why not go see if Jesus really rose from the tomb? Or if Benjamin Bathurst really did walk around the horses?” I popped a nacho in mouth in triumph, only to have to slam the remains of my fake beer when it came loaded with a jalapeno. Demanu grinned.

“Time crashes. Think about it. We came up with time travel in the early 26th century, and based on evidence, we still have it three million years from now. Think about how many millions of people have tried to view or record the Resurrection. The entire era is a black hole. Same for Bathurst, except that time crashes seem to have caused him to vanish, possibly to a parallel timeline. Almost all the really interesting periods have been crashed, and the more attempts to look, the bigger the crash. I’m a historian. I’m researching the early phase of the Ideology Wars, and this is as close as I can get to the 11 September attacks! Being able to meet you, and help you, was just a bonus.”

He took another polite sip of his beer. “But my research time is up. This is for you.” He pulled a thumb drive out of a pocket and handed it to me. “Keep it chilled when you’re not using it. It has the complete political, economic, and military history of the next 400 years along with detailed explanations of the technological achievements we’ve made. There are major gaps - the Ideology Wars caused a lot of data to be lost - but there’s enough there to keep you going for years.”

Demanu glanced at the clunky watch on his wrist. “Whoops! Less time than I thought!” He stood and began to walk away before turning back. “To think I met the legend, Douglas Eugene Berry!” Then he sort of folded sideways and vanished.

“But my middle name is Edward!” I was speaking to an empty space. I looked at the thumb drive sitting in my hand with mounting horror. I write as Douglas E. Berry. He had found the wrong guy. Or had he? A lot of data had been lost, he said; maybe that included my correct name. Or was there a Douglas Eugene Berry somewhere who wasn’t going to be a Grandmaster of Science Fiction because this guy made the wrong connection?

Consequences be damned, I grabbed the departed Demanu’s barely-touched beer and drained it. Tomorrow, my pancreas might throw a hissy fit over the booze. Tomorrow was time to examine what was on the thumb drive and think about what to do. Tomorrow was a day to start writing about it.

After all, I am the Writer of the Future.
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