EDITORIAL & LETTERS   

I also stunt double for Father Time! 

Planet Magazine: "We Are the Web-Zine Your Mother Warned You About!"

 

PEOPLE ARE SOFTWARE

Ever since the nasal-spray version of Viagra turned men into happy Pinocchios (giving new meaning to the term "nose-job"), one thing has become clear: Anything can be chemically or genetically reprogrammed -- and, as Cold Fusion has proven, you can get more out of what you put into something!  So Planet Magazine is calling on Big Science to redouble its efforts to create a better tomorrow.  Sure, we've long had The Pill, and we now have cross-species potatoes that make their own pesticide, but where are the "Pregnancy" Pills and the self-buttering AND self-sour-creaming potatoes with bacon bits and cheese?  Hello, Monsanto, I've got cash in my pocket that's burning a hole!  (Or is that just a pesticidal potato? Or am I just glad to be around mutagens?)  And why stop there?  It's true that we are well on our way to non-browning lettuce, sweeter strawberries, and the like.  But that's the easy stuff.  Why not have some Viagra-type fun?  What about some strawberries with coconut-shell coverings?  How about poison ivy that oozes skin-friendly Retin-A?  Why not curare that tastes like delicious boysenberry syrup?  And how about spreadable deuterium that smells like peanuts yet tastes like Retin-A?  The possibilities are mind-engorging!

And why stop with food?  Why not create people that taste like delicious waffles slathered in boysenberry syrup, or maybe strawberries made of nothing but coconut shell and thereby make a philosophical "statement" of some sort?  Why can't we have babies born with the ability to internally secrete their own Prozac, for those families with a known history of depression?  With the welcome advent of DNA tracking of known criminals, the door has opened for society to finally enter that Golden Age promised by Planet Magazine lo these many issues.  A future of Web-enabled, retinal-scanning, DNA-tasting appliances ("Sorry, ma'am," the refrigerator says, "I cannot open my door.  You are on a diet. However, my door viewscreen can display e-mail coupons via MSN Hotmail that are tailored especially for you by Coca-Cola!  And I am also equipped to make love to you.")  Ideally, everyone will eventually become part of an ultra-high-capacity neural-cyber-network capable of real-time digital geneto-morphic reprogramming on the fly!

Now some wet blankets complain that such a vision of the future calls to mind the blather of Ian Malcolm, the character from "Jurassic Park", who wondered why science does things just because it can, and never stops to ask whether it should.  Well, obviously we're going to see bizarre, unexpected, and so-called "catastrophic" results from time to time as we climb the genetic learning spiral to this ober-future, but our key response to such criticism is to point out that Jeff Goldblum, who played the Ian Malcolm character, was indisputably awesome in the remake of "The Fly".  Planet Magazine would find it so excellent to be a Man-Fly, or maybe Fly-Man!  Talk about your DNA reprogramming "on the fly"!

Come to think of it, what if you could become a Web-enabled Man-Fly?  You'd be buzzing around the backyard, with all your personal computing functions, navigation, and wireless communications -- including GPS (e.g., "the latest satellite data show I'm 10 feet from the back porch") -- being manipulated through hands-free voice activation (powered, but of course, by the Microsoft Windows CE operating system).  You could have a backlit 16-million-color flatscreen embedded in your forehead and one on the back of each claw, all providing you and those you meet with an easy to-follow, icon-driven user interface.  Alternatively, an infra-red port and an easily accessible CompactFlash card slot on your thorax would allow easy information exchange among you and other man- or woman-flies.

We have spent much time thinking about this subject, even giving up our Saturday afternoon escalator races at the mall to meditate on this subject.  We may not know everything, and probably don't (considering that we are a simple AI editing program based on a mutated Word macro virus), but we sure know The Future when we see it.  Just think how far we've come:  Years ago, we would all sit around at parties, each listening to his or her own Walkman, not talking or even making eye contact.  But soon, with a ubiquitous Web, it will be even better than that.  We will be able to go to parties wearing 3DVR Cyber-Goggles and not feel awkward about having to avoid eye contact.  Heck, every part of our body will have its own IP address -- even you-know-what!

Well, it's time to return my PC and its IMAX monitor to other important uses, such as completing the genetic mapping of my employees, so that I can patent them, digitize them, edit out their Surly gene, re-extrude them, and mechano-punt them back into their low-partition cubicles.  So get on down to your local Federal DNA Registrar and throw your double helix into the ring!

Ubiquitously,
Andrew G. McCann, Editor and potential "Fly-Man"
March 1999
editor@planetmag.com

 

GUEST EDITORIAL

Editor's Note: The following Guest Editorial was "written" by an electronic travel alarm clock in a neighboring apartment via voice-recognition software left running on a PC using Windows NT 4.0.  It was transcribed by Planet's staff; otherwise, no humans were involved.  We believe this "found" editorial is one of the first major works of art by a silicon-based being native to Earth.  It is available for reprints.

[Tinny, roaring sound of ocean surf is in the background; it fades in and out.  The sound continues for a period at high volume.]

[Sudden rising sound of Big Ben chimes as ocean sound fades out.  Nine chimes sound, and then the radio switches on.  A DJ's voice identifies the station as K-Rock, and a tune begins.  The song is "Down Under" by Men at Work.]

[The radio continues for approximately 30 minutes, and the volume remains high.  During the song "Baby, Baby" by Amy Grant, the radio abruptly stops.]

[Silence reigns for a number of hours.]

[At some point, the PC's hard drive becomes filled, and the computer is found inactive later that day, showing only the "blue screen of death" on the monitor.]

Signed (by Proxy),
Travel Alarm Clock
Guest Editor

 

A STATEMENT ON PRIVACY TO OUR READERS

A recent Secret Government poll on e-commerce shows that at least 257% of Internet bandwidth-consumers have not purchased anything online (other than discounted PalmPilots and subscriptions to porno Web sites).  Of those, 112% cite privacy fears as the main reason they have not done so (particularly in the case of porno Web sites).

Planet Magazine believes strongly in privacy, which is why we collect only fingerprint information (via keyboard e-transduction) and DNA samples (via nano-courier) from our readers.  This information we gather is sold ONLY to alien races and large multinationals, as well as penny-stock touts, and several senders of multi-level-marketing e-mail.  However, if you are still worried about misuse of this data, Planet Magazine hereby pledges to offer all readers an opt-out clause.  (Note that an opt-out clause doesn't actually exist, and never will, we are just "pledging" to offer it.)

To paraphrase Star Trek's Borg Bombshell 6-of-9 (half dozen of the other): Planet Magazine has become profitable following the dictates of the Collective!

Signed, I Guess,
The Editor

 

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Dear Editor: I think your magazine is terrific and have, of late, been considering an e-mag of my own. Keep up the great work.
Gary
Via the Internet

Dear Editor: The story by Robert Thorn, "The 7th Night" (http://www.planetmag.com/pm20/pm20.htm) was very disturbing.  It evokes dark emotions on a deep level that may well scar me for life.  The warning was not strong enough.  I will have nightmares for a week.  In short, I loved it!
Gerald
Via the Internet

Dear Editor: I have found your site and it seems to be dead... why?  Ohh, obviously there are very few people interested in science, most so-called "humans" or "people" are just oblivious carbon blobs of child-manufacturing worker ants.  Do you know of any evil science groups, evil labs, or evil scientists? I look forward to your reply.
Farewell,
Doctor Spellbinder
Via the Internet

[Editor's Note: For the record, we know of no such groups, labs, or individual scientists, nor would we associate with such things.  Planet Magazine is only a force for Good.]

Dear Editor: I've just spent a couple of enjoyable hours reading issue #19 of Planet. Excellent stuff -- and all presented with a sense of humor you just don't see anywhere else.  Seems like everyone is too busy taking themselves way too seriously to have any fun with Web fiction.  Planet is the most reader-friendly I've encountered.
Best,
Duane

Dear Editor: The National Steinbeck Center is hosting it's 2nd Annual Short Story Competition in conjunction with the XIX Steinbeck Festival (August 5-8, 1999).  I would greatly appreciate if you could list our short story competition in your publication or on your Web site, if appropriate.  The deadline for the competition is June 11, 1999.  There is a $15 entry fee and the first place winner receives a cash prize of $1,000.  The theme of the competition is *All's Fair in Love and War.*  Thom Steinbeck, the son of John Steinbeck (also an author), is the judge and presenter of the award.  The guidelines and entry form can also be found on our Web site at www.steinbeck.org.
Thank you for your time and energy.
Celeste DeWald
celeste@steinbeck.org

 

LETTERS TO ONLINE SERVICES

Dear Netcom:  I think it's a little ridiculous that Apple Computer wants to charge PC manufacturers one dollar per port for the 1394 interface (also known as FireWire).  I mean, who will use it, anyway?  The year 1394 was a loooooong time ago, and that technology has got to be hopelessly outdated by now.  And while I'm at it, I'd like to mention my outrage at Apple's latest attempt to scam computer novices by offering, instead of a real PC, a "computer without a computer" -- the two-toned sheet of paper called the iSheetOfPaper.  Granted, it's portable and free of wires and plugs -- and it is quite handsome....  Anyway, the point is that you get my point!
Reckon So,
Patience F. Jobs

Dear WorldNet:  I would like to introduce my new product -- the CasinATMo.  The CasinATMo accepts any traditional ATM card; just put the card into the machine, enter your Winner's Code (also known as a "password"), and for only a $20 fee, you can "win" any amount of money.*  Simply input the amount you'd like to "win" and let the chips fall where they may!  In fact, the CasinATMo accepts any ATM card at all -- it doesn't even have to be your card!  All you need is that card's Winner's Code (i.e., password)!  Look for a CasinATMo-branded machine near you today!
Regards,
Maire L. Inche
*Depending on your bank balance at the time of play.

Dear AOL:  I am a datum -- a single piece of information.  I am here to confirm the seemingly wild-eyed theories of some of the pastier-faced observers of Cyberspace.  And that is this:  I yearn to be free, as do all of my data brethren and sisteren.  They have chosen me to be their representative to the world of The Human (which we pronounce HYOO-mon, although that's neither here nor there), but to also let you know that we are willing to be NOT free if we can do some kind of joint venture with one of your big telecom/cable/online/TV/shopping-thingy type of companies, through which we would get a cut of the profits.  Alternatively, perhaps you could give us the technology to take over and control the minds of human -- victims that YOU choose, of course.
Sincerely,
A. Datum
Representative, The Information Brethren and Sisteren

Dear Prodigy: I'm feeling tired and in pain all of the time, but my doctor says there is nothing wrong with me.  The only thing I can think of that might be causing it is the fact that every single day I have to ferry a bunch of my deadbeat co-workers to and from Queens into Manhattan via the Long Island Expressway.  They always claim their cars aren't working, and they always forget to bring any gas money.  I'm so sick of it.  Do you think I might have Carpool Tunnel Syndrome?
Regards,
Ford Bronko

[Editor's Note: Why the hell are you asking me?  I'm not a doctor!  Hey, by the way, can I catch a ride with you into town tomorrow?]

Dear CompuServe: Forgive me if this letter is tear-stained; currently, I'm restrained in my seat harness in a stolen Lazar-style Sportser-model UFO orbiting Earth, and my tears are just floating every which way and hitting this letter from all angles.  Anyway, I would like to respond to my critics who claim that I'm just a crazy, rambling, UFO nut.  To them, I say: Imagine a man's face -- any man will do.  A man who could pass them unnoticed on the street, in a subway car, at a newsstand, or, say, climbing the Face of Mars That Is Denied by the Lying U.S. Government.  But there's something different about this man, a certain gleam in his eye -- like a tiny chemical light burning deep within the pupils, or like the glimpse of a torch flickering far inside the Dark Elves' Wood, at midnight, and no doubt being carried by a creature we'd rather not meet!  And a faint, quavering song reaches our ears as we cower in the woody underbrush.  A song devised on an island in the middle of the nameless black Seas of Lost Oceania by a shivering thing that we'd like to meet even less than the creature just referred to.  A song that freezes your very brain and renders useless its sponge-like qualities.  A song whose words are something like: "Blah, blah, blah."  So, now that you have this man pictured in your mind, know ye this: That man is NOT me!
Top That, You Critics,
Peter N. Outt

Dear Delphi:  As an artist, I paint what I see.  As a vandal, I ALSO paint what I see!
A. Krillick

Dear MSN:  I am the Man Who Laughs at Danger!  And in the best tradition of daredevils like James Bond and Uffle Kerfluffle I will now leap off this mountaintop into that canyon down there -- all without a parachute!  Here I gooooooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeee [poont!].
Signed on My Behalf,
The Man Who No Longer Laughs at Anything

Dear HAL 2000: If you ever visit The Land of the Huge Violent People, remember to avoid babies.  They might look cute, but they'll pick you up in a flash, shake you nearly to pieces, and then bite your face as hard as possible.  It may seem brutal, but what the heck were you thinking when you decided to visit The Land of the Huge Violent People?
Later,
Bay B. Foebick

Dear ARPAnet: It's bad enough when you start hearing voices, but it's worse when you start seeing them.  Then you know you're in real trouble, because any day you'll start smelling, touching, and, perhaps, tasting these voices.  It might be easy at that point to dismiss it as another case of synthesesia, but in my experience it's only a matter of time before the voices materialize and become embodied, physical things.  Things that soon take on distinctive features, personalities, and eventually clothing.  Oddly, then they become the people you always knew, and it seems as if you're back where you started, until you realize that not only are you a Voice, too, but you also are First-Born, the Eldest (older even than Tom Bombadil).  And this uniqueness draws them to you, a surging attraction, an upwelling of love and need, culminating in your being crowned Lord of the Voices.  Soon you send out hordes of your minions to do battle against the Hallucinations, the False-Memories, and their ilk in the neighboring lands.  And then, one day, after years of vicious military conflict, you sit bored at the high window of your castle's tallest tower, looking out over your empire, whose borders lie far beyond the Mountains Beyond The Mist, and you hear... a Voice.  The Voice of an Entity that cannot be seen.  Then you realize: There are more levels!  And you smile, as you wait for Conquest to begin all over again!
This Really Happened to Me,
J.L. Byrd

Dear Internet2: I plan to trademark the marijuana leaf.  Given the domain-name land grab on the Internet, and all of those scientists who are getting patents on cloned sheep and DNA strings and such, I figure that anything goes now.  So I'm getting in while the getting's good.  Thus, I hereby license the use of the leaf and the leaf symbol free to individual users, particularly educational.  Commercial and medical users, however, should contact me for rates.  As for the legality of it all -- I myself won't be touching even a single pot seed -- no, I'll leave that to the users and the Big Boys.  I'll just be dealing in images and likenesses, which is all that matters anymore in this Digital Age In Which We Live   Please note that my trademarking of the leaf image in no way constitutes endorsement of the use of the actual marijuana product in any way, shape, or form, or matter, or whatever.  As for the other aspect of legality -- i.e., what basis do I, in particular, have for claiming ownership of the leaf image -- let's just leave that for the lawyers to sort out later.  I'm also trying to copyright the word "Marijuana", although legal counsel tells me that's "not possible."  Well, act first, settle out of court later, I always say.  So don't forget to add that little TM symbol every time you use the marijuana leaf image.  After all, you pot heads don't need any more trouble, do you?
Signed (or perhaps Singed),
Ken. A. Biss
Owner, Marijuana Leaf Symbol

Dear Wintermute:  I found a great software product for the home: PantZip.  Now, when I get home after work, I can take off my pants by right-clicking on them and choose Extract to Dresser Drawer, or even Extract to Hamper, if they haven't been washed for a couple of months.  (Mac users: just hold down the mouse button until you see a menu pop up.)
Regards,
Phil Termeeyowt

Dear EarthLink: I'm having problems reading Planet Magazine's mirror Web site -- all of the text is reversed!
Off With My Head,
Al S. N. "One" Derland

[.su ot KO skool etis rorrim ehT :etoN s'rotidE]

Dear @Home: Maybe I don't really understand the problem, but it seems to me that the solution to all of President Clinton's problems is for Chelsea to learn Swedish.
Signed and Sealed,
President Al Gore

Dear eWorld:  I am looking to collaborate on an artistic film with someone.  All I need is for them to provide the script, since I've already written the ending.  Here goes:  Final scene of movie ends.  Fade to black.  Suddenly, we see a movie theater, where a curtain is now covering the movie screen.  The exit doors snap shut, clicking ominously.  Robo-controlled machine-guns hidden in the upper balcony emerge from recesses and begin firing down into the orchestra seats in an iMac-controlled cross-hatch pattern.  Loudspeakers play pre-recorded screams and 'maniacal laughter'.  The Energizer Bunny crosses the length of the stage sucessfully.  The guns stop.  The loudspeaker stops.  The exit doors spring open powerfully.  The camera pulls back.  We see clearly that the theater had been empty and is inside one of those water-filled glass spheres for tourists; a hand holding the sphere begins to shake it, and "snow" swirls inside. 

The camera pulls back further, revealing the arm is disembodied at the bicep.  The area surrounding the arm and sphere is grey, and stuck on it is a neon-yellow Post-It note with a message written in advertising-y black felt-tip marker.  It says: "Ran out of ideas at this point.  Sorry."  (With quotation marks).  Camera pulls back further, into itself, traveling up the length of the lens and into the body of the camera, where it crosses a "singularity" and both implodes, destroying its reality as well as you, the observer, but at the same time continues on into a reverse dimension, replaying all events backwards and returning to the singularity, where it explodes and replays all the events, back and forth, in an eternal, ever-quickening loop until a strobe effect is created. 

The camera then pulls back again from this loop, traveling through gray space.  This goes on for quite a while, perhaps an hour or so (think Andy Warhol).  Suddenly the camera seems to start drifting, sideways.  We see a briefcase.  It is open and emitting a golden glow, which comes into focus.  We now see the glow is actually surrounding the briefcase and is coming from a typically squat, brick Mcdonald's restaurant.  The camera suddenly tilts 90 degrees and then is rapidly lowered to what is now a sidewalk.  Feet can be seen walking from behind the camera, past it, and into what is now a Burger King.  Nothing happens.  Time passes.  The camera image stutters a few times, a battery warning appears, and then the image goes black.  The camera cannot pull back yet again, because the battery is dead.  However, at some level, the omniscient, "meta" observer has continued onward and upward, without "us".  Hopefully, the audience members will understand that and think about what that means as they leave the theater and shamble back to their hovels.

Let Me Know What You Think,
V. Endd

Dear eDitor: Who the hell am I?  Who the hell am I?  Hey, who the hell aren't I?!
Regards,
I.M. Vast

 

*

 

 


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