Tag Archives: science fiction

A Science Fiction Short Story: Space Launch

Space travel is incredible. Today, a spaceship left Earth for the purpose of throwing a urine-filled balloon into space. It’s obviously a complete waste of money and science, but that’s what happened.

I watched the shuttle launch at home. The astronauts were shaking hands with the president. The commander of Eagle Two gave a speech on how this is the greatest country in the world and the mission will be a historic achievement. A lady gave the astronaut a bouquet of roses at the end of his press deal. The audience applauded and people were even crying.

Crying for what—throwing a balloon of piss into space?

Most of the country tends to support the mission. You’re supposed to be patriotic and get all choked up. So everyone buys flags and hangs them on their houses as the launch date nears. The other day, I saw a guy dressed up in an astronaut suit at a used car lot. Everyone crowded around him waiting to take a picture. They probably sold a lot of jalopies that day.

A minority of vocal opponents claim these missions are driving us dangerously close to economic collapse and are the primary reason we’re invading Spain. The public and mainstream media ignores them as wing-nuts. Universities do protest, but nobody really cares besides the students. It’s their college so let them do whatever the hell they want. Kids need to rebel. Next week they’ll be crying over a new crusade.

The reality is public support is too strong for the missions to stop. It was on the news that an anti-launch protestor was shot in front of his house. That caused a big uproar for a minute and then quickly became old news. A million other things could be done with the taxpayer’s money than throwing a piss balloon into outer space. What does it even have to do with anything? The whole thing just gives me a headache.

I’ll admit it: I was interested in the launch. It was difficult not to be. Just walking through the grocery store, electricity was in the air. Customers treated each other as if they were on the winning team. As I walked away with my bags, the cashier shouted, “Hey buddy!” I turned around and he gave me thumbs up. I tried to smile, but it probably came off a little weird looking. On the drive home, motorists flashed me peace signs as they passed by. Goofy stuff like that happens every time there’s a launch.

The funny thing was that nobody mentioned the piss-balloon-throwing part. I mean, c’mon, it’s the main reason we ever gone. But that aspect remained entirely unaddressed. A group of big time American bozos debated launch statistics. They brought up astronauts by their first names as if they were personal friends. And the way they described the shuttle, you’d swear they built the damn thing. All the while, a swollen balloon of piss lingered over their heads. Nobody comments on the balloon. And this wasn’t the first time we’ve taken a crack. The previous launch, Eagle One, was a total failure. A malfunction occurred and we lost a whole team of astronauts. Now they’re considered national heroes. Folks get touchy on that subject.

The launch day was finally underway. I got off the couch and walked into the kitchen as the TV yammered on. I reached into the cupboard, got a bottle of whisky, and poured myself a drink—one to wish the astronauts good luck. The camera followed the astronauts to the shuttle, followed by close ups of American flags and hopeful faces. The astronauts waved at the crowd before they shut the hatch. A grainy voice from tower control came over the air.

“Eagle Two, this is Tower One. All systems are go for launch, Eagle Two.”

I listened anxiously with the rest of the country as the head astronaut responded back, “Tower One, we copy that. Eagle Two is all systems go. We are ready for launch.”

“We copy that, Eagle Two. Is that an affirmative for countdown?”

“Affirmative for countdown.”

“Countdown is to commence. God’s speed, Eagle Two.”

“Roger that.”

His voice was emotionless as he started from ten. We were all digging our fingers into cushions. I held my breath when the Eagle Two commander reached five. Then the rest came:

“4…

“3…

“2…

“1…

“Ignition.”

The thrusters flared up in a massive cloud of fire. The shuttle lagged then slowly lifted off the ground. The TV switched to a skyward shot of Eagle Two burning towards heaven. It rose until it looked like a shining star in the middle of the day. It was a beautiful sight. The launch was a success. I poured another drink.

Despite their absurd objective, I hope they make it. Throwing a piss balloon into outer space has to serve a purpose. If it’s for nothing, then the feat in itself must mean something. Just think about it—when they finally get up there, one of our guys is going to stare into the mysterious dark universe, cock back his arm, and throw a balloon filled with piss right into God’s face.

Ap11-s69-31740

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“Hard boiled wonderland and the end of the world” Japanese cyberpunk with a noir twist

Prepare to trip balls.

Murakami Haruki’s Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is imagination dynamite. The story opens up with a sci-fi, noir attitude told from a Japanese perspective. My immediate impression was, “This is gonna cool,” and it was. Haruki throws a bit of everything into the pot: surrealism, mystery, metaphysics, magical realism, to name a few. The story itself is one of the most strangely unique I have ever read. I think Haruki enjoys messing with our heads. He’s aware of the tired-out clichés and sets you up to believe you know exactly where the book is heading, then busts your bubble and blows your mind. For a book that was written back in 1985, it reads like a bestseller hot off the press. If Franz Kafka was into cyberpunk, occasionally took hard drugs, and reincarnated as a Japanese man, he’d probably write something like this.

The story is such a bizarre odyssey that I wouldn’t dare spoil any of it for you. I can’t even tell you the general plot–it’ll ruin the surprise. I’ve read some reviews of this book, and all I can say is that I’m glad I read the book first and avoided the spoilers. It does have some hardcore cyberpunk elements and Johnny Mnemonic did come to mind–but was much more than that. The book has an amazing sense of duality. When you first come across this, you’ll wonder what the hell is going on. As the story progresses, Murakami weaves a dangerously magical world that breaks the spine of traditional modern writing. It’s a gritty fairy tale that you’ll fall into like a deep well. His use of Gutter Surrealism is masterful. This review is vague, and I apologize. But once you begin Hard boiled Wonderland and the End of the Word, you will see my intentions were sincere. Murakami drives his imagination like a stolen car in this book. I suggest you get in and enjoy the ride.

The end of this book stunned me. It was the type of conclusion that sort of breaks your heart and leaves you with the feeling that a longtime friend and lover had disappeared from the planet. I’ve taken reconciliation in the fact that Murakami’s other works contain the same magical nature I was introduced to in Hard Boiled Wonderland. I loved this book and I hope this review inspires you to read it too. Despite Murakami’s international acclaim, he remains largely unknown to American readers. This I cannot accept. Magic Realism of this caliber should be shared to everyone. Let’s all trip out together.

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