LNH20: Bite-Size Tals of the LNH v20 #5: "I Never Metafiction I Didn't Like"
Adrian J. McClure
mrfantastic7 at gmail.com
Mon Feb 27 22:57:43 PST 2012
Bite-Size Tales of the LNH v20 #5:
"I Never Metafiction I Didn't Like"
by Adrian J. McClure
Note: This is an anthology for brief one-shot stories set at any point
in continuity. #1-2 were retroactively Dvandom's "Coming to Grief" and
"Sous Generis," while #3-4 were Tom's "Nudist Man: Origins" and "Kung-
Fu Holmes"; this issue takes place immediately after the latter.
(Yeah, this was supposed to be a short piece. It's short by my
standards.) I originally meant this to be an add-on to Kung-Fu Holmes,
but it got characteristically long, so I made it a full issue. This is
set right after "Kung Fu Holmes."
"See, this is exactly what I was talking about," said Fearless Leader
as he read the latest LNH mission briefing. "These people... I have
no idea what to make of them."
"And what's wrong with them, exactly?" said January Frost.
"Not wrong, exactly, no. Just... weird."
"Well, a lot of these new members, they're all kind of... I don't
know... one-note? I don't mean that as an insult, I just mean...
"They're hyper-focused on one aspect of one aspect of their
"Exactly. I remember the Saviors had a couple members like that, like
"Indecisive Lad? I must admit he doesn't sound terribly useful."
"Well he had an 'indecision field' that he could project on other
people, which could weaken their willpower. And later he was able to
use it to make things indeterminate, kind of a Schrödinger’s Cat
effect. We never actually decided if he was a member or not. Anyway, I
haven't had to deal with people like that in a good long time. They
couldn't exist during the Killfile. And the thing is, I'm not sure
they did. We can't find any information about their background or
their history. I don't know if they _have_ pasts. They don't seem like
"Interesting. I've noticed the same thing. We're living in a world
where the definition of what 'real' is has changed considerably. I'm
sure you're familiar with the theory that there are certain... what I
suppose you could call metaphysical forces... that affect the
probability of events in the universe: comedy and drama."
"You mean the metafictional theory of reality? Yeah, I've heard of
that. I used to think it was a big steaming pile of pseudoscience,
just like ancient astronauts, Bigfoot, Mothmen, jackalopes... but now
I've met them all. I don't even know anymore."
"Well, the theory does explain certain things that are rather hard to
explain otherwise. The existence of net.heroes and net.villains is
highly improbable, in many cases even infinitely improbable. Many of
us have powers that blatantly contradict known physical laws, and even
those who are technically normal humans can perform feats that should
strictly speaking be impossible. These forces are what allow us to
exist nonetheless. They were long known to mages--and I was well
acquainted with them due to my own past experiences with magic--but
only recently discovered by science. There were a number of people
both within and outside the net.hero community involved in research in
this area before the Killfile made it impossible for a time. One of
them was Captain Killfile herself."
If Fearless Leader was affected by the mention of the traitor who had
brought down the Saviors of the Net, he showed no sign of it. "So
you're saying... you think the Killfile had something to do with
metafiction. That could make sense. I mean, as much as anything makes
sense now. I never understood how that damned thing was supposed to
work, and Captain Killfile wasn't exactly helpful."
"No one really understands her work to this day. Captain Killfile was
as brilliant as she was secretive and egoistical. The world will
almost certainly never see her like again."
"She had the potential to be a hero once. Her inventions could have
made the world a vastly better place. It's a shame she couldn't have
been trained by someone better suited to dealing with her."
"What, you mean like you? Weren't you in the business of training
net.villains back then?"
"Guilty as charged, I suppose. It's probably best to let the past be
the past. At any rate, the complex interactions of comedy and drama
create radically different states of reality based around radically
different axioms, tropes and assumptions, corresponding to literary
genres. These genres can affect probability, as well as our own
behavior, in both subtle and obvious ways. For instance, you have
difficulty accepting the metafictional theory of reality in spite of
having seen very clear evidence in its favor. This is because it is a
common trope of the sci-fi genre that there is a character who has
difficulty accepting paranormal or supernatural elements, and since
you inhabited that genre during the Killfile, you tend to conform to
many of its tropes."
"Wait a minute. Are you saying I don't have any free will?"
"Free will is a complicated matter at the best of times. I am neither
a scientist nor a philosopher; I am a teacher. Nonetheless, I think it
is clear that we are all affected by wider factors over which we have
little control, whether they are based on our culture, background or
biology. However, we have the freedom to work with or against these
factors as we choose. Perhaps tropes are the same way. Each of us are
drawn to particular tropes according to the genre we inhabit and to
our own abilities, personalities and interests. We are free to express
or subvert these tropes as we choose.
"Now as to the Killfile. Different worlds, areas, and even individual
lives exist within different genres. But some can shift genres over
time, and even inhabit multiple genres simultaneously. Some of us gain
our powers from inhabiting a different genre from the world around us,
for instance the Clipper Counter, whose powers come from the genre of
tabletop games. At times different genres can also fuse unexpectedly
into new ones. This was how net.heroes and net.villains first came
into being. They were part of a new genre that hadn't existed before.
There were other historical figures who more or less fit that mold in
the past, but they were outliers; every genre has works that
anticipate it before it is properly codified.
"The superhero genre requires significantly heightened amounts of both
comedy and drama to function. The best evidence suggests that the
Killfile worked by suppressing comedy and drama, effectively
preventing the superhero genre of existing. Its component parts--
hypertechnology, human beings possessed of some degree of abnormal
abilities or skills, alien invasions, magic and so forth--still
existed, as you well know, but they couldn't be as heightened, nor
could they mix together as freely. In addition, these elements
couldn't change the status quo without causing a full genre-shift into
science fiction, so the metafictional forces worked to keep them
secret, even though this was highly improbable."
"So that's why no one seemed to notice even though there were at least
twenty alien invasions every year."
"Indeed. Obviously, this is no longer the case now."
"Why do you think the Killfile fell?"
"No one really knows. There are any number of theories. One is that
net.heroes are necessary to the functioning of the universe. The
superhero genre can cross with or absorb any other genre. In addition,
superhero stories do not have a fixed ending, and they have the
ability to cross over with any work of art. Thus, the existence of
net.heroes binds the rest of the world's population, many of whom
exist in vastly different genres, into a single common reality.
Without net.heroes, they would each drift apart into their own
disconnected private worlds."
"You mean like that Alfred Bester story, 'The Man who Murdered
Mohammed?' I think we should keep that one secret. There are some
people on this team who really don't need any evidence the world
revolves around them."
"Perhaps. Now as I was saying, the Killfile suppressed both comedy and
drama, and after its fall the world was flooded with both. This also
created a feedback effect which has caused comedy and drama to rise
considerably above pre-Killfile levels, and both are increasing
simultaneously. As a result, the world is becoming more random and
absurd even as it is simultaneously becoming more dramatic and
carefully worked out. It is simultaneously undergoing Cerebus Syndrome
and Reverse Cerebus Syndrome."
"So you mean we're only going to be getting more of these guys."
"Well, that's what worries me, because I have no idea how to deal with
them. All our previous understanding of strategy, tactics and
psychology don't apply to people like this."
"Indeed. This is why the LNH is so important. It serves as a sort of
experiment which brings together people inhabiting radically different
genres and modes of thought. We can learn how to deal with 'these
guys' before one of them turns the White House into jam."
"Sounds good to me. Still, this whole metafictional thing sounds like
As if on cue, the alert beeped. Fearless Leader pressed the button,
and Kung-Fu Holmes appeared on the screen. "Sorry," he said. "We'll be
home soon, but we've got a bit of a problem right now..." They were
fighting against a dog with three bodies awkwadly joined to one head.
It snapped its slavering jaws at that."
"What is THAT?" said Fearless Leader.
"A reverse Cerebrus," said Kung-Fu Holmes.
"See?" said January Frost. "Comedy in action."
This was really a world-building meta-post poorly disguised as a
story. I had these thoughts after reading Kung Fu Holmes, but it took
me a while to express them properly. I've also been reading a bunch of
Saxon Brenton's work, so I was predisposed to write a big
metafictional infodump; it's harder than it looks.
I'm not really sure where on the LNH's timeline this is set.
Note that while people on Earth-20 are slowly becoming aware of
metafictional forces and tropes, none of them--except for Minority
Miss and the refugees and travellers from the classic Looniverse--are
yet aware of the Writers as such.
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