“Okay, okay. Can may I have your attention please!”
The man addressing the audience was a bit portly and unkempt. He was exceedingly hairy, though while his face and arms were visibly hirsute, the one place where hair was beginning to diminish was his head. Nonetheless, he seemed the jovial sort, and the crowd quickly fell silent in expectation of whatever reason he had for calling them all together.
His capacity to earn the respect and attention of the crowd was impressive, considering the extreme diversity of the audience. A large proportion were human beings of various races and ages, but the more notable members of the crowd included a small collection of dragons, a swarm of fairies, two or three dwarves, and quite a few beasts which defied simple classification.
“Before we get started, are there any questions?” he asked.
A white-furred hand rose from the crowd.
“Um… I hope I don’t seem too foolish for asking this,” asked the malthrope, “But who are you? You seem awfully familiar, but I’m not sure I’ve seen you before.”
“I’m your creator,” he said.
She tipped her head to the side. “Are you sure? Because I’m pretty sure Demont was my creator, and you seem an awful lot nicer than him already.”
“No, no. I mean the creator of all of you. Of all of this. I’m the author.”
“Oh,” she said with a nod. “So this is one of those… what do you call them…”
“Fourth-wall breaking, non-canon, post-modern literary experiments,” remarked a scientist among the crowd. “Figures.”
“That’s right, Karter,” the author said.
“I hate when people do that. They always think they’re being so cute, but they’re all just ripping off Chuck Jones and being self-indulgent.”
“Somehow I thought you’d be one of the more difficult ones to deal with in this process.”
“Do I have to be here for this?”
“Only if I decide you have something interesting to say.”
“Well please don’t.”
“Don’t hold your breath. People tend to get a kick out of your attitude.”
A piecemeal voice spoke up next. “I apologize for the breach in protocol, as I understand that it is typical to indicate one’s desire to issue an inquiry by raising an extremity, but I presently lack any appropriate pieces of anatomy.”
“That’s fine, Ma. What’s your question?”
“Am I correct in assuming this is not the first time I have been present at a moment that could be termed non-canon?”
“We did a character interview in which you more or less figured out your own fictional nature.”
“Such was my hypothesis. A reasonable extrapolation based upon these facts would be that, as Karter is my own creator, and you are his, I am at best two levels removed from a genuine, legitimate product of nature.”
“That is moderately distressing, as it further reduces my already ill-defined but unenviable role in society.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it. You’re pretty much one of the most important people in your universe. Heck, people like you better than Lex.”
“Hey!” remarked a jumpsuit-clad space-jockey.
“Sorry, buddy. It’s well known, main characters in my stories are usually eclipsed by the more interesting supporting cast, what with them not having to shoulder the load of the plot.”
“And whose fault is that?”
“It’s my fault. Literally everything in all of your universes is my fault.”
A young woman dressed in an elegant cloak raised her hand.
“So it is by your will that my world was plunged into more than a century of war? That some of the finest beings I have ever known lost their lives, and my own existence has been an endless string of trials?”
“All of this time I’d believed the D’Karon were the greatest evil in creation, but you are the true source of our woes.”
“Yeah. Sorry about that. See, the only way you can exist is if your world continues to be dramatically interesting to the people reading about your adventures, so I more or less have to play the ‘vile and pitiless whims of fate’ most of the time. If it’s any consolation, I’m also the source of everything good in your world. And at least your world has to make sense. Reality can be completely nonsensical, and that’s where I live. Any more questions?”
A few more hands rose.
“Uh, yes. Deacon, Philo, Lex, Non-Sequitur, what’ve you got for me?”
“Are we all the same person?” Philo asked.
“Uh… I mean… you’re the same type of person. Sort of a Lallo Archetype.”
“Uh-huh. And I’ve noticed that Garotte, Desmeres, Gunner, and—“
“Yeah, yeah. Let’s not draw too much attention to that. We’ll just say that the differences between certain groups of you are more nuanced than overt. What about you, Deacon?”
“Forgive my presumption, but was there some purpose for this meeting beyond plunging your various creations into a profound existential crisis?”
“Good question. Yes! I called you all here to discuss something very important. Something that potentially affects the future of all of your worlds.”
“What force could be so potent as to alter the path of so many worlds?” asked a dark-skinned woman in a complex leather and canvas outfit.
“I’m glad you asked, Nita. The answer is simple. Merchandising.”
The crowd collectively groaned.
“Not this again,” grumbled Karter.
“Now, now, hear me out,” the author said. “The people want merch.”
“No, they don’t!” barked a white-haired fellow with a fancy weapon.
“Come on, Dezmer, I—“
“It’s pronounced Dez-mer-ess! You created me. How can you fail to properly pronounce my name?”
“Look, my buddy came up with your name, and I misheard him. Can we please stay on topic? Now, I think the time has come to get some fun new doodads out there for the people.”
“The people don’t want doodads, my boy,” said a debonair sci-fi type. “They want books.”
“Yeah, honey,” added the soccer-mom-type by his side. “Pretty much the only thing folks really want out of an indie author is the next book. Now if you are looking to make some more money, I’ve always wanted to see what you could do with romance.”
The author shook his head. “No. No you don’t, Silo. But I admit, Desmeres and Garotte have a point. Despite some initial enthusiasm for some of my ideas, broadly speaking the only thing the readers have really wanted to do is read, and I think that’s understandable. But this time, I think it’ll be different.”
“What is different this time?” Deacon asked.
“This time I’m going to go straight to the source to come up with ideas. I’m going to ask you, the characters to pitch merch ideas.”
“But… since you created us… ain’t that just you askin’ yourself?” asked a tall deckhand.
“Yeah, this whole thing is coming off as kind of masturbatory,” added a red-skinned demon.
“Whoa, hey, let’s keep it PG, Trixie.”
“I’m a succubus. You don’t put a succubus in something you want kept PG.”
“Yeah… Yeah, I didn’t really think that through. But then, I didn’t think any of your stuff through. Between was sort of an afterthought.”
“DID SOMEBODY CALL AFTERTHOUGHT?” proclaimed a costumed crime-fighter.
“Heh. I kind of forgot about you.”
He shrugged. “You and everyone else.”
“Anyway, how about you folks get together in groups, brainstorm some stuff, and then we’ll see what you come up with.”
*** Several minutes later ***
“Everybody just about ready?” the author said.
The audience settled down again, and lined up, several of them clustered together into a series of like-minded groups.
“Okay, Ivy, Rill, something told me the two-to-four of you would pair up.”
“We think it’d be lots of fun if you released an album!” Right-Rill said.
“I agree. It’d be lovely. These three have wonderful voices. And the music from these different worlds is so different and lively,” Ivy said. “There are new instruments for me to learn.”
The author sucked his teeth. “You have no idea how much I’d like to do that sort of thing. But the price would be astronomical. As Rill found out, I’m not even technically allowed to directly quote the lyrics of the songs she sings.”
“Wait… you mean people can’t actually hear us singing?” Left-Rill snapped.
“It’s text, Rill. They only read descriptions.”
“Why do you have so many musical characters if you don’t actually have music?” Rill asked.
“I like music,” the author said.
“Well this should be a natural idea then,” Ivy said. “Maybe we could write the songs. That’d be fun.”
“It’s more complicated than that. All I have to do is say you’ve got angelic voices and a natural talent for music and you do. In order for me actually make an album, I’d have to actually have those skills, or find those who do, and that costs money too.”
“Oh. … Reality sounds difficult,” Ivy said.
“It’s surprisingly tricky.”
“Well, good luck then,” she said hopping up and giving him a hug. “And thanks for creating me.”
“Aw…” the author said. “I really should create more characters as affectionate as you.”
“Creator’s pet…” muttered Trixie.
“Hey, be nice. Ma, what did you come up with?”
“There seems to be a considerable amount of interest and success in the world of digital gaming. It is, if my assessment is accurate, one of the few areas of modern entertainment that is a match for literature in terms of the potential for success for small, independent creators.”
“Well, Ma. You’re not wrong. But again, this is a matter of finances. I don’t have any friends in the indie game biz, despite my many years of attending conventions with them. And a game isn’t something you commission.”
“It was my understanding that the focus of your education was the creation of computer hardware and software.”
“Sure, but if I was any good at that, I’d probably be doing that instead and none of you people would be here. Except for Myranda and the crew. They predate my professional author endeavors. Next!”
A young woman in a red and white latex uniform stepped up.
“What’s up, Nonsensica?”
“Two words: Action. Figures,” she said. “Imagine it, the whole ‘The Other Eight’ cast, in a big collectible play set with props and stuff. You can get the Sideshow Collectibles-style high quality things for Halfax back there, and Lain, and any of the fancy types, but for me and the gang, I want eleven points of articulation, minimum.”
“I like the idea. I really do. But…”
“Money…” Nonsensica said flatly.
“Yeah. I tried my hand at engineering that sort of thing over the holidays, and proved to myself I do not have chops for it. Considering how much I spent just getting the figurines made, and those have zero points of articulation, I hesitate to imagine how much I’d be spending for the full G.I. Joe treatment. And I’ll remind you, I didn’t sell that many of those.”
“Okay, fine. Next up, movies. Sell the rights to Hollywood. That Andy Weir guy got a movie made, and what’s-his-face with the 80s pop-culture mashup. The market is still scrambling for more superhero movies, and the Other Eight are ready to deliver.”
The author sighed. “The traditional literary world didn’t want anything to do with me. Hollywood isn’t likely to be more welcoming.”
“… Fine… I’ve got another one. Comic books.”
“Again, the literary world didn’t want me. Comics are pretty much the same level of utterly unforgiving to new talent.”
“Then do a web comic.”
“Oh, I am doing that. That’s who those two are. Say hi, Ray and Louis!”
A chubby boy and his leaner friend waved.
“I’m a celebrity!” remarked the chubby boy in utter ecstasy.
“Wait…” Nonsensica said. “You have a book about superheroes… But when the time came to make a comic, you went with little kids? What’re you trying to do? Rip off Stranger Things?”
The author crossed his arms. “I’ll have you know, I wrote that comic years ago.”
“Fine, then you were ripping off Gravity Falls.”
“I never saw Gravity Falls.”
“Well you must have known about it, because I know about it, and you created me.”
“I found out about it subsequently. Moving on,” the author said.
The pair of deckhands stepped up.
“Lil, Coop, what are you thinking about?”
“I think you should make buttons or patches or somethin’,” Lil said. “The sort of stuff a body could clip on or sew on to somethin’ they already got to make it look like somethin’ they bought from you.”
“Interesting… I’ll have to look into it. Coop, you got anything?”
“If that’s how you call ‘em. Everybody needs Under-britches. Most folk need two or three pair. You could sell a bunch, I reckon.”
“But how would they be merchandise? Would I put logos on them?”
“I was thinkin’, since most folk wear their under-britches under their britches, can’t nobody see ’em. So I reckon you ought to do something you can tell even without seeing them. Make ‘em smell.”
“… Scented underwear… I mostly write in fantasy and steampunk. I can’t imagine there are too many people looking for authentic medieval or Victorian smell from their underwear.”
“Which one of them’s the book I come from?”
“… You sayin’ I smell?”
“I think we ought to leave ‘em be, Coop. We said our piece,” Lil said.
“Yep,” said the author. “Um… Who else? Oh… that many… Well, we’re up over 2,000 words, which is kind of a lot for an April Fools thing, so I think we’re through being meta for today. But we can think it over off-page. Any last requests before you all head back to your respective homes?”
“Would you please consider publishing the book I’m in?” said a young man in medieval garb.
“Edge, we’ve been through this.”
“People want another story with Halfax, and he’s in it…”
“Buka’s even got art commissioned of him, and no one even knows who he is!”
“Look, Edge, you’re half the reason it isn’t out yet.”
“That was before the rewrite! I’m sitting in an EDITED book sitting there collecting DUST!”
“The fans said they didn’t want your book until I was done with Myranda’s story. Take it up with them.”
“I would, if you let me out more than once a year. I’m pretty sure people would want to read my story if they knew I was teamed up with—“
“Hey! I’m not wearing the spoiler hat, so no spoilers! Thanks, everyone, for coming out and sharing your ideas. See you all next year. If you’re a member of ULCA, I guess you can stick around, since you’re probably going to have your meeting here in a few minutes. The rest of you, see you in the sequels!”