Nick Beat studied the map in the sunlight, a beautiful hand drawn waterfall with a walkway along the cliff. A vibrant Brasilian village lined the river at the top.
His companion was flustered. “No, this isn’t right,” Maria said, poking her golden-brown head from behind the map to look at the actual land. The village was in ruin, crumbling buildings overgrown with vegetation. Only the beautiful waterfall remained, and its proud blue flow.
Her long black hair blew in the breeze. “Why would my father hide a studio here?”
Nick was confused. “Why would a musician set up in a waterfall canyon?” The map bent in his hands, revealing Nick Beat’s square black sunglasses and tanned bruised face. “For the acoustics,” he said, and snapped the paper back rigid. The map put their days-long adventure into perspective. All that was left was to find the legendary funk hero Marco Zaya’s lost studio.
“You continue to justify your price.” Maria said. “Your agent was right.”
“She knows you send a musician to find a musician,” Nick said. “And I’m a one man band.”
Maria laughed. “A band without instruments.”
“I’ll play if the mood strikes,” Beat said. “You hired me to bring you closure.”
Nick again glanced at the poem written in the upper right corner.
Sing to me, Lady in My Heart. I hear your voice across the land, this land I love. Sing to me, Lady in My Heart. I will always be with you, even when I’m gone.
Thomas Ligotti’s “The Town Manager” ends with the narrator offered the leadership role in a new town, a position that he has discovered from decades of exploitative policy leads to the slow destruction of the town but fattened wallet for the Town Manager. We are left asking if he will take the role, and how he would shape a society given what he’s seen. Fiction creates simulations able to portray the workings of human nature and reality, and the powerful flexibility of genre gives us untold ways to build a story off of core ideas. Weird tales translate supernatural elements into a contemporary setting, but it also branches out into two other genres that either uses magic and the occult or science and technology to reveal how the world is truly governed. Robert E. Howard’s fantasy story “The Phoenix on the Sword” and George R. R. Martin’s science fiction short “Sandkings” give us two different answers to “The Town Manager’s” leadership dilemma, from the ground as a king leading men or from above as a god pulling the strings of fate from behind the veil.
John Carpenter’s 1982 cult classic horror film “The Thing” is an exploration of survival in unimaginably harsh conditions, those both created by the Antarctic environment and an unfathomable shape shifting opponent whose existence breaks reason and logic. There is much to say about the events in the research station destined to explode with deception, distrust, and panic, but it simply cannot be analyzed without first looking at a seemingly innocuous character scene: the pilot R.J. MacReady playing computer chess. Sipping his cocktail, our protagonist smugly enters a move he is convinced spells victory, but when the computer puts him in checkmate from a direction he hadn’t predicted, he angrily dumps his drink over the circuit boards and fries the computer to a burst of sparks. This small scene not only introduces us to “The Thing’s” core theme of imitation and its strategies, but is the film’s pivotal moment for which the entire climax rests, and is especially important to understand against an opponent that must move its pieces in secret and can capture any of your allies over to its side.