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Twisting By The Pool

Contour – New Zealand’s 25th Annual SF Convention, Rotorua, Easter 2004

I set off in my trusty spaceship to drive to the science fiction convention on the planet of Rotting Rua in the centre of the New Zealand galaxy. Fortunately I had a good contour map. I brought a present with me for the guest of honour but somehow or other the wrapping got torn off so I thought I’d better do something about repairing it. I diverted my spaceship to Larry Niven’s Stringworld where I unravelled a whole ball of superstring to tie the parcel up again. But something must have gone wrong because the more knots I tied in the string, the worse the quantum state of the parcel became. I’m afraid the physics and mathematics of string theory will always be a black hole in my understanding.

I resumed my journey – but it wasn’t long before I ran into another problem. The air supply in the cabin was becoming increasingly foul as I breathed in oxygen and breathed out carbon dioxide. I needed to refresh the air – blow out the carbon dioxide; put oxygen back again. The technical term for this is "scrubbing" the carbon dioxide. The chemists among you will be familiar with the term. Fortunately, I was passing close to a planet where the native inhabitants have a very curious biology. They breath in carbon dioxide and blow out oxygen. A whole planet full of scrubbers! Just what I needed to blow the foul air away. I landed immediately and called in all the scrubbers to give me the best blow job they could manage.

And then, suitably refreshed, I continued on my way. I brought one of the scrubbers with me as a companion so that the emergency I had just survived would not occur again. She’d be useful for hauling my ashes. Out of the space drive, you understand.

My problems were not yet over. I could feel my energy levels dropping, and so in order to renew them I made my way to Frank Herbert’s Dune, the dessert planet, the place that supplies the entire galactic cluster with sweet things. Here are to be found inexhaustible chocolate mines and never ending rivers of treacle. Many New Zealanders work here, and they are extremely proud of their pavlova quarries. Australians are not allowed to quarry pavlova on Dune, the dessert planet. The New Zealanders throw lethal toffee kiwifruits at every Australian pavlova quarryman that they see.

However when I landed on the planet’s marzipan icing surface I was quite surprised to find that there was nobody there to greet me. Where was the traditional melange of rude, crude, bullying and moronic customs and immigration officials whose job it was to photograph me, fingerprint me and measure my blood sugar levels? There was absolutely nobody around at all. Dune, the dessert planet, was completely deserted!

My companion and I wandered the streets in a daze, pausing occasionally to nibble at a chocolate pudding tree and drink from a sherbet stream. And then the sun went down and night fell with a splash that splattered us with sweetness. As the darkness spread, the reason for the empty streets began to manifest itself. Vampire hordes were crawling out of the buildings. Now that the sun was safely down, the vampires were coming out from the protection of their cookie jars. They were hungry and they were looking for prey.

We were was terrified! These were the dreaded alucard vampires, the backward vampires with a sweet tooth who only drank the blood of diabetics. Clutching my insulin tightly to my chest, I grabbed hold of my companion’s hand and ran back to my spaceship with the vampires in hot pursuit.

Luckily I managed to escape them by the skin of my rice pudding and soon I was safely in orbit. Breathing a sigh of relief, I continued on my journey.

By now, the planet called Rotting Rua was in sight. The sulphur stench from the thermal areas was nicely ripe. As always, I found the smell to be very nostalgic. I studied chemistry at university and hydrogen sulphide was a commonly used reagent in the laboratory. Rotting Rua always brings back happy memories of fossicking about in the lab making bangs, smells and pretty colours. You should only study chemistry if you like bangs, smells and pretty colours. There’s no point to it otherwise. Some of the things you get to play with are pretty revolting; not to say dangerous. Chemists, unlike the general population, wash their hands before they go to toilet. Sometimes they wash their hands afterwards as well; but not often. Toilet nasties are positively benign compared to the evils that lurk in the average test tube.

I inhaled the delightful scent of Rotting Rua.

"Isn’t it wonderful?" I said to my companion.

"It’s fantastic!" she said ecstatically. "Nobody will ever know if I fart. And I won’t need to take a shower the whole time we are here. It’s paradise! Can we retire here, when the time comes?"

"Of course," I said. I was quite looking forward to not knowing when my companion farted. It would be a new experience for me.

I was feeling quite excited. Who would be at the convention? Would I get a chance to meet the writer of all those alternate history novels. What was his name? Oh yes – Harry Turtleplover. No – it was Lobstersparrow. Or was it Mockturtlepigeon? Tortoisevulture? Oysterchaffinch? Mussellduck? Oh, I remember – he’s actually a Maori writer who writes very funny stories full of wit and wisdom, and his name is Witi Pipimoa! He’s got a couple of cousins who are also starting to make names for themselves: Witi Repartee and Witi Iadmireher.

Perhaps the convention would organise my favourite game – a Frederik Pohl-vaulting contest. Or maybe they’d have an attempt on the populate-a-planet-from-scratch world record where the people taking part are supplied with an anatomically correct cardboard cut out model of Douglas Adams and an anatomically correct cardboard cut out model of Douglas Eves. It’s called a shaggy-God contest.

I made a mental note to check all of these details with the convention organiser Alan Parker-Pen, known as Ballpoint for short. Everybody knows Ballpoint. He’s the man with the commonly felt tip and a lot of lead in his pencil.

It turned out to be a great convention.

With thanks to the Harvard Lampoon, from whom (which??) I stole a pun. All the rest of this nonsense is my own work (I think) – but nevertheless I refuse to accept responsibility for it!

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