The sum of all nostalgia

Out of the blue, she was struck by a sense of nostalgia. Emboldened, she threw caution and deadlines to the wind and installed it, the game that had occupied her so many hours back in the days. She double-clicked the install icon, and

It did not start

Remembering this part, she knew she had a CD with fixes to this very problem on it somewhere. The hunt was on. When she found it, she realized that her new computer did not have a CD player. No biggie, she had a spare one of those somewhere too. Which should have just worked after being plugged in, but didn’t, so it had to be troubleshot (for both cables and drivers) for a couple of hours before finally spinning up. But she did, and it did. Thus, finally having installed the game, she double-clicked the desktop icon, and

It did not start

Right, patches. There was one that made the whole thing work post-DOS. After an amazing number of dead links in mausoleums thinly disguised as forums, she finally found the necessary files and applied the update. Thus, finally, several hours in and only just now able to start the game, did she realize

This was the true nostalgic experience all along

Character classes from an unfinished adventure game

Store scout

Knows exactly what everything costs everywhere. Can make a shoestring budget last for days

Unfortunate telepath

Can read people’s minds, but does not care enough about others to do so

Porn connoisseur

Can instantly become friends with just about anyone. The details of the bonding process remain unknown

Fandom lore explicator

Can escalate any conflict to levels previously unthought of

Unwitting sagaciousness

Can give sage advice, but only on topics of which they know nothing; +3 lore

60s kid

Never lost touch with the far out realms of human experience; receives massive penalties to social interaction skill checks

90s kid

Remembers everything: -5 dexterity

Adventure game protagonist

Is constantly baffled by other people getting stuck in seemingly random situations

Visual novel protagonist

Seems to know everything about everyone despite having just met

Storekeeper

Can transform any item into local currency; is not allowed to run any kind of business whatsoever

Horoscope crafter

Can create a horoscope appropriate to any situation; refuses to get a driver’s license for ideological reasons

World’s fair expert

Has a nigh-encyclopedic knowledge about everything relating to world’s fairs; gains -10 morale during the Olympic Games

Store clerk

Will discuss the logistics of Death Star construction and maintenance at all possible moments

Youtube celebrity

Has an audience in the millions; not a single one of them lives nearby

Local single

Can instantly teleport to any area; +15 to locate people skill

Single mom

+500 endurance

App developer

The UI is turned off during gameplay; cannot save

Actually an alien

Clueless about pop cultural references; +30 morale in Canadian forests

Soccer fan

Enters states of hyper rage or euphoria seemingly at random

Bitcoin enthusiast

Cannot buy or sell items; -20 to barter

Delinquent youth

Have read every book in the library; can talk circles around adults, landing them into all sorts of trouble

Poet

Secretly never learnt the difference between blank verse and free verse; +5 lore

Librarian

In possession of unimaginable superpowers; have for their own inscrutable reasons chosen to use these to serve the public

Spawn from Beyond

Attends local high school; +25 relationship points with goths

Hermione

Protagonist from a famous series of fantasy novels; only available as an Easter egg

Hypermasculine sidekick

No one must know your secret shame

Wearer of white, pink and blue

The only character that can unlock the true ending

Cat whisperer

Cats gravitate towards you

The last word on virtue signalling

I am here to tell you that I am not qualified for this position. I have no relevant experience, and no qualifications worth mentioning. I would bring nothing new to the table, my contribution would be substandard in every way, and in every aspect finding someone better than me would be as easy as pointing in a random direction. I do not justify this in any way – indeed, I have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Whoever you pick instead of me will be the correct, better choice. Thank you all for indulging my unwarranted presence

Pater noster

Imagine, if you will, a person who is thrown into a situation without necessarily knowing what it will demand of him. However voluntarily he might have entered into it, the situation will find ways and opportunities to surprise and overwhelm him in ways unsuspected until it happens. Being in the situation, the only option available to him is to deal with it best he can; whatever his skill or proficiency at the time, that will be the extent to which he is successful at coping. This may lead to surprising discoveries of hidden talents, or the slightly more expected realization that the proficiency simply is not there. However, he must go on, come what may; exit is not an option. Thus, he persists, and cracks one dad joke after another. It is, by definition, the best he can do. In this essay, I will

Titillating curves

Today, esteemed friends and colleagues, presents us with the opportunity to revisit an old favorite. I am confident you are all familiar with the Laffer curve, which states that taxes can only be raised so high before the amount of money flowing in actually decreases. I mention this to ensure we are all on board when I say there is a problem with it. You see, its simplicity has caused many an economist – and many more wannabe economists – to employ it freely and with great alacrity. In fact, they use it so often the whole thing is starting to become a buzzword. The curve is recursive, referring to itself as much as anything else, and we are far beyond the point of diminishing returns; the Lafferlaffer curve strongly suggests we stop using this term, and come up with something different. Perhaps – and I know this is controversial – we ought to transition into something which has slightly more empirical backing – –

Excerpt from an introductory lecture

Hello all, and welcome!

This is the first lecture of the semester, and – I suspect – for some of you the first university lecture altogether. Those of you who have been here before know what to expect, but it’s good to hear these things anew, to refresh one’s memory and make sure things are still as they used to be. Certainty and reassurance being in short supply these days. Sometimes, stating the obvious serves to ensure we’re all facing in the same direction

As you know, this is a university, and at universities we seek to expand knowledge. Both on a large scale, with experiments and suchlike, and on a smaller scale, one head at a time. The heads, in this case, belong to you, and what you are about to experience is an opening up of possible lines of thinking. You all have a certain range to your thinking, and by the end of this semester that range will be larger than it is now. It does not matter how big it is at the moment – you will all walk out of this with bigger heads than you had walking in

I say this to ensure that you at all times know why you are doing the things we ask you to do. Why read this book? Because it lets you think larger thoughts. Why write this assignment? To have done it, and know in your souls you can do it again, should need be. Why do you need to know this or that? To ensure that the bigger picture emerges afterwards, allowing you to stride forth with renewed confidence

Ideally, you should approach upcoming lectures with trembling knees, apprehensive of the new vistas of thought that will reveal themselves. The person you are now is a mere precursor to the person you will become, the contours of which you can only vaguely glimpse at the present. The future is arriving, and it will collide with you head on

And yes, personal growth will be on the exam. That is one of the few things you can be sure of

Retroactive authorship

The first thing the time travelers learnt was that it is very to mess up and destroy your timeline. Not in the way most commonly depicted in fiction, where the protagonists return to the present only to discover that the circumstances under which they and they families live have altered dramatically (a concession to the real-world fact that fictional time travel is a great excuse to put actors in new costumes), but in the slightly more brutal way of you and everyone you’ve ever known have been preemptively eliminated from history. It is a specific kind of bummer to find that the new timeline caused by your interference does not (and never will) include you in any way whatsoever

This lesson was learnt by messing up the timeline, and then having said messing of up prevented by someone from an upcoming timeline interfering and stopping it outright. It was hinted that this interloper arrived from a place hundreds of timeline alterations upstreams, but alas, we will never know for sure, no matter how many times we ask

The second thing the time travelers learnt was that timelines are strangely robust when it comes to alterations of routine events with high probabilities. An extra face at a large sporting event makes no difference to or fro. The same goes for any kind of large scale social gathering with a semblance of anonymity – as long as the travelers are part of the crowd and only intervenes in ways heavily scripted by the social situation, their impact is negligible to nonexistent. If something was likely to happen at one particular such gathering, it would happen the next time, had it been prevented somehow

Thus it came to pass that one of the main uses of time travel was to gather contextual information about already known events. In particular, literary scholars sent themselves back in time to attend university lectures and seminars on important (and contemporary) works of fiction. Ironically, authorial intent is a lively business

The 100% televised revolution

The revolution was over. The neo-neoliberals had won. Thus began the comprehensive project of dismantling any and all remnants of the Old Regime, in the name of increasing efficiency and cutting costs

At first, popular support for this was overwhelming. Finally, here was the chance to get revenge on the former powers that be and their seats of power – the universities, the hospitals, the insurance offices, the institutions of unclear but over-funded potentates. It was all swept away, in a procession half celebration half demolition. Everything must go, nothing shall remain

Then, it kept going. Maintaining and renovating public monuments turned out to be an expensive endeavor, so those too had to go. The White House was the first to go – it would be cheaper to run the new government from a low-rent office complex. Then went the Statue of Liberty, overburdened by history as it is. Inevitably, the demolition crews made it to Mount Rushmore – it simply would not do to have this reminder of the now abolished position of presidency around. They were not even fiscally prudent presidents, at that

One might imagine that this creative destruction would lead to a counter-revolution, but it didn’t. Most people were so used to seeing major national monuments destroyed in popular culture that the formality of it actually happening was functionally indistinguishable from its representation. Surprisingly, loyalty to the old regime was a non-starter for the counterrevolution

What got people up in arms was a very small thing. Small, but inevitable. In a chain of events lost to history, Oprah was either killed or executed, alongside the host of some reality show or other. It is very possible that the neo-neoliberal revolution would have remained successful had it but stuck to destroying real monuments instead of representational ones, but alas

One cannot have taxation without representation

All the king’s horses

The book rewarded rereading. In fact, it managed to become an entirely new story upon every subsequent reread, each time from a new point of view. Or, sometimes, from a point of view so thoroughly redefined as to become a new character, for all intents and purposes

Most stopped at their fifth or sixth reread, not because of a sense of having understood it all, but because things ended in a nice place this way. Some, however, had pushed the boundaries and were now at their nineteenth successful redefinition of the narrative, each reread as dramatic as the last one. When asked, however, their responses were either vague or incomprehensible; it is unclear whether this stems from a fear of spoilers, or the impossibility of communicating their understanding to those not already in the know

In an interview, a daring journalist once asked the author how he managed to accomplish this feat of literary polysemy. The author had only shrugged and replied that he only wanted to write a story about someone walking their dog, with some strange happenings along the way. The response from the fanbase was immediate and surprisingly coherent:

The dog? The dog! The dog! The dog? The dog!

Glaucon’s lament

Glaucon was late. Later than fashionably late. It was way past time to get a move on, and high time to embody the notion that everything is change. Given enough velocity, it would be so, regardless of the presence or absence of arguments either way

Making his way downtown, he suddenly found himself in the midst of a crowd of philosophers, arguing. For some seemingly random but probably important reason, they suddenly decided to include him in their argument du jour. Caught between being in a hurry and knowing that any counterargument would be met by increasingly refined and subtle counter-counterarguments, he decided on the spot to apply the one foolproof strategy to get out of this situation

He was going to agree until they caved in and let him go. Surely, even philosophers have limitations to their inquisitive perseverance