[ This is a guest broadcast from the Alternate Reality News Service. ]
1) What is the Alternate Reality News Service?
It’s, uhh, a service that provides news from alternate realities.
2) Like Rush Limbaugh’s brain?
No. Some alternate realities are too dangerous for us to allow our reporters to enter.
3) How does it work?
We use an ion capacitance coil in a particle accelerator to collapse the quantum probabilities of atoms into a different reality than the one that we experience every day. Then, we use a wormhole borrowed from a black hole to transport our journalists between the two realities. The great thing about particles accelerated to near light speeds is that –
4) Whoa! Whoa! Could you explain that in layman’s terms?
Sure. We push the red button, a light goes on in the doorway and we push somebody through it.
5) How do you get the journalists back from the alternate reality?
They’re on a timer.
6) That may be, but how do you get them back?
It’s a really fancy timer. Digital.
7) I’m sure it’s great, but how do you get your journalists back?
We offer them a free meal when they return.
8) That’s it?
You’d be surprised what journalists will do for a free meal.
9) What happens to ARNS reporters who materialize in alternate realities hostile to life?
They make employee of the month.
10) With, like, a plaque on the wall?
Don’t be so cynical. It’s a lovely plaque.
11) Do your correspondents ever bring back pieces of where they’ve been with them?
Oh, sure. It’s hard to get alternate reality out of leather.
12) Isn’t that a problem?
Can be. Funny story: one of our reporters, Alicia Grubskotowskaya, came back from a planet called Ambulster with a fluvianatole. She didn’t know – hee hee – that the fluvianatole was pregnant. Well! Before you could say “If the three yellow suns are aligned, the day will be malign,” the carnivorous race had taken over the Earth, enslaved everybody and started breeding humans for our meat. (They started the human meat farms in countries that already had high levels of obesity – the best argument for dieting we’ve ever heard.) Oops. Our bad.
13) Why don’t I remember any of that?
You don’t? Oh, ahh, we must be getting this mixed up with another reality. Sorry. Still, lesson learned: don’t travel with a fluvianatole unless you know it’s been neutered!
14) Whose idea was the Alternate Reality News Service?
No. But after he bought the ARNS, he had the official history of the organization rewritten so that it would seem as though he had created it.
16) And you accept this?
In most realities, Bill Gates is a small sea slug, so it kind of all works out.
17) How can I become an Alternate Reality News Service journalist?
Not everybody can be an ARNS correspondent. It takes a special mix of nerves of steel, the intelligence to be able to negotiate with living beings that are substantially different than you and the wisdom to know when negotiations are pointless.
18) What if I have my own notepad?
19) Why are all of your correspondents’ names so long?
20) Is the Alternate Reality News Service based in Scandinavia?
No, we just recruit heavily there.
21) Do you have any correspondents from, you know, any alternate realities?
We’ve considered using superthin 17 dimensional beings in universes with conditions that are hostile to human life. We call this our “Stringer Theory.” It’s still a theory because we haven’t found any superthin 17 dimensional beings to test it out on.
22) What’s the strangest alternate reality you’ve got reporters in?
The one where George W. Bush wins the Nobel Prize for Peace, Love and Understanding.
23) What’s so strange about that?
Alfred Nobel made his fortune in dynamite. Where’s the peace, love and understanding in that?
24) All this talk of alien invasions – the truth is that most alternate realities are just as boring as this one, isn’t it?
Look, when you come home from work, do you tell your wife about the three hours you spent filling out requisition forms for photocopier toner cartridges? Of course not. You tell her about the weasel that got into the coffee pot. Yes, okay, most alternate realities are duller than Jimmy Carter. You happy, now? Man, we’ve had enough of this. We’re going to see if any weasels got into the coffee pot.
Excerpted from Alternate Reality Ain’t What It Used To Be. Copyright 2008 by Ira Nayman.
Print versions of Alternate Reality Ain’t What It Used To Be can be purchased through Amazon.com and major bookstores. A complete digital version of the book (except for the amazing cover – sigh) can be found on the Web site Les Pages aux Folles, which also features three new Alternate Reality News Service stories every third week.
The Alternate Reality News Service: “If you don’t like this reality, try another one!”