Monday, August 29, 2005

You're Fired

This is the story of a corporation.

There are many corporations in the world, and some of these corporations own smaller corporations. All of these smaller corporations have their own corporate structures that fit within the framework of larger structures. Sometimes the infinitely digressive nature of corporate insularity protects the smaller companies from the larger companies. Sometimes a larger company wakes up after a long slumber and realizes that the smaller companies in its belly have not, in fact, dissolved in a stew of gastric juices, but have in fact evolved into strange quasi-independent entities that exist in little or no relation to the prerogatives of the larger companies.

One fine day, in the boardrooms of XXXX-XXXXXX, a minor executive was called before a major executive to deliver a status report.

"Um. I see we still publish these things. I didn't know that. That was a surprise to me."

"Yes sir. We still publish these things."

"I thought it was just cartoons . . . oh well. From the looks of these reports, you've had a good year - consistent growth from quarter-to-quarter."

"We've streamlined a number of line-wide initiatives -"

"Yes, yes, I don't really care about all that. You know we've always allowed you to operate with a modicum of autonomy as long as you provide us with the raw materials for cartoons and movies. That's what I'm here to talk to you about today."

"It's been a big year for our movies. After the regrettable XXXXXXXX fiasco, we seem to have recovered well."

"That was the last dog we'll see for a long time, with any luck. We've got half-a-dozen solid blockbusters in the pipeline, all of which originated in your department. Now, I heard you organized your own publishing launch to coincide with the XXXXXX movie . . . how did that go?"

"Brilliantly. XXX-XXXX XXXXXX X XXXXX XXX XXX XXXXXXX broke sales records for the decade-to-date and dominated the competition. It will be our biggest seller for the year and will undoubtedly do well in collection for years to come."

"Yes, I saw that in this prospectus . . . on paper, it looks wonderful. Now, you know we're already working on the next XXXXXX movie. This last one didn't make quite as much money as we would have hoped but considering how bad the last one was we figure in another two or three years the pump will be primed for an explosive success, as long as the quality is there. Now that the bad taste of XXXXXX X XXXXX is out of people's mouths, we can focus the next few years on selling XXXXXX DVDs, underwear and comics to our hearts content. You should probably know that the people in the big office are starting to pay more attention to your division - they expect big things."

"We aim to please."

"Now, about XXX-XXXX XXXXXX X XXXXX XXX XXX XXXXXXX - what we hoped was that, to put it bluntly, we could get a XXXXXX comic that anyone could read without any knowledge of any past stories. Basically, anyone who walked off the street after seeing the movie could find the same character they just saw on the screen doing similar things. No fancy tricks. Quite honestly, we know that you folks know how best to publish your comics, but most of them are essentially gobbledygook."

"Ah . . . well, we've taken steps to ensure that the XXX-XXXX line will be as accessible as possible. We've got the best creators in the field.

"I hope, for your sake, that this is so. Now, a couple years ago, XXXX had that XXXXXX-XXX movie that was so big . . . my kids loved it. Took them to see it three times. Then, for Christmas, we got them a book - I can't get them to look at most of our stuff, they just like the Yu-Gi-Oh! crap - but it was a book that had simple, accessible XXXXXX-XXX stories in it . . . what was it? Ultimate something or other . . ."

"We don't use that word here! Say 'iconic!' Not 'ultimate!' Never 'ultimate!'

"Why, you seem to be rather upset - hear, take my handkerchief, you've got a bit of spittle on your chin. You shouldn't be so upset. A good initiative is a good initiative - nothing succeeds like success. That's why we copy success."

"We're not copying them. We're producing iconic-

"I hope for your sake you are copying them, because it's working. I can walk into Barnes & Noble, and that might be the only American comic book I can give my kid that he would have a damn bit of interest in. What I want from you is simple - a XXXXXX comic I can give my kid that he would want to read and doesn't need a PHd in Nerd to understand."

"Well, have you read it yet?"

"No, I was hoping you had a copy."

I do. We all carry copies for just such an occasion."

The book is exchanged. Five minutes pass.



"This isn't quite what I was expecting."

"Ah . . . how so?"

"This writer . . . what's his name . . . ah, XXXXXX. I recognize that name. Has he ever written a XXXXXX comic before?"

Yes, he wrote some of the best XXXXXX stories ever published. That's why it was such a coup to land him for XXX-XXXX XXXXXX X XXXXX XXX XXX XXXXXXX."

"Well, this is a piece of crap. This dialogue is horrible. The plot is infantile. You've turned XXXXXX into a pedophile."

"Ah, sir, this is the biggest book of the year . . ."

"I understand that. How many people bought this?"

"We sold almost 300,000 copies."

"How many copies of the second issue do you think you'll sell?"

Probably not as many . . . attrition is expected with these type of events."

"I see. I suppose you think that's natural. Let me ask you why you chose to hire someone to write a XXXXXX comic book who betrays, on almost every page, a visible disinterest in writing a XXXXXX comic book?"

"But sir, he's XXXXX XXXXXX . . ."

"I know who he is. This reads like he wrote it in an hour on the back of a cocktail napkin."

"No, no, you don't understand. It's satire. He's known for hard-boiled stories, and if you've read his previous XXXXXX books you'll see this is a logical progression-"

"Satire. This is your big publishing initiative, the publishing accompaniment to one of the biggest movies of the summer, the gateway book for a whole new generation of XXXXXX fans . . . a satire that depends on years of prior knowledge of both the character's history and the writer's career, and which, even then can easily be misinterpreted as simply a poorly written comic book?"

"Er, yes."

"Do you understand why that might be something of a disappointment to us?"


"If you try to defend this as satire to the man on the street, who is the presumed target of any 'iconic' treatment such as this, you will get a look of baffled indifference. Satire only works if your audience is familiar with the subject matter. I can't put this in a hardcover and sell it in the window at Barnes & Noble, not if I ever want to sell another comic to a general audience again. it would poison the well for generations to come."

"But it was the best-selling book-"

"Which is all well and good, but we were hoping for something more long-time, the kind of evergreen success that might conceivably have justified the rather high corporate bonuses your division received last year. Perhaps your division will need to be held to closer scrutiny in the future."

"Well, sir, if you're not happy, I can assure you-"

"You need assure me of nothing. You are fired."

"Um. Um. Yes sir.

Then the major executive tore off his man suit, revealing a body composed of undulating tentacles and teeth. The minor executive only had a moment to lament his error before being ground up into tiny pieces and digested by the massive abomination from beyond the stars.

The End

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