May 2017

Nerdicon has taken this trend a step further with the addition of a permanent wedding planner to its staff. During the one-week span of the convention, dedicated members may attend up to five weddings a day, with interested parties able to fill out the guestbook with cosplayers of their choice who charge a nominal fee for their appearance.

“Naturally, Klingon weddings are most popular option,” says Sherwood Greg, overall coordinator of Nerdicon and head of the Council of 12. “While health and safety regulations prevent us from using genuine pain sticks or real bat’leths, Nerdicon is able to offer a high level of verisimilitude.”

Sherwood Greg goes on to say that other popular wedding options include elven weddings, stormtrooper weddings, and anime nuptials. “We have a fairly strong divide between people who want to be married as Tolkien elves and people who prefer Dungeons & Dragons elves,” says Sherwood Greg, “but luckily we have enough cosplayers to fill out either.”

One wedding option that is strangely unpopular is superhero weddings. “We’ve actually never had a superhero wedding,” Sherwood Greg says. “The closest we’ve gotten is Superman and Lois Lane, but even that didn’t last and they showed up at the subsequent Nerdicon for a divorce, which we are also able to grant thanks to our Spock also being a notary public.”

Asked why superhero weddings are so unpopular, Sherwood Greg speculated that the frequent deaths of spouses in superhero comics and movies gave people a sense of foreboding or of tempting fate. “Everyone worth their salt knows that Peter Parker’s love life is a mess,” says Greg, “and nobody wants that for themselves. It is also especially tempting for our guests cosplaying as villains attempt to disrupt the ceremonies. That’s not a problem in a Klingon wedding, were disrupting the ceremony is in fact part of the ceremony— look it up if you don’t believe me— but in a superhero wedding it’s a real mood killer.”

Susie Palmer is planning a stormtrooper wedding with her longtime girlfriend May Withers. “I know there aren’t any stormtrooper weddings in the original trilogy, or even in the—noncanonical— prequels and extended universe,” Ms. Palmer said. “But we still feel like having our union blessed by two rigid rows of galactic fascists and presided over by Darth Vader and the Emperor himself is preferable to going before a Republican notary.”

Marcus Dingman, a stormtrooper who was hired off the Nerdicon convention floor to attend the wedding, had nothing but fond wishes for the couple. “Sure they’re paying me 10 bucks to stand around and look intimidating as the Emperor give them lightsaber rings to cauterize each other’s fingers with,” he says, “but it’s really all about the love. I’d honestly do it for a nip of their wedding buffet.”

Asked if the trend toward Nerdicon weddings will eventually become unmanageable, Sherwood Greg had this to say: “if people want to get hitched in costume, we’re happy to take the money. They’re already here for a world-class nerdy experience, and they’re likely already in costume. Charging them a few bucks for extras in the use of one of our Hollywood level backdrops isn’t hurting anybody.”

“Not that I would ever consider such a ceremony,” adds Greg. “I’m married to the con, and she is a very jealous wife.”

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Ellie was always a little concerned when Dr. Harrison pulled her aside. Nurses in the hospital were often on the ragged edge, and incurring the displeasure of one of the residents was a great way to get fired and poison a possible reference. But as soon as he mentioned the name Monica, unknowing sort of quiet came over Ellie.

“It’s happened again,” Harrison said in a low voice. “The cancer ward this time.”

“Tell me all the details,” Ellie said. “You know you can trust me with this. Who else would even believe it?”

“Monica drew a picture of our senior oncologist with a little girl on his shoulder. I’m positive she meant Dr. Shakur because they’re the only one in that entire ward who’s bald.”


“You’re probably not aware of it because you work in pediatrics, but there was a girl in oncology with stage IV liver cancer. They had actually taken her off her regimen and were providing only palliative care, but the test this morning showed she’d gone into remission. Shakur was really fond of her, and was pretty broken up over the whole thing. When he heard the news, he went into the ward and gave her a piggyback ride.”

“Just like Monica’s drawing,” said Ellie. “When are we going to tell people about this? It’s the third time this month.”

“The fourth,” said Dr. Harrison. “I didn’t tell you about when Agatha Chambers died. You’ve got enough on your plate as it is. Monica drew her as an angel, it wasn’t anything disturbing.”

“I say again, when are we going to tell people about this? This could be a situation where curing every illness is one crayon drawing away.”

“It could also be a coincidence,” Harrison said, “or at least dismissed as one. Do you really want to be the one who squashes the miracle by trying to study it? By putting a price tag on it?”

“You sound like you’re afraid, doctor,” said Ellie.

“You know what really scares me?” Harrison said. “If I’m the one who lines up ruining that poor girl’s life and she decides to draw me in a noose.”

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It was really a rather remarkably freeing decision. Once she decided, Anna felt a lot of the stress and anxiety that had bedeviled her over the last few difficult months starting to peel away like layers of a rancid onion. Throwing on a few close that happen to be on the floor in the bedroom, and not even the least wrinkled ones, she went out to the balcony that she shared with the vacant apartment next door. In fact, she was the sole remaining tenant of her four-unit building, and one of only 15 people in the entire complex, a complex originally built for 100.

The others had moved away due to the spiraling downward trend of the neighborhood, which is the only reason and Anna had stayed: it was the only rent she could afford on her meager salary as a waitress and substitute teacher. The weight of that knowledge, and the various valuable things that have been burgled from her apartment over the past six months, were one part of the puzzle. The intense feeling of inadequacy that had dogged her heels all the way to South Carolina was another. Everyone had expected great things of the valedictorian, even if it was of a tiny rural school. Her professors at art school had been a rhapsody of praise and encouragement.

And yet here she was, the shadow of squandered potential hanging over her head like the sword of Damocles, until her decision.

She drug a lawn chair out to the balcony, one that until recently been serving double duty as a dining room chair, and set it near the edge. Then, she retrieved a bottle from under the sink, one that hadn’t seen in any use since her charcoal grill had been stolen.

Sam’s Club sold a big bottle though, and it was more than enough to soak every surface in the apartment in a dripping sheen of accelerant. Taking up a perch in the lawn chair, Anna lit a match and flicked it through the open door. Facing away from the heat, she listened to the smoke alarm sing its baleful song until it died.

Everything her life had been, everything she’d accumulated, was in that apartment. In choosing to sacrifice it all on an altar like this, especially one, like as not, to see her charged with arson, hadn’t been an easy choice.

But, as Anna heard the first sirens in the distance and the growing warmth behind her, she was convinced it had been the right decision. When they came, and asked her what was going on, she simply planed to shrug, and say “I needed to make a change.”

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“Aah!” Chris cried out as the fangs sank into her neck. A few moments of frenzies sucking later, and she whas cast aside.

“What do you?” She cried. “How be? Why talk no good?”

“Because I’m a grammarpire, my dear,” said the creature, licking its fangs. “I’ve sucked every ounce of good grammar from your poor body.”

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“There was a fortress town here on the island, with an abbey and everything. And then, in 1421, it was just abandoned.”

“Why’s that?”

“The sea-cliff collapsed and blocked the only beach access. People had to climb over ropes to get into fishing boats to take them to the mainland once the food started to run out. There was nowhere safe to land anymore.”

“But people still got onto the island.”

“Oh yes, it’s pretty dangerous to land but you can do it if you don’t mind possibly holing your skiff and getting stranded. You can see graffiti and all that up there, and the locals have been nabbing the choicest stones for their own uses for ages. But not anymore.”

“Why not?”

“They arrest people now, after some poor kids drowned trying to save their mate who broke his arm up there.”

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“Yes, the surveyor told him, but the Colonel was a man who knew what he wanted and meant to get it. He asked how long it would be before Cliffsby fell into the sea, and the surveyor told him fifty years. To that, the colonel replied that he was a sixty-year-old man and he wouldn’t live another fifty even if he took up residence in the operating theatre at St. Bedford’s.”

“And now that time has come?”

“Soon enough. You’ve seen the cracks. The Colonel wanted Cliffsby as a retreat, as a symbol, and as a place to put all of his money so that his children, whom he loathed, wouldn’t see a cent.”

“That’s where I come in, I suppose. His daughter Bertha wants all the furniture appraised so it can be sold. I’ve one week to do it.”

“Ha! Ten years ago that never would’ve happened. But now that Agnes and Clara have died, and Doris is an invalid drooling at a wall, I suppose Bertha sees her way clear.”

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GesteCo’s colonization scheme was simple: seeding barren worlds in the habitable zones of stars with hardy terraforming plants, then shipping in a jump gate for an official survey crew. The planets were each given marketing-friendly names coined by a dedicated AI, and the survey crew would lay out an initial colony for investors and settlers. With any luck, GesteCo would recieve a 1000% return on its investment within 25 years, to say nothing of longer-term profits.

Aerna (original designation: J20383259+4601983 c) was one such planet, and the survey crew found the terraforming plants to have succeeded brilliantly, warming the world such that its ice caps had shrunk and generated a terrain of stark waterfalls and caverns. It was in one of these caverns near the colony site that the crew discovered the spheres.

They ranged from just a few centimeters to tens of meters in diameter, featureless and stony, and most strikingly they hovered 1-2 meters off the ground without any visible means of support.

GesteCo, panicked at possibly violating their contract not to develop worlds of “historical or biological interest,” immediately called for a government investigation. It was found that the spheres were of the same composition and age as the rocks around them, there were no indications of tool marks, and that their floating was the result of an anomaly in Aerna’s magnetic field combined with a very ferrous composition in the rocks.

The Spheres of Aerna quickly became a tourist attraction, but the debate as to their origin remains open. It’s possible they formed naturally through some unlikely geological process, or that they were placed by an unknown intelligence.

In the meantime, GesteCo has been content to pocket the results of tourist spending and scientific analysis alike.

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