This is Clifton “Sagebrush” Lowe, reporting for the Prosperity Falls Futurist. As part of our continuing series on “People in the News” I interviewed Virginia MacNeil, late of the Prosperity Rangers, on the circumstances of her dismissal from that storied organization.

LOWE: To what gainful purpose have you put your so-called skills to now that the Rangers have permanently expelled you from their ranks for cowardice and recklessness?

MACNEIL: I’m working as a guard for the Chatham Stage Company now, and they’re lucky to have me. They know what the Rangers don’t: these skills are in the blood. It’s not about practice or anything like that; I come from a line of people who can shoot straight and hit hard, and that why I’m the best at what I do.

LOWE: This despite your well-known loss to young Mr. Sullivan at the Ranger Trials?

MACNEIL: He caught me off-guard, and is a low-down, dirty sneak and cheat. You can take that to the bank and cash it in.

LOWE: Could the words you had not moments ago for the convalescing Mr. Sullivan indicate a latent and passionate longing? What truly defines love for an ex-Ranger?

MACNEIL: Love is about being equal or better than somebody, and I don’t see a lick of that in Sullivan. He’s haughty, insulting, and superior, putting on more airs than a perfume factory and more full of insults than a whorehouse for a cheap john.

LOWE: So by her own definition of love, Miss MacNeil has been laid low by Ranger Sullivan!

MACNEIL: I hope for his recovery only that I might have a chance to show him up once more and that the Rangers might see that my so-called mistakes weren’t so bad. They’re between me and God, not me and the Rangers–who’re they to say I was wrong when I’m just doing what comes naturally, what I was made to do?

LOWE: There can be no secrets from the Great Watchmaker, it’s true.

MACNEIL: Well…I’m not sure if he knows about the stack of Horatio Alger pulps behind the loose board in my room, especially not the ones where the hero’s name is crossed out and I wrote my own in. If Adam knew that I was reading the same thing that the Prosperity Library burned in a heap last year…

LOWE: Salacious! I would opine that the Great Watchmaker does in fact know all about your stash of pulp rubbish. Then again, but your earlier argument, since he made the man who made them, the fault lies not with that pulp-peddler Alger but rather the Watchmaker himself.

MACNEIL: Yeah! I fit hadn’t been meant to be read, it wouldn’t have been written!

LOWE: And I suppose the same can be said of homemaking guides for young ladies?


LOWE: Fair enough. If you could tell your own story your own way, how would it go?

MACNEIL: Dashing, beautiful, and talented Ranger Virginia MacNeil, daughter of late Marshals Vincent and Patricia MacNeil, has risen from hardship to glory! People constantly underestimated her, called her stupid and boastful and idle and lazy and such, but she has proven them wrong in spectacular fashion by saving Prosperity Falls from forces that would destroy it from the inside and the outside! Like the hero of a Horatio Alger novel–and in fact Alger is hard at work adapting her own story for worldwide publication–she pulled herself up by her bootstraps and triumphed!

LOWE: So you count being the daughter of two of the most famous Rangers and being admitted to the Rangers despite failing the admission test and having your brother’s successful ranch at your back as Horatio Alger style hardship?

MACNEIL: Shut up.

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Partial transcript from the February 24, 2013 interview of Petra Burgess by Jerry Sovak of WKΔD Radio.

JERRY SOVAK: I’m here with Petra Burgess, who has recently been at the center of come controversy over her “Fair Trade Coffee for the People of Syria” sketch on LNTV.

PETRA BURGESS: “Some controversy?” Don’t soft-pedal it, Jerry. My Twitter feed turned into a river of fire not seen since the days of Vesuvius.

SOVAK: You’ve been accused of being insensitive to the plight of the Syrian people, and sexism and racism for the parody of Halle Berry suggesting that the Syrian rebels ought to be more concerned with the provenance of their coffee than anything else. Stubb’s Coffee didn’t like seeing their logo on the fair trade coffee that was being “airlifted” to the people in the sketch, either.

BURGESS: I was worried they wouldn’t notice, actually. I’m also very upset that I haven’t heard from anyone about making the Predator drone pilot an effeminate Marine or from the dig at the Sarah McLachlan commercials about the icky puppies, only this time with the puppies replaced with coffee beans.

SOVAK: So you’re…you’re upset that more people weren’t offended? Unpack that a little for us, Petra.

BURGESS: You see people talking a lot about being gadflies and equal opportunity offenders. What that usually means is that they’re gadflies to people they don’t like and their idea of equal opportunity offensiveness means offending both moderate and conservative Republicans. The problem is that there are so many unspoken sacred cows in entertainment in general and Hollywood in particular that no one dares to touch. It might as well be blacklisted, against the Hays code.

SOVAK: So you were trying, with your sketch, to offend everybody at once?

BURGESS: Well I tried to be as offensive as possible to as many people as possible, sure. But I also focused on those sacred cows, people and causes that never get critiqued or tweaked or smeared with satire because they’re too near and dear to the hearts of Hollywood.

SOVAK: Is that an expression of your own political views, then?

In as much as I have any, yes. Don’t go mistaking me for a Republican; their starched collars need to be tweaked, and often, and badly. But don’t go lumping me in with the Democrats, either–if anything they need a harsher beating because they have so many friends in my industry. My politics are simple: everything needs to be made fun of in the most uncompromising terms to keep them defensive. Keep ’em off-balance and people are less likely to let them get away with murder.

SOVAK: Could you…distill that a little bit for us? It sounds like you’re giving advice to other would-be satirists out there. Break that down to a one-liner for us, if you would.

Satire: if there’s a group out there who isn’t burning you in effigy, you’re doing it wrong.

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Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from a November 23, 1975 WHPL interview with French filmmaker Auguste Des Jardins prior to the American release of his final completed film. Des Jardins’ film, Le fantôme de la lande (released internationally as The Ghost of the Moors), was a major success in France and a minor success elsewhere. Critics usually regard it as a “lesser” work when compared to Des Jardins’ other films (most notably his masterpiece Les trois Juliets), but its immersiveness and potent psychological horror profoundly influenced later filmmakers’ own horror efforts. Notable proponents of the film who cited it as an influence include Kubrick, Carpenter, Craven, and King. Des Jardins died suddenly four months after the interview was recorded leaving a number of incomplete projects; it was his last public appearance and one of only a handful of times he was interviewed in English.

INTERVIEWER: You’ve constructed a–such a really effective, one might even say horrifying in the most flattering possible sense, ghost story. So the question, ah, suggests itself: do you, yourself, believe in ghosts?

DES JARDINS: I don’t believe in ghosts. I believe in humans, fantastic creatures who tirelessly search for the answers to impossible questions, who cannot resist a good story, and who are so adept at seeing things that aren’t there they’ve made it a billion-dollar industry.

INTERVIEWER: And yet you’ve created a–well, directed a film which features them–ghosts, that is–in a starring, ah, role. Would you care to speak to the, ah, apparent contradiction of a man who does not believe in ghosts directing a ghost story?

DES JARDINS: You believe the film is about ghosts? Perhaps you should watch it again.

[gentle laughter from DES JARDINS, INTERVIEWER, and AUDIENCE]

DES JARDINS: That knock on the door late at night, that spectral form prowling the ancient halls? They are as much in our minds as one’s imagination, one’s soul, one’s neuroses. Oh, there may well be some slight external reinforcement–a gust of wind here, a reflected shaft of moonlight there–but it’s the human mind that provides the essential pieces.

INTERVIEWER: So the film is, well, about as much about what’s in the character’s heads a-as what they experience supernaturally?

DES JARDINS: It is entirely about what is in their heads, my friend. Think about it: our minds are the lens through which we must experience all the world has to offer. Yet we know from dreaming that the mind has no inherent rules, and that it is certainly not bound to any of the petty laws of the outside world. The central assertion my film makes–that all of my films make–is that we exist in a strata of rules and laws imposed from without. The film, the book, the painting, even the brightly painted schoolbus–all represent chinks through which we can glimpse a purer world from which all constraints have been removed.

INTERVIEWER: So you, ah, see your work as having a somewhat…a somewhat wider context than a single story, is that it?

DES JARDINS: If I can take viewers to a place where, for whatever reason and by whatever mechanism, they are able to make their own laws of nature, motion, and time, then I will be happy.

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This post is part of the April Blog Chain at Absolute Write. This month’s challenge is to describe one of your characters in 50 words or less and then have that character interview you.

Peg Gregory has found herself in the place she’s always dreaded—a dead end. Stuck hauling supplies to a backwater planet no one’s ever cared about, there’s nothing to do but sell homemade beer and lob verbal grenades at her crewmates. They claim Peg’s being insubordinate; she finds it liberating.

“So, what special kind of madness has you thinking of signing on with the United Nations Transport Service?” said the recruiter behind the desk—Peg, according to her name tag.

“Well, I love to travel and see exotic places, but space travel is expensive,” I said. “I figure that a tour with the UNTS will let me get a good bead on spaceflight and maybe pay back a few outstanding student loans. See the universe, earn some scratch.”

“Of course. How do you feel about endless expanses of boring blackness, punctuated with beat-up hulks of stations and eight hours of leave on a pissant rock with fewer inhabitants than your high school and about as many opportunities for sightseeing?”

“Not…as good,” I replied sheepishly. “But a rock’s a rock, and I’ve only seen one so far. I also think you’re underestimating my high school. The ceiling tiles had some really interesting rust stains.”

Peg rolled her eyes and filled out he requisite line on the application. “Let me ask you this, then: ever get seasick?”

I nodded. “Once, but in my defense there was a swarm of jellyfish involved.”

“Imagine the worst, pukingest, colon-twistingest part of that, and multiply it by a hundred. That’s launch and soft landing, every time, all the time. Also happens when the gravity goes out, which happens a lot on the rattletrap tubs they throw you on. Ever see vomit in zero-g? You’ll be able to write a master’s thesis on it before you’re done with training.”

My stomach churned just thinking about it. “That’s why God invented dramamine.”

“Yes, nothing like a drowsy helmsman on a trillion-dollar tub.” Peg drawled, filling out another portion of the app. “Afraid of heights?”

“Only when I’m near the edge, and even then peer pressure will get me to the lip. I even went all the way to the very edge of Victoria Falls once, on a dare from my brother.”

Another part of the form scribbled in. “You do know that space is nothing more than one gigantic neverending drop, right? You’re always on the edge.”

I shrugged. “Seems like you are too.”

Peg gritted her teeth. “You know what? I was trying to save you from making the same mistakes I did. But if you insist, then screw it. I’m filling out the rest of your application for you. Top marks across the board.”

Check out this month’s other bloggers, all of whom have posted or will post their own responses:
Yoghurtelf(link to this month’s post)
COchick(link to this month’s post)
Steam&Ink(link to this month’s post)
xcomplex(link to this month’s post)
pezie(link to this month’s post)
aimeelaine(link to this month’s post)
auburnassassin(link to this month’s post)
Della Odell(link to this month’s post)
Juniper(link to this month’s post)
Proach(link to this month’s post)
allmyposts(link to this month’s post)
jkellerford (link to this month’s post)
LadyMage(link to this month’s post)
dolores haze(link to this month’s post)
Inkstrokes(link to this month’s post)

“You can’t treat people like that,” Jerry cried, leaning forward in his seat and filling the camera. “Doesn’t matter who they are. He crossed the line!”

“Uh, okay,” the interviewer said, sounding every bit of their 16 years. “Could we get back to the…”

“No,” Jerry said. “I’m going to finish what I had to say, and you’re going to sit there and tape it for your class.”

Whispers were heard as the interviewer conferred with his cameraman and note-taker. “Kay,” the interviewer whispered, miserably.

“You don’t treat people like that. You just don’t. So I got to talking to some of my friends about how to set things right. And soon they got to talking with even more people. Seems like he and his made a fair share of enemies acting the way they did…but I bet they never thought they’d see twenty of us coming to put them down for good.”