Where Have All the Robots Gone?

What’s in a word? Letters. Vowels, consonants, grammar occasionally.

Words are by far the greatest invention of humanity. Words are singularly responsible for civilization – and all the great and good, and evil and bad that that implies. I’m not a logophile as such, but I do love words. It’s part of the reason I aspire to be a writer, working with words is fun, and usually quite safe. Though there are some very dangerous words out there.

Words do have power though, in theory they shouldn’t. When spoken their just a random collection of noises we’ve learned to pattern together, likewise when they’re written it’s just scratchings in a small place. But these patterns are ingrained on our childish brains, and reinforced through strict regimes of practice, and necessity. And because our brains aren’t perfect, those patterns get loaded with a load of useless data as well – whether it’s random trivia, a memory, or an emotion. We love to charge words with emotions, and the emotions give the words far greater intent.

So, when clearing out some of my Twitter favourites from the past three years, (on my personal account, rather than my newer and not yet swamped in favourites writer twitter account), I came across this little gem.

While you’re at it, check out the Google Ngram of “literally” use over the years: http://j.mp/gkxMHR

Posted back in June 2011.

The word literally doesn’t do a great deal for me, but as soon as you see that tool – you can’t help but start firing words at it. And so I did, and it’s amazing the stories you can see in the graphs it produces. I set the Ngram Viewer to English, rather than English fiction. I wanted to see the effect on the whole of the English language dataset, rather than on fiction. With fictional elements, and concepts, obviously the effect will be greater in the smaller fictional dataset. Have a play, and see what I mean.

So, to start with I used the theme from today’s flash fic, zombies:

Zombies on Google’s Ngram Viewer

From Word Usage Post

Which as you can see is a fairly recent trend to use it, though I’m intrigued to find the uses of it in the 20’s and 30’s. The word undead shows a similar pattern. I’ve circled the bit I find particularly interesting, zombies are big business at the moment, with a TV series of the walking dead, and a few films due. There’s a zombie survival fitness training app doing the rounds, and numerous live role-playing zombie games going on. Yet while it’s still rising, it looks to be staling, the speed of the rise is slowing considerably.

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Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 20: The Wheel of Life

This is the 20th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing from 2nd December 2012 until the 1st December 2013. It’s intent is to keep me writing throughout the year, and not just in November. you can find out more about the challenge here.

Banquet for the Lost, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 21st December 2012

Word count: 999

Theme: drama, gambling, holiday, letting loose

The story:

Peter Simmons was a careful man, usually, he didn’t gamble, didn’t risk. Life was too precious to waste. So how he came to be in a casino gambling on his life on a roll of the dice was somewhat out of character.

It all started three days ago, he’d had to come to the South of France on work business. For some reason his boss felt he was the perfect person to go to buy up a collection of rare wines.

“Safe pair of hands,” his boss had noted, it somehow irked him more than it should. The fact he was being forced to take a weeks leave as well, (“You’ve got too many holidays unused, everyone needs time off”), only added to the annoyance.

Was this his life? Safe pair of hands? Something inside him just clicked, and so he went to France determined to enjoy himself on the company’s dime.

That wasn’t so easy, outside of work and his books, Peter had little else. So he did the most obvious thing, he went to a vineyard.

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Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 19: Banquet for the Lost

This is the 19th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing from 2nd December 2012 until the 1st December 2013. It’s intent is to keep me writing throughout the year, and not just in November. you can find out more about the challenge here.

Banquet for the Lost, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 20th December 2012

Word count: 977

Theme: drama, families, atonement, reunion, discovery, history

The story:

Katherine smoothed off her red dress, though the material was sheer and seemed immune to creasing, it was a self concious act. Katherine felt seriously out of her depth right now.

“Relax, you’ll be fine I promise,” Luther said with that overly warm smile. He was a middle aged man with a German accent, he looked swathe in his perfectly fitted tuxedo, gold cuff links  and just the barest hint of cologne. He was also a bloody good salesman, and Katherine would know she considered herself as a pretty good one, yet he’d been able to convince her, a perfect stranger to come to this fancy dinner party.

“Maybe I should go, I don’t fit in here,” she said, and it was true. As people filed in they wore the expensive clothes and jewellery with ease, most seemed middle aged, and well preserved.

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Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 18: Crewing the Spaceways

This is the 18th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing from 2nd December 2012 until the 1st December 2013. It’s intent is to keep me writing throughout the year, and not just in November. you can find out more about the challenge here.

Crewing the Spaceways, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 19th December 2012

Word count: 773

Theme: sci fi, star ship, memoirs of a space pirate, the small details, exploring a point, understanding

The story:

“Right, you take the left bank of the cooling systems, I’ll take the right,” the engineer, Chief Rawlings said to his young apprentice.

“What I don’t understand,” the apprentice, John Bernard started.

“What you don’t understand could fill a billion volumes of the Encyclopaedia Britannia,and still need an extra forest for more paper,” the engineer said snappily.

“I’m sorry I said anything,” John said, feeling embarrassed. It was his first day on the job, and only his third hour into the shift, and Captain Arsené Frassin had already called duty stations to alert, there was something going on, not that anyone would tell John what. ‘For a pirate ship, sorry privateer ship, they were as tight lipped as any military star ship,’ he thought to himself.

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