Viable Paradise: A Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers' Workshop

The Evil Overlord Devises a Plot

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III. Things We Learned at the Movies

1. If you try hard enough, you can outrun an explosion.

2. If your town is threatened by an imminent natural disaster or killer beast, the mayor's first concern will be the tourist trade or his forthcoming art exhibition.

3. Natural disasters only occur after the local mayor scoffs at the possibility.

4. If an expert makes a prediction and is disbelieved, then it will come to pass exactly as he predicted. If he makes a prediction and is believed, it won't happen.

5. Women staying in a haunted house should investigate any strange noises while wearing their most revealing underwear.

6. Women's skin and hair can't be damaged by natural disasters, though their clothing can be shredded -- except for the bits required for minimal decency, which are made from completely indestructible fabric.

7. If a man and a woman are exposed to the same conditions and the same environment, the man will need to wear more clothing than the woman.

8. If a man and a woman meet under circumstances under which any two normal people would instantly hate each other, they will marry before the picture is over.

9. Deadly reptiles will always attack a woman first, even if she's in the presence of thirty men.

10. Women are immortal unless they take off their shirts or they're ugly.

11. If a woman takes a bath, bubbles will cover the naughty bits. If she takes a shower and reveals her naughty bits, she will die.

12. If a blonde and a brunette are in equal peril, the brunette will die.

13. White characters have the best survival rate.

14. High class strippers with a heart of gold can will, if the plot demands it, turn out to have specialized technical skills and abilities.

15. Most human action is initiated by shy loners.

16. All bombs are fitted with electronic timing devices with large red readouts so you know exactly when they're going to go off.

17. It's easy to pull the pin on a grenade with your teeth.

18. An explosive device capable of leveling a large office building will fit inside a toolbox or small backpack.

19. Potentially fatal attacks are always preceded by a false alarm a few seconds earlier.

20. Any lock can be picked by a credit card or a paper clip in seconds -- unless it's the door to a burning building with a child trapped inside.

21. Cars that crash will almost always burst into flames.

22. A million dollars in cash or cocaine will invariably take up exactly the amount of space available in your briefcase.

23. The only people who ride city busses are "victims."

24. The universal medical procedure is defibrilation. Any time an EMT appears in a scene he/she will defibrilate someone before going back home. ER doctors defibrilate all patients, regardless of complaint.

25. If defibrillation doesn't work, the best way to revive someone whose heart has stopped is to scream "You can't do this to me! I love you, goddammit!" at them.

26. There are only a few real medical problems. Cancer means "I am being taken out of the plot soon and must tie up my affairs." Brain injuries and tumors mean the plot is going to hinge on amnesia. Bad skin problems signify the same character constellation that Elizabethans associated with bastardy.

27. A cup of black coffee/splash of cold water in face is enough to render the most inebriated person stone cold sober.

28. Creepy music coming from a graveyard should always be closely investigated.

29. All minorities possess mystical knowledge. If they wind up in a fight where their choice of method is either Western technology or somekinda mystical tribal thing, the fight cannot end until the former has failed them and the latter has been invoked.

30. The Chief of Police is always black.

31. If an investigation proves dfficult, a Chief of Police will either suspend his star detective or give him 48 hours to finish the job. A detective can only solve a case once he has been suspended from duty.

32. Police departments give their officers personality tests to make sure they are deliberately assigned a partner who is their total opposite.

33. During all police investigations it will be necessary to visit a strip club at least once.

34. Action heroes never face charges for manslaughter or criminal damage despite laying entire cities to waste.

35. If you need to reload your gun, you will always have more ammunition -- even if you haven't been carrying any before now.

36. The more people there are firing at you, the less likely they are to hit you.

37. You can only threaten someone with a gun if you are within arm's reach of them.

38. If a man with a machine gun and a man with a pistol have a gunfight, the man with the pistol will win.

39. One man shooting at twenty men has a better chance of killing them all than twenty men firing at one.

40. The world's most accurate, easy-to-use weapon is the .38 cal revolver with a 3" barrel.

41. Guns are like disposable razors. If you run out of bullets, just throw the gun away. You can always find a new one lying around the next time you need one.

42. Give a man one gun and he's Superman. Give him two, and he's God.

43. No one ever aims at the legs of a monster that's chasing them. They just keep running away, pausing every now and then to pump bullets into its torso, until it overtakes and kills them.

44. No matter how dead you think you've killed a bad guy, he can still get up at least three more times.

45. Cats are spring-loaded, and are most commonly found inside closets or cabinets which are equipped with doors that can't be operated by cats.

46. The strongest force governing human survival is the possession of a name.

47. It is possible to use a helicopter to sneak up on someone.

48. A monster can always sneak up on you, no matter how big or clumsy it is.

49. It's easy to walk through an unfamiliar forest on a moonless night.

50. A leap from a hotel roof is completely safe as long as you can land in the pool.

51. Most laptop computers are powerful enough to handle realtime videophone contact, and can override the communication systems of any invading alien civilization.

52. Any self-respecting modem can handle about two gigabytes of data per second.

53. Interbreeding is genetically possible with any creature from elsewhere in the universe.

54. Attractive women sometimes fall for weird-looking aliens, but attractive men only fall for attractive women.

55. The feasibility of an idea is inversely proportional to its initial apparent plausibility.

56. All writers are wealthy; all publishing companies are glamorous; all artists are self-supporting and have large attractive well-lit loft studios.

57. If being chased through town, you can usually take cover in a passing St. Patrick's Day parade -- no matter what time of year it is. If you can't find a St. Patrick's Day parade, try for a Chinese New Year celebration and hide in the dragon.

58. A pudgy older star who's visibly falling behind his partner during a chase scene will catch up with him while the camera's looking away.

59. If a gas station and a man with a machine gun appear in the same scene, before the scene ends the gas station will explode. The same is true of fuel drums.

60. If you are trapped in a tunnel, in a sinking ship, or a burning building, a cute little girl, a nun, and a feisty granny will be trapped with you.

61. It's easy for anyone to land a plane, provided there is someone in the control tower to talk you down.

62. The ventilation system of any building is the perfect hiding place. No one will ever think of looking for you in there. And you can travel to any other part of the building you want without difficulty.

63. No ship, base, or compound ever has more than one emergency radio.

64. By the 24th century the concepts of circuit breakers, fuses, and uninterruptable power supplies will have been lost.

65. Although in the 20th century it is possible to fire weapons at an object out of our visual range, people of the 23rd century will have lost this technology.

66. In the future, everyone will spend their time standing around explaining everyday objects and practices to each other in terms of their Twentieth-Century equivalents.

67. No monster-killing stratagem can be used more than once, even if it only failed through some bizarre fluke. Neither can it be refined and tried again. You have to start over with a completely different approach.

68. No matter how badly a spaceship is attacked, its internal gravity system is never damaged.

69. All aliens have single monolithic culture: one language, one religion, one outfit, one planet.

70. Good chess players can see fifteen or twenty moves ahead, in detail, from a middle game, where there are still many pieces on the board.

71. It does not matter if you are heavily outnumbered in a fight involving martial arts -- your enemies will wait patiently to attack you one by one by dancing around in a threatening manner until you have knocked out their predecessors.

72. You're very likely to survive any battle in any war -- unless you make the mistake of showing someone a picture of your sweetheart back home.

73. Should you wish to pass yourself off as a German officer, it will not be necessary to speak the language. A German accent will do.

74. When they are alone, all foreigners prefer to speak English to each other.

75. You can see the Eiffel Tower from every window in Paris.

76. All telephone numbers in America begin with the digits 555.

77. A man will show no pain while taking the most ferocious beating, but will wince when a woman tries to clean his wounds.

78. Medieval peasants had perfect teeth.

79. The jungles of Vietnam were filled with Nautilus machines.

80. Stripping to the waist makes a man invulnerable to bullets.

81. Magical forces cluster in the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.

82. Any person waking from a nightmare will sit bolt upright and pant.

83. If you have sex in the woods, you will die in the woods.

84. All beds have special "L"-shaped sheets which reach up to the armpit level on a woman but only to waist level on the man lying beside her.

85. All grocery shopping bags used to contain a bunch of celery. Now they all contain a baguette.

86. Even when driving down a perfectly straight road, it is necessary to turn the steering wheel vigorously from left to right every few moments.

87. If there is a large bump in a downhill road, a speeding car will fly over it and hit the ground in shower of sparks. Unsecured passengers will not be injured, and no tire damage, broken axles, or suspension failures will occur. The car will then execute a sharp turn involving a skid.

88. If, during a fencing match, the combatants demonstrate their skill by cutting through all the candles on a candelabrum, the light level in the room will remain constant.

89. A slight blow to the head can cause total amnesia, but neither that nor a blow sufficient to knock a person unconscious is enough to cause concussion or other brain damage.

90. Losing a hand causes the stump of your arm to grow six inches.

91. Gunshot wounds will not disable you as long as you still have an important task left to do.

92. No one dies in an elevated position without falling from there to the ground, even if they have to jump to do it.

93. Anyone who falls from a high place while dying will let out a loud sustained shriek, even if they've just been shot several times in the chest.

94. No one involved in a car chase, hijacking, explosion, volcanic eruption or alien invasion will ever go into shock.

95. Any government-developed virus or biological agent will have no known cure.

96. An electric fence, powerful enough to kill a dinosaur, will cause no lasting damage to an eight year old child.

97. Electricity will travel any distance through water to electrocute the villain, rather than go immediately to ground (e.g. a toaster tossed into the shallow end of a swimming pool will nail the bad guy over by the diving board).

98. You can only electrocute someone while you are looking directly at them.

99. Circuit breakers don't work.

100. Once applied, lipstick will never rub off -- even while scuba diving.

101. A single match will be sufficient to light up a room the size of RFK Stadium.

102. Word processors never display a cursor on screen but will always say: Enter Password Now.

103. In you input a partial password on someone else's computer, the system will give you additional prompts that will enable you to guess the rest.

104. When paying for a taxi, don't look at your wallet as you take out a bill -- just grab one at random and hand it over. It will always be the exact fare.

105. Kitchens don't have light switches. When entering a kitchen at night, you should open the fridge door and use that light instead.

106. If a phone line is broken, communication can be restored by frantically pressing the cradle switch and saying, "Hello? Hello?"

107. If there is a deranged killer on the loose, this will coincide with a thunderstorm that has brought down all the power and phone lines in the vicinity.

108. It is not necessary to say "Hello" or "Goodbye" when beginning or ending phone conversations.

109. During a very emotional confrontation, instead of facing the person you are speaking to, it is customary to stand behind them and talk to their back.

110. Answering machines do not have messages from aluminum storm door salesmen.

111. Mothers routinely cook eggs, bacon and waffles for their family every morning even though their husband and children never have time to eat it.

112. Having a job of any kind will make all fathers forget their son's eighth birthday.

113. Incriminating evidence will always be found as photograph number four in a stack, or in the next to bottom drawer. Important data storage will have labels like "tape of Senator Foggbotham with underage girl" or "List of all nuclear launch codes."

114. Most people keep a scrapbook of newspaper cuttings, especially if any of their family or friends has died in a strange boating accident.

115. Villains are fond of explaining everything to anyone in sight.

116. Villains are improbably competent and inventive, but can only make money by pulling stupid robberies. They will risk everything they have and are to get revenge on some guy who once thwarted them.

117. Rather than wasting bullets, megalomaniacs prefer to kill their arch-enemies using complicated machinery involving fuses, pulley systems, deadly gases, lasers and man eating sharks that will allow their captives at least 20 minutes to escape.

118. Any priest is either kindly or the villain. While nuns can deliver exposition, nuns are never villains.

119. Everyone knows the words to every song you want to sing and will sing along with you. They can even carry the solo part so that they can sing the song back to you, even if they have never heard the song until you sang half of it.

120. If you decide to start dancing in the street, everyone you bump into will know all the steps.

121. It is always possible to park directly outside the building you are visiting.

122. Television news bulletins usually contain a story that affects you personally at that precise moment.

123. Dogs always know who's bad and will naturally bark at them.

124. Most dogs are immortal.

125. Larry King plays himself.

126. You can stop a runaway car by crashing it into a wall at the bottom of a long hill, but not at the top.

127. The most unstable object in creation is a roadside fruit seller's cart.

128. If a large pane of glass is visible, someone will be thrown through it before long.

129. When you turn out the light to go to bed, everything in your room will still be clearly visible, just slightly bluish.

130. Light level is not a reliable gauge of whether it's night outside. You have to judge by the cricket noises.

131. You can always find a chainsaw when you need one.

132. All loose ends are always tied up.


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