LAST EDITED ON Jun-08-18 AT 04:22 PM (EDT)
One day years ago, a few of us in the studio kicked around a silly idea that developed into a project called Decadent and Depraved. The title, and very broadly the concept, were a riff on "The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved", Hunter S. Thompson's breakout 1970 story for Scanlan's magazine (and his first collaboration with illustrator Ralph Steadman). It got far enough into development to be teased on the Forum a couple of times.
The basic idea was that the story would be about the UF version of HST (dba "Dr. Raoul Duke") on assignment for Don't Panic! (the magazine companion to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) to write a similar article about the Boonta Eve Classic pod race on Tatooine. Weird Shit would then ensue and the ultimate article, although still entitled "The Boonta Eve Race Is Decadent and Depraved", would have very little to do with the Boonta Eve Classic or indeed pod racing in any capacity.
As is often the case around here, we made good progress for a while, and then the project got sidetracked for various reasons. In the end, it was effectively canceled when one of its authors (whose in-universe avatar was one of the principal characters, essentially filling the Steadman role) left the outfit. There are a few oblique references to it in Clarion Call, but that was as far as it went and, unfortunately, looks as far as it's ever likely to go.
I bring it up today because the last scene we finished before the initial momentum petered out was this one.
>>> Excerpt from Down and Out in Mos Espa and Ballsh
New Avalon: Armstrong Grambling Sinclair & Co., Publishers
This is how you know a place is truly hopeless: On Boonta Eve in Mos Espa, while everybody is partying his, her, or its cerebral matter out all over the planet, there are ten people in the restaurant, and eight of them work there.
By that point, I didn't even care that the restaurant was in a hotel—never a good sign—or that the best they could offer me was a microwaved cheeseburger or a plate of indifferent belgad shyam. I had had enough of the exotic wonders of Tatooinian cuisine. The previous day's adventure with the Jawas had nearly finished me. Tripes of krayt dragon confit with brown grub sauce is one of those dishes that sound like they can't possibly be good, and unlike many such dishes, it in fact isn't. Fortunately, everything on this Godforsaken planet smells like vomit anyway, and doubly so at the fleatrap hotel I was staying at, so no one noticed.
Last night, while I was reeling and incoherent from the effect of too much brown grub sauce and cheap tequila on my system, I had a vision of a former United States president in the hotel room next to mine. He knocked on my door at three in the morning and asked me if I'd kindly keep the noise down. I can't remember what I said to him, if anything, but he went away again, so either I satisfied him that I was in tune with his needs or that I didn't speak Standard. It never occurred to me to wonder, in the throes of my near-death experience, why a former president, even one who died in 1919, would stay at the worst, cheapest, most obscure and out-of-the-way hotel in town. I was too busy wondering whether brown grub sauce would wash out of my hair.
The next afternoon, I was mildly surprised to wake up, but not surprised at all to find myself naked on the bathroom floor. I picked myself up, hosed myself down with the room's sad excuse for a shower, and staggered into the bedroom. The air conditioner was going full blast with a sound like an idling diesel submarine, cooling the room to just about the temperature in my old restaurant's kitchen during the lunch rush. I fell diagonally across the bed and slept for another six hours, then woke ravenous and disoriented.
I had missed the race and I had definitely had enough of Tatooine's exotic fare. God help me, all I wanted was a lousy microwaved cheeseburger in the hotel restaurant. Luckily, my hotel didn't have a restaurant, so I had to go to the Hilton for that.
While I was waiting for my gruel, I found to my surprise that my mobile phone could actually detect a relay network for the first time since I arrived on Tatooine. I called my agent, but there was no answer. In desperation I called a friend of mine who had bailed me out of some tough spots in the past. I must have caught him at a bad time, because he said some very nasty things and refused to help me, ranting instead about the time difference between Mos Espa and Cleveland. I had just ended the call and resigned myself to spending the rest of my life in the corner booth at the Mos Espa Hilton when a ghost from my distant past sat down at my table, and I knew my day had gone from bad to worse.
The Hilton cantina was all but deserted; the only reason Duke noticed one of the two customers in the place was because he was sitting in the back corner booth, where Duke himself had intended to sit. The journalist pulled up short, whipped his sunglasses off, and squinted, then made a sound of astonishment and made for the booth, furiously beckoning the others to follow him.
The man sitting in the back corner booth was tall and thin, with a bony, road-weathered face and curly dark hair gone grey at the temples and cut short. He wore a leather sport jacket and dark pullover despite the heat outside. As they approached the table, his attention wasn't on them, but turned inward; he was speaking into a mobile phone.
"... burn in Hell for this, Ruhlman," he growled, then snapped the phone shut and put it away in his inside jacket pocket. It wasn't until Duke reached the booth and slid in across from the tall man that he noticed he had company.
A flicker of recognition crossed his face, as well as what might have been a millisecond flash of hope, and then his expression fell into that of a man who recognizes approaching doom.
"Oh no," he said. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"Jesus God, it is you," Duke replied.
>>> Excerpt from "The Boonta Eve Race Is Decadent & Depraved"
Dr. Raoul Duke, Sports Editor, Don't Panic!
(A Periodical Publication of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Now this was a stroke of luck. I had just been thinking that we would need backup to help us cope with the madness that had descended upon our simple outing, and here was backup of the finest and most perfectly deranged kind. The Great Magnet couldn't send Oscar Zeta Acosta to help us, but He could and did send us the Mad Chef. It was an omen.
The Mad Chef used to work at a restaurant in New York. Every now and then he'd succumb to wanderlust and go out on the road for a while, looking for new foods and new experiences. Sometimes he'd take along a television crew and then bitch the whole time about how they were cramping his style. Once while he was cruising the Outer Rim looking for the ultimate Salusian expat dim sum, the Earth Alliance cracked down and he found himself unable to go home. Now he roams the galaxy cursing his fate and trying to eat, drink, and smoke himself into oblivion, which only frustrates him more, since he's immortal.
It's said that if you accidentally cut yourself with the Mad Chef's knife, you'll live an extra twenty years, but if you do it on purpose, you'll be dead before you hit the floor. I don't know if that's true. I've never tried it, and if it worked, how would I tell? It's also said that if you touch the Mad Chef's knife without his permission, he'll kill you, and this, this I believe.
Benjamin D. Hutchins, Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief, & Forum Mod
Eyrie Productions, Unlimited http://www.eyrie-productions.com/
zgryphon at that email service Google has
Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam.