I finished that drivel called Ready Player One.
Here is my full Goodreads review.
I hate it so much I wrote a parody short story.
One Player Ready
A parody short story of Ernest Cline’s novel, Ready Player One, by Edward Evjen
Everyone my age remembers something about the ‘90s. How fortunate. Because that knowledge has just now become extremely valuable.
[How so? A little narrative trick. Your disbelief is still set. Let me give you a set up that’ll stick.]
I’ve heard of William, of course. A man of ambition. Made a gameshow on television. Everyone, and I mean everyone, watched because the world was a scary place. This made William rich beyond belief. He died and left his whole estate—billions of smackers—to anyone that could win his new gameshow. The gameshow was announced on the day of his death. It had three parts. Seasons as we called them. In five years, no one had won the first season.
In order to win the money, one had to know everything about the ‘90s. The game show asked about cartoons and music and video games and all that jazz.
When the gameshow contest was first announced, everyone tried to win. Even my mother and father who I was practically estranged from tried to sell their childhood to get the money. Now five years later only the most dedicated button-pushers still logged in and tried. So, named because we pressed a large red button to ring the buzzer. The first person to press the button, got to answer the gameshow question. If you pressed a button out of turn, you would be banned from the game for life. Eventually, button-pushers was truncated to Butts.
The scariest man in this scary world was the mean CEO of WOW incorporated. He would kill you if you used the wrong cable provider. He was trying to win the contest too and hired thousands of wonks to get past the first season. But he was no Butt. Only real people could be a Butt. Not a hired nostalgia-grubbing square. We called all the WOW game-show contestants Wangs. Because they were dicks.
This is how I and my friends became rich.
[You might be wondering why I haven’t mentioned a single ‘90s property yet. For efficiencies sake they are collected into long lists. Be sure to read the lists. This is essential to enjoy the short story. No cheating.]
My name is Charlie. But shhh, I prefer to use my online name. Which was Popular. The name, literally, was Popular. [Here I exercise thematic naming. A lesser story would try to ape a by-gone culture of chivalry. Which would then not match the plot. Using my big brain, I have chosen a name that represents the short story’s theme. Money was the second choice.]
I snuck away from home and got to my hideout. By email, I chatted with my friend. His name was Eff.
He was a strong white man who was cool. Unlike me, I was uncool. He had money. I did not.
“Eff, How much do you know about the ‘90s?” I asked.
“Everything, Pee,” Eff shortened my online name to Pee. Eff and Pee, the greatest Wang destroying Butts around.
We then quoted a whole Wikipedia article with personal jabs to trick the reader into being entertained. And another, and another.
“Eff, How much of a good person are you?” I asked.
“Very good. I will give the money I win to the poor. This declaration will be the only way you know I’m a good person. Otherwise, I never act in a charitable manner. Are you a good person?”
“Ummm.” I said, “Nah.”
[At this point in the short story, the reader is encouraged to go to the Popular Culture section of the Wikipedia’s article on the 1990s. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1990s#Popular_culture> Click on any blue hyperlink and read line by line alternating between Eff’s voice and then Charlie’s voice.]
[After you are done that, go to a property that has now fallen out of favor. For example, the article on the Phantom Menace. Read it line by line, again, alternating voices. One difference this time. Have Charlie like the property. Meanwhile, Eff should rip it to shreds. This is easy, have Eff say, “How can you like this shit?” every three lines, to which Charlie replies, “That’s not fair!”]
[Clever readers will be writing this all down and will have a blockbuster novel half written when done. I expect a quarter of the royalties.]
[Do not. Under any circumstance read any other article about the ‘90s. It is vital to this short story’s narrative that you only have a positive feeling about the ‘90s.]
Once I finished emailing with Eff, I got ready to join the daily gameshow hosted each night at 6:00PM. Eff and I never traded ‘90s secrets or theories about William. Which was understandable. Eff had a vague plan for the vague poor he had likely only read about on the news. Me, I was going to buy a private island. As long as WOW’s wangs didn’t win though, we’d both be happy.
I logged into the gameshow. My modem screeched and whined. If only I wasn’t so poor!
The first question, “What is the name of the first episode of the Cosby show?”
I pressed my button as fast as I could. But some Wang beat me too it. Calamity!
The Wang said, “Theo’s Economic Lesson.”
That was correct. But everyone knew that. Wangs were posers. Each had a team whispering the answers into their ear. I however had watched all eight seasons 4000 times. I had also watched Roseanne, Coach, Empty Nest, Mr. Belvedere, 227, Cheers, Growing Pains, Night Court, The Hogan Family, A different World, Amen, ALF, Perfect Stragers, Family Matters, Charles in Charge, Saved by the Bell, My Two Dads, Newhart, Dear John, Designing Women, The Golden Girls, Who’s the Boss?, Head of the Class, and of course, how dare I not mention, Seinfeld.
And I watched Frasier, a spin-off from an older show named Cheers. You can tell I watched it because I mentioned a little cool fact about it.
I also watched Friends, That ’70s Show, Ellen, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Full House, Nurses, Murphy Brown, The Wonder Years, Living Single, Step by Step, NewsRadio, Blossom, The King of Queens, Major Dad, Fired Up, Jesse, Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, For Your Love, The Steve Harvey Show, The Larry Sanders Show, Sex and the City, Arliss, Dream On, Grace Under Fire, Mad About You, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, The Naked Truth, The Jeff Foxworthy Show, The Jamie Foxx Show, Smart Guy, The Wayans Bros., Malcolm & Eddie, Clueless, Moesha, The Parent ‘Hood, Unhappily Ever After, Roc, Martin, Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, In Living Color, Sister, Sister, Boy Meets World, Ned and Stacey, Becker, Veronica’s Closet, Two Guys and a Girl, The Drew Carey Show, Wings, The John Larroquette Show, Caroline in the City, Sports Night, Home Improvement, Will & Grace, Married… with Children, Evening Shade, Cosby, Spin City, The Nanny, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Suddenly Susan, Cybill, Just Shoot Me!, Everybody Loves Raymond, and Dharma and Greg.
[Please, for the love of all that is holy, recognize a television show you adore. I beg you. The joy from reading a beloved name is the only emotional moment you get. I desperately need you to like the off-hand mention to something you love. Please. I beg you. This trick makes you believe my short story is good by hijacking your nostalgia. Don’t leave me hanging.]
“Correct!” The game host said. And proceeded to ask questions about thirteen other TV shows. [See above.]
Why only TV shows? There must be a pattern here. I scratched my head and pondered. Me, and millions of true Butts the world over have been trying to solve this mystery for five years. Not to mention the effort of all the Wangs. I pondered and wondered and pondered and wondered.
And then. In a flash of inspiration. I got it.
I pressed my button, and immediately regretted it.
The Host stopped mid question and asked, “You can only press the button to answer a question. I hope you have a good reason for this.”
I sweated bullets. I knew I should have waited for tomorrow to try my theory.
If I got kicked out of the gameshow I would be permanently banned. In front of my computer. I chewed my fingernails. My lips smacked drily. Hopefully my poor-ass mic didn’t pick it up.
They were waiting.
I had to give it a try. I said, “The answer Theo’s Economic Lesson is wrong. The correct answer is Pilot.”
At that moment, the buzzers started blazing. Confetti shot around my gameshow avatar. A famous ‘90s song started playing. [Editor note, do research on ‘90s music, add relevant song here.]
“You got it!” The Gameshow Host said, and immediately started doing Will Smith’s Jiggy dance.
The screen shut off. I opened a window to the scoreboard and saw my name at the top. Popular is Popular was all the rage in the news. Only two more seasons to go now. What were the chances I could solve it though? It took five years to see the hidden patterns in season one. In season one, the questions were all about the first episode of a TV show. And I had cracked it. Would it take another five years to solve the second season?
Interest in the game show grew to an all time high now I had won.
But the good times got cancelled.
Boom! An explosion. I looked outside and saw my home in flames.
Everyone I knew in real life was dead.
WOW had tried to kill me. Those dicks.
Now, whenever I used the internet, I used incognito mode.
Grr. I’m so angry all the time. People lied to me my whole life and now I am going to tell you all about it. I never talk to women so I masturbate all the time but I’m not a creep either so don’t get that into your mind. No one would ever get anything accomplished without masturbation. I read that on an online forum once and I have never read truer words. Beating meat is the closest I feel to joy. Pulling spunk, choking the dragon, you name it I do it. Women too, you bet your ass any nerd woman who ever got anything accomplished fingered herself all the time. God, I wish I could write a short story about porn. Then I wouldn’t have to have this Wikipedia article open all the time. That’s right, I curse using the name of God. I hate religion. It’s all a bunch of nonsense. Like unicorns and the Easter bunny God, Jesus, all of them are so fake. I hate you mom and dad for taking me to church when I was young. Grr. And the world is going to shit. Because we are so capitalist we hurt the environment, and the poor, and… everything. We are hurting everything. Because everyone wants money so bad. What’s so good about money? Grr. I’d never write a character who is obsessed with getting rich. Voting in politics is useless. It’s always someone I don’t like. And I hate my edittor so much. She is some porriage brained corpertist who doesn’t understand art. This my life! How dare anyone someone edit my life!!!!!
[Leaked Email conversation with Editor.]
Dear Edward Evjen,
Remove that entire section in the middle about you being angry all the time. It adds nothing to the story. If you want to write a philosophical treatise in a book, it should at least mirror the characters journey. But even then, I would recommend you cut the whole section. Why? The part of Atlas Shrugged that everyone skips is the philosophical treatise. And she had the soundness of mind to
- Research and reflect.
- Mirror it to the novel’s themes.
If do you do not remove this section, or if you ever send me a garbage rant again. I shall quit being your editor.]
Fuck you! Seriously fuck you! This is my life story how dare you edit my life story! You’re not my mom, my boss, or god. Even if I believed in god! Haha! Take that! How dare you mention Ayn Rand. I read on a blog post once she was a capitalist. So, grr. I hate her too now. Why should I ever research and reflect! I feel strongly I am on the side of reason and intellect and science. So fuck off and go editor some other fucking writers work. I’m so angry.]
See how smart I, Charlie Owen Cringle, am? I am not like other people.
Eff and I met some Chinese people. They didn’t like us at first but now they do. [Redacted Chinese stereotypes: 1 page]
After winning the first season, everyone figured out the trick. Because they were literally there, in the room—watching me. Negating the whole reason to have three different stages. All you had to do was wait for the third stage and then try to win. As such, most everyone waited Season Two out. Let some idiot waste his time to solve the second season.
And I’m not like most everyone.
The second season was all music themed. We had questions about [Editor’s note, the list of bands and musicians is publicly available at <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1990s#Music>. Read that Wikipedia entry until you find a band you like. Once flush with recognition, switch back to this short story and pretend Edward’s story created that emotion.]
Of course, I’m cool. I knew every song. But no matter how many questions I answered, I was still getting nowhere. Fortunately, I was the only person logged into the gameshow. No one could beat me to the buzzer.
The whole contest was nerve racking. William was a clever man who knew so much about popular culture. And he got rich. Because anyone who could read so much and watch so much would have loads of free time to both work 9 to 5 and become a multi-billionaire on the side.
And I wanted to be a billionaire. All I needed was ‘90s references.
[Redacted ‘90s musical reference.]
I memorized all the lyrics and I recited them.
[Redacted ‘90s musical reference.]
I memorized all the lyrics and I recited them.
[Redacted ‘90s musical reference.]
I memorized all the lyrics and I recited them.
No matter how many questions I answer, I just wasn’t understanding the trick. I got up from my computer to piss. Maybe Eff would have a clue.
I emailed, “Hey, Eff.”
“Any ideas on how to beat the music questions.”
“Think, Pee, what do you have… that soulless boomers don’t?”
And then I got it. Wangs would only know the lyrics, but they wouldn’t know the tune!
I slammed the button. Risking again being perma-banned.
“This better be important.” The host said.
And I started to sing Heart’s All Gone Interlude, by the popular 90’s band Blink 182 from the Album Neighborhoods. I sung it perfectly.
I won! Again, buzzers. Again, Confetti. The host danced The Carlton and I won the second challenge.
Oh no! All the Wangs clogged up the third game show. No empty seats were available. No Butt was able to log on. What ever could the Butts do?
And I got captured by WOW. I was taken to their secret lair. All hope was lost…
…Except it ain’t. I was smart. This was going according to my plan. I revealed my location and got myself captured. Once inside I cut the fiber optics cables and ran away. Right as I left, someone said, “who are you?” By then it was too late.
[Give me a break. I can’t write a spy scene with suspense. It’s not as easy as making a Wang catch on to the Spy early in the scene. Then the audience could read the ever-changing tides of conflict. Watching Charlie avoid suspicion and narrowly avoid capture. Oh wait? It is that easy?]
I was now a fugitive.
Some old white guy emailed me. He wasn’t in the story till now. He, and you’ve got to believe me here, gave me a free plane ride to a private island. Eff and our Chinese friends came too. First time flying. But I’m too cool and angry to look at the ground drop away majestically.
The plane landed on a private island. The mysterious benefactor liked me and now I wasn’t poor anymore. Now I had no reason to continue the contest. But, 1) I hated Wangs, and 2) one sugar daddy ain’t enough. I wanted to be the sugar daddy.
On the tarmac, I met Eff for the first time in person. She—not a boy?!—was an overweight African American woman with a birthmark. A white blotch covered the right side of her face. In the Hollywood ugly sort of way. And when I say overweight, I also mean in the Hollywood overweight sort of way.
“Hi, I’m Charlie Owen Cringle.”
Eff said, “Hi, I’m Franny Obvious Pandering.”
“You’re beautiful. Wanna have sex?” I was so horny all the time and this was the first woman I had made eye contact with. One doesn’t watch the Cosby Show 4000 times and talk to anyone in the same lifetime.
Franny said, “I’m a lesbian. I was kicked out by my mother. She told me to be a white man online so I could fight the system. Turns out she didn’t like lesbians.”
“Understandable. Have a good day.” I said, “Now that I know you are an overweight African American Woman with a birthmark, shall we explore these complicated intersectional aspects in the last fifth of the short story? Or should we continue on my power fantasy.”
[My research only got as far as learning this: Non-Traditional Beautiful Overweight African American Lesbian Woman were an intersectional minority. Everything got complicated after that. Who has time for all that reading? I’d rather watch the Cosby show for research. So, I wrote what interested me.]
With the fiber optic cables cut, the Wangs logged off. Finally, the Butts could log on and be part of the gameshow. We were slamming buttons left and right but not getting closer to the key. Oh say what? Oh yes, the third season was all about movies, Titanic, Jurassic Park, Independence Day, The Lion King. Do any of these ring a bell?
Every question was something like, “Who created Mrs. Doubtfire?” Duh, Chris Columbus. Every true Butt knew that. Next question, “Who created Saving Private Ryan?” Duh, only an idiot wouldn’t know it was Steven Spielberg. “Who created the Matrix.” We were getting all the questions right. Only some uncultured idiot wouldn’t know the answers. If you do anything with your life other than consume entertainment you are a disgusting waste of flesh. May hell shallow
What was the key? What was William’s last secret. I didn’t know.
But then I got it.
It wasn’t a question about the director. It is a myth to say the director created a film. Anyone who knows anything knows writers create stuff. Got that? Writers! Don’t you dare trash talk writers, okay? Or ignore us, okay? I hate being ignored. I make no money writing and I desperately need the recognition. [Redacted whining: 20 Pages.]
“Who created Toy Story?”
I slammed my buzzer halfway through the question. I could be banned if my answer was wrong.
Risking it all, I said, “John Lasseter.”
Buzzers. Confetti. Cotton Eye Joe dance.
I did it. I really won. I really did. That meanie from WOW and all his Wangs are so fucked. Now that I’m a billionaire, I’m going to have him assassinated!
The score board went black.
A pre-recorded message of William popped up.
“Hey, kid, good job at winning my gameshow. Surely after all the entertainment you’ve watched you are a kind, cultured person. Use your new money for good.”
What was this bat talking about? I watched all that stuff to get the references. Why would any of it change my life?
“Ummm,” I said, “Nah.”
Now you’ve read a short story of mine.
Some light, on the theme, I’ll shine.
A nostalgia parasite.
Kill it on site.
Trash that pandering novel by Cline.
Damn, that felt good to write.