â€œSpace-faring monkies with a mirror fetish?â€
â€œYup. In The Day Ambrosia Paled by Kinstev Ramod, chapter six.â€
â€œDamn. Okay, uhhâ€¦ how about ice cream that turns your teeth green and carries a rare strand of the bubonic plague? Unleashed on a modern colony?â€
â€œAs a government experiment: Fire Warden by Jack Strapley. As a mad scientistâ€™s coup de grace: On Being Trembleton by Emilia dâ€™Oernga. With a time travel sub-plot: Terra Infirma by Marguerite Bloc. Sorry, Glenn. Itâ€™s all been done.â€
Glenn groaned and leaned back in his chair, running his hand through the long part of his hair and pulling it out over his eyes, staring at the brown strands in frustration. â€œDamn it all! How am I supposed to write if there arenâ€™t any original ideas?â€
â€œHey, come on, Glenn.â€ Neil grimaced at his friend in sympathy. â€œYouâ€™re just not thinking outside the box. Look, I know itâ€™s tough, but thereâ€™s got to be something you can do thatâ€™s not already in here.â€ He gestured at the Central Database terminal heâ€™d been using, the letters on the keyboard nearly worn off from the fruitless searches heâ€™d made.
Neilâ€™s words were encouraging, but his tone was notâ€”itâ€™d been months since Glenn had come up with his last viable story idea, and he still remembered the celebration theyâ€™d had. Now their fridge was bare, and there wasnâ€™t a drop of alcohol in the house. Neil let out a long sigh. â€œLookâ€¦ maybe you need a rest, yeah? Letâ€™s go out for a while. Weâ€™ll go to the club, see Jeannie and the guys, and just relax. I bet itâ€™d help. What do you say?â€
Glenn made a noise of frustration and sat up straight again. â€œNo. No! Weâ€™re almost out of cash. What good is going out going to do? Thatâ€™ll just make things worse. I have to think of something, and fast!â€
Neil sighed and turned back to the terminal. â€œGlenn, weâ€™ve been at this for hours. Youâ€™re gonna make yourself sick.â€
â€œNo. No, Iâ€™ve got one.â€ Glenn turned sharply, his face lighting up as his eyes latched onto Neil. He paused dramatically. â€œHow aboutâ€¦ a guy with writerâ€™s block trying to figure out what to put in a story?â€
Neil groaned loudly and threw a stylus at Glenn. â€œDo I even have to answer? I think itâ€™d break the database if I tried a search on that. Billions of billions of hits.â€
Glenn chuckled. â€œYeah, yeah, I know. Geez. I just wish that for once I could write something without caring that someone else already did it.â€
â€œYeah, I know. I know.â€
The two men stared in silence for a moment, Glenn at the ceiling, Neil at the screen that was nothing more than one massive search field.
â€œHow about a story about a writer who hacks into the Central Database and erases the old records so that editors will think his story is original?â€
â€œYou know,â€ Neil said with a slow grin, â€œI donâ€™t think that oneâ€™s been done yet.â€