Author : Mark Wallace

Charles walked in holding a couple of loose pages of manuscript, written in his small, precise hand.

“What ya got for me?” said the agent.

Charles handed him the manuscript.

“Handwriting, dude. Why didn’t you type this up. You’ve got a laptop in your room, right?”

“I am not familiar with the workings of computers.”

“You’ve gotta be kidding me, right?”


“Dude, get with the program. We need to get you online fast. That’s what it’s all about today. Look, don’t worry, I’ll send one of the IT guys up with you later on. It’s simple. Ten minutes max.”

The agent fell silent as he read Charles’ manuscript slowly. Finally, he looked up:

“Hey, you know, this isn’t bad. I like it.”

Charles bowed slightly: “Thank you.”

“Bit old-fashioned, but hey. Let me just run it through our LitCrit program to see if it passes the test.”

The agent quickly typed up Charles’ story and watched the screen while the LitCrit program performed an analysis. Finally, he said:

“Ok, this is good. LitCrit just has a couple of issues.”


“Well, first of all, there’s no sex scene.”

“I beg your pardon.”

“How about you show us a bit of the action. I mean, Edwin and Helena are getting it on, right?”

Charles grew pale, and spoke in a strained but steady voice: “Excuse me, but if you are referring to what I think you are referring to –“

“Ha! You Victorian guys. You were all about covers on piano legs and stuff, right? But I know you guys –“

“Sir, I beg you to refrain from indecencies if you wish this conversation to continue.”

“Ok, ok,” the agent raised his hands, palms out. “Let’s move on. Second thing is, no graphic violence. I mean, our readers love all this literary stuff, but violence is where it’s at. You know, it’s fine, literary stuff, blahdy blah, but then you’ve gotta hit ‘em with the violence. Kind of like a reward for making it through.”

Charles’ face wore a sad, tired expression: “Very well. I will bear it in mind.”

“That’s the spirit, Charlie. As I said, we want to renew your contract, and we’re totally happy to pay your mind reactivation and maintanence like we’ve been doing, but you’ve gotta help us out. You’ve got the chops, it’s just a matter of using them in the right way. And I’m here to help you do that. It’s all about the bottom line, right?”

Charles was silent.

“Ha! Yeah I’m right. But, no, this is good. I like it. We’re gonna put it out Friday. How’s that?”

“Very well.”

“Can’t do it tomorrow. Tomorrow’s Franzen. The guy’s washed up, but whatever. And Thursday’s Lindsay Lohan. She just did 90 days for possession. Again. Exclusive inside look. Flash factual. That’s why we’re the best. And then Friday: ‘First new work from Charles Dickens in 160 years.’ How do you like that?”

“Thank you. I am most honoured.”

“You should meet Lindsay. Actually, she’s just out in the corridor now. I’ll introduce you. She’s awesome, and let me tell you, Lindsay Lohan is what the 21st century is all about. You could learn a thing or two from her. It’s not enough to be good at what you do, you gotta sell yourself. Can you sell yourself, Charles?”

“I’m not quite sure what you mean.”

“Come on, I’ll introduce you to Lindsay. She’ll show you the ropes. I think you two will really get along.”

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