There’s a reason why John Scalzi is (as of 3/17/2012) the President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). He is a genius story-teller who clearly has no problem in using humor to point out all of life’s fallicies and keeping the reader drawn in, desperate for more. The language John uses is simple and lets the reader know that he is a real person just like they are. Getting from the opening sentence to the last word of a John Scalzi story ins unbelievably easy because he doesn’t allow his readers to get bored with what they’re reading. I can find no better example of John’s amazing accomplishments in storytelling than his short story “Denise Jones, Super Broker.” According to John’s blog, “Whatever”, the story was first published on Subterranean Online in September, 2008.
The plot of the story is as simple as the format it’s written in. The story is set up as a transcript between an unknown interviewer (dialogue suggests maybe a radio or talk-show host) and a woman who works as a booking agent for an international society of superheroes. Denise Jones is an ordinary human with no super powers yet is the first to respond whenever a government official requests the aid of a superhero. Most of the interview is spent explaining the business aspects of her job as a “super broker”, but along the way she also admits an unusual hatred for the city of Tempe and gives us a nice idea of John’s inspiration for all of his superheroes. First we have ArachnoLad (inspired possibly by Spider-Man), an Extraordinary Man (Superman) is mentioned as the cream of the crop of superheroes, and then there’s a Bryan Garcia. While his particular powers are never explained the main character does mention that he thinks costumes and secret identities are “silly.” This brings a more modern feel and attitude to the classic superhero story when most heros disguised themselves to protect the ones they loved. It’s obvious that Bryan Garcia is determined to protect the ones he loved simply by going out and fighting “in jeans and t-shirt.”
What I liked most about this story is that John brings up some very important points from the real world that have usually only been touched upon in comic books. In the story Denise Jones talks about a hero named The Crimson Valkyrie who was held accountable for property damage after saving the city from a monster. She was then forced to give up everything she had to pay for the damage, prompting her to have to leave the hero business and work in a toll booth. The heroes in Scalzi’s story work as heros asa job because they couldn’t hold real jobs anyway. Toll booths aren’t very common in the real world, and Scalzi points that out nice and clear. And as I mentioned at the beginning, we have John’s amazing sense of humor. Amazing in the sense that its manical, goofy, sarcastic and sometimes very male. The is a LubricantGrrl who is often booked for parties (though not the bad kind, Denise is quick to point out), the Sandpaper People she saved Reno from and an army of evil robot cats. Add all of these together and we have one great story in front of us.
John, this is a really great story. I’m trying my best not to sound like a complete and total fan right now, but it’s just hard not to. You really took the literature of ideas to a whole new level. You’ve combined modern and realistic ideas (which is what science fiction is all about in the first place) and mixed it with an army of evil cyborg cats. Well done! Now if only you had taped bacon to those robot cats…