Bertha and Alfred, married for twenty years, enjoy a truly science fictional life in the twenty-first century. But in spite of all the technological marvels surrounding them, a faulty television receiver can still lead to argument and cause them to examine their marriage.
This parodistic piece is a mundane short story of 4100 words, written in the style of science fiction’s “golden age” of the 1940s and 1950s.
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Some background information:
- The Faulty Television Receiver is a short story of 4100 words and part of the series Alfred and Bertha’s Marvelous Twenty-First Century Life. This story is a digital premiere and has never been published previously.
- This story was written in response to the Not Really SF Short Story Challenge by writer E.P. Beaumont. The idea was to write a completely mundane short story in the style of science fiction’s “golden age” of the 1940s and 1950s, complete with clunky overexplanation of every single piece of technology with which the characters interact.
- The challenge was a response to complaints by some more traditionally minded science fiction writers and fans that science fiction had been invaded by literary writing and that the virtues, values and scientific rigour of science fiction’s so-called “golden age” had been forgotten. In response, E.P. Beaumont proposed launching a counter invasion of literary fiction by science fiction.
- The plot of the story was borrowed from the classic 1970s comedy skit Der kaputte Fernseher (The Broken Television) by the brilliant German comedian Vicco von Bülow a.k.a. Loriot, though the twist at the end is my own.
- What is more, Alfred and Bertha’s surname von Bülow was also borrowed from Loriot.
- The description of the television screen as “black as the starless sky on an overcast night” is an homage to William Gibson’s Neuromancer, which famously begins with the line “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel”, only that here the television is the colour of the sky.
- The medical drama Bertha watches at the end is the only television program not explicitly named. I had initially intended it to be Grey’s Anatomy, but since I’ve never actually watched that show, I have no idea if the heroine is indeed a heart specialist, though I do know that her husband is a brilliant neurosurgeon and that the couple had fertility issues via cultural osmosis.
- The cover image is a stock photo by Eti Swinford. I chose it, because it depicts a TV and is so very reminiscent of a 1980s Cyberpunk cover.