Operation Rubber Ducky

Operation Rubber Ducky by Cora BuhlertThree short tales of anthropomorphic terror, featuring Trojan toys, axe-wielding ducks and fluffy killer rabbits from outer space.

When the world is besieged by Kaiju, the only weapon that can stop them turns out to be a rubber ducky with a deadly secret…

His name is whispered in terror: Mock Duck, the mad axe-man of Chinatown, deadly enforcer for the triads. No one has ever seen his face and lived to tell the tale. Which is probably for the better, because Mock Duck’s nickname is more accurate than anybody could have guessed…

It’s the latest psychiatric epidemic to sweep the nation: Angoraphobia, a pathological fear of fluffy angora sweaters. Those who suffer from the disorder claim that fluffy killer rabbits from outer space are trying to conquer the Earth and exterminate humanity. Are they merely deluded or could they perchance be right?

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More information:

  • Operation Rubber Ducky is a collection of three short and strange science fiction stories of 7000 words altogether. All stories in this collection are digital premieres and have never been published previously.
  • All three stories contained in this collection were written as part of the July short story challenge. The idea was to write a short story per day in July 2015.
  • The three stories in this collection are among the most bizarre to come out of the July short story challenge, since they feature anthropomorphic killer rabbits from outer space, Kaiju, Trojan rubber ducks and alien anthropomorphic ducks working as mob enforcers.
  • The titular story “Operation Rubber Ducky” was inspired by this concept art writing prompt found at iO9. There’s also quite a lot of influence from Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 movie Pacific Rim in there as well as a little bit of Torchwood.
  • The great rubber ducky spill in the Pacific is closely modeled after this real life shipping incident which caused 28800 children’s bath toys to be dumped into the Pacific, though I did change the name of the vessel. There is no Maersk Nagasaki, though the Danish shipping conglomerate Maersk really does name its ships after various port cities around the world. Nagasaki is of course a reference to the second nuclear bomb attack, since the Japanese kaiju films of the 1950s and 1960s are widely considered to have been inspired by the nuclear bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the closing days of WWII.
  • “Mock Duck” was inspired by a headline I found in this art book collecting the covers of 1950s/1960s men’s adventure magazines. The mags in question were known not just for their lurid cover art, but also for their over-the-top headlines for articles of questionable accuracy. While flipping through the art book, I came across the headline: “Mock Duck, the mad axe-man of Chinatown”, which immediately sparked the image of a giant, axe-wielding killer duck. So I wrote the story.
  • Later, I learned that there really had been an early 20th century Chinese-American gangster nicknamed Mock Duck. He or rather his subordinates really did kill their enemies with a hatchet, though he was not in fact an anthropomorphic duck from outer space.
  • “Angoraphobia” was inspired by seeing “agoraphobia” mistyped as “angoraphobia”, which made me wonder what the hell “angoraphobia” might be. The pathological fear of angora sweaters? This eventually sparked a story about giant fluffy bunnies from outer space trying to conquer the world and using psychiatry to have the few people who can perceive their true form locked away.
  • Professor Pohland, the villainous psychiatrist from “Angoraphobia” is named after a character who appears in Norbert Jacques‘s classic thriller The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (though he’s still named Dr. Braun here, the name Pohland doesn’t appear until the 1960s) as well as the various film adaptations of the Mabuse thrillers by Fritz Lang, Harald Reinl and others. In the Dr. Mabuse thrillers, Professor Pohland is a forensic psychiatrist who is supposed to treat the criminal mastermind Dr. Mabuse after he is locked away in a hospital for the criminally insane. However, the villain uses his hypnotic abilities to take over the hapless Professor, while arranging for the death of his original body. The evil spirit of Mabuse would eventually hop from body to body for some seventy years. Whenever he jumped into a new host body, his victims would be left to take the rap for Mabuse’s crime, muttering over and over again, “It wasn’t me. It was Mabuse. He used my brain.”
  • For more about the venerable villain Dr. Mabuse, see this essay I wrote several years ago.
  • The cover image was composed of a manila folder background by Billy Alexander and a photo of a rubber duck by Esther Groen.
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