by Terry Bisson

“They’re made out of meat.”


“Meat. They’re made out of meat.”


“There’s no doubt about it. We picked up several from different parts of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, and probed them all the way through. They’re completely meat.”

“That’s impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars?”

“They use the radio waves to talk, but the signals don’t come from them. The signals come from machines.”

“So who made the machines? That’s who we want to contact.”

“They made the machines. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. Meat made the machines.”

“That’s ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You’re asking me to believe in sentient meat.”

“I’m not asking you, I’m telling you. These creatures are the only sentient race in that sector and they’re made out of meat.”

“Maybe they’re like the orfolei. You know, a carbon-based intelligence that goes through a meat stage.”

“Nope. They’re born meat and they die meat. We studied them for several of their life spans, which didn’t take long. Do you have any idea what’s the life span of meat?”

“Spare me. Okay, maybe they’re only part meat. You know, like the weddilei. A meat head with an electron plasma brain inside.”

“Nope. We thought of that, since they do have meat heads, like the weddilei. But I told you, we probed them. They’re meat all the way through.”

“No brain?”

“Oh, there’s a brain all right. It’s just that the brain is made out of meat! That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”

“So … what does the thinking?”

“You’re not understanding, are you? You’re refusing to deal with what I’m telling you. The brain does the thinking. The meat.”

“Thinking meat! You’re asking me to believe in thinking meat!”

“Yes, thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat. The meat is the whole deal! Are you beginning to get the picture or do I have to start all over?”

“Omigod. You’re serious then. They’re made out of meat.”

“Thank you. Finally. Yes. They are indeed made out of meat. And they’ve been trying to get in touch with us for almost a hundred of their years.”

“Omigod. So what does this meat have in mind?”

“First it wants to talk to us. Then I imagine it wants to explore the Universe, contact other sentiences, swap ideas and information. The usual.”

“We’re supposed to talk to meat.”

“That’s the idea. That’s the message they’re sending out by radio. ‘Hello. Anyone out there. Anybody home.’ That sort of thing.”

“They actually do talk, then. They use words, ideas, concepts?”
“Oh, yes. Except they do it with meat.”

“I thought you just told me they used radio.”

“They do, but what do you think is on the radio? Meat sounds. You know how when you slap or flap meat, it makes a noise? They talk by flapping their meat at each other. They can even sing by squirting air through their meat.”

“Omigod. Singing meat. This is altogether too much. So what do you advise?”

“Officially or unofficially?”


“Officially, we are required to contact, welcome and log in any and all sentient races or multibeings in this quadrant of the Universe, without prejudice, fear or favor. Unofficially, I advise that we erase the records and forget the whole thing.”

“I was hoping you would say that.”

“It seems harsh, but there is a limit. Do we really want to make contact with meat?”

“I agree one hundred percent. What’s there to say? ‘Hello, meat. How’s it going?’ But will this work? How many planets are we dealing with here?”

“Just one. They can travel to other planets in special meat containers, but they can’t live on them. And being meat, they can only travel through C space. Which limits them to the speed of light and makes the possibility of their ever making contact pretty slim. Infinitesimal, in fact.”

“So we just pretend there’s no one home in the Universe.”

“That’s it.”

“Cruel. But you said it yourself, who wants to meet meat? And the ones who have been aboard our vessels, the ones you probed? You’re sure they won’t remember?”

“They’ll be considered crackpots if they do. We went into their heads and smoothed out their meat so that we’re just a dream to them.”

“A dream to meat! How strangely appropriate, that we should be meat’s dream.”

“And we marked the entire sector unoccupied.”

“Good. Agreed, officially and unofficially. Case closed. Any others? Anyone interesting on that side of the galaxy?”

“Yes, a rather shy but sweet hydrogen core cluster intelligence in a class nine star in G445 zone. Was in contact two galactic rotations ago, wants to be friendly again.”

“They always come around.”

“And why not? Imagine how unbearably, how unutterably cold the Universe would be if one were all alone …”

Surely No-One Likes Tech Support

I’ve been filling in for our support guy this week, as he’s been off ill, and for reasons that may or may not become clear (this is just a rant, after all), no-one else really seems that interested in manning the support line (oh, and it just so happens that my extension number is next in the hunt group – funny that).

I have to say that some of our customers are absolute fucktards – there, I said it. They really are, though. In a normal world, most people will just ‘google’ something (apparently, it’s a new verb – to google, meaning to spend as little time as possible whilst at work, actually doing work, but instead using up valuable internet electrons to discover who’s tupping the currently most popular Kardashian – whatever one of those is). In this case, however, they’d rather spend time in a telephone queue, listening to a mediocre at best impression of Stephen Hawking telling them how important their call is to us, or emailing in their foetid whinings, then (presumably) going back to Kardashian Watch (I’ve heard it’s a bit like Spring Watch, but with bigger tits).

The drivel that comes through – “what’s a vendor?“, “I don’t know if we’re getting email or not“, “do I have to tell anyone, or can I just restart the server?” – each of which can be answered simply: dictionary, I think you do, and yes you can.

If you don’t know what a vendor is, you probably shouldn’t be working anywhere in the supply stream, and let’s face it – we ALL work somewhere in the supply stream, no matter what we do for a living. Go home early, you’re really not contributing in the constructive manner expected of you.

Not sure if you’re getting mail or not? Really? Shall we visit that uncertainty using a not so gentle example of parallelism? If you’re not sure whether you’re being punched in the face by a rabid Alpaca wearing spandex and a cape, odds on you’ve either been punched so much/hard that it’s a wonder you’re still in a fit state to even postulate such a thing, or you’re not. It’s quite simple. Or, if this helps: check your server queues, internet connection, or – heaven forfend – your fucking inbox!

Do you have to tell anyone? This is a tricky one, and I suppose the answer depends on any number of things – your love of grammatical construction, how long you wish to remain in your current employ, and the observational skills of those in a position to terminate said employ, to mention but a few. Think about the position you’re in, as a system admin. You’re responsible for a server that a large number of individuals connect to throughout the working day, and which hosts a system that itself is responsible for recording and progressing the IT Change Management process for your entire organisation. Now think carefully about your question, just one more time.

Sweet Christ in a wok – I ask you!

Some of them even start with “Bob did tell me before, but I can’t remember“, or “which one’s the help key? I pressed what I thought it was but just got sent to a web site“. Yes, that was the ON-LINE HELP, you twat!!

“F1 motherfucker! Learn for yourself – it’s YOUR JOB!!” is what I want to shout at them, but I don’t. Instead, I just simply hang my head, in homage to Eyore, and pray for the speedy arrival of 5 o’clock. Or death. Today, I have a preference, and yes, it’s probably death.

Oh wait, it’s 5 o’clock.

Killing a Zombie isn’t Complicated…

“Killing a zombie isn’t complicated, it’s just hard…

So, for the sake of argument, say you have a zombie in front of you and you want to kill it. Well the best, quickest, and easiest thing to do is sever the connection between its brain and the rest of the body. This may not actually kill the host, but not even the zombie bacteria can move a host once its brain stem is hacked or its neck is snapped. Now, say you have two or more zombies standing there and you want all of them dead and you don’t really have any practical zombie-killing experience to draw on. In that case you might try pulling out your large-caliber hand-gun and shooting them in the heart. You could try for the face, but unless you hit the brain stem or blow out some really enormous chunks of gray matter, they’re gonna keep coming after you. So just go for the heart. Explode the heart and the machine can’t run no matter how hard the bacteria works. You could also strangle, drown or burn or blow up or hang or chop up or push from a tall building your average zombie. As long as you stop the heart or the brain or just cause massive physical trauma, you’re gonna kill the thing. But we’re talking about finding a quick and easy method here. So my advice is use a gun and a lot of bullets, just like if you were trying to kill your wife or husband.”

From Already Dead, by Charlie Huston, 2005


It’s Really Not First Class – an Open Letter to the Royal Mail

Dear slovens

I appreciate the stress that doing a job of work can sometimes cause, and fully understand that quite often there is the utterly justified reluctance to do the work one is being paid for, so it is with absolutely no surprise I find that you consistently fail to deliver my post on time, and even to the slack standards you have set yourselves.

To wit, one letterbox sized packet marked “Urgent and Perishable” which, when sent First Class (an oxymoron of the most erudite wit, if ever there was a candidate!), took a full eight days to arrive. This is a weekly, scheduled, package, which almost never arrives on time, and even if it does then it’s only by what must be sheer accident of scheduling.

I have to say that I don’t really irk at the recent price hikes, but what I really do take umbrage with is the fact that there really is no value for money in the service you provide. If you deem a service to be “first class”, and require a commensurate level of remuneration for it, then first class it really must be. Most organisations have SLAs with their customers, and many of those have penalties or some form of compensatory remediation, available upon breach of said SLA. something you might want to think about. No, wait – strike that – something you would NEVER want to think about, given your current approach to delivery schedules.

Could it be that the delivery address is a business park? Is that an issue for you, or is it just me that you can’t be arsed to deliver on time to? I’ve written to the sender each time this occurs (oh, did I not say – this is a regular occurrence!), recommending that they choose an alternative mail delivery provider. Oh wait, you have sole responsibility for the national delivery of mail. Sounds a little like a monopoly to me, especially in this day and age.

Or, it could just be down to our miserable postie, who opens the door and throws our post in, even when it’s covered in “FRAGILE” tape. He’s a love, a real charmer.

Oh, and now you want to give my post to my drug-addled skank neighbours (who, I have to be fair, are actually neither – for now). No, that’s not what you’re paid to do, and I don’t believe it warrants the moniker “first class”.