The Applause Inside, Part One
By Wendell Abern
By the time I’d graduated college, my writing professors had branded me a “rebel,” a “foul-mouthed heretic” and “egregiously irreverent.” I considered such labels high praise.
These thoughts crossed my mind last week when I was cleaning out the files on my back porch and came across my first serious literary effort: a three-act play entitled, “The Applause Inside,” Iconoclastic to its very roots.
I began writing this science fiction comedy/satire when I was in the Navy, and finished it shortly after my discharge. As I leafed through it last week, I thought … I really haven’t changed much in 60 years. Nor has the world.
“The Applause Inside” features a small group of extra-terrestrial Facilitators, tasked with developing a newly-formed planet. Their goal: help the planet achieve its Oneness with the rest of the Universe in only 50 billion years, thereby cutting two billion years from the usual process.
The planet, of course, is earth, and these geniuses really mess it up.
After some four billion years of research and brainstorming, Beth and Seymour, Senior Creators, meet with their director, Rudy.
“So where are we?” Rudy asks.
“Beth came up with a great idea for the ones we’ve bestowed with advanced brains,” Seymour says. “We call them humans. And Beth has created an Applause Gene. They’re going to hear applause inside themselves.”
“They’ll hear it inside, they’ll crave hearing it from others!” Beth says. “This will motivate them to do great things! The gene will lead to great innovators, great thinkers, great doers!”
“And great leaders!” Seymour says. “Leaders who can begin unifying people, bringing people together faster than on other planets.”
“I’m not sure of that,”Rudy says. “It is unique, I’ll give you that. I’ll bring it to the Intra-Universe Council next millennium. What about propagation?”
“Copulation,” Seymour says.
“Copu – Sex?! You’re saying sex?”
“Sir, we –
“Absolutely not! Don’t you guys do any research? They tried that on the planet Xiliban, and the sex gave so much pleasure, they copulated themselves into extinction in one billion years!”
“Sir,” Beth says. “They had six genders on the planet Xiliban. Planets with life, in every universe, have six genders. That’s one of the reasons we insisted on only two when we first started working on this.”
“Right,” Seymour says. “A male and a female. Fewer genders, fewer squabbles. And not so much copulating. We figure we’ll pick up three or four million years in development.”
“Yes,” Beth says, “but according to Seymour, only the female gender gives birth. I’d like that changed to – “
“The only ideas you like are yours!” Seymour says. “If you – “
“Okay, okay!” Rudy yells. “Enough! We’ll see. An applause gene. Copulation. Two genders, only one gives birth. The Council may exile us to another universe. What else?”
Rudy says, “Hey, what’s the problem? C’mon.”
Seymour turns to Beth. “It’s your idea, you tell him.”
“Okay, now Rudy, just listen,” Beth says. “You remember the concept we developed for the planet, Karjon?
“Yeah. Marriage. Did nothing.”
“I’ve got a new wrinkle.”
“Wait’ll you hear this,” Seymour grumbles.
“After the race has developed some … after they’re up on two feet and hunting other animals for food and settling into caves and such …”
“Yes? C’mon!” Rudy says, exasperated.
Beth sighs, then says, “No copulating until after marriage.”
“Rudy, the reason marriage didn’t work on Karjon is because it wasn’t important enough. If this – “
“You’re talking sexual blackmail!” Rudy yells.
“That’s what I said,” Seymour says.
“Beth, this is way too radical.”
“We’re trying to pick up two billion years, remember?”
“Ah, you’re just upset about the roles the female gender is playing,” Seymour says.
“You damned right I am! Of course I am! What kind of roles? She’s sitting back at the cave, taking care of the kids and not getting a whole lot of applause. Meanwhile, big male cahuna is playing hoop-de-doo with his spears and strutting around the jungle, waiting for standing ovations!”
“What,” Seymour chuckles, “you want her to go hunt and him to stay home with the kids? They’ll have to discover psychiatry five million years earlier than usual to handle that one!”
“There has to be more equity!” Beth shouts. “What, the big shots come trotting home with their conquests and the women are supposed to applaud from sexual position number 27?” You just –“
“All right, enough!” Rudy yells. “Enough. Yes, it’s radical. But it might pick up some time. I’m going to present it to the council. Now, I’m afraid to ask, but what else you got?”
Pause. Beth turns to Seymour. “Your turn,” she says.
Seymour crosses his arms, defiantly. “Abstract ideas,” he says.
“We think they – “
“No! Nononono! Absolutely not!”
“Rudy! We have to pick up two billion years!”
“Yes, but abstract ideas? You know what happens next! They’re going to realize they’re mortal! And as soon as that happens, they’ll start creating gods.”
“So what? They’ll never discover the real one. And it will help bring them together!”
“Oh? Is that what happened on the planet Zeranzen?”
“Zeranzen did not have the Applause Gene. We think that will help prevent the kind of divisiveness that tore Zeranzen apart.”
Rudy sighs. “Okayokayokay. Enough.”
Rudy holds his head in his hands, then stares at his assistants.
“They’ve only been up on two feet for a few million years or so and you want to give them marriage, sexual blackmail and abstract ideas. And I thought I had bad migraines in the last millennium. I’ll take all this to the council, but we meet again. And soon! 75,000 years.”
“75,000? Rudy, that only gives us time to –“
“75,000! Not a century more!”
End of act one.
Part Two, and the conclusion of “The Applause Inside,” will appear in this publication next month.
Wendell Abern can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.