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Text/Book: Artificial Sunlight
An excerpt from A. G. Pasquella's novel NewTown

Actually existing robot plane

Text/Book, the Toronto Standard‘s books column, is written by Emily M. Keeler and Chris Randle, plus occasional guests. This month’s is A. G. Pasquella, with an excerpt from his upcoming novel NewTown, which he describes this way: NewTown is about a con man and his crew trying to take control of an alien spacecraft.  It’s social satire written as “space farce”, inspired by classic science fiction and comedy – Star Trek meets 30 Rock.

NewTown shimmers on the horizon, changing from green to gold to grey. An unshaven man in an admiral’s hat stands on NewTown’s bridge and peers at the view screen through an antique brass telescope.

“How’s it looking down there, Henderson?”

“Uh—” Ensign Henderson turns his long lean face toward the view screen. “Bad, sir. The Earth is still on fire.”

“Still?” The Admiral collapses his telescope. “All right, we can figure this out. Access Environmental Control. Stir up the oceans. Tsunami the shit out of the coastal regions. That’ll douse those flames.”

“Aye Aye.”

Henderson grits his teeth, stretches his arms and throws a switch. A beam of blue energy crackles from the ship’s Environmental Array. The energy beam stabs through space, penetrates the Earth’s atmosphere and plunges into the Atlantic Ocean.

Seconds before the beam hits, tiny crabs scuttle across a vast flotilla of degraded plastic. Beneath the web of polymers, a thick layer of oil coats the ocean’s surface.

“Now the ocean is on fire, sir.”

The Admiral shakes his head. “Damn. Henderson, this is really not my day.”

NewTown ripples and wavers. The Admiral leaps toward his console. “No, no, no! Not now! Ensign! Prevent the shift! Stay at this spatial location!”

“Negative, sir.” Henderson’s hands twitch. “We, uh, haven’t figured out how to do that yet.”

The Admiral stares in dismay as Earth vanishes from sight. A purple planet with seven moons snaps into focus.

“Say, is that the planet with the really good potatoes?”

“Yes, sir.”

The Admiral grins. “Things are looking up.”


Sebastian’s robotic legs stretch out from a shower of sparks. One by one, the sparks wink out. Sebastian pulls out his scanner and gets to work. “Fascinating. This entire hallway smells like burnt cheese. Could the ship’s power couplings be enzyme-based? Sammy, scan for biomolecular residue.”


“Oh, I know, I know. You’d rather be swashbuckling, swinging from ropes and rescuing damsels and whatnot. This is a Science Mission, Sammy. Knowledge before Heroics. Isn’t that right, Milkshake Droid?”

The Droid rattles and spits smoke. One arm jerks forward. Chocolate syrup leaks from a cracked container.

“I think that thing’s broken, Dad.” Sammy covers his mouth with his hand. “Couldn’t you have gotten a better team?”

“Nonsense! You and I and the Milkshake Droid are a great team. Rock-solid. And besides, no one else called me back. So how ‘bout those scans?”

Sammy’s eyes go wide. “Dad!” Sebastian screams. A giant flesh blob fills the corridor. Rosemary and The Doctor drop from the ceiling firing their plasma rifles. The barrage of plasma halts the flesh blob in its tracks. The flesh blob quivers, reabsorbing its burnt bits.

Rosemary grabs Sammy’s hand. His skin tingles at her touch. “Come with us.”

“Don’t have to tell me twice. Let’s go, Dad.” The flesh blob rolls forward. The Milkshake Droid is swallowed up like a penny pressed into a mass of dough.

“Milkshake Droid! Nooooo!”

“You can build a new one, Dad. Let’s go!”


Smoke from grilled meat rises into the artificial sunlight. “Who wants another steak?”


Lance the robot plane aims his lasers. The steaks sizzle to perfection.

Jackson tugs on Matilda’s pants. “Mommy, when I grow up, will I be a robot plane like Daddy?”

“Not unless you eat your vegetables.”

Matilda sips coffee. In the backyard Lance the robot plane putters, pulling weeds and picking up sticks.

“Really he’s just the same as any other husband. He loves me and he loves the kids. He’s really helpful around the house. He reshingled the roof in 6.4 seconds flat. He’s not so good washing dishes, though. He’s still working on recalibrating his tactile response unit.”

“What about—” Mrs. Keegan’s eyes dart from side to side. She covers the side of her mouth with her hand. “Sex?”

Matilda stirs in cream. “It’s the best sex I ever had.”

Matilda writhes in orgasm, deep flutter throbbing toward climax, spread-eagled inside the robot plane. She floats atop warm fluid sacs. A thousand microfilaments tickle her skin. Engines vibrate in cycles, gentle and then full, pulse-tip moving toward her center. Sudden thrusters make her gasp. Mild electric shocks shiver along her spine. Thrusters pound again. Her lips tingle with sparks.

With a smile, Matilda opens her eyes. Mrs. Keegan sits gap-mouthed. Matilda smiles. “What’s not to like?”


A.G. Pasquella’s writing has appeared in various spots including McSweeney’s, Wholphin, Black Book, The Utne Reader and Joyland. His first book, Why Not A Spider Monkey Jesus?, is about a talking chimpanzee who becomes a televangelist. His second book, NewTown, will be available in September 2012 from www.agpbooks.com & select bookstores.

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