Dammit, Jim, I’m A Writer — Not A Mathematician!

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, almost everything made a whole lot more sense than it does now.

TV was free, for instance. Oh, sure, you might have had to twist a pair of antennae into awkward positions to watch it, but you didn’t have to pay a princely sum to NBC to watch new episodes of MY MOTHER, THE CAR.

But, more importantly, finding your favorite shows was pretty straight forward. If you wanted to watch Channel 4 News, you just turned the channel selector to “4” and – ta da! – there it was!

The universe operated by a well defined set of rules. Logic reigned!

But trouble was brewing. The powers-that-be — the same powers-that-be that later conspired to create Form 1040-EZ and the ObamaCare website  — thought we had it much too easy!

One day, without asking our permission, they gave us something called Cable TV with its 27 bazillion channels to choose from. And to make it fun, rather than placing local Channel 4 logically on cable channel 4 where it belonged, they chuckled — and put it on Channel 25. Except when it was in high definition, then Channel 4 was placed on Channel 2,325.

To preserve our sanity, they basically forced us to retreat to another medium — like books. Books are safe ….

One of my favorite novels had been Alexander Dumas’ THE THREE MUSKETEERS. I pulled my well worn copy from the shelves, plopped myself down under the light from the 55” TV – the TV now served no other purpose since it was tuned to that single unused channel and I couldn’t find the remote – and started to read.

THE THREE 11854994447MUSKETEERS was thrilling! It was fun! It featured exciting bits of daring do and lots and lots of swordfights as we followed the adventures of musketeers Athos, Aramis, Porthos and d’Artegan!

It was even – hey! Wait a minute! Why are there FOUR musketeers?

And for that matter, why are they MUSKETeers?? They brandished swords, not muskets!!

So this book is really about FOUR Musketeers-without-muskets! Why isn’t it called THE FOUR SWORDSMEN?

Oh, well, I thought. Dumas was an early 19th century French writer and maybe something in the title got lost in the translation. Or perhaps, being a writer, Dumas just lacked the necessary counting skills. Or possibly, being French, he was playing a joke on the British.

Just like that, the safe and sane haven that books had promised was gone! TV might deserve another try.

Back in the 1970’s, on PBS, I reveled in a wonderful and quirky science fiction show imported from the UK, called BLAKE’S 7. As the DVDs start to play, I suddenly noticed the logo, which proudly announces the start of BLAKES 7 — incorrectly dropping the apostrophe!! But I digress …

B7-Logo1BLAKE’S 7 was thrilling! It was fun! It featured exciting bits of daring do and lots and lots of ray gun battles as we followed the adventures of the crew of the spaceship Librator [and later the Scorpio]!

It was even – hey! Wait a minute! Why aren’t there SEVEN members in the crew? For that matter, for most of this series, why isn’t there even anyone named Blake?!

Over the course of the series, 9 characters plus 3 sentient computers, took turns frolicking through the resident spaceship – but seldom was there a full allotment of the promised seven! One time the crew compliment actually swelled to a hefty EIGHT, but the writers surprisingly noticed and quickly resolved this misstep by killing one off. Writers can be a nasty bunch.

But that attention to detail was short lived.

The titular leader, Blake, disappeared shortly afterwards, along with another featured character! And then all hell broke loose!

Blake was simply replaced by the resident Spock act-a-like named Avon. From this point on, the series should have been renamed AVON’S SIX. Except someone else was killed by a writer’s pen and the team was reduced to 5 … and it should have become AVON’S FIVE. Or even more logically, since cowardly Vila was the only character to appear in all 52 shows, it should have been VILA AND FRIENDS right from the start.

I sat and thought long and hard about these, and other, incongruities, which led me to consider a couple of possible theories.

One was that foreigners, deprived of access to the superior American educational system, simply never learned to count! Perhaps it was even brain damage that developed in cultures that still used kilograms and meters instead of the more sensible pounds and feet!

That had to be it! Only Americans were paying attention during the Arithmetic lessons! I could even dig up substantial evidence proving that all that Cable TV nonsense could be blamed on the Dutch, posing as Pennsylvanians!

Truth, justice and the American way gave us better math skills!

If we called a film THE DIRTY DOZEN then you knew you would get exactly 12 misfits! If you sit down to enjoy THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, you know there will be exactly 7 gunslingers protecting those poor villagers against ill-tempered Mexican bandits!

I was convinced that if everyone had equal access to Ms. Frizzle’s lectures in Math 101, Channel 4 would still be found by turning the dial to 4!

My second theory involved paranoia, and the strong possibility that both the French and English had plotted all this to drive us bonkers. That was starting to make sense to me – and then along came Josh Whedon. Josh, whom I was convincing myself was a Russian spy, couldn’t – wouldn’t! — even count to one!

buffyHis BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER series of movies and TV introduced us to a Slayer, a gorgeous woman bestowed with superhuman senses, strength, speed, endurance, agility, healing and the occasional prophetic dream. Clearly a special person, a Slayer was even allowed to play with sharp objects and run with scissors. All were necessary skills in the fight against the ancient forces of evil – a motley crew consisting mainly of vampires and demons.

In the established lore, there could only be one Slayer in existence at any one time, because for another to become The Chosen One and inherit the title and powers, the previous Slayer had to die.

That was a nice simple rule, expressed nicely in Yoda-speak as “Always one there are, no more, no less.”

BUFFY was thrilling! It was fun! It featured exciting bits of daring do and lots and lots of martial art battles as we followed the adventures of a petite cheerleader moonlighting as a vampire killer accompanied by her gang of self titled Scooby Doos!

It was even – hey! Wait a minute! Why is there more than one Slayer?!

Wily Josh created a loophole and managed to circumvent the dictionary definition of ONE!! Before we knew it, there was a second Slayer, and then a third! And finally there were hundreds of potential Slayers, fighting each otherr to possess the prettiest wooden stake with which to turn vampires into dust. Where would this end?

To be fair to Josh, rather than being a subversive Communist, he might instead have learned his math from Professor George Lucas. While the rest of us thought we were watching his STAR WARS” PART ONE, George – and only George – was comfortable with the idea that we were really watching PART FOUR!!

This was Lucas’ New Math. Instead of going uno-dos-tres-etc. like us normal folk, George was counting 4-5-6-1-2-3! Poor George also never learned to count any higher than that, and had to leave it to Dr. Disney, PhD, to count higher.

Sadly, it doesn’t stop there. The witches of CHARMED had the POWER OF THREE – except there were four of them!

My head is now starting to hurt.

4463877_stdSo before I get too carried away, I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine if there are just 97 [instead of 101] DALMATIANS or that there might have been 304 – instead of 300 – Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae. There are certainly others better suited to this task than li’l ol’ me.

Because frankly, I’m so disillusioned I don’t care anymore.

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