The Hammer's Fan Club

I wake up the way I usually wake up: one leg at a time and nothing about the discoveries regarding the existence of faster than light communication and alien civilizations can change that part of my routine. Gary Berghammer always starts out the day predictably, even when he's not at work.

I don't bother turning on the television since I already know what's going to be on: the galactic 'net, news reports about the galactic 'net, documentaries about the galactic 'net, talk shows talking about the galactic 'net and so on. If I'm particularly lucky, I can catch reruns of any of five of my own pieces from earlier this week, if the local news is still on. Of course, even the local news is mostly about the galactic 'net these days. If there are actual crimes or wars or what have you going on, you wouldn't know it due to lack of coverage.

When Genia Gonzalez discovered the tachyon pulse modulator, she thought she was making a new device to speed communications. NASA could get real-time updates from probes. We could make computers the size of the solar system, that kind of thing. Turns out the rest of the galaxy had been there first.

One year ago, she turned on her test device. Within a month the signals had been decoded. What was the first message received? How to translate the rest of the message.
Within weeks, we had full access to the galaxy's version of Wikipedia. Another few weeks, we had high definition video and roughly three billion channels, many of them completely incomprehensible to human sensory structures. Turns out an alien race which navigates primarily by smell will produce pretty odd (and nightmare-inducing) video.

This is all food for thought as I brush my teeth. I spit, rinse and shave, all the normal early morning business, refreshingly free of alien civilization or philosophy.

The world's gone a little nuts over the revelations. The internet was completely swamped. The first website which patched into the galactic network went up and then crashed all in the course of three hours. Others went up and stayed up, to the government's horror. Wiser minds decided that we needed to block access to the galactic 'net, but to no avail. The cat's well and truly out of the bag.

Good Morning America skypes a different alien bureaucrat or pop star every morning. Some Silicon tech bubble types have started up an alien personal assistant service. There's a booming industry in data mining alien patents. There's another boom industry in litigating over said patents. Taylor Swift has retooled her career to cover alien ballads. They're awful.

I turn on the TV while drying my hair, the mint toothpaste still fresh in my mouth. Do I make a bowl of cereal knowing that the toothpaste will make it taste funny or do I wait? I opt for coffee instead.

I'm on TV. I watch myself for a bit. It's the human interest piece I did Tuesday morning, about the Wilkerson Elementary science fair. It's all antigravity devices and force fields this year.

I switch the TV off before I get to the winner, who built a flash-cloning device originally invented by an alien race of hydrogen-breathers from deep in the atmosphere of a gas giant somewhere nearer the Core than us. She had fourteen identical twin sisters by the time I even finished my first sentence.

On a whim, I flip the lock screen on my tablet off. It blips and goes to desktop. I open the browser and Google myself.

The top result is the Galactic Wikipedia page.

Google must have updated their search engine and started crawling the galactic 'net.



I'm on the Galactic Wikipedia?

It's not just the fact that the page exists at all.

It's the length.

I skim down it. Birth date, breathless one paragraph summary. High school. College. First marriage. Second marriage. Jobs, dates, everything.

I raise an eyebrow. There's things on here I don't even know about. I really need to talk to my physician about some of these bits.

There's a picture of me brushing my teeth this morning.

There's an entry for my spider plant.

And then I notice the discussion tab.

I click on it.

There's a three page argument about the type of fiber in my undergarments. Three monks from the rings of Aldebaran are getting into a flamewar over which bank holds my mortgage. A blue animate block of methane ice insists the entry is wrong, that my bank is definitely not Chemical, as listed, but instead is Fifth Third of Denton. The monks call the ice-block a moron. The ice-block responds with a haiku about their mothers. It goes downhill from there.

I close the page, not really knowing how to take the discovery. Creeped out? Flattered? As a reporter, I've had weirder things happen to me. I've been stalked by a Malaysian bus driver, had to get a restraining order on her. And stranger revelations have come out over the last year. A civilization forty light years away has reconstructed Elvis and made him their God-Emperor, for crying out loud.

This reminds me of my discovery a few years ago that not only was there an Internet discussion forum devoted to flashlights, but that also that forum was heavily frequented and populated with highly opinionated and obsessed people. There were flame wars on that forum which lasted years and ruined relationships. Over flashlights.

I suppose it makes sense, really.

Call it Berghammer's Theorem of Exponentially Incremental Obsession: the larger a contributory population, the more obsessessed the contributors and the more obscure the topics discussed.

Before the internet, only five people in the world would have given a hoot about the difference between a p60 type flashlight reflector made in China and one made in Jersey. They would have remained in solitary obsession, the neighbors thinking them eccentric and maybe a little weird. Now those five people can call each other shitheads and anonymously death-threat each other.

It's a strange world out there.

I suppose having my own obsessed fan club isn't such a bad thing.

Maybe I should make an account and join the discussion.

But I'll have that bowl of cereal first.

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