Matthew Holloran's flash of insight came at 8.57 a.m. on the inner ring road. Ahead, cars stretched nose-to-tail as far as he could see. Traffic lights changed from red to green and back again, but nothing moved. Everyone had wound down their windows in the heat, and Matthew could hear a hundred car radios in glorious surround-sound. The traffic report was the same on all of them: gridlock.
The blue hatchback in front crawled onward, then stopped. Straight away, the Volvo behind blasted its horn, until Matthew nudged six inches forward to close the gap. Six inches closer to the High Energy Physics complex — another sixty-three thousand inches to go. Matthew contemplated phoning to say he was going to be late, but decided not to bother. He wouldn't be missing much: they had reached an impasse on the problem. Quantum teleportation would never scale up to the real world.
This is another of my flash fiction "gimmick" stories. I got the idea when I was stuck in a traffic jam on the way to work one morning; during my lunch hour I typed up a rough draft and emailed it to my personal account; then at home I polished it up and sent it out. In those days there was a webzine, Planet Relish, devoted to spec-fic comedy, and I knew this would be perfect for them. They accepted it and paid their flat fee of $20, which for a 400-word piece worked out at a nifty 5 cents per word. It was the first time I'd ever sold something to the first market I submitted it to. The whole experience of writing and selling a story so quickly, even for just a short-short, made me feel almost like a "proper" writer.
The story itself is about a guy who gets stuck in a traffic jam on the way to work one morning. As he is a genius physicist, this inspires him to invent a gadget that will put an end to traffic jams. But, of course, things don't go entirely as planned....
Being a comedy zine, Planet Relish asked all their contributors to compose an amusing "nonsensical or even fictional" author bio. As a nod to a friend who worked in AI, I sent the following bio for publication:
|"Ian Creasey" is an experimental Artificial Intelligence program created by the School of Information Management at Leeds Metropolitan University. Publication of this story successfully concludes Phase 1 of testing. Phase 2, coming shortly, will be best observed from a safe distance.|
Planet Relish is long defunct. The story, minus the pseudo-bio, subsequently appeared in the anthology Triangulation: Taking Flight, an annual anthology series that the previous year had reprinted another of my flash pieces, "A Job For Life".