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Chapter 7
Alternate Arts and Culture

Is There An Eco In Here?

by SASKATCHEWAN KOLONOSCOGRAD, Alternate Reality News Service Existentialism Writer

A crisis has erupted in academia as the Million Monkey Project has produced its first virtually complete work, and it wasn't by Shakespeare.

"We didn't foresee this," kajillionaire recluse Bruce Wayne, sponsor of the Million Monkey project, stated, "and, to be honest with you, I'm not sure what to make of it."

"I'll tell you what to make of it," Igor Vladyofsky, Fordham professor and head researcher of the Million Monkey Project, stated. "It's a disaster. A big, fat, [UNACADEMIC EXPLETIVE DELETED] disaster!"

The Million Monkey Project is a literary experiment where a million monkeys are put to work at word processors. The theory was that, given enough time, one of them would compose a work approximating one of Shakespeare's plays or sonnets. Had that happened, it would have been proof that great literature is not the product of creative genius, but merely a random lacy frill on the undergarment that is the chaotic universe.

Instead, after three years of around the clock effort, one of the monkeys wrote a short story that is an almost word for word copy of Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis." Although not an exact duplicate - there are several instances of the word "the" spelled as "teh," for example, and one inexplicable instance of Gregor Samsa being referred to as "Anton Houlebecq" - the mistakes are no worse than what you would expect from a poor human typist.

"I'm ruined," Vladyofsky sobbed. "Ruined! How will I ever get on the cover of The Journal of Literary Exegesis now?"

"Igor tends to take these things too seriously," Robert Monette, professor of Literary Non-Alignment at Rutgers, responded to the news. "He tried to kill himself by stuffing snails up his nose when it was announced that Homer wasn't a real human being, but an amalgam of oral storytellers, you know.

"Personally, I think the creation of the Kafka story vindicates the whole project. It may be a different random lacy frill on the undergarment that is the chaotic universe than the one they had hoped for, but it's still a random lacy frill on the undergarment that is the chaotic universe."

Some controversy surrounds the story, which was leaked to a Washington Post reporter by a shady nobody in a dark parking lot whom the press, for no apparent reason, has come to call "Deep Oats." Computer analysis confirms that the story was composed at least two months ago. Why the delay in publicizing it?

"I was getting around to it," Vladyofsky testily answered. "Geez, have you never had paperwork pile up on your desk?"

Despite Vladyofsky's protestations, a pattern seems to be emerging. Rumours circulating on the Internet claim that as early as two months into the Million Monkey Project, one of the cleverer orangutans actually composed (recomposed?) the lyrics to the Duran Duran song "Rio."

Critics have suggested that Vladyofsky has been suppressing other works written by the apes - everything from Camus' The Outsider to Three Stooges scripts - just because they weren't written by Shakespeare. "Vladyofsky has been suppressing other works written by the apes just because they weren't written by Shakespeare," stated former Times of London literary critic Bosley Cathair. "It's a shame, really. If he wasn't so obsessed with Shakespeare - ooh, ahh, the greatest writer in the English language, booga booga - he would see that his experiment has been a wild success."

Cathair lost his position in 2000 when he was caught plagiarizing a review of George Orwell's Animal Farm that had been written over 50 years ago. Suspicions were immediately raised when somebody realized that nobody had reissued Animal Farm in many years, so a review at the time was unnecessary.

"Nobody would have called it plagiarism," Cathair sniffed, "if I hadn't been so damned evolved. No. If I had had a furry body and a tail, it would have been literary bloody experimentation, wouldn't it?"

The discovery of "The Metamorphosis" in the random characters generated by the apes has put the future of the Million Monkey Project in doubt. Some say that the point has been proven and the project should be shut down. Others point out that putting a million apes back into the wild is asking for ecological trouble. Still others suggest that the monkeys have fine careers ahead of them as advertising copywriters. Mostly, people ask, "Who was Franz Kafka, anyway?"

I blame the public school system.

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