Stennis Conway woke up to the glare of the vid screens. The headlines scrolled across the screen, as they always did every hour, every day, everywhere. He turned to his wife Shelly Ann who lay asleep next to him and considered waking her, changed his mind and got ready for work. No sense waking her just now, he thought, the headlines were not particularly interesting so far.
Stennis showered, dressed, and made his way to the kitchen for a cup of coffee and a light breakfast. As he entered the kitchen, the vid screen sensed his presence and gleamed to life. He sat down at the kitchen table and consumed his coffee just as he also consumed the headlines that floated on the screen. He read with interest (as all good citizens did) the current happenings of the day.
He saw that archaeologists had now confirmed that aliens were indeed responsible for the building of the Pyramids of Giza and the Colossus of Rhodes. Stennis considered this and selected the “Deny” button on the kitchen table console. While that was amusing, he knew that he would have a ton of work to do modifying various e-history books if that storyline was adopted. Stennis took his job as Vice President for Century Publishing very seriously and knew that it would take his team all weekend to modify their e-history collection. Besides, he had plans to go fishing this weekend! He would have to watch the outcome of this vote carefully.
Next up was an item about the Loch Ness monster; apparently, the monster had a batch of babies overnight. Scientists were now busy trying to locate the babies by throwing salami and brisket into the water to lure the babies to surface. Stennis found the whole thing quite amusing and hit “Affirm” on the console. He would be happy to see this story move forward to wide acceptance.
He looked at his watch, which he wore mostly for cosmetic purposes, and realized he’d better get moving if he was going to get to the office on time. His vid screen was pumping out a lot of fascinating headlines, potentially making the day quite busy for him. He really hoped he wouldn’t have to work the weekend making revisions to the e-history catalogue, but he alone did not control the headlines and their implications on the past.
Stennis rode the Mag-Lev into work, keeping an eye on the vid screens as all the passengers did. He noted that his fellow passengers were keenly watching a story now unfolding concerning their own government. It was being reported that the Internal Bureau of Protection (the IBP) was plotting to assassinate the President. This was a huge story and by the looks of his fellow passengers, people seemed to be eating it up and affirming the plot whole-heartedly. If this story was “Affirmed,” the IBP would have to attempt the assassination. Once a story was “Affirmed” by the general population, they would have to follow that course of action. There was no other way. However, it would take the Central Analytics Office (the CAO) a few hours to tabulate the responses and issue a decree.
When Stennis reached his stop, he exited the Mag-Lev and walked the short distance to the Century Publishing building. Walking into the office, Stennis greeted his team. They were, as usual, assembled in the main conference room on the 86th floor.
“Good morning team,” Stennis said. “Do we have any major revisions or corrections for the day?”
Jamison Spice spoke up first; he was Stennis’ deputy and proceeded to give him the run-down. “Well, Mr. Conway, there are a bunch of interesting items we will need to attend to.”
“Okay, Spice, give it to me,” replied Stennis.
“Well, first, the good news, the Giza Pyramid thing is dead. CAO is reporting a 44% Affirm response, so nothing to do on that front.”
Stennis breathed a sigh of relief. “Good,” he said, “what’s the bad news?”
“Well, we have a story about a pod of dolphins that apparently can speak Portuguese. Scientists are said to now believe that humans evolved not from lower forms of primates but rather from dolphins and mermaids. This came through on the overnight vid feed, and you know how things go on the overnight shift. It received an 88% Affirm response. We will need to make significant adjustments to our science library and all related fiction stories based on the old evolutional primate theory. The other big item involves Elvis –”
Stennis interrupted Spice, “Seriously, Elvis again? How many changes are we going to make because of this story line? It never dies.”
“Nor apparently does Elvis,” replied Spice. “He is reportedly living on a space station on Europa around Jupiter.”
“I didn’t think we had a space station on Europa,” said Stennis.
“We do now,” said Spice with a wry smile on his face. “Nothing else really major, just some small odds and ends. These are the big stories that have been Affirmed today.”
“OK team, you all heard the report. We have a lot of work to do for a Friday morning. Let’s see if we can get these changes made before the end of the day. I don’t want the CAO all over our backs for not making the official changes needed. We have an important job as you all know. The people have spoken. They know what they want to believe. They know what should be true, and it’s our job to reflect that.”
His team stood. They all knew it would be a busy day, and they would need another meeting mid-day to check on their progress and the feeds to see if other stories had been adopted while they were hard at work changing the libraries related to the morning’s big stories.
Stennis grabbed a cup of coffee and headed to his office to handle some more mundane affairs while his team began drafting the needed corrections to the affected texts. His mind wandered as he addressed the various administrative items requiring his attention. He had heard whispers (for that was all they were at this point) about a time when facts were, his mind stumbled over the phrase . . . how did they refer to it? Oh, yes, he remembered. “Facts were stubborn things.” What an antiquated system of belief! If facts were unalterable, how would you ever be able to reflect the beliefs of the people? How odd it would be if most of the people believed something that wasn’t true. So much simpler to just make it true.
He knew that his job and that of his company was an essential element in the process of historical correction. It was almost as important as the role of the Central Analytics Office whose job not only included tallying up the votes for each story but also generating the stories in the first place. They had whole teams whose sole responsibility was to develop stories that might be appealing to the people. It was an incredibly difficult job.
Stennis re-focused his thoughts on more productive activities and was finishing up the administrative items when his phone gently buzzed. It was Spice alerting him that the mid-day meeting was in 30 minutes. He told Spice that he would be there.
Once again, the team assembled. First, Stennis asked for an update on the corrections needed from the morning meeting. His team reported that things were moving along nicely. They had identified 90,782,412 items requiring modifications primarily in the science texts – oddly enough related to both the dolphin and Elvis stories (now that he was on Europa). The team also had a variety of texts to adjust related to Elvis biographies. Century Publishing used the latest quantum computing tools to identify and correct almost all the needed revisions. All Century Publishing contributors signed the mandatory waivers that gave Century Publishing the authority to change or completely delete material as required by CAO storylines.
Stennis looked up from his tablet where he was reviewing the team’s work. “Well done, folks. Have the morning vid feeds given us any major issues?”
“Just one,” chimed in Janice who was one of Stennis’ top researchers.
“All right Janice, what have we got?”
“Well, at about 10 AM, a story ran on the vid feed that got a 96% Affirm rating.”
“Wow, 96%. I haven’t seen anything that high since the story that revealed that Isaac Asimov had actually been a robot himself. That one caught on like wildfire,” replied Stennis to Janice and the whole team.
“I know,” said Janice. “But this story has much wider repercussions.”
“Please don’t tell me it has anything to do with Elvis,” begged Stennis.
“No,” answered Janice. “This time we are faced with a major rewrite of the Civil War. In fact, we are now going to call it the Second War of Independence. Apparently, according to this new story, the South did not intentionally keep slaves and did not wish to fight the North at all. It seems that an evil genius named Barron von Klorg poisoned the southern water supply with a drug that forced all southerners to do his evil bidding. A southern hero named William Boggs discovered von Klorg’s plot and enlisted the North’s help to defeat him and then free the southerners from a heritage of slavery that was never their own doing. In other words, it’s a total rewrite of that time period. It seems that the public loved the story line. With this story as our official history, people no longer have to live with the guilt of slavery. Apparently, that premise was quite appealing to a large number of folks as the Affirm numbers demonstrate.”
Stennis looked down at his tablet for a minute, reviewing the story that Janice had just reported on to the team. It was definitely big, and while some of this work would be handled by the night shift at Century Publishing, this would absolutely kill his fishing trip this weekend. He would need to speak with Shelly Ann when he got home.
“Team,” he began, “I know this one will require massive changes to our history catalogs. Additionally, there is a ton of historical fiction to review and rewrite or scrap totally. But, I can think of no better group of professionals to take on this task. The CAO will be checking on this one, and I think we can expect a full-blown audit to ensure our work is accurate and thorough. I’m sorry if some of you had weekend plans, I did as well, but it is imperative that our records reflect the reality we believe. So, let’s get to it. Please have progress reports sent to me at the end of the day. Thanks.”
As Stennis rode home on the Mag-Lev, he tried to relax from the long day. He watched the vid, but voted not to Affirm anything that would drastically increase his workload over the weekend. He knew that this was not the proper attitude, but he had his hands full as it was.
As he came through his front door, Shelly Ann greeted him warmly. She looked as though she had just gotten home herself, putting in some long hours at work as well. They made small talk as they prepared dinner. As they sat down to eat, Stennis relayed to her how his day had gone. She nodded knowingly. As Stennis finished his monologue, he looked up from his plate and said, “But I guess you knew how my day would go. How were things over at the Central Analytics Office today?”
Shelly Ann paused as she chewed her food. “The usual. You know our saying in the office – reality is what we say it is.” They finished their dinner in silence.
by Brad Center