Brown River Queen cover art

Monday, November 14, 2011

Three Wishes, or a Hot Tub?

If you're like me (and let's hope you're not), you'll find yourself obsessing over the most ridiculous things.

Case in point: State Farm commercials.  Specifically, the ones in which anyone can summon a friendly State Farm agent simply by singing aloud the State Farm jingle ('Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there!').

Maybe it's the writer in me, trying to wrap my head around the ramifications inherent in being able to call up a magical, if insurance-obsessed being, just by speaking a few simple words.

I write fantasy, so of course the concept isn't utterly foreign to me.  And there's plenty of mythological and folklorish precedent for such goings-on.  Rub a lamp, summon a genie. Speak the right words, call up a demon, or a ghost.  It's magic, right?

Well, sort of.  But even the most over-used and tired fantasy tropes come with rules.  The genie grants three wishes, and three wishes only.  The demon demands your soul as payment.  Ghosts, well, ghosts pretty much just blather on about family trivia and always wind up being faked by unscrupulous mediums anyway.

But with that State Farm bit, there aren't any rules.  Say the jingle, the agent appears.  Add a few words to the jingle, and that appears too.  In the video, random couch-sitters add 'hot tub' and 'sandwich' to the jingle, and bang, they get them.

That really bugs my inner editor, which is deeply troubled every time it sees magic being used without a price.  Apparently, I'm perfectly all right watching the Second Law of Thermodynamics being violated, but I won't stand for frivolous narrative use of arcane summonings.

The implications of the State Farm world-view are staggering.  What if someone sings 'Like a good neighbor, Sate Farm is there, bringing the entire Sun with them?'

Poof, that's what.  Instant planetary incineration.  The entire Solar System thrown into chaos.

Did I kill an entire alternate Earth out there, just now?

So I reject the whole sing-a-jingle-get-an-agent concept.  It's unworkable even in a fictional environment, because it places no limitations on the scope of the invocation.

State Farm, you are dismissed.

As I said, aren't you glad you're not like me?

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