A Brief Moment of Culture, Part 1

Holy crud, I can’t believe we’re already up to the beginning of the Very Long Fanfic of Jeffrey C. Wells. Jeffrey first wrote to me in January 2002, alerting me to certain surface similarities between Narbonic and a story he was posting online, “Mundementia One”:

A nascent Mad scientist, a spastic flunky with a taste for heavy weaponry, a hapless straight man and an opening battle in a laboratory against a literate and educated professor type wielding a gun.

Ye gods, Miss. I didn’t realize the collective unconsciousness had an entry for things like this.

We corresponded for a while, and eventually he wrote what I cannot stress enough is a very long and involved Narbonic fanfic. I was so delighted to receive awesome fanfiction that I started serializing it on Sundays, not realizing how long it would ultimately be. Have I mentioned this is a really darn long fanfic?

Anyway, Jeff and I became friends, and now we’re writing a strip together. As the Wild Dada Ducks say, it is funny how fate takes its cut.

The “Non-Pornographic” qualifier was necessary because there was a dare going around the mailing list at one point to write smutty Narbonic fanfiction. People sent me a few. You don’t get to see those.

All the illustrations for “A Brief Moment of Culture” are based, for no particular reason, on John R. Neill’s illustrations for the Oz books. I had a big stack of Oz books for reference. The first and last ones here actually turned out pretty good, all things considered. I used the last illustration for a T-shirt at one point.

This entire epic is based on a throwaway line in a strip a while back wherein Artie mentions that he had to come to D-Con because Mell blew up the gerbil pens back home. It’s all written from Artie’s point of view, although Jeffrey has told me that his favorite character in Narbonic is Dana, the insane, doomed superintelligent gerbil who doesn’t actually appear all that much. Go figure. Artie is probably my favorite character, for what it’s worth.

In a much later storyline, I managed to work in a scene of Artie playing “Boggle” with Mell (and Seth) as a tribute to this installment of the fanfic. The Boggle square in the above illustration spells out “Hapax Legomenon,” my tiny tribute to my other long-running and overly labor-intensive Sunday feature.

I played the French horn in high school band.

16 thoughts on “A Brief Moment of Culture, Part 1

  1. I just want to mention that a very important webcomic reference appears in this story – more precisely, the word “Gorilla” is a reference to Mark Shallow’s Adventurers! It is a reference so mild and devious that I am unsure if Mr. Wells was even consciously aware of it.

    The only meaningful complaint I can pose to this story is that after reading several lines of Artie’s internal narrration, one finds oneself helplessly reading everybody’s dialogue in plummy English accents. This isn’t helped by the fact that this story is called “A Brief Moment of Culture”, either.

  2. I guess there’s not a whole lot for me to say here, beside the fact that the decision to write this particular Absurdly Long Fanfic was a turning point in my life for any number of reasons.  The original title for this piece was “Experimental Prototype Narbonic of Tomorrow”, and it was to be presented to the mailing list with the framing device that in the post-apocalyptic world of the future, we would need to get our Narbonic fixes through the oral tradition or something.  This all changed when Shaenon quite unexpectedly illuminated the first installment.  It was later titled something quite different.

    The fact that Mell finds the word “Gorilla” on the Boggle board is a nod to Mark Shallow’s “Adventurers”, which finished up some time ago after the longest boss battle in history. 

  3. Leon!  Simultaneous posting action GO!

    Also, yes, I used to have a very proper-sounding and Anglocentric writing style.  Pratchett and Gaiman were the two folks that convinced me I could write, and I think I consciously or unconsciously mirrored them for some time.  I’m still not quite over it, to be honest, thanks to the continuing efforts of the above-mentioned folks plus Monty Python and “Red Dwarf”.

  4. OK, am I the only one that thinks that Mell’s hair ribbon is actually an alien symbiotic life form?

  5. “Conventional people don’t carry light anti-tank weapons to their high-school band concerts.”


    Is *that* what that is? I thought it was some sort of sci-fi-esque proton gun/plasma blaster/particle-beam rifle…


    P.S. I like that third frame of Mell gazing longingly at that wall of weaponry while fondling a hand grenade. Oh the places you’ll destroy… 

  6. It’s been a while, I missed this.  Last Monday, with Mell demanding directions (“Where’s the secret societies?”) — this incremented the Big Freakin’ ™ Gun count to 16.  The bottom illustration in today’s story bumps it up to 17.

  7. The most significant fanfic I ever wrote was a Pratchett fanfic entitled Bloodaxe and Ironhammer.

  8. Ah, the legendary fanfic appears! Like Ed, I love Mell’s sulky-wistful expression in the Boggle picture. And her grip on the grenade – evidently she’s using it as some kind of comfort blanket. You can always depend on a grenade, Mell.

    (I have never written any fanfic, but maybe I should, given that I’ve already got the very proper and English-English writing style as a birthright.)

  9. And her grip on the grenade – evidently she’s using it as some kind of comfort blanket.

    Yeah, when Mell gets uncomfortable, so does everyone else….

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