still so tempting to write the third part of the ‘atheist comic sci-fi pulp fiction’ trilogy, featuring Karmody Tooten as the evil entrepeneur behind the predatory chain giant Atheist Shopping Network. You don’t want to mess with her, not if you’re a tiny independent start-up atheist trinket and gizmo shop, even one located on the far outpost of Galactic Waystation of Novidium 87, where steampunk is more than just a god-awful cutesy genre but a genuine way of life, and nudie scientist trading cards are hoarded by reclusive sand miners. But I don’t know … I want more!
The outpost is run by L.E. Jasper, where the L.E. stands for ‘none of your damn business’. Alone, she runs the only store-type operation on the remote planet, and it’s a pretty shabby operation, mainly because the miners of Novidium export their crafts and goods for free, being otherwise utterly self-sufficient. The sand they mine has a special quality that allows it to be used in universal hourglasses – it automatically adapts to a planet’s gravitational field to measure off the same absolute amount of time wherever they are. There are other uses for this special sand, including a kind of compass that always points to the original center of the universe, a kind of sand paper on which one can write a limitless amount (or draw infinite lines), and they also hand-craft ‘sand dollars’ which are used elsewhere in the galaxy as a kind of rare currency. All of their crafts are rare and unique and of extreme value, except on their own planet, where they are completely useless, hence give away. In return, all they will accept are the very latest in atheist trinkets and novelties, which can only be obtained through the almighty Atheist Shopping Network. The trade flows through L.E. Jasper’s Procopian Emporium, which becomes the target of a hostile takeover by the ASN itself. Like a Starbucks which can leave no independent coffee shop alone, or an Amazon which must dominate at all costs, the Atheist Shopping Network, under the fearless stewardship of Karmody Tooten, tolerates no competition, not even from the tiniest, most insignificant little outpost on the edge of known space. Her problem, though, is to find the price. After all, everyone has one, don’t they?