Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Tinsel-Free Christmas Tree (Alfred and Bertha's Marvellous Twenty-First Century Life, Book 3) by Cora Buhlert

Release date: December 18, 2015
Subgenre:  Hard science fiction parody

About The Tinsel-Free Christmas Tree:


Bertha and Alfred, married for twenty years, enjoy a truly science fictional life in the twenty-first century. But in spite of all the technological marvels surrounding them, an argument about how to decorate the Christmas tree escalates and threatens their marriage.

This parodistic piece is a mundane short story of 2900 words or approximately 12 print pages, written in the style of science fiction’s “golden age” of the 1940s and 1950s. 

This story was written in response to E.P. Beaumont's "Not Really SF Short Story Challenge".


Even in the twenty-first century, the two point four billion adherents of Christianity, the world’s largest religion, still celebrated Christmas, a holiday that marked the birth of Jesus Christ, whom Christians believed to be the son of God and saviour of humanity.
Alfred and Bertha von Bülow considered themselves adherents of the Christian religion, even though the last time they had seen the inside of a Christian temple, a so-called church, had been twenty-three years ago during their marriage ceremony. And so they, too, celebrated Christmas as was traditional on planet Earth.
December 24, the day before Christmas, was known as Christmas Eve or the Holy Night. Since December 24 was a workday, Alfred was still at his job as an engineer at the Large Hadron Collider, the biggest machine in the world, while Bertha was at home, as befitted the devoted wife of a hardworking man, and made preparations for the upcoming festivities.
A festive meal was an important part of the Christmas celebrations in most twenty-first century families. And so Bertha busied herself with preparing a traditional Christmas dinner consisting of roast whole Anser anser domesticus, served with the shredded and pickled leaves of Brassica oleracea convar. capitata var. rubra and spherical dumplings made from the mashed tubers of the perennial nightshade Solanum tuberosum. For dessert, they would have the roasted and caramelised fruit of the Malus domesticus tree.
Once Anser anser domesticus was roasting on the oven, an electrically powered, thermally insulated chamber used for heating and baking, and the shredded leaves of Brassica oleracea convar. capitata var. rubra were simmering on the stove, which was also electrically powered, Bertha switched on the radio receiver.
A radio receiver was a unit — electrically powered as well — which received one-way wireless transmissions over radio waves, a type of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths longer than those of infrared light and frequencies between eighty-seven and one hundred and eight megahertz. Bertha had set the tuner, a subsystem of the radio receiver that converted the carrier frequency and its associated bandwidth into a fixed frequency that was suitable for further processing, to a broadcast station playing seasonal Christmas songs. Then she began wrapping the gifts she had bought for Alfred, for the exchange of gifts was an important part of the Christmas celebrations.
Being a practically inclined man, Alfred favoured practical gifts. And so Bertha had bought him two neckties, long decorative pieces of cloth woven from the fibre of the cocoons of the insect Bombyx mori and worn tied around the neck under the collar of the shirt, as well as three pairs of socks knitted from a fibre made from the shorn and spun fleece of Ovis aries. For every man who worked, like Alfred did, in the great corporate economy of the twenty-first century needed neckties and socks.
Furthermore, Bertha had bought Alfred a bottle of high proof ethanol blended with various aromatic substances such as the secretions of a gland on the abdomen of male specimen of the Moschus moschiferus species or the oil of the fruits of the Citrus bergamia tree. This blend was applied to the face after shaving and served both as a disinfectant as well as offering a pleasing scent.
Bertha wrapped all her gifts in colourful paper printed with various festive motives. Then — to relax — she prepared herself a brew of the cured leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, boiled in hot water. She poured the resulting brew into a cup of heat-resistant borosilicate glass, added a shot of a distilled alcoholic drink made from the by-products of the refining process of the fibrous stalks of the Saccharum officinarum plant and settled down at the kitchen table.
She glanced at the wall clock. Almost four o’clock. That meant Alfred would be home soon, for like every timepiece in the von Bülow household, the kitchen wall clock was so accurate that it would neither gain nor lose a single second in an estimated one hundred and thirty eight million years, for it was controlled via a radio signal received from an atomic clock which measured time using the microwave signals that the electrons in a caesium atom emitted while changing energy levels at near absolute zero temperatures.
Unfortunately, Alfred was not controlled via radio signals received from an atomic clock, which meant that he was frequently late, even if the clock itself was always accurate.
However, Bertha hoped that he would be home on time today. After all, it was Christmas Eve and they still had to decorate the Christmas tree.

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About Cora Buhlert:

Cora Buhlert was born and bred in North Germany, where she still lives today – after time spent in London, Singapore, Rotterdam and Mississippi. Cora holds an MA degree in English from the University of Bremen and is currently working towards her PhD. Cora has been writing since she was a teenager, and has published stories, articles and poetry in various international magazines. When she is not writing, she works as a translator and teacher.

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