How David Weber Orders a Pizza
March 18, 2019 8:59 AM   Subscribe

The telephone rang again. Jason wanted to groan and roll his eyes, but he suppressed this urge and put on the mask of outward neutrality expected of a Pizza Maker Second Class. [...] He slapped the flour dust from his hands, grasped the receiver, and placed it next to his ear. The light codes on the telephone's front panel danced from flashing red to solid green, letting him know that a live connection had been established. "Pizza Barn," he intoned. "Is this for dine in, pick up, or delivery?"
A simple phone call between Pizza Maker Second Class Jason Wilkins and a shadowy Customer.

The author of this parody, Roger M. Wilcox, has a large body of work online.
posted by Sokka shot first (34 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Then a nuclear weapon detonated in midair above them, vaporizing the city.
posted by sudogeek at 9:30 AM on March 18

Needs more French Revolutionaries democratic populist bad guys who are bad because socialists eat babies and democracy is against the natural order of things and the rights of kings. I was half expecting the "customer" to be a stealth lefty who refused to tip on the grounds that labour is theft.
posted by bonehead at 9:33 AM on March 18

I grew up reading that kind of science fiction, and it took me a long time to figure out that human social intercourse does not consist primarily of people explaining things to each other that they both already know.
posted by ckridge at 9:52 AM on March 18 [36 favorites]

-5 points for naming the pizza guy Jason Wilkins instead of Peter Sapai.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 10:03 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]

This is so spot-on I half-expected to find out partway through it was hosted on the whole time.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:25 AM on March 18 [6 favorites]

Oh. That David Weber. Now I get it.
posted by Splunge at 10:30 AM on March 18

gazed at the ringing noise emanating from the receiver.

So good.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 10:39 AM on March 18 [5 favorites]

What's the one about Cory Doctorow I'm thinking of?
posted by groda at 10:40 AM on March 18

If Jason works his way up the ladder, as is the customary manner of career advancement in the hierarchical employment system used in customer-facing food preparation companies, he may some day be trained to be a Pizza Barn Manager Third Class. Then he will learn that the thin crust pizza was not designed to meet the culinary tastes of his customers, it was a ploy invented by the Pizza Barn Executive Vice President Second Class to increase the marginal profits of each order. It did this my reducing the ingredient cost, cooking time, and refrigerator and storage space needed for raw materials. It was an inferior product that was made more desirable using a trick known to the Pizza Barn Marketing Officer First Class, whereby its availability was limited to special occasions to create a feeling of artificial scarcity and urgency to order it when it was on offer. Jason will find the job of Pizza Barn Manager Third Class disorienting as the business logic he must use to be successful is at odds with the human logic that guides his personal ethical belief system.
posted by peeedro at 10:42 AM on March 18 [7 favorites]

I thought that was very funny, but don't really understand the context. Who is David Weber and what else is this parodying? (Besides SF in general.)
posted by medusa at 11:07 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]

David Weber is best known for a mil-SF series that is, plot-wise, basically the Napoleonic Wars IIIIIIN SPAAAAAACE except Horatio Hornblower / Nelson is a woman. Some of the books have Rob S. Pierre as a villain..
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 11:19 AM on March 18 [5 favorites]

Also Country Music is the pinnacle of human artistic achievement.
posted by bonehead at 11:28 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]

Semi-related: Why Does No One in SFF Ever Read the Damn Manual?

So every little thing is explained in detail EXCEPT anything which, in its omission, would shove the plot forward.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:14 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]

Then a nuclear weapon detonated in midair above them, vaporizing the city.

This could tighten up quite a few so-called "classic" novels, e.g.,
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Then a nuclear weapon detonated in midair above them, vaporizing the city.
I was the shadow of the waxwing slain / By the false azure in the windowpane / Then a nuclear weapon detona- / ted in midair above them, vaporizing the city.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:23 PM on March 18 [8 favorites]

medusa, his Hornblower in Space! books are also about the evils of socialism and the welfare state and how subsidizing the laboring class will inevitably lead to a world where people expect their needs to be taken care of and have only the recourse of conquering to fulfill their ever increasing universal income. Furthermore, the good guys run a Reagomics dream world in which taxes are low, everyone is prosperous and everyone is happy to live in world with a hereditary aristocracy and monarchy with actual powers. The "centrists" are bog standard right wing (old school, most of the books were written in the 90s) Republicans, the "conservatives" are only more conservative in thinking that the aristocracy should have more power (they do not advocate for a more conservative economic or social system), the liberals are all about foisting welfare on people who don't want it and the progressives will have sex with their grandmother's corpses for a vote.

The politics and economics make just about as much sense as the physics. They are internally consistent and have nothing to do with reality. (Reactionless drives that do not break relativity, faster than light travel which does not destroy relativity or causality, ignoring the fact that given just how cheap these reactionless drives are, any non-governmental violent organization has the equivalent of cheap nukes if they can get to the equivalent of the Kupier belt, etc.)

Despite this, despite just how much the man desperately needs an editor (his books published through Tor are actually supposed to be quite good), these books are a guilty pleasure of mine. I normally don't use that term, but in the case, I have trouble recommending these to anyone who isn't prepared to wade through a slightly higher than normal background count of ignoring privilege and accidental bigotry. Of the two non-straight characters to appear in the 11 books I read, one was a psycho lesbian and the other is a quadriplegic woman who cannot have sex but mentions being attracted to more than just men (abilist and homophobic in one). He tries for racial diversity, but outside of that, both he and the books show his age. The deuteragonist wold is one where men have multiple wives, women are prevented from working outside of the home/holding positions of power, but they're the good guys because they're treating their women with respect, not like the fanatics over there who treat them like chattel.

Despite all of this, I'm listening to them for the nth time as something to listen to to help me fall asleep. The original narrator they got for the books on tape reads with a rather relaxing cadence that can help induce sleep. I have spent hours trying to justify this series to myself, as it's not a hate read, but at the same time, it's not exactly good. I have definitely overthought it.
posted by Hactar at 12:26 PM on March 18 [13 favorites]

groda: What's the one about Cory Doctorow I'm thinking of?

Cory Doctorow visits a radio shack? - original offline, but remembers.
posted by Pink Frost at 12:27 PM on March 18 [5 favorites]

Hactar said: The original narrator they got for the books on tape reads with a rather relaxing cadence that can help induce sleep.

I feel ya. Going Postal is my least favorite Terry Pratchett novel, but the narrator's voice (Stephen Briggs) can make me fall asleep in under 10 minutes, and it's one of the only audiobooks of Pratchett's work I have that is broken into logically named chapters, so I can put a chapter on a playlist, rather than having it play the entire book. Various chapters show up as the most played thing on my ipod.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 1:53 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]

ckridge: "I grew up reading that kind of science fiction, and it took me a long time to figure out that human social intercourse does not consist primarily of people explaining things to each other that they both already know."

As you know, ckridge, you grew up reading that sort of science fiction.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:00 PM on March 18 [28 favorites]

I know nothing of David Weber, but found that pizza ordering story hilarious all on its own.
posted by Ickster at 2:20 PM on March 18

This is timely; I'm in the middle of re-reading the Honor Harrington novels right now as an alternative to nighttime TV. (I have one of the old non-backlit Kindles and I've found that I don't end up staying up as late as I do when watching TV.) I was partly inspired to do so because of an AskMe where they were recommended.

The books... are fine. I mean, they're not terrible. You can certainly do worse, even within the "golden age of sail but IN SPACE" genre. Being written in 1993, having the Horatio Hornblower stand-in character be female was probably not a given. They're not Sad Puppies bad or anything (although I think Weber did do at least one collaboration with John Ringo, which I've not read), although in reading them over again, I do think they probably need some warnings that they get pretty male-gaze-y at times. I mean I'm a guy so what do I know, but the female characters' internal monologues seems to mention their breasts with... suspicious regularity.

The politics are pretty weird. The good guys have a hereditary monarchy, which is generally treated as a good thing, but their upper house and aristocracy generally are portrayed as frequently lazy morons, so it's a bit of a wash. And yeah, apparently UBI is evil and will turn you into Space Imperialists where you have to go around subjugating and pillaging peaceful planets just to keep the unwashed masses' welfare checks trending above inflation. I just chalk this up to the same sort of suspension-of-disbelief that is also required to have space-dreadnoughts firing broadsides at each other.

And yeah, the guy writes like he's being paid by the word and his editor gets a percentage of it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:25 PM on March 18 [5 favorites]

I.... kinda love the Honor Harrington books, to be honest. I mean, I rolled my eyes at "Rob S. Pierre", and there are problematic spots in the books that are already called out here. But they're FUN and the absurdity of the combat sequences as you get farther along in the series (from single-ship combat in the early books throwing missiles at each other every few seconds to massive launches of hundreds of thousands of simultaneous missiles later) is weirdly endearing to me.

If you wanna hammer on Weber, let's talk about his 'religion is terrible and holding us back from progress' series, Safehold.
posted by hanov3r at 2:34 PM on March 18

I mean, I rolled my eyes at "Rob S. Pierre"

Wait, this wasn't a joke? [one web search later] This wasn't a joke. A man was paid actual human money to promulgate this character, whereas I feel like I'm making mosaics with tweezers trying to make mine subtle and complex.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:37 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]

the female characters' internal monologues seems to mention their breasts with... suspicious regularity.

You have pithily and eloquently captured what is so "off" about so many SFF novels and stories.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:00 PM on March 18 [10 favorites]

protip: guys, we only think about our breasts if something is wrong with them
granted, society provides many opportunities for this to be true, but we sure as hell do not describe them in our heads at the time
posted by Countess Elena at 4:04 PM on March 18 [5 favorites]

I scrolled through the comments on this post while walking home, looking down at my phone past my perky breasts and the bag strap that ran between them. When I encountered Kadin2048's comment, I paused for a moment and reflected on how infrequently I think about my breasts as a general rule. This almost feels surprising given that I am a transwoman, who has put a lot of time and effort into worrying about her breasts and how they affect people's perception of me; the many years of looking at my breasts in the mirror and trying to decide if they were growing or not has given way, thanks to the miracle of hormone pills and perhaps also thanks to how my mother's breast-size genes reacted to them, to a sort of casual disinterest in my breasts on a daily basis.

[354 words on the production of hormones and the various ways they can be delivered deleted]

I do however still check out my pert bosoms in the mirror when I get out of the shower, though.
posted by egypturnash at 4:32 PM on March 18 [12 favorites]

I tried to read the latest Honor Harrington and couldn't get past the first few pages. The treecats are alright but the only books I liked were in the Crown of Slaves series and those were unmistakably Eric Flint.
posted by Botanizer at 5:47 PM on March 18

Oops, wrong thread, sorry.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 7:33 PM on March 18

I am so confused by this. I tried reading the thing linked to and I couldn't get through a paragraph or two without feeling like I was being as put upon by the tedium of his prose as was the protagonist pizza maker by his customer. Based on the comments here, the author is apparently some kind of right wing libertarian with an axe to grind, which he grinds through writing sci-fi that he thinks is very clever and funny but really isn't and yet some folks find his stuff a guilty pleasure . . . I'm all for people liking what they like (so long as it does no harm to others) but I feel like I'm really missing some context here.
posted by treepour at 7:35 PM on March 18

I couldn't get through a paragraph or two without feeling like I was being as put upon by the tedium of his prose

The tedium of the prose was the primary target of the parody. Weber has several axes to grind, which he grinds through writing sci-fi with even more (and worse) big infodumps than you might otherwise expect from a passing acquaintance with written SF.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 9:12 PM on March 18

Was this originally an Usenet parody post of Weber? Because I swore I read this ages ago.

As a parody it's alright, but once you figure out the trick in a couple or so paragraphs it's just pointless, which to be honest is the case with most of these things. Nice idea, don't bother with the execution.

David Weber's Honor Harrington is a great turn your brain off, roll your eyes at the terrible, terrible but fortunately not nazi politics and enjoy the detailed descriptions of the 512,123 missiles interactions with the 613,498 counter missiles fired at them.

That to me is the draw of the series and others like that, all that incredibly clumsy world building, exposition and storytelling, which is what the parody doesn't actually get right.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:21 AM on March 19

Though after finishing the 4th Harrington book last night, I gotta say: while Weber's portrayal of the titular protagonist's inner monologue may be …clunky, the inner monologue of the villain in that particular book—who's basically the hate-spewing embodiment of what we'd now call "toxic masculinity" and sexist privilege—is, uh, no issues with plausibility there. I mean, painful to read for how closely it nails the ragey-incel mindset. And it was published in 1994.

I'm not implying anything about Weber personally; obviously I don't know him, and I have no real reason to think (whatever one thinks of his politics) he's not a perfectly decent human being or anything. He doesn't write the villain in a way that would cause the reader to sympathize or anything, either; it's not an antihero-as-dogwhistle-hero thing. But it's a big gear-change when there's a hard cut from Harrington's perspective (Harrington is, true to the books' origins as a homage to C.S. Forester, basically the personification of Duty and Competence) to the bad guy's, because the relative plausibility and realism is so different. Whether that's because, as a white dude, envisioning the inner monologue of a Shitty White Dude just isn't that far a cognitive reach, or whether he's just good at writing villains, I'm not sure.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:03 AM on March 19 [2 favorites]

At first I couldn't quite remember who David Weber was, but as soon as I started reading I knew immediately.

Also, having only read a couple of things by him, I had thought that the neo-monarchist, anti-liberal stuff was somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Apparently not.

And while I have never been a Pizza Maker Second Class, I have been a Grillman's Mate First Class, so I do know a thing or two about what it is like to labor in the infernal heat of "back-of-house," as the kitchen-areas of many American restaurants are often called.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:31 AM on March 19

If you want to read David Weber at his worst, Out of the Dark is a 'great' example.
posted by Marticus at 3:13 PM on March 19

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