Bruce Sterling

 Literary Freeware: Not for Commercial Use

 A Workshop Lexicon

 The "Paragons" Iteration -- from PARAGONS: TWELVE MASTER SCIENCE 
 St Martin's Press 1996 ISBN 0-312-14032-1

     People often ask where science fiction writers get their 
 ideas. They rarely ask where society gets its science fiction 
 writers. In many cases the answer is science fiction workshops.  

     Workshops come in many varieties -- regional and national, 
 amateur and professional, formal and frazzled.  In science 
 fiction's best-known workshop, Clarion, would-be writers are 
 wrenched from home and hearth and pitilessly blitzed for six weeks 
 by professional SF writers, who serve as creative-writing gurus.  
 Thanks to the seminal efforts of Robin Wilson, would-be sf writers 
 can receive actual academic credit for this experience. 

     But the workshopping experience does not require any 
 shepherding by experts. Like a bad rock band, an SF-writer's 
 workshop can be set up in any vacant garage by any group of spotty 
 enthusiasts with nothing better to occupy their time.  No one has 
 a copyright on talent, desire, or enthusiasm.

     The general course of action in the modern SF workshop (known 
 as the "Milford system") goes as follows. Attendees bring short 
 manuscripts, with enough copies for everyone present. No one can 
 attend or comment who does not bring a story. The contributors 
 read and annotate all the stories. When that's done, everyone 
 forms a circle, a story is picked at random, and the person to the 
 writer's right begins the critique. (Large groups may require 
 deliberate scheduling.)

     Following the circle in order, with a minimum of cross-talk 
 or interruptions, each person emits his/her considered opinions of 
 the story's merits and/or demerits. The author is strictly 
 required, by rigid law and custom, to make no outcries, no matter 
 how he or she may squirm. When the circle is done and the last 
 reader has vented his or her opinion, the silently suffering 
 author is allowed an extended reply, which, it is hoped, will not 
 exceed half an hour or so, and will avoid gratuitously personal 
 ripostes. This harrowing process continues, with possible breaks 
 for food, until all the stories are done, whereupon everyone tries 
 to repair ruptured relationships in an orgy of drink and gossip.

     No doubt a very interesting book could be written about 
 science fiction in which the writing itself played no part.  This 
 phantom history could detail the social demimonde of workshops and 
 their associated cliques: Milford, the Futurians, Milwaukee 
 Fictioneers, Turkey City, New Wave, Hydra Club, Jules Verne's 
 Eleven Without Women, and year after year after year of Clarion -- 
 a thousand SF groups around the world, known and unknown.  

     Anyone can play. I've noticed that workshops have a 
 particularly crucial role in non-Anglophone societies, where fans, 
 writers, and publishers are often closely united in the same 
 handful of zealots.  This kind of fellow-feeling may be the true 
 hearts-blood of the genre. 

     We now come to the core of this piece, the SF Workshop 
 Lexicon. This lexicon was compiled by Mr Lewis Shiner and myself 
 from the work of many writers and critics over many years of genre 
 history, and it contains buzzwords, notions and critical terms of 
 direct use to SF workshops.

     The first version, known as the "Turkey City Lexicon" after 
 the Austin, Texas writers' workshop that was a cradle of 
 cyberpunk, appeared in 1988. In proper ideologically-correct 
 cyberpunk fashion, the Turkey City Lexicon was distributed 
 uncopyrighted and free-of-charge: a decommodified, photocopied 
 chunk of free literary software. Lewis Shiner still thinks that 
 this was the best deployment of an effort of this sort, and thinks 
 I should stop fooling around with this fait accompli. After all, 
 the original Lexicon remains uncopyrighted, and it has been 
 floating around in fanzines, prozines and computer networks for 
 seven years now. I respect Lew's opinion, and in fact I kind of 
 agree with him. But I'm an ideologue, congenitally unable to 
 leave well-enough alone.  

     In September 1990 I re-wrote the Lexicon as an installment in 
 my critical column for the British magazine INTERZONE.  When 
 Robin Wilson asked me to refurbish the Lexicon yet again for 
 PARAGONS, I couldn't resist the temptation. I'm always open to 
 improvements and amendments for the Lexicon. It seems to me that 
 if a document of this sort fails to grow it will surely become a 
 literary monument, and, well, heaven forbid.  For what it's 
 worth, I plan to re-release this latest edition to the Internet at 
 the first opportunity. You can email me about it: I'm 

     Some Lexicon terms are attributed to their originators, when 
 I could find them; others are not, and I apologize for my 

     Science fiction boasts many specialized critical terms. You 
 can find a passel of these in Gary K Wolfe's CRITICAL TERMS FOR 
 (Greenwood Press, 1986).  But you won't find them in here. This 
 lexicon is not a guide to scholarship. The Workshop Lexicon is a 
 guide (of sorts) for down-and-dirty hairy-knuckled sci-fi writers, 
 the kind of ambitious subliterate guttersnipes who actually write 
 and sell professional genre material.  It's rough, rollicking, 
 rule-of-thumb stuff suitable for shouting aloud while pounding the 

The New Cheap Truth



 "Said-book" ism.  An artificial verb used to avoid the word 
 "said." "Said" is one of the few invisible words in the English 
 language and is almost impossible to overuse. It is much less 
 distracting than "he retorted," "she inquired," "he ejaculated," 
 and other oddities. The term "said-book" comes from certain 
 pamphlets, containing hundreds of purple-prose synonyms for the 
 word "said," which were sold to aspiring authors from tiny ads in 
 American magazines of the pre-WWII era.

 Tom Swifty.  An unseemly compulsion to follow the word "said" 
 with a colorful adverb, as in "'We'd better hurry,' Tom said 
 swiftly." This was a standard mannerism of the old Tom Swift 
 adventure dime-novels. Good dialogue can stand on its own without 
 a clutter of adverbial props.

 Brenda Starr dialogue. Long sections of talk with no physical 
 background or description of the characters. Such dialogue, 
 detached from the story's setting, tends to echo hollowly, as if 
 suspended in mid-air. Named for the American comic-strip in which 
 dialogue balloons were often seen emerging from the Manhattan 

 Burly Detective syndrome. This useful term is taken from SF's 
 cousin-genre, the detective-pulp. The hack writers of the Mike 
 Shayne series showed an odd reluctance to use Shayne's proper 
 name, preferring such euphemisms as "the burly detective" or "the 
 red-headed sleuth." This syndrome arises from a wrong-headed 
 conviction that the same word should not be used twice in close 
 succession. This is only true of particularly strong and visible 
 words, such as "vertiginous." Better to re-use a simple tag or 
 phrase than to contrive cumbersome methods of avoiding it.

 Pushbutton words. Words used to evoke a cheap emotional response 
 without engaging the intellect or the critical faculties. 
 Commonly found in story titles, they include such bits of bogus 
 lyricism as "star," "dance," "dream," "song," "tears" and "poet," 
 cliches calculated to render the SF audience misty-eyed and 

 Brand-name fever. The over-use of commercial brand-names to 
 create a false sense of gritty verisimilitude. It is useless to 
 stock the future with Hondas, Sonys, and Brauns without 
 accompanying visual and physical detail.

 "Call a Rabbit a Smeerp." A cheap technique for false exoticism, 
 in which common elements of the real world are re-named for a 
 fantastic milieu without any real alteration in their basic nature 
 or behavior. "Smeerps" are especially common in fantasy worlds, 
 where people often ride exotic steeds that look and act just like 
 horses. (Attributed to James Blish.)

 Roget's Disease. The ludicrous overuse of far-fetched adjectives, 
 piled into a festering, fungal, tenebrous, troglodytic, ichorous, 
 leprous, synonymic heap. (Attr. John W. Campbell)

 Gingerbread. Useless ornament in prose, such as fancy 
 sesquipedalian Latinate words where short clear English ones will 
 do. Novice authors sometimes use "gingerbread" in the hope of 
 disguising faults and conveying an air of refinement. (Attr. Damon 

 Not Simultaneous. The mis-use of the present participle is a 
 common structural sentence-fault for beginning writers. "Putting 
 his key in the door, he leapt up the stairs and got his revolver 
 out of the bureau." Alas, our hero couldn't do this even if his 
 arms were forty feet long. This fault shades into "Ing Disease," 
 the tendency to pepper sentences with words ending in "-ing," a 
 grammatical construction which tends to confuse the proper 
 sequence of events. (Attr. Damon Knight)


 Bathos. A sudden, alarming change in the level of diction. "There 
 will be bloody riots and savage insurrections leading to a violent 
 popular uprising unless the regime starts being lots nicer about 

 Countersinking. A form of expositional redundancy in which the 
 action clearly implied in dialogue is made explicit. "'Let's get 
 out of here!' he shouted, urging her to leave."

 Show Don't Tell. A cardinal principle of effective writing. The 
 reader should be allowed to react naturally to the evidence 
 presented in the story, not instructed in how to react by the 
 author. Specific incidents and carefully observed details will 
 render auctorial lectures unnecessary. For instance, instead of 
 telling the reader "She had a bad childhood, an unhappy 
 childhood," a specific incident -- involving, say, a locked closet 
 and two jars of honey -- should be shown.

     Rigid adherence to show-don't-tell can become absurd. Minor 
 matters are sometimes best gotten out of the way in a swift, 
 straightforward fashion.

 Laughtrack. Characters grandstand and tug the reader's sleeve in 
 an effort to force a specific emotional reaction. They laugh 
 wildly at their own jokes, cry loudly at their own pain, and rob 
 the reader of any real chance of attaining genuine emotion.

 Squid in the Mouth. The failure of an author to realize that 
 his/her own weird assumptions and personal in-jokes are simply not 
 shared by the world-at-large. Instead of applauding the wit or 
 insight of the author's remarks, the world-at-large will stare in 
 vague shock and alarm at such a writer, as if he or she had a live 
 squid in the mouth.

     Since SF writers as a breed are generally quite loony, and in 
 fact make this a stock in trade, "squid in the mouth" doubles as a 
 term of grudging praise, describing the essential, irreducible, 
 divinely unpredictable lunacy of the true SF writer. (Attr. James 
 P Blaylock)

 Squid on the Mantelpiece. Chekhov said that if there are dueling 
 pistols over the mantelpiece in the first act, they should be 
 fired in the third. In other words, a plot element should be 
 deployed in a timely fashion and with proper dramatic emphasis. 
 However, in SF plotting the MacGuffins are often so overwhelming 
 that they cause conventional plot structures to collapse. It's 
 hard to properly dramatize, say, the domestic effects of Dad's 
 bank overdraft when a giant writhing kraken is levelling the city. 
 This mismatch between the conventional dramatic proprieties and 
 SF's extreme, grotesque, or visionary thematics is known as the 
 "squid on the mantelpiece."

 Handwaving. An attempt to distract the reader with dazzling prose 
 or other verbal fireworks, so as to divert attention from a severe 
 logical flaw. (Attr. Stewart Brand)

 You Can't Fire Me, I Quit. An attempt to diffuse the reader's 
 incredulity with a pre-emptive strike -- as if by anticipating 
 the reader's objections, the author had somehow answered them. "I 
 would never have believed it, if I hadn't seen it myself!" "It 
 was one of those amazing coincidences that can only take place in 
 real life!" "It's a one-in-a-million chance, but it's so crazy it 
 just might work!" Surprisingly common, especially in SF. (Attr. 
 John Kessel)

 Fuzz. An element of motivation the author was too lazy to supply. 
 The word "somehow" is a useful tip-off to fuzzy areas of a story. 
 "Somehow she had forgotten to bring her gun."

 Dischism. The unwitting intrusion of the author's physical 
 surroundings, or the author's own mental state, into the text of 
 the story. Authors who smoke or drink while writing often drown 
 or choke their characters with an endless supply of booze and 
 cigs. In subtler forms of the Dischism, the characters complain 
 of their confusion and indecision -- when this is actually the 
 author's condition at the moment of writing, not theirs within the 
 story. "Dischism" is named after the critic who diagnosed this 
 syndrome. (Attr. Thomas M. Disch)

 Signal from Fred. A comic form of the Dischism in which the 
 author's subconscious, alarmed by the poor quality of the work, 
 makes unwitting critical comments: "This doesn't make sense." 
 "This is really boring." "This sounds like a bad movie." (Attr. 
 Damon Knight)

 False Interiorization. A cheap labor-saving technique in which 
 the author, too lazy to describe the surroundings, afflicts the 
 viewpoint-character with a blindfold, an attack of space-sickness, 
 the urge to play marathon whist-games in the smoking-room, etc.

 False Humanity. An ailment endemic to genre writing, in which 
 soap-opera elements of purported human interest are stuffed into 
 the story willy-nilly, whether or not they advance the plot or 
 contribute to the point of the story. The actions of such 
 characters convey an itchy sense of irrelevance, for the author 
 has invented their problems out of whole cloth, so as to have 
 something to emote about.

 Wiring Diagram Fiction. A genre ailment related to "False 
 Humanity," "Wiring Diagram Fiction" involves "characters" who show 
 no convincing emotional reactions at all, since they are 
 overwhelmed by the author's fascination with gadgetry or didactic 

 White Room Syndrome. A clear and common sign of the failure of 
 the author's imagination, most often seen at the beginning of a 
 story, before the setting, background, or characters have gelled. 
 "She awoke in a white room." The 'white room' is a featureless set 
 for which details have yet to be invented -- a failure of 
 invention by the author. The character 'wakes' in order to begin 
 a fresh train of thought -- again, just like the author. This 
 'white room' opening is generally followed by much earnest 
 pondering of circumstances and useless exposition; all of which 
 can be cut, painlessly.

   It remains to be seen whether the "white room" cliche' will 
 fade from use now that most authors confront glowing screens 
 rather than blank white paper.

The New Cheap Truth



 The Jar of Tang. A story contrived so that the author can spring 
 a silly surprise about its setting, For instance, the story takes 
 place in a desert of coarse orange sand surrounded by an 
 impenetrable vitrine barrier; surprise! our heroes are microbes 
 in a jar of Tang powdered orange drink. (Attr. Stephen P. Brown)

     When done with serious intent rather than as a passing 
 conceit, this type of story can be dignified by the term 
 "Concealed Environment." (Attr. Christopher Priest)

 The "Poor Me" Story. Autobiographical piece in which the male 
 viewpoint character complains that he is ugly and can't get laid. 
 (Attr. Kate Wilhelm)

 The Grubby Apartment Story. Similar to the "poor me" story, this 
 autobiographical effort features a miserably quasi-bohemian 
 writer, living in urban angst in a grubby apartment. The story 
 commonly stars the author's friends in thin disguises -- friends 
 who may also be the author's workshop companions, to their 
 considerable alarm.

 The Shaggy God Story. A piece which mechanically adopts a 
 Biblical or other mythological tale and provides flat science-
 fictional "explanations" for the theological events. (Attr. 
 Michael Moorcock)

 Adam and Eve Story. Nauseatingly common subset of the Shaggy God 
 Story in which a terrible apocalypse, spaceship crash, etc., 
 leaves two survivors, man and woman, who turn out to be Adam and 
 Eve, parents of the human race!!

 Dennis Hopper Syndrome.  A story based on some arcane bit of 
 science or folklore, which noodles around producing random 
 weirdness. Then a loony character-actor (usually best played by 
 Dennis Hopper) barges into the story and baldly tells the 
 protagonist what's going on by explaining the underlying mystery 
 in a long bug-eyed rant. (Attr. Howard Waldrop)

 The Tabloid Weird.  Story produced by a confusion of SF and 
 Fantasy tropes -- or rather, by a confusion of basic world-views.  
 Tabloid Weird is usually produced by the author's own inability to 
 distinguish between a rational, Newtonian-Einsteinian, cause-and-
 effect universe and an irrational, supernatural, fantastic 
 universe. Either the FBI is hunting the escaped mutant from the 
 genetics lab, or the drill-bit has bored straight into Hell -- but 
 not both at once in the very same piece of fiction. Even fantasy 
 worlds need an internal consistency of sorts, so that a Sasquatch 
 Deal-with-the-Devil story is also "Tabloid Weird."  Sasquatch 
 crypto-zoology and Christian folk superstition simply don't mix 
 well, even for comic effect.  (Attr. Howard Waldrop)

 Deus ex Machina or "God in the Box." Story featuring a miraculous 
 solution to the story's conflict, which comes out of nowhere and 
 renders the plot struggles irelevant. H G Wells warned against 
 SF's love for the deus ex machina when he coined the famous dictum 
 that "If anything is possible, then nothing is interesting." 
 Science fiction, which specializes in making the impossible seem 
 plausible, is always deeply intrigued by godlike powers in the 
 handy pocket size. Artificial Intelligence, virtual realities and 
 nanotechnology are three contemporary SF MacGuffins that are cheap 
 portable sources of limitless miracle.

 Just-Like Fallacy. SF story which thinly adapts the trappings of 
 a standard pulp adventure setting. The spaceship is "just like" 
 an Atlantic steamer, down to the Scottish engineer in the hold. A 
 colony planet is "just like" Arizona except for two moons in the 
 sky. Space Westerns and futuristic hard-boiled detective stories 
 have been especially common versions.

 Re-Inventing the Wheel. A novice author goes to enormous lengths 
 to create a science-fictional situation already tiresomely 
 familiar to the experienced reader. Reinventing the Wheel was 
 traditionally typical of mainstream writers venturing into SF. It 
 is now often seen in writers who lack experience in genre history 
 because they were attracted to written SF via SF movies, SF 
 television series, SF role-playing games, SF comics or SF computer 

 The Cozy Catastrophe. Story in which horrific events are 
 overwhelming the entirety of human civilization, but the action 
 concentrates on a small group of tidy, middle-class, white Anglo-
 Saxon protagonists. The essence of the cozy catastrophe is that 
 the hero should have a pretty good time (a girl, free suites at 
 the Savoy, automobiles for the taking) while everyone else is 
 dying off. (Attr. Brian Aldiss)

 The Motherhood Statement. SF story which posits some profoundly 
 unsettling threat to the human condition, explores the 
 implications briefly, then hastily retreats to affirm the 
 conventional social and humanistic pieties, ie apple pie and 
 motherhood. Greg Egan once stated that the secret of truly 
 effective SF was to deliberately "burn the motherhood statement." 
 (Attr. Greg Egan)

 The Kitchen-Sink Story. A story overwhelmed by the inclusion of 
 any and every new idea that occurs to the author in the process of 
 writing it. (Attr. Damon Knight)

 The Whistling Dog. A story related in such an elaborate, arcane, 
 or convoluted manner that it impresses by its sheer narrative 
 ingenuity, but which, as a story, is basically not worth the 
 candle. Like the whistling dog, it's astonishing that the thing 
 can whistle -- but it doesn't actually whistle very well. (Attr. 
 Harlan Ellison)

 The Rembrandt Comic Book. A story in which incredible 
 craftsmanship has been lavished on a theme or idea which is 
 basically trivial or subliterary, and which simply cannot bear the 
 weight of such deadly-serious artistic portent.

 The Slipstream Story. Non-SF story which is so ontologically 
 distorted or related in such a bizarrely non-realist fashion that 
 it cannot pass muster as commercial mainstream fiction and 
 therefore seeks shelter in the SF or fantasy genre. Postmodern 
 critique and technique are particularly fruitful in creating 
 slipstream stories.

 The Steam-Grommet Factory. Didactic SF story which consists 
 entirely of a guided tour of a large and elaborate gimmick. A 
 common technique of SF utopias and dystopias. (Attr. Gardner 


 Idiot Plot. A plot which functions only because all the 
 characters involved are idiots. They behave in a way that suits 
 the author's convenience, rather than through any rational 
 motivation of their own. (Attr. James Blish)

 Second-order Idiot Plot. A plot involving an entire invented SF 
 society which functions only because every single person in it is 
 necessarily an idiot. (Attr. Damon Knight)

 And plot. Picaresque plot in which this happens, and then that 
 happens, and then something else happens, and it all adds up to 
 nothing in particular.

 Kudzu plot. Plot which weaves and curls and writhes in weedy 
 organic profusion, smothering everything in its path.

 Card Tricks in the Dark. Elaborately contrived plot which arrives 
 at (a) the punchline of a private joke no reader will get or (b) 
 the display of some bit of learned trivia relevant only to the 
 author. This stunt may be intensely ingenious, and very 
 gratifying to the author, but it serves no visible fictional 
 purpose. (Attr. Tim Powers)

 Plot Coupons. The basic building blocks of the quest-type fantasy 
 plot. The hero collects sufficient plot coupons (magic sword, 
 magic ring, magic cat) to send off to the author for the ending. 
 The author decrees that the hero will pursue his quest until 
 sufficient pages are filled to complete a trilogy. (Attr. Dave 

 Bogus Alternatives. A list of plot-paths that a character could 
 have taken, but didn't. In this nervous mannerism, the author 
 stops the action dead to work out complicated plot problems at the 
 reader's expense. "If I'd gone along with the cops they would 
 have found the gun in my purse. And anyway, I didn't want to 
 spend the night in jail. I suppose I could have just run away 
 instead of stealing their squad car, but then...." Best dispensed 
 with entirely.


 Info-dump. Large chunk of indigestible expository matter intended 
 to explain the background situation. Info-dumps can be covert, as 
 in fake newspaper or "Encyclopedia Galactica" articles, or overt, 
 in which all action stops as the author assumes center stage and 
 lectures. Info-dumps are also known as "expository lumps." The 
 use of brief, deft, inoffensive info-dumps is known as 
 "kuttnering," after Henry Kuttner. When information is worked 
 unobtrusively into the story's basic structure, this is known as 

 Stapledon. Name assigned to the auctorial voice which takes 
 center stage to deliver a massive and magisterial info-dump. 
 Actually a common noun, as in "I like the way your stapledon 
 describes the process of downloading brains into computer memory, 
 but when you try to heinlein it later, I can't tell what the hell 
 is happening."

 Frontloading. Piling too much exposition into the beginning of 
 the story, so that it becomes so dense and dry that it is almost 
 impossible to read. (Attr. Connie Willis)

 Nowhere Nowhen Story. Putting too little exposition into the 
 story's beginning, so that the story, while physically readable, 
 seems to take place in a vacuum and fails to engage any readerly 
 interest. (Attr. L. Sprague de Camp)

 "As You Know, Bob." A pernicious form of info-dump through 
 dialogue, in which characters tell each other things they already 
 know, for the sake of getting the reader up-to-speed. This very 
 common technique is also known as "Rod and Don dialogue" (attr. 
 Damon Knight) or "maid and butler dialogue" (attr Algis Budrys).

 I've Suffered For My Art (and now it's your turn). A form of 
 info-dump in which the author inflicts upon the reader hard-won, 
 but irrelevant bits of data acquired while researching the story. 
 As Algis Budrys once pointed out, homework exists to make the 
 difficult look easy.

 Used Furniture. The use of a cliched genre background right out 
 of Central Casting. We can, for instance, use the Star Trek 
 universe, only we'll file the serial numbers off it and call it 
 the Imperium instead of the Federation.

 Eyeball Kicks. Vivid, telling details that create a kaleidoscopic 
 effect of swarming visual imagery against a baroquely elaborate SF 
 background. One ideal of cyberpunk SF was to create a "crammed 
 prose" full of "eyeball kicks." (Attr. Rudy Rucker)

 Ontological riff. Passage in an SF story which suggests that our 
 deepest and most basic convictions about the nature of reality, 
 space-time, or consciousness have been violated, technologically 
 transformed, or at least rendered thoroughly dubious. The works 
 of H. P. Lovecraft, Barrington Bayley, and Philip K Dick abound in 
 "ontological riffs."


 Viewpoint glitch. The author loses track of point-of-view, 
 switches point-of-view for no good reason, or relates something 
 that the viewpoint character could not possibly know.

 Submyth. Classic character-types in SF which aspire to the 
 condition of archetype but don't quite make it, such as the mad 
 scientist, the crazed supercomputer, the emotionless super-
 rational alien, the vindictive mutant child, etc. (Attr. Ursula 
 K. Le Guin)

 Funny-hat characterization. A character distinguished by a single 
 identifying tag, such as odd headgear, a limp, a lisp, a parrot on 
 his shoulder, etc.

 Mrs. Brown. The small, downtrodden, eminently common, everyday 
 little person who nevertheless encapsulates something vital and 
 important about the human condition. "Mrs. Brown" is a rare 
 personage in the SF genre, being generally overshadowed by 
 swaggering submyth types made of the finest gold-plated cardboard. 
 In a famous essay, "Science Fiction and Mrs. Brown," Ursula K. Le 
 Guin decried Mrs. Brown's absence from the SF field. (Attr: 
 Virginia Woolf)


 AM/FM. Engineer's term distinguishing the inevitable clunky real-
 world faultiness of "Actual Machines" from the power-fantasy 
 techno-dreams of "Fucking Magic."

 Intellectual sexiness. The intoxicating glamor of a novel 
 scientific idea, as distinguished from any actual intellectual 
 merit that it may someday prove to possess.

 Consensus Reality. Useful term for the purported world in which 
 the majority of modern sane people generally agree that they live 
 -- as opposed to the worlds of, say, Forteans, semioticians or 
 quantum physicists.

 The Ol' Baloney Factory. "Science Fiction" as a publishing and 
 promotional entity in the world of commerce.

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