Friday, January 13, 2012

Undocumented Workers Wrote "Atlas Shrugged" - By Ayn Rand

This is the second in a series of documents which Ayn Rand instructed her lawyer to release after her death. They comprise an account, in her own words, of her remarkable career. The first document can be found here.

Ronnie Hubbard and I broke up. I heard he was somewhere writing these bad pulp stories full of spies and detectives and women getting their shirt-buttons popped off by aliens. He was cranking out a book every week, someone told me. That seemed crazy, impossible. But I didn't think much about it. I didn't have a reason to contact him... until after that meeting with my publisher. Until the man told me that Fountainhead was really taking off, but they needed a follow-up.

"It's gotta be a telephone book," the publisher said, "something so huge and dense and packed with insanity that you could throw a loopy economics dissertation in the middle of it, and it wouldn't make a difference."

"This is your life's work, we tell them," he continued, two little tabs of spit in the corners of his mouth. "This is what you've been typing in a little shack in the mountains for 10 years, only it's so far ahead of its time you were too scared to show it to anyone. It's the book that will make all your batshit readers think they've got the whole secret to the universe locked up in their skulls because they managed to make their way through it to the end. And there's got to be sex."

"Sex?"

"Some kind of romance. Only it can't be normal, you understand. There's got to be something so wrong about the love story in this thing, it reads like a psychological test they give you to see if you're hiding dead hookers in your basement. Please, please, please tell me you can write a book like this."

"I already have."

It was a complete lie. I had nothing. I hadn't the slightest idea how I'd produce this book. But I swear to you, that obese middle-aged man gave a squeal like a five year-old girl finding a fucking pony in her backyard on Christmas morning. And then I knew I had to deliver.

Two weeks, and a mountain of Benzedrine tablets later, I still had nothing. I was filthy and covered in sweat. I hadn't slept in so long my head felt packed with cotton. The words wouldn't come. And I thought of that ugly, terrible man who'd gotten into this mess. That complete fake and lunatic who was out there somewhere, typing novel after novel and laughing at me. I looked up a few mutual friends, tracked him down, and called him. I knew I'd regret it. I didn't know how much.

"I'll send a car 'round," he said, chuckling darkly. "I know exactly how to fix this. But you must promise that you will not reveal my secret." If you're reading this, you know I broke that promise. But I had to. Some things need to come out into the light.

A dark limousine drove me to the waterfront section of Hoboken, and I boarded a massive freighter covered in dirt and rust. The smell of heavy oil and human sweat wrapped me like a wet cloth. Hubbard was waiting down in the dark of the hull, his eyes glinting like Satan. He was dressed in some kind of weird nautical costume with crazy ribbons and medals all over his chest and shoulders. He took my hand, and led me to a cavernous space in the depths of the ship where dozens of people sat at rows upon rows of desks. They looked weak, exhausted. They were all wearing the same kind of nautical costume as Hubbard himself - as if he'd recruited them for his private navy. And they were typing furiously.

"Listen," he said, "You have to pretend we're at sea. They think they're in international waters, and I can do anything to them."

"This is... horrible."

"I know," he said, grinning. "Isn't it perfect? I find people kicked out of Ellis Island, scoop them up, and pack them off here. The uniforms, the closed space, the constant work... it just makes people malleable. They're putty. They've written two dozen books for me so far, and... Excuse me --"

"Elizabeta!" he screamed down at an old woman who'd stopped typing, and was rubbing her gnarled hands. "Elizabeta! If you don't finish that fucking chapter, you won't ever get clear. And then I will ship your ass back to Szeged, you bitch!"

"Clear?"

"It's a term we use. Listen, if you want I could lend them to you. They work like bastards, and they write better English than most Americans."

"What's the catch?"

"Same as always," he said, with that disgusting smile.

"I don't think of you that way."

"Your call," he said. But of course I took him up on the offer. Over the next few weeks, I had the workers reading everything they could get their hands on: Nietzsche, Dale Carnegie, a few pornographic pulp novels, and a biography of John Rockefeller -- I wanted them to have access to every stupid, selfish idea rattling around in the head of the average American executive. I wanted them to channel the id of every sociopath in a cheap suit who thinks God put him on the earth to screw people on bad real estate. They produced hundreds of pages. And at night Ronnie and I did terrible, squalid things to each other. I will never be able to hear someone say "Prepare to board!" without shuddering.

Soon I had a manuscript. But something was missing.

"None of the characters really stand out," I told Ronnie, while we lay in his captain's quarters, surrounded by piles of paper. "I need someone who ties this whole book together."

"What do you expect?" he asked. "I'm paying these people in cups of rice for chrissake."

"I know," I said. "But that's just it. I need to talk to someone else. Someone who actually believes this kind of crap. A winner. Not some desperately poor..."

But Ronnie wasn't listening. He stood up, his dimpled ass sheened in sweat and matted hair, and walked to his private desk. He dialed a number on his phone, talked a bit, and then motioned me over to take the receiver.

"I think I can help you," said a voice on the other end. "My name is John Galt."

CONTINUED HERE

(Note: If you enjoyed this, you should know that I began my career as a desperate magazine writer and low-level scrub at the now-defunct Mademoiselle. My novella, The Big Money, is a funny, fictionalized account of my experiences, and it's available for your Kindle or your Nook for 99 cents.

It features sexual fantasy sequences, World War II trivia, drunkenness, betrayal, murderous rages, the Spider Demon at the end of
Doom, and a weird love story involving cat-sitting. It is loosely based on the truth. And when I say "loosely" I mean that it is true in the emotional, but not legally actionable sense.)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Half Of You Are Fired, But ALL Of You Get A Teamwork Prize

It's a bittersweet time, here at SG Comtrex. I feel like we've accomplished great things. And the fact that we're not all going forward together into the new quarter is very, very sad. But I have wonderful news. This is not something we've ever done before; it's completely unprecedented in our company's history, but you people have earned it. This year we're awarding the SGC Teamwork Prize to the entire department. Half of you should vacate the property within the next 30 minutes, but every one of you knows what dedication is all about.

The Prize normally comes with a $10 gift card to Applebee's. But I want to recognize our departing friends, so I went to Georgia in Accounting, and I demanded she make a change. This year you have a choice of either the restaurant card... or a $10 card for FedEx/Kinkos. I know some of you will be updating your resumes soon, and I wanted to help. Don't thank me, please. You deserve it.

Not many know how to work together to accomplish a goal. How to apply yourself -- sacrificing your nights and weekends to bring a project into port on time and under budget. And yes, that doesn't always mean that the budget will be big enough to support your salary, going forward. But your effort is appreciated. That's what it means to receive the certificate you'll get when you turn in your door card and sign our nondisclosure paper. It means you've made a difference.

I know Jerry wants to congratulate you as well, so I'll keep this short. You should meet with him to go over the termination agreement that addresses any concerns you may have. But he also wants to shake your hand and wish you well.

It will be a long time, before I see a group like you again. Especially since I'm moving upstairs to my new post. I care about you, and I want to keep in touch. Please give Jerry your email and current address when you sign the agreement. And don't be afraid to drop me a line, when you find yourself in a new position, tackling new challenges! I'd love to hear from you. Don't come to the office in person without clearing it with security first. But an email would be great.

Good luck to you. I know people like you will do just fine.

Okay, let's get those laptops back to the company and clean up the break room. We have twenty more minutes. Could the rest of you stay a little late? Things are going to be tough this week.
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