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Erm… Oops?

First up, my apologies for spacing last week. I am a creature of habit and when my routines get disrupted I forget things. I forget things anyway, but if I don’t have a normal whateverdayitis, the chances of me remembering whatever I’m supposed to do on that day take a rather sharp nosedive.

I’ve got any number of little reminder routines set up to keep me from forgetting everything and meandering off into the sunset in an absent-minded haze, but disrupt them in any way and… oooh. What a pretty sunset.

So of course my apology begins with what is probably the single most terrifying word in the English language.

Oops.

When that word is spoken, you know something has gone horribly wrong. Precisely how horribly depends on context, of course, but it’s certainly not a word you want to hear in, say, a nuclear reactor. Or anywhere else that deals with critical functions that can go horribly and lethally wrong.

Which of course is why as a writer, someone is going to wind up with a reason to say “Oops” when the situation is at its most tense and the slightest wrong move could cost your protagonists their lives.

A well-placed “oops” can also be used to let in some comic relief. A little bit of slapstick, or even a near miss can be an excuse for some laughter, whether it be your characters having a bit of a nervous giggle before moving on or your readers rolling on the floor laughing at the bizarre but totally understandable escalation of events.

Pratchett managed the latter beautifully with the start of the bar brawl in Color of Magic, where a string of small actions leads to a whole lot of people doing everything in their power to kill each other – humorously, of course, Pterry being the genius he was. If I had the time to dig the quote up, I would, but alas, as I write it has more than passed my bedtime, so I’d best sign off and schedule this to post in the morning.

21 Comments
  1. Hmm . . . I have a few characters who could cause mass panics with a simple “Oops.” I’ll have to find a suitable spot to slid that in.

    June 27, 2019
  2. George stepped off the porch, walked down to the foot of the yard next to the road and waited. In his sensor displays the aliens were plain as day, imaged in every detail by the nanoscale particles coating them. Cook and Sun Phoenix joined him. Spike the giant dog got up and ambled over to stand next to George, sniffing the air.

    “Spike!” exclaimed George ruffling the dog’s ears. “Who’s the best dog ever?!”

    Spike gave George a poke with his nose and little lick of greeting. He was the best dog, obviously. Then he sniffed the air again and growled briefly.

    “Yep, they’re here,” agreed George. “This time we protect you, okay? No need to bite them unless it all goes to hell.”

    Spike grumbled at that but lay down with his head up and ears up. He wanted to bite them. Biting the one in the park had been excellent. The first one was getting close, and it smelled like fear. Spike gave it a woof of warning.

    George watched his sensors on the drop-down visor of his helmet. The five human shaped figures were painted on the clear, see-through surface. The first one stopped walking forward, froze in his tracks. All five pointed their guns at the dog, clearly in close communication with each other. Then they all started checking their guns, as the intended conflagration of plasma fire did not occur. The network intrusion had done its work, shutting off their weapons.

    “Oops,” said Cook absently.

    “That first guy in line looks like he might need to change his pants,” commented George heartlessly. The consternation of the figure was comically obvious. “Major malfunction, code brown.”

    “Now what?” asked Sun testily. She was not in a mood for snarky banter. She had left her big Chinese sword in its scabbard on her back and her railgun was lying on the lawn, but she was fingering her fighting stick in a meaningful way. Somebody was going to get a beating.

    June 27, 2019
  3. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard #

    Didn’t work the first time.

    Quote From David Weber’s Ashes Of Victory

    Lester Tourville wrenched his eyes back to the fading balls of plasma which had been the ships of Citizen Rear Admiral Heemskerk’s squadron. The silence on his flag bridge was total, like the silence a microphone picked up in hard vacuum, and he swallowed hard.

    And then the spell was broken as Shannon Foraker looked up from the console from which she had just sent a perfectly innocent-seeming computer code over the tactical net to one of the countless ops plans she’d downloaded to the units of Twelfth Fleet over the last thirty-two T-months.

    “Oops,” she said.

    End Quote

    June 27, 2019
  4. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard #

    Does Word Press know I exist?

    Two posts of mine just disappeared.

    June 27, 2019
    • I’m starting to think that the WP management is on vacation and the gremlins have taken over. I can be logged on to my own blog, come here or to another WP blog to comment, and I have to log in again. And again. And the comments disappear.

      June 27, 2019
      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard #

        I posted a quote of when one of David Weber’s characters said “Oops”. 😉

        June 27, 2019
        • I found both of them in the spam folder, along with two other valid comments. I don’t have release authorization for them. So they’re there, just in limbo. WP Delenda Est.

          June 27, 2019
          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard #

            WP Delenda Est. 😈

            June 27, 2019
      • Christopher M. Chupik #

        Took over? I’m pretty sure they’ve always been in charge.

        June 27, 2019
      • WordPress was blocking me a couple days ago, logging off my account and then logging on again had no effect. Next day, commenting proceeded as usual.

        I’m coming to the conclusion that WordPress Inc. doesn’t have enough engineers to keep their rickety collection of code running. Its broken in ways that keep creating new outages faster than they can patch the old ones.

        This is probably why they don’t play the de-platforming game very often. They -can’t-.

        June 27, 2019
  5. I actually was a reactor operator for a while, and the scariest thing you can ever hear from an RO is “Wow…”

    June 27, 2019
    • Jane Meyerhofer #

      Okay, that’s just funny.

      June 27, 2019
    • TonyT #

      More nuclear power wisdom:
      “If in doubt, scam it out”
      “Keeping the core covered will keep your ass covered”
      “Pride, professionalism, and parallax”

      June 27, 2019
    • I thought “oh shit!” were the scariest words in the nuclear biz. ~:D

      This is like the bomb disposal team t-shit that says “If you see me running, try to keep up” on the back.

      June 27, 2019
    • Reziac #

      Or perhaps, “Is it supposed to glow like that??”

      June 27, 2019
      • “Does that look normal to you?”

        June 27, 2019
  6. STEPHEN RUBIN #

    Supposedly, the last word heard on many flight recorders is “Oh…(Pause). Sh*t)

    June 27, 2019
  7. SheSellsSeashells #

    My personal moment of sheer verbal terror: hearing the dentist comment “well, THAT’s interesting…” mid-root-canal.

    June 27, 2019
  8. Margaret Ball #

    Heard from tech support this morning, about why my laptop keeps crashing: “Hmm, that’s funny, never saw THAT before.”

    Wondering if the machine will cooperate long enough to let me comment…

    June 27, 2019
  9. Mary #

    To be sure, there has to be a reason.

    When you hear complaints that horses never just lose a shoe in fantasy quests — well, if they aren’t in a rush, it’s just a pointless incident and waste of time, and if they are, it’s clearly the hand of the author throwing them a curve ball.

    It takes skill to convince with accidents.

    June 27, 2019

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