Miniature People Big Holiday Seller

Oct. 16, 2152
LUND, SWEDEN–Cutting-edge bioengineering and 20th century nostalgia are equally represented in a new line of products from Toyboy Factories. Humites(TM) and Humites Environs(TM), both new for the holiday season, include cadres of miniature, human-like creatures, each about the size of a fingernail. Consumers can keep their Humites in one of the elegant bookshelf or coffee table Environs Toyboy markets, and care for them with a range of Humite Foods and accessories.

“We worked hard to be sure that Humites naturally form co-operative, social groups,” notes Toyboy Marketing Director Bird Smollet. “Marketing research told us that there was a lot of interest out there in terrariums and miniature environments. Ant farms have enjoyed residual popularity for generations. We realized that, with recent developments in organism design, we could offer an ant farm with a modern twist.”

Humite genealogy, it turns out, owes as much to ants and other social insects as to the humans they so closely resemble. “Humites look like people, but their physiology and psychology have deep roots in the genetics of social insects,” explains Engineering Director Pfifle Jubilee. “As the name suggests, much of the Humite genome comes from drone castes of social, mound-termites. The challenge, really, wasn’t to engineer tiny humans–we ruled that out fairly quickly as, physiologically, too difficult–but to genetically modify insects to very closely approximate human appearance, and to extend their encoded instincts to include human-like behaviors.”

The resemblance to humans is sometimes quite eerie. Not only do Humites look like miniature people, right down to their fine, micro-filament hairs, but they do some very human things, including wearing clothes. A variety of Humite wardrobes are available, typically coming in packages of a dozen matching coveralls which the consumer simply drops into the environment. Once the Humites discover the clothes, they put them on and spread the word to the rest of the group using chemical and pheromone signals and markers.

The Humite Environs Toyboy offers rival in elegance the ingenuity of the creatures themselves. The gracefully cut, grown-crystal Panoptifarm environment, which serves both as an attractive display case and a coffee table, is designed for large populations. Those with relatively small groups might favor one of the bookshelf cases, more reminiscent of the iconic ant farms of the past, and outfitted with detailed, brushed-aluminum cityscapes.

Unlike traditional ant farms, Humite Environs are dynamically expanded and re-designed by their residents. When supplied with a wedge of special, crystal building-resin (sold separately), Humites modify their environments, constructing transparent buildings, compounds, and, depending upon the size of the population and environment, villages and towns. By setting switches on Environs Access Points, consumers can enable their Humites to expand their environment as needed. One shelf unit filled with industrious and well-supplied Humites can be extended to adjoining shelves overnight through inter-connecting crawl-tubes and miniature, surface-tension elevators.

In order to ensure that Humite populations not spread in unwanted or inappropriate ways, Toyboy fixes the life span for individual Humites at about 36 months, and constrains their ability to reproduce. “In order to reproduce, Humites must receive a particular chemical signal that no Humite can, itself, produce, and that doesn’t occur in the natural environment,” explains Jubilee. “For those who want to expand their populations, we sell a special, proprietary breeding box treated with the appropriate chemical signal. By controlling access to and use of the breeding box, consumers can maintain or expand populations as they choose.”

“We’re anticipating a block-buster holiday selling season,” indicates Marketer Smollet. “Our first-run pre-sold in a little less than an hour. Everybody is going to want these cute little guys.”

Packaging Sales Surpass Album Sales, Sony Reports

Sept. 1, 2013
LOS ANGELES–Three short years after its controversial decision to stop selling albums and to focus exclusively on the marketing of licensed packaging, Sony Music reports that revenues from the sale of liner notes and associated packaging exceed those generated by sale of its music catalog. “At the time, the heads of all the Majors thought that we were crazy,” explains Sony A & R Chief Herb Iki. “But it was just that they refused to see the way in which the industry was developing. We realized pretty quickly that music, because it’s really just bits, was destined to be free; but packaging, that’s something we know about, and something we can sell.”

Sony launched its “albumless” strategy with the widely publicized release of “Nobitz,” the 33rd album from classic-rock stalwarts U2. At the time, fans lining up to purchase the disc were almost universally shocked to discover that “Nobitz” consisted entirely of brightly-colored cardboard and plastic packaging, with a stylish, burlap circle in the place of a disc. “We learned a lot from the ‘Nobitz’ launch,” recalls Iki. “First, we learned that it’s better to keep the packaging empty than to try to replace the disc with something. I don’t know how many people tried to play that burlap ‘disc,’ but I think every one of them called to complain that theirs was defective. Second, we learned that, overwhelmingly, fans will pay for the packaging, even when they can download the music for free.”

Three years later, Sony Music sales confirm that a business many thought destined for extinction merely needed to be re-thought. “I’ve raised my estimates on all the major music companies, largely because they’ve managed to redefine their markets,” notes JupiterScan analyst Helva Vexner. “For a while it looked like the labels were in serious trouble. Artists didn’t need their distributional networks in order to get product out there. But now, after Sony’s success, artists are re-signing in droves to get the licensing revenues from the packaging.”

“Historically, artists relied upon labels for distribution and promotion while labels depended upon artists to supply the product” explains OVA super-agent Maxim Maxim. “The labels finally realized that, in the packaging, they were supplying a product worth money in its own right. Every serious fan craves the iconic connection that’s possible only through a physical product. I have, systematically, encouraged all of my artists to sign licensing deals.”

The viability of Sony’s new strategy, however, remains uncertain. New printing technologies, in concert with a peer-to-peer file distribution system known as Packster, threaten the newfound stream of “Paper & Plastic” or “P&P” revenues. Recent improvements in Materials Printers from Compackard have enabled fans to produce, in their homes, packaging nearly identical in quality to that offered by Sony and other traditional record companies. With a Materials Printer, a block of resin “toner,” and a file describing the desired packaging, users can make for themselves the products companies like Sony are coming to rely on.

Sony’s Iki remains sanguine. “Packster is just another in a series of technologies that have challenged the way we do business. But that’s a good thing. It makes us evolve and innovate, forces us to realize value in ways we didn’t previously think possible. It’s true that we are in the marketing business, not the music business. But that’s why we make money. People will buy marketing. They won’t always buy music.”

Suicide Artist Fakes Death, Defrauds Patrons

April 23, 2022
NEW YORK CITY–The recent arrest of former suicide artist Bran McGeady has galvanized suspicions in the suicide art world that the genre has become too popular to be effectively monitored for fraud and forgery. The recently celebrated McGeady was discovered by NEA officers during a routine serial-number trace of pawned audio and video equipment in Fairfield Outer-Borough. “Apparently he pretty desperately needed to raise some funds,” explains Sergeant McNee Tracey. “It looks like his replacement identity wasn’t well-capitalized, so he pawned some of the Endowment equipment he had taken into hiding with him.”

Patrons of the McGeady Suicide Cooperative are universally scandalized to discover that McGeady is still alive and that the performance they sponsored was a forgery. “I’m shocked,” exclaims Aiken Petral III, one of the key shareholders in the Cooperative. “We dedicated billions of dollars to our sponsorship of Bran, to the parties, the successful finance career we arranged for him, the best education, the extravagant lifestyle…all of the potential we put into that kid, I just can’t believe that he wouldn’t end it all as we had contractually arranged.”

NEA officials are quick to point out that this is the first known case of fraud in the still young industry. “We don’t want suicide art to get a bad reputation in the market,” explains NEA spokesman Henry Chuff. “There’s still lots of protection for those thinking about investing in a suicide artist. SACA [the Suicide Artists’ Certification Agency] offers a relatively inexpensive way to insure the authenticity of your artist’s work. In fact, McGeady was fully bonded by SACA, guaranteeing nearly 100% reimbursement for shareholders.”

The NEA has good reason to want to reassure public confidence in suicide art. In the seventeen short years since Cynthia Fern’s legendary performance pioneered the genre, suicide art and suicide artists have generated more revenue attributable to artistic endeavor than the sum of all arts spending for the past 350 years. “The financial success of suicide art is really unprecedented in the art world,” explains Columbia University Professor Reginald Coale. “It’s something on an industrial scale, and it came not a minute too late for art. Technical advances in media have always altered the form and cultural meaning of art, but no significantly marketable value filled the vacuum left when artisanship and genius were made redundant by digital and nano-reproductive media. It’s ironic in a way: the last thing that artists have to offer us is suicide.”

Debate about the value of suicide art continues, despite the tremendous economic growth surrounding it. “The popular success of suicide art isn’t really much of a mystery,” contends Times critic Denise Pruple. “Medical technologies have made death a scarce commodity. Production, information, and transportation technology has given us efficiency on scales unimaginable even sixty years ago. Like the potlatches of old, suicide art announces an abundance so great that, to declare its value, it must be wasted. So, suicide art coops sponsor for these artists lives and careers of extravagant wealth and social status precisely in order to see them wasted. It makes perfect sense.”

“I don’t care about the money,” complains McGeady Cooperative shareholder Vincent Eggs. “I found Bran’s suicide very moving. The hush in the theater as he breathed his last breath; that was incredibly intense. To find out now that it was all a lie really hurts. I don’t know if they can, but I’m encouraging the prosecution to treat this as a capital offense. That’s the only thing that will make what he did all right.”

An Ecosystem of Your Very Own

March 7, 2151
PORTLAND–Genetic customization has been taken to new heights with Fenster Corp.’s introduction of the Personal Ecological Terraderm or PET. The service provides clients with two hypodermics of primordial bio-ooze “encrypted” with a key based on clients’ individual Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (“SNiPs”). Once injected, the “ooze” goes to work forming a rudimentary nano-scale ecology just beneath the skin of the torso and arms.

“The whole thing sort of tickles at first,” reports a satisfied client from Redwood City. “But, it’s worth it. Once your PET gets up into senior evo-cycles, you’ll start to get some cool things. Last week I spawned a crimson bottle-nosed moth. Ever since I’ve had a peaceful cloud of ’em following me around.”

Though Fenster makes every effort to ensure an evolutionary trajectory that is both aesthetically pleasing and compatible with the client’s lifestyle, a PET is a freely developing evolutionary ecosystem and specific results cannot be guaranteed. “We do everything we can, particularly at the initial conditions stage,” explains Fenster spokesman Marcheno Davis. “The qualities of the PET substrate can have the most impact on the client’s appearance, so we do what we can to keep a low profile. I can’t reveal exactly what’s in the substrate, but we did begin our design from all-natural micro-algaes and worked towards colorlessness, which turned out to be trickier than we thought.”

The PET substrate interacts with the client’s skin, renewing itself through a complex exfoliating interaction between the skin, the substrate, and the lowest tier of PET organisms that typically emerge within hours of injection. The substrate, and each new PET organism that evolves, is “locked” by the client’s SNiP key, preventing one client’s PET from interacting with another’s. “Interaction between PETs introduces a new level of uncertainty to the whole process,” explains Davis. “We’ve got interacting PETs in the works, though, so couples, close friends, even whole families can have cross-evolving PETs. We see that coming to market maybe 18 months down the road.”

Surprisingly few of Fenster’s early clients have experienced any adverse reaction to their PETs. Some have described an uncomfortable “crawling” feeling during the first month or so when the first generations of biots and biomites tend to reproduce at unsustainable levels before higher-level predators evolve, but most praise the eventual outcome. Though no serious reactions have been reported, Fenster always supplies clients with an “eco-cide” hypo in case of complications. “The eco-cide is keyed to the client’s PET and immediately kills off the substrate and all derivative organisms,” Davis points out. “We got accelerated FDA review and approval because we take careful measures, like providing an eco-cide.”

Whether or not PETs will find a broad market remains to be seen. The company has ramped-up its marketing efforts in anticipation of the spring season, but may run into a healthy amount of skepticism among consumers. “I don’t know, what if something gross evolved, some kind of ugly spider or cockroach rather than the butterflies they keep talking about,” worries a New York resident participating in a PET focus group. It turns out that concerns about what sort of PET organisms might evolve, and how those organisms might reflect on the host-client, are six times more common than questions about possible health side-effects. Vanity, it seems, is more than skin deep.