The Troll Under the Fridge

Copyright © 2014 by Martin L. Shoemaker
Adapted from Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe, De tre bukkene Bruse som skulle gå til seters og gjøre seg fete, Norske Folkeeventyr, translated by George Webbe Dasent in Popular Tales from the Norse, 2nd edition (London: George Routledge and Sons, n.d.), no. 37, pp. 275-276. Translation revised by D. L. Ashliman.

Once upon a time there were three Billy Goats, who were to go into the kitchen to make themselves fat, and the name of all three was “Gruff.”

In the kitchen was an old refrigerator with all the best food; and under the fridge lived a great ugly troll, with eyes as big as saucers, ears like skillets, and a nose as long as a carving knife.

So first of all came the youngest Billy Goat Gruff to open the fridge.

“Creak, crack, creak, crack!” went the hinges of the fridge. They were old and hadn’t been oiled in a long time.

“Who’s that cracking open my fridge?” roared the troll.

“Oh, it is only I, the tiniest Billy Goat Gruff, and I’m getting a snack to make myself fat,” said the Billy Goat, with such a small voice.

“Now, I’m coming to gobble you up,” said the troll.

“Oh, no! Pray don’t take me. I’m too little, that I am,” said the Billy Goat. “Wait a bit ‘til the second Billy Goat Gruff comes. He’s much bigger.”

“Well, be off with you,” said the troll. And the little goat grabbed a pudding cup and fled from the kitchen.

A little while after came the second Billy Goat Gruff to open the fridge.

“Creak, crack, creak, crack, creak, crack!” went the hinges of the fridge.

“Who’s that cracking open my fridge?” roared the troll.

“Oh, it’s the second Billy Goat Gruff, and I’m grabbing some lunch to make myself fat,” said the Billy Goat, who hadn’t such a small voice.

“Now I’m coming to gobble you up,” said the troll.

“Oh, no! Don’t take me. Wait a little ‘til the big Billy Goat Gruff comes. He’s much bigger.”

“Very well! Be off with you,” said the troll. And the middle goat grabbed a frozen package of macaroni and cheese and fled to the microwave oven. Fortunately no trolls lived under the microwave, only some dust bunnies, and they weren’t very hungry.

But just then up came the big Billy Goat Gruff.

“CREAK, CRACK!” went the hinges of the fridge, for the Billy Goat was large and impatient and he opened the door very wide to see what was deep in the back of the fridge.

“Who’s that cracking open my fridge?” roared the troll.

“It’s I! The big Billy Goat Gruff,” said the Billy Goat, who had an ugly hoarse voice of his own.

“Now I’m coming to gobble you up,” roared the troll.

“Dude… Seriously?” said the big Billy Goat Gruff. “You’ve got a fridge full of food here. Pudding cups and frozen jalapeno poppers and potato salad and cheese and hot dogs and broccoli and orange juice and… Hey, I think you have half a leftover turkey in the back there! That looks good! And there’s about a hundred more things in here as well. Troll, with all this food, why would you want to gobble me up?”

The troll scratched one big ear. He had only three fingers on each hand, but that was enough to scratch with. “Ummm… I never thought of that. Hiding under things and gobbling people is the only job I’ve trained for.”

“Well, take the day off! You’ve got plenty of food. Hey, we’re watching the big game in the den. Sixty inch TV! Kickoff’s in ten minutes. You should join us!”

So the big Billy Goat Gruff grabbed the leftover turkey, and the troll grabbed the jalapeno poppers and popped them into the microwave. Then all three Billy Goats Gruff and the troll really raided the fridge and set out a small mountain of snacks and drinks on all the tables in the den. The dust bunnies decided they were hungry after all, so they brought in some chips and salsa. Everything was ready just in time for the kickoff.

The game was a real nail-biter: it went into overtime, and a Hail Mary pass won it for the home team. Everyone roared with excitement, even the dust bunnies (though they roared very quietly). The troll and the big Billy Goat Gruff stood and gave each other a high five. (Well, high three for the troll and high two for the big goat, but you know what I mean.)

The Year’s Top Short SF Novels selects “Murder on the Aldrin Express”

Now it can be told: AudioText, producers of fine audio books, has selected “Murder on the Aldrin Express” for volume 4 of The Year’s Top Short SF Novels. This is truly an honor! Their emphasis is mainly audio, but they also produce an ebook version of each volume.

To see what sort of company that puts me in, here are their past volumes:

  • The Year’s Top Short SF Novels: “Return to Titan,” by Stephen Baxter, is set in his Xeelee sequence. Michael Poole and his father search one of Saturn’s moons for sentient life that would interfere with their plans to build a gateway to the stars. In this year’s Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award winner for best short fiction, “The Sultan of the Clouds,” by Geoffrey A. Landis, a terraforming expert is inexplicably invited to Venus by the child who owns most of the planet’s habitable floating cities. “Seven Cities of Gold,” by David Moles, tells the story of a Japanese relief worker charged with tracking down the renegade Christian leader responsible for detonating a nuclear device in an Islam-occupied North American city. In “Jackie’s-Boy,” by Steven Popkes, an orphaned child befriends an uplifted elephant from the abandoned St. Louis Zoo as they trek south across a sparsely populated North America to find sanctuary. “A History of Terraforming,” by Robert Reed, involves a young boy’s ambition to take up his father’s work of terraforming Mars and then much of the solar system and discovers that much more than planets have been altered. In “Troika,” by Alastair Reynolds, the lone survivor of a mission that explored a massive alien object attempts to reveal what he discovered despite the wishes of the Second Soviet Union. Set in the author’s S’hdonni universe, “Several Items of Interest,” by Rick Wilber, the Earth ruling aliens ask a human collaborator to help quell a human insurrection led by the collaborator’s brother.
  • The Year’s Top Short SF Novels 2: In “The Ice Owl,” by Carolyn Ives Gilman, an adolescent, female, Waster in the iron city of Glory to God finds an enigmatic tutor who provides her with much more than academic instruction while a fundamentalist revolt is underway. In the HUGO AWARD winner, “The Man Who Bridged the Mist,” by Kij Johnson, an architect from the capital builds a bridge over a dangerous mist that will change more than just the Empire. In “Kiss Me Twice,” by Mary Robinette Kowal, a detective, with the assistance of the police department’s AI that takes on Mae West’s persona, solves a murder with all the flair of an Asimov robot story. “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary,” by Ken Liu, is a moving chronicle of attempts to witness the history of Japanese atrocities against the Chinese in a World War II prison camp by traveling back in time using Bohm-Kirino particles. In “The Ants of Flanders,” by Robert Reed, a teenage boy, incapable of fear, takes center stage in an alien invasion of Earth that pits alien foes against each other in a war that has no regard for mankind’s existence. Finally, in “Angel of Europa,” by Allen M. Steele, an arbiter aboard a space ship, exploring the moons of Jupiter, is resuscitated from a hibernation tank to investigate the deaths of two scientists that took place in a bathyscaphe underneath the global ocean of Europa.
  • The Year’s Top Short SF Novels 3: In “In the House of Aryaman, a Lonely Signal Burns,” by Elizabeth Bear, Police Sub-Inspector Ferron investigates the murder of genetics engineer, Dexter Coffin, who has been turned inside out, in a cutting edge biomedical lab set in a not too distant future India. In Jay Lake‘s “The Stars Do Not Lie,” Morgan Abutti is soon in fear for his life when he tries to announce his discovery of something in the stars that contradicts the creation myth of a major religion on his planet. In “The Weight of History, the Lightness of the Future,” also by Jay Lake, set in the author’s “Sunspin” series, the Howard Immortal, Before Michaela Cannon, and an untrustworthy shipmind investigate the cause of the Mistake, an alien attack on human civilization with an EMP weapon that occurred more than a thousand years ago and wiped out most of its technology. In “Sudden, Broken and Unexpected,” by Steven Popkes, a burnt-out, talented musician is hired to help a world-class rock star divaloid, an electronic construct, prepare for her new world tour. There’s only one problem, the musician passionately despises divaloids. In Robert Reed‘s “Eater-of-Bone,” marooned human colonists, from the “Great Ship,” fight for dominance on a planet inhabited by smaller, weaker, and less intelligent aliens. Finally, in “The Boolean Gate,” by Walter Jon Williams, set in the 19th century, an elderly Samuel Clemens escapes his Mark Twain persona through his friendship with Nicola Tesla. As Tesla’s inventions come to fruition, Twain suspects that Tesla has opened up a gateway to an alien intelligence.

For those keeping track at home, that means this story will appear in two “best of” collections this year! To all of the people behind “Murder on the Aldrin Express”: thank you!

The Year’s Best Science Fiction selects “Murder on the Aldrin Express”

I’m a little late getting this on my blog, but here it is at last: Gardner Dozois, editor of The Year’s Best Science Fiction series, has selected “Murder on the Aldrin Express” for inclusion in volume 31! You can preorder it here!

Here’s the incredible table of contents:

1.“The Discovered Country” by Ian R. MacLeod
2.“The Book Seller” by Lavie Tidhar
3.“Pathways” by Nancy Kress
4.“A Heap of Broken Images” by Sunny Moraine
5.“Rock of Ages” by Jay Lake
6.“Rosary and Goldenstar” by Geoff Ryman
7.“Gray Wings” by Karl Bunker
8.“The Best We Can” by Carrie Vaughn
9.“Transitional Forms” by Paul McAuley
10.“Precious Mental” by Robert Reed
11.“Martian Blood” by Allen M. Steele
12.“Zero For Conduct” by Greg Egan
13.“The Waiting Stars” by Aliette de Bodard
14.“A Map of Mercury” by Alastair Reynolds
15.“One” by Nancy Kress
16.“Murder on the Aldrin Express” by Martin L. Shoemaker
17.“Biographical Fragments of the Life of Julian Prince” by Jake Kerr
18.“The Plague” by Ken Liu
19.“Fleet” by Sandra McDonald
20.“The She-Wolf’s Hidden Grin” by Michael Swanwick
21.“Bad Day on Boscobel” by Alexander Jablokov
22.“The Irish Astronaut” by Val Nolan
23.“The Other Gun” by Neal Asher
24.“Only Human” by Lavie Tidhar
25.“Entangled” by Ian R. MacLeod
26.“Earth 1″ by Stephen Baxter
27.“Technarion” by Sean McMullen
28.“Finders” by Melissa Scott
29.“The Queen of Night’s Aria” by Ian McDonald
30.“Hard Stars” by Brendan DuBois
31.“The Promise of Space” by James Patrick Kelly
32.“Quicken” by Damien Broderick

I am in amazing company! I am honored beyond words.