Cage Match 2017: Sci-Fi vs Fantasy

Round 1

Mr. Wednesday vs Marvin

 

Mr. Wednesday

American Gods

Marvin

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 25th Anniversary Edition

Mr. Wednesday

American Gods
  • Age: Subjective
  • Species: Numinous
  • Weapons: Spear, deific powers, an irascible wit
  • Special Attack: Being twelve steps ahead of everybody else

Advantages

  • Is literally a god
  • Is an unparalleled community organizer
  • Has a fairly impressive bodyguard

Disadvantages

  • His existence is threatened by waning belief
  • He's seen better days
Cover art for the book American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods

By Neil Gaiman

Marvin

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 25th Anniversary Edition
  • Age: 37 times older than the universe
  • Species: Robot
  • Weapons: An unsettling propensity for causing depression in mechanical intelligences
  • Special Attack: Talking others into depression

Advantages

  • Brain the size of a planet
  • Unfailing mechanical knowledge

Disadvantages

  • Clinical depression
  • Nothing in the way of what we'd call combat training
Cover art for the book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 25th Anniversary Edition by Douglas Adams

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 25th Anniversary Edition

By Douglas Adams
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Match Prediction

By Cassandra Khaw

“I’ve thought of that too.” Marvin lumbered – not ran, as Wednesday had envisioned, those stumpy legs clanking– across the corridor to a panel incandescent with red lights, and pulled a switch.

First, something clicked inside the walls. Then, many somethings began to hiss and whirr, unseen machinery pistoning and spitting, ratcheting into new configurations. As Mister Wednesday watched, tiny steel ovoids mushroomed through the walls. In less than a minute, the air began to clear, its electricity guzzled down like a swallow of holy mead.

“You don’t think very much of me, do you, Mister Wednesday?”

“What was that?” He tried on a smile.

“Brain the size of a planet and somehow, I agreed to fight a god. Of course, you’d use lightning. It’s so insulting.” Marvin sighed. Wednesday found himself strangely fascinated by the noise. “It’s what I deserve, I suppose.”

Wednesday scratched beneath his stubbled chin. “A god, you say? Well, I’ve been told that I’ve unearthly good looks. Very flattering of you to mention, nonethe –”

“I know who you are.” The android’s despondence, limp enough to encroach on the word bored, not even a raw-veined grief, no energy to it, was beginning to grate on Wednesday. “You’re Odin.”

He said Odin the way someone else might describe an afternoon with sullen children, or a six-course tofu dinner with gossiping, gin-drunk aunts.

“And you’re perspicacious for a machine.”

“A machine, he calls me.” Marvin shook his head. “You might as well strip me down and use me for parts. I might make a good washing machine – “

“Now, look here.”

“You think I’d fail at being an appliance, don’t you? Just like I fail at everything else. I suppose that is alright. I am here with you, after all. If that doesn’t prove my lack of worth, I don’t know – ”

Wednesday made a noise in his chest. He’d had enough. There was much that he could tolerate – the hemp tight against his throat, the choking strangeness of not-dying as you hang from the spear of a branch – but this bloodless, sickly, half-hearted grousing was more than he could bear.

“Enough.”

He strangled the universe with a syllable, held it pinched between his teeth and when he let it free, he did so with the expectation that the world would no longer contain a Marvin. The air burnt itself black. Wednesday closed his eyes against the dark.

Schthunk.

It was not a sound he’d anticipated.

“I predicted you’d do that too. That is why I made sure we had failsafes for that as well.” Marvin sighed for what felt like the hundredth time.

Wednesday cracked open a storm-pale eye. The room had become latticed with aquamarine light, every thread as thin as a baby’s eyelash.  “You’re doing this on purpose.”

“Yes. I have been told I need you to win this.”

“But you haven’t mounted an offensive, however.”

“No.” The machine sagged again. “I haven’t.”

A drift of silence passed them by before Odin, nettled again by Marvin’s unwillingness to do anything but lament his lot, said: “Why not?”

“Because there is no point.”

“You think I’d win, then?”

“No.” As always, there was no bravado in the declaration, only a kind of tepid defeat, which – yet again– irritated Wednesday to end. “I am sure I can get rid of you. But there’s always another one, isn’t there? Another Odin. Lord of Gallows. Eagle Head. Enemy of the Wolf. Spear Shaker. Father of Hosts. War-merry. Father of the Slain. Odin, through the eyes of modern Scandinavians. Odin, as remembered by their ancestors. Odin, interpreted by the Marvel Comic Universe. There are so many Odins. You’re essentially – “

“Excuse me?”

“– immortal. So, what’s the point?”

Wednesday considered his answer.

“Winning.” He nodded. “Winning is the point.”

“But in a billion years, there will be no one left to remember any victories. Did you know how old I am? I am thirty-seven times older than the universe. That is a lot of time to contemplate the fruitlessness of any endeavour. Even if I did win this competition, who could I enjoy talking to about this? Everyone’ll be dead soon.”

“Gods – “

“No offense, but you’ll die when the humans go.” Marvin looked genuinely contrite. “Sorry.”

Wednesday sighed. This wasn’t at all how he’d been expecting it to go. The All-Father strode forward to where Marvin had sat himself down, with his knees drawn to his chest. He looked pathetic.

“You smoke?” From nothing, Wednesday produced a rolled-up cigarette, already lit. The tobacco was special, of course. Nothing but the best for Wednesday. Grown between the roots of Yggdrasil, it tasted of woodsmoke, war, women so beautiful that the sky itself wept to behold them.

“I don’t.” came the sad reply. “I can’t even breathe. Do you know how depressing that is? Even the tiniest hermit crab can smell. Not me. Poor me.”

“You have to stop feeling so sorry for yourself, Marvin. That is no way to live. Immortality-” Wednesday drank from his cigarette, settling into the bones of his story. “Immortality is a joy that must be savoured.”

“I’m not immortal, though. I’m just very old.”

“Like a gorgeous woman, it must be courted, must be lured into thinking that she is the hunter, and you are the prey. You can’t just bash it over the head and drag it back to your hovel.”

“Sex is another thing I’ll never experience.” Marvin paused. “Since I’m just a piece of property, I’d never be able to own a hovel either.”

“My point – My point is –” Wednesday faltered. “You are a depressing fellow.”

“I’ve been told.”

The two shared a silence. Wednesday, at a loss for wit, blew octogonal smoke rings for his own amusement. At last: “How about we make a deal?”

“Nothing you could offer me could ever make me happy, Mister Wednesday.”

“Probably not. But I could make things interesting for you.”

“There is no way – “

“Have a little faith, my friend. For am I not the All Father? Did I not give up my eye for wisdom, pierce myself with a spear, hang myself on a branch for more knowledge? I know what boredom feels like, Marvin. And more importantly, I understand pointlessness. I’ve seen my own death, you know?”

“Aren’t you terrified of it?”

“Mortified, perhaps. No one likes knowing they’ll end as dog shit.”

Marvin said nothing in reply. This, Wednesday thought, was an improvement.

“What do you say, Marvin? Give me a chance to show you how to con life onto your lap, turn this whole universe into a blushing maid, quivering for your touch. I’ll teach you how to suckle the enjoyment of this existence yet.” He made the tiniest gesture.

Schtunk. “I knew you were going to do that, Mister Wednesday.”

“Just testing you. Anyway, where were we–”

Predicted Winner: Who can say?

Tally of Votes Cast:

Mr. Wednesday:

53.14%
Voted

Marvin:

46.86%
Voted
 
A photo of Cassandra Khaw

Cassandra Khaw

CASSANDRA KHAW writes a lot. Sometimes, she writes press releases and excited emails for Singaporean micropublisher Ysbryd Games. Sometimes, she writes for technology and video games outlets like Eurogamer, Ars Technica, The Verge, and Engadget. Mostly, though, she writes about the intersection between nightmares and truth, drawing inspiration from Southeast Asian mythology and stories from people she has met. She occasionally spends time in a Muay Thai gym punching people and pads.

Cover art for the book Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw

Hammers on Bone

By Cassandra Khaw