One of speculative fiction’s few flaws is that it rarely touches on that frustrating aspect of contemporary civilization: Paperwork. There’s a great scene on the subject in the film Jupiter Ascending, possibly inspired by a similar scene in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but for the most part we don’t talk about it.
It’s not like we discuss how often the characters vacuum their bedrooms unless it’s plot relevant either, but I find that paperwork is mentally and emotionally draining enough to deserve at least a few storied moments. Maybe we just avoid thinking about it too much.
I’ve always quietly worried that there’s a clause hidden somewhere that means I’m signing away my firstborn child. I always at least skim the terms and conditions. Or maybe I worry that I’ll get a digit wrong on my SS number and be arrested for trying to impersonate someone else. Or that I’ll forget to write down a relevant medical condition and accidentally sign up to do the kind of physical labor my spine isn’t straight enough for and end up unable to get out of it and cripple myself for life.
Avoiding the topic of paperwork could be an aspect of the character of a spec fic creator. I would have cheerfully spent the rest of my life in Middle-Earth fighting orcs if it meant I didn’t have to fill out another scholarship application at the end of high school.
I still might consider it today.
Maybe it’s just me. Creators of speculative fiction are a complicated mix of businesspersons and daydreamers, and the most successful ones are responsible adults in all the ways that people outside our field care about, including with paperwork. Even I’ve gotten okay at doing it.
I still don’t want it invading my fantasy worlds.
But I think there’s a story in paperwork. Maybe not one I’ll bring myself to write in the next few years, but definitely a story or ten. A red tape ninja who buries the bad guys in paperwork so they don’t have enough time to do their villainy would be epic.