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September 23, 2011

Urban arrivals
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 11:47 AM * 344 comments

A story starts when somebody comes to town.

  • If they’re a long-lost denizen of the town, it’s a Thomas Hardy novel.
  • If they’re a long-lost denizen of the town whom no one recognizes until someone dies of spontaneous human combustion, it’s a Charles Dickens novel.
  • If they leave town again, it’s a Cory Doctorow novel.
  • If they are in want of a wife, it’s a Jane Austen novel.
  • If they come to town in the company of a strange set of locals and go to meet the guy in charge, it’s Shane. Or possibly The Wizard of Oz.
  • If the denizens of the town are not of their species, it’s a first contact novel.
  • If it was their destiny to come to the town in quest of a magical artifact which will cause them to defeat a great evil upon the land, it’s heroic fantasy.
  • If they meet a lot of vampires there, it’s urban fantasy.
  • If there are plums involved, it’s Making Light.
  • If their ethnicity is mentioned, it’s a joke.
Comments on Urban arrivals:
#1 ::: Nicholas Condon ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 12:05 PM:

If they are there to take a local youth on a great quest to defeat evil, then its "Star Wars" or The Lord of the Rings or about a third of the entire high fantasy genre.

#2 ::: Nicholas Condon ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 12:06 PM:

First post, and I all but duplicate one of Abi's examples because I missed it in my overquick first read; good job, brain!

#3 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 12:10 PM:

If he gets his picture painted, it's an Oscar Wilde novel

#4 ::: Nightsky ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 12:11 PM:

If it looks like a monster from folklore, but on closer inspection it's an alien who is only pretending to be a monster, it's a Doctor Who serial.

#5 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 12:18 PM:

If it involves local delicacies, it's a Food Network show.

#6 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 12:24 PM:

If, after 380 pages, he commits suicide, its a nineteenth century Russian novel. Or a precis of such by P.G. Wodehouse.

#7 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 12:27 PM:

If they get stuck in that town forever, or break their glasses, it's a Twilight Zone episode.

#8 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 12:30 PM:

#4 Nightsky: if it looks human, but on closer inspection it's a monster from folklore/alien who's only pretending to be human, it's *still* a Doctor Who serial.

But if it's an alien, who stays locked from sight for 50 years because it's *also* a monster from folklore, it's by Arthur C. Clarke.

#9 ::: Tatterbots ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 12:30 PM:

If she thinks she can be back in time for tea, but is never heard of again, it's a poem by A. A. Milne.

#10 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 12:33 PM:

If he lives under a bridge and leaves without any of his vowels, it is also Making Light.

If it is a visitor who, on parting still has four fifths of his vowls it's a story by Gorgs Prc

#11 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 12:42 PM:

And as Mme Barebones points out:

If he's drunk, fashionable and an aspiring writer it's a novel, it's a novel by F.Scott Fitzgerald.

If she arrives in a Zeppelin, it's steam-punk.

If he has wings and announces to a virgin that she's about to become pregnant it's the New Testament.

#12 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 12:42 PM:

If it's love that's come to town, you're in a U2 song (with BB King).

#13 ::: JDC ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 12:42 PM:

If they slam the hood of a car on somebody, it's an episode of the Rockford Files.

#14 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 12:47 PM:

If they have no name, they're Clint Eastwood. Or Toshirō Mifune. Or a Continental Op. Regardless, that town's in for an interesting couple of days.

#15 ::: MichaelC ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 12:50 PM:

If he builds a housing development, then destroys it, then talks about why he destroyed it for 100 pages, it's an Ayn Rand novel.

#16 ::: Ruth Temple ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 12:50 PM:

If they slamm the trunk of the car on the alien, it's Repo Man.

#17 ::: Lisa Nohealani Morton ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 12:50 PM:

Adam Lipkin @14: If, on the other hand, it's their horse that's nameless, it's a song by America.

#18 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 12:57 PM:

Lisa @17 but I don't think the horse ever made it to town (at least not with a rider).

#19 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 01:00 PM:

If the town can fly, it's Gulliver's Travels, or Earthman, Come Home. ("IMT made the sky -- FALL!")

If the stranger can fly, it's a movie with John Travolta that I rather like.

#20 ::: Lisa Nohealani Morton ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 01:09 PM:

Adam @18: A palpable point.

#21 ::: Rich Y. ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 01:13 PM:

If it's an unnaturally old hirsute man, bearing a supernatural list of knowledge, it's a children's carol. Or the old testament.

#22 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 01:23 PM:

If it looks like either a monster *or* an alien, but is revealed as a guy in a mask by some meddling kids, it's a Scooby Doo episode.

#23 ::: Jason Aronowitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 01:44 PM:

If the story starts and ends with somebody coming to town, it's Dhalgren.

#24 ::: Del Cotter ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 01:48 PM:

If the first comes tomorrow, when the bell tolls one, it's A Christmas Carol.

If he's making a list and checking it twice, it's a Christmas pop song.

#25 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 01:48 PM:

If he has killed the local Sphinx en route, he is one bad mother.

#26 ::: tnv ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 01:52 PM:

If he promises to make the town rich, it is a con artist caper story.

If he promises to teach the town music, it is a musical by Meredith Wilson. But if she promises to teach the town music, it is another class of children's musical.

If he drives a truck with 30,000 pounds of bananas, it's a Harry Chapin song.

#27 ::: Chaz Brenchley ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 01:56 PM:

I once heard Geoff Ryman start a workshop with "There are two stories. A man goes on a journey; or, A stranger comes to town."

Me being me? I said, "Geoff hon, aren't those the same story, from two different points of view?"

#28 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 02:07 PM:

If the inhabitants of the town are strangely batrachian in appearance, it's by H P Lovecraft.

If the stranger is batrachian, it's a nursery rhyme.

#29 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 02:08 PM:

If there's a vast incomprehensible conspiracy around him coming to town and it's fun, it's a Robert Anton Wilson novel.

If it's not fun, it's Dan Brown.

#30 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 02:10 PM:

If they are three sailors who have only one day of shore leave, it's On the Town.

If they are American sailors in Japan, it's Pacific Overtures.

#31 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 02:12 PM:

If the entity coming to town is a robotic constructor, you are in the Cyberiad. If the town is Troy, you are speaking in hexameters.

#32 ::: Nightsky ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 02:14 PM:

Gray Woodland@23: Winnah.

If the arrival is a mysterious supernatural woman who has come for the sake of a poor but virtuous maiden, it's probably a fairytale. Or A Wrinkle In Time.

If it's a mysterious supernatural man who has come for the sake of a poor but virtuous maiden, it's a Child ballad, and the maiden should run like hell. Refer to previous ML thread on the subject.

#33 ::: Missy ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 02:24 PM:

If he comes to town and there is a woman in distress, and a dog, it's a Dean Koontz novel.

#34 ::: SylvieG ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 02:25 PM:

If the stranger is a plucky red-headed orphan who changes everyone's life, it's Anne of Green Gables.

#35 ::: Andrew L. ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 02:27 PM:

If everyone in the town is dead, it's a Neil Gaiman novel.

If the new arrival is also dead, it's a Peter S. Beagle novel.

#36 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 02:28 PM:

If someone dies of spontaneous human combustion, it's an Irish coroner's report.

#37 ::: Suzanne F ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 02:45 PM:

If they're not sure which half of the town they've come to, it's a China Mieville novel.

#38 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 02:46 PM:

Alan Ladd as the Wizard of Oz?

#39 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 02:47 PM:

If it's a town that everyone comes to, but nobody is from it, and everybody wants to leave it, it's "Casablanca".

#40 ::: Throwmearope ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 03:02 PM:

If she comes to town with an umbrella and a chimney sweep friend, oh, never mind.

#41 ::: Nightsky ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 03:04 PM:

If the arrival has just come 'round a mountain and is driving six white horses, she's staying for dinner.

#42 ::: Dave Fried ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 03:09 PM:

If the town exists in a slightly-magical alternate history and the visitor is confounded by a web of intrigue, it's a novel by Guy Gavriel Kay.

If the town exists in actual history and the visitor is confounded by a series of humorous but inconvenient events, it's a novel by Connie Willis.

#43 ::: Dave Fried ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 03:10 PM:

(well, not always humorous)

#44 ::: cleek ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 03:25 PM:

if he's wearing a black leather overcoat and his female accomplice is wearing a garishly-printed but nonetheless dazzlingly sexy dress, it's My Cousin Vinny.

#45 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 03:28 PM:

Sylvie @34: and/or Annie!.

#46 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 03:32 PM:

I would amend the OP's last to read, "If their ethnicity, sports affiliation or religion is mentioned, it’s a joke."

If it takes five books to tell and involves travel to almost every known country by a disparate group gathered together based on prophecy and results in the death of a god, it's The Belgariad.

If it takes five books to tell and involves travel to almost every known country by a disparate group gathered together based on prophecy and results in the creation of a god, it's The Mallorean.

Riffing on SilvieG @ 34, if the stranger is a plucky flaxen-haired orphan who's glad about everything and changes everyone's life, it's Pollyanna.

#47 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 03:32 PM:

If she's coming to town and weighs the same as a duck, then she's made of wood.

#48 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 03:36 PM:

If he's delivering pizza and she's an underdressed housewife with insufficient cash, then that scrambled softcore cable station has mysteriously unscrambled itslef for a while!

#49 ::: turtle ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 03:37 PM:

If they came in by ship, and are now cheerfully pressing all the townspeople into service for the navy, it's a CS Forester novel. If there are French spies and awful puns as well, it's a Patrick O'Brian novel.

#50 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 03:39 PM:

If it's an unnaturally old hirsute man, bearing a supernatural list of knowledge, it's a children's carol. Or the old testament. Or a Mel Brooks routine. ("Shakespeare was not a good writer!")

If the stranger is suffering from hallucinations or PTSD and will shortly discover something appalling about the town involving one or more corpses, it's a Lois McMaster Bujold novel.

#51 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 03:49 PM:

If the stranger wears a monocle and proceeds to solve the murder that happened right before or right after he arrived, it's Sayers.

#52 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 03:50 PM:

Hmm. I appear to have written a Peter S. Beagle novel.

#53 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 03:58 PM:

If you're not sure who the stranger is, why he (or she) came to town, and the story feels as though it was written on 30 lumps of around 1700 words, it may be NaNoWriMo.

#54 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 04:02 PM:

If the stranger is a mysterious woman who can instantly deduce that the town's Doctor has been in Afghanistan, it's a CBS reimagining of Sherlock Holmes.

#55 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 04:04 PM:

If, before the person comes to town, there are 20 pages of infodump explaining exactly where the town is, when it was founded, what its major industries are, and who lives there, it's a C.J. Cherryh novel.

#56 ::: FaultyMemory ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 04:06 PM:

If he brings his house with him, it's a Diana Wynn Jones novel.

#57 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 04:11 PM:

Amending #55: If there are only 5 pages of info-dump, it's a Charles Grant novel.

#58 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 04:20 PM:

If the stranger is three old ladies come back from a long journey, it's _Aggie, Maggie and Tish_ (when it's not the aforementioned _A Wrinkle in Time_).

#59 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 04:45 PM:

Modesto Kid @ 31: If the next thing that happens is that a faithful family dog dies, you're speaking in hexameters and you've opened the book at the wrong end.

#60 ::: Suzanne F ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 04:52 PM:

If they're only there for the Season, it's a Regency romance.

#61 ::: Joseph M. ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 04:58 PM:

If they then stick around for four-score-and-seven years or start asking questions about who should do what for the country, it is a political speech.

If they arrive walking very oddly indeed, or with a deceased bird, it is a Monty Python sketch.

And if the folks in town had known they were coming, a cake would be ready right now.

#62 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 05:06 PM:

If the town has a constabulary containing trolls, dwarves and other varieties of people, it's a Discworld novel.

#63 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 05:09 PM:

If he, his harp and his sword all have three stars, it's the Riddle-Master of Hed.

#64 ::: Michael Bloom ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 05:11 PM:

If hir ethnicity is mentioned, then what sie is entering is probably not a town but a bar.

If no ethnicity is mentioned, but sie is entering a bar anyway, it's a Spider Robinson yarn. Beware of puns.

#65 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 05:14 PM:

If they come to town because an old war buddy wants a favor, it's A Game of Thrones.

#66 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 05:19 PM:

Amending #55 (and 57): If the info-dump sounds like a commentary on FOX News, it's a Honor Harrington novel.

#67 ::: Nightsky ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 05:27 PM:

Jon Meltzer@65: It could also be Casablanca.

If the town ain't big enough for both the arrival and one or more of the present inhabitants, then it's a spaghetti western. ESPECIALLY if Enrico Morricone is on the soundtrack.

#68 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 05:32 PM:

If he's a perfectly normal fellow with unadmitted secret yearnings for adventure and/or a possible/probable cuckold and/or thinks his wife doesn't understand how hard his life is, and his wife thinks he doesn't understand how hard her life is, and he finds himself faced with fun-loving ghosts, a glorious pool, or a ticked-off Egyptian idol, it's a Thorne Smith novel.

#69 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 05:38 PM:

If it is a free African American kidnapped up north and sold into slavery down south its a Slave Narrative.

Which, of course was not written by the man or woman who was kidnapped, and anyway, it never happened because it's all lies, I tell you, dirty lies.

Love, C.

#70 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 05:45 PM:

If a city comes to town, it's a Philip Reeve novel.

#71 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 05:45 PM:

If he's an exterminator who's stiffed by the town fathers and leads the children away in retribution, he's the Pied Piper.

#72 ::: Joy H ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 05:56 PM:

If the plucky orphan rescues her family from a D. H. Lawrence novel it's Stella Gibbons.

#73 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 06:00 PM:

If the stranger is a wielder of dark magic or a Faerie Queen, it's a Dresden Files novel.

#74 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 06:01 PM:

If the visiting stranger is desperate to see the great-aunt who has spent the past umpty-dozen years in her bedroom (because she saw something nasty in the woodshed many years ago), then there is cold comfort to be had in identifying the story.

#75 ::: Marc Moskowitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 06:17 PM:

If the town and the somebody are both indeterminately English, as well as macabre in some way that is never fully revealed, it's an Edward Gorey book.

#76 ::: little pink beast ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 07:02 PM:

If the story is being narrated by someone who nearly pretends to be writing a condensed popularisation of the actual history and furthermore is astonishingly verbose and goes off on long digressions, it's by Stephen Brust.

If they're an ancient eldritch horror but they're still not as scary as the local bureaucracy, it's by Charlie Stross.

If they're an embodiment of a Babylonian myth who comes to nearly the same town several times in nearly the same way, all at the same time, it's by Hal Duncan.

#77 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 07:05 PM:

If the stranger is stuck outside of town with the blues, it's a Bob Dylan song.

#78 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 07:18 PM:

Nightsky @ #67, hooWEEEooWEEEoooh....wah wah wah!

If the stranger is a bacterium it's a novel by Camus. If it's a virus, it's a novel by Michael Crichton. If it's a platypus in a fedora, it's "Phineas and Ferb".

#79 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 07:25 PM:

If the stranger lets himself be killed to redeem the souls of humanity, it's the New Testament.

If the stranger lets himself be killed because he's too good or just too passive for this world, it's a Melville novella.

If the stranger lets himself be killed to redeem the souls of talking animals, it's C. S. Lewis.

#80 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 07:28 PM:

If it's Lenten, and it's come with loue to toune, with blosmen and with briddes roune, then it's sung by someone crossed in love in fourteenth-century England.

#81 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 07:41 PM:

If he tries to flag a ride, but nobody seems to know him and everybody passes him by, it's a Robert Johnson song.

If they’re a long-lost denizen of the town whom no one recognizes, and to whom everybody seems to be a rank stranger, it's an Appalachian ballad.

If he got to town a month ago, and he's seen a lot of girls since then, but as yet he hasn't met 'em, it's a Cat Stephens song.

#82 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 07:54 PM:

If there are plums involved, it’s Making Light.

This is just to say

I have picked
the plums
that were in
your orchards

and which
your town probably
wanted
to sell me

Forgive me
or don't
I'm leaving town now

#83 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 08:13 PM:

If she/he comes to New York, and is gruesomely murdered, and the man accompanying the homicide detective either makes a lame pun or says "That is SO COOL!", it's an episode of Castle.

#84 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 08:17 PM:

I cooly eyed the new arrival and hefted the weight of the "brick" I was holding in my right hand, under the table, waiting for my "chantz". Krazy was a clear shot across the room; but I could see a shadow in the window. I was pretty sure it was Pupp watching the scene, handkuffs at the ready. I made a pass at the new arrival, asked what brought her to Coconiño, if she would be staying long.

#85 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 08:31 PM:

Modesto, that is so awesome.

If the stranger needs us to be vewy, vewy quiet because he's hunting wabbits . . . .

#86 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 09:07 PM:

If the stranger insists on dinosaur sodomy, it's Making Light yet again.

#87 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 09:11 PM:

If it's a mariachi who's carrying a guitar case which either holds or turns into a gun, someone's given Robert Rodriguez a very small budget again.

#88 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 09:16 PM:

If the stranger arrives on a minibus and expresses interest in a daughter or in someone named Arnold, it's a Jamaican popular song of the 1970s.

#89 ::: Edmund Schweppe ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 09:28 PM:

If the stranger has prematurely white hair, an envelope full of photos, and this tape will self-destruct in five seconds, then it's an episode of Mission: Impossible. Good luck, Jim!

#90 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 09:31 PM:

If everybody loves him, and he's holding her while you're still around, you must be in an Eagles song.

(Mind you, you can check out any time you like, but...)

#91 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 09:37 PM:

If he arrives in Walgett, and he's carrying a rock in his pocket, he's Been There Before.

#92 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 10:15 PM:

If a whole bunch of strangers come to town, apparently independently of each other, and they all take up residence in same hotel or set of hotels, and those hotels menus have been oddly rewritten full of literary allusions and/or the hotel ballrooms have been redecorated,

then it's probably an SF/F convention.

Although if the strangers bear 1) dice and/or 2) fake vampire teeth, it may be a gaming convention.


Also: Spontaneous human combustion in a Dickens novel? Clearly I have been reading the wrong Dickens novels.

#93 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 10:44 PM:

If they were summoned by the king, to glean what is afflicting their dear friend, they may discover that a king's remembrance is not so much elephantine as murderous.

#94 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 11:13 PM:

If the stranger is a police officer chasing a clue, and he's a dour Swede, it's by Maj Sjowell and Per Wahloo. If he's a former police officer who has a Ukrainian last name, it's by Martin Cruz Smith. If the investigator is female, and a hacker, it's in Norway and it's by Stieg Larsen. If the police officer is joined by his squad, and there's lots of snappy dialogue as well as a deaf man who keeps coming back to commit crimes, it's Ed McBain.

#95 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 11:17 PM:

If the stranger is a plucky red-headed orphan who changes everyone's life, it's Anne of Green Gables.

Or Pippi Longstocking.

#96 ::: Jordin ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2011, 11:42 PM:

If the stranger is a gigantic robot tank with an inordinate sense of duty, it's a Keith Laumer novel, or an imitation thereof.

If the stranger is a young man, but the town is populated by human-looking automatons controlled by something that looks like a large quantity of dirty dishwater, it's a very odd Keith Laumer short story.

If the stranger resembles a large pile of, um, excrement and there is an ommminous hummm, it's a Schlock Mercenary story, and the town is in for an interesting time.

#97 ::: A. J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 12:39 AM:

If the stranger is a plucky red-headed orphan who changes everyone's life, it's Anne of Green Gables.

Or Pippi Longstocking.

Or Pollyanna... or Peter Pan... or Little Orphan Annie...

Come to think of it, that seems to happen rather a lot.

And Pippi Longstocking isn't an orphan, actually: just emancipated. People just think she's an orphan. Ahh, subversive books of my childhood, how fondly I remember thee.

#98 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 12:40 AM:

If a stranger comes to town and has a stiff pinky, you should contact David Vincent.

#99 ::: A. J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 12:55 AM:

If the town turns out to be a jar of Tang, it's the Turkey City Lexicon.

#100 ::: Dave Fried ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 01:09 AM:

Both have been done already, but...

If the town has a resident eldritch abomination, it's a story by H.P. Lovecraft.

If the eldritch abomination is in government and by far not the most disturbing thing in the city, it's a story by China Mieville.

... either way, things don't end well for the visitor.

#101 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 01:15 AM:

If the stranger's a rabbıt ıt's Alıce ın Wonderland. Or Watershıp Downç

If ıt's an owl, ıt's Harry Potter.

#102 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 01:19 AM:

If the stranger leaves a drawing on the bar room floor, the poem is NOT by Robert Service.

If the stranger visits a number of islands with his crew, leaving bodies and lamentation behind, he's trying to get home to his wife and kid.

If the stranger is visiting his own childhood and traveling on a sentient starship along with his two female clones, he's another bad mother.

And if the stranger is Samuel L. Jackson, everybody else is a mother.

#103 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 01:27 AM:

If the stranger opens fire with an assault rifle on a semi owned by a fast food chicken franchise, then the city of Albuquerque is in for interesting times.

#104 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 01:51 AM:

Xopher @ 55

If, before the person comes to town, there are 20 pages of infodump explaining exactly where the town is, when it was founded, what its major industries are, and who lives there, it's a C.J. Cherryh novel.

But if there are 20 chapters of infodump explaining the history of the town back to the first migration of human beings into the region, then it's a James A. Michener novel.

#105 ::: Luthe ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 03:05 AM:

If the stranger leaves town soon after because of the horrific child abuse being perpetrated, then it's a short story by Ursula K. LeGuin.

If the stranger confuses the inhabitants of the town by being gendered all the time, it's a long story by Ursula K. LeGuin.

#106 ::: Juliet E McKenna ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 04:23 AM:

If the arrival is in heavy disguise and ends up as nanny to her own children without anyone else realising, it's a Victorian 'sensation' novel by Mrs Henry Woods.

If the arrival is in heavy disguise and ends up as nanny to his own children without anyone realising, it's a Robin Williams movie.

#107 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 05:36 AM:

If there isn't actually a town as such, because there is only one city left, it's an Arthur C. Clarke novel.

If there isn't really a town as such, because it's not one of the THREE cities that are left, it's a Tanith Lee novel.

If the stranger teleports halfway around the world over the course of half of his birthday, and it's all the SAME town, it's a Larry Niven novel.

#108 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 06:15 AM:

If the stranger teleports halfway around the world IN THE WRONG DIRECTION over the course of half of his birthday, and it's all the SAME town, it's THE FIRST EDITION of a Larry Niven novel.

#109 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 06:43 AM:

If the stranger arrives in a spaceship, then it's probably space opera.

#110 ::: CCClaudia ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 06:50 AM:

#56 could also be The Wizard of Oz. The stranger doesn't live in her house, but it's significant that she comes to town with it.

#111 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 06:56 AM:

If the stranger is a French man and the town is in Algeria, watch out! He's got a gun!

#112 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 06:56 AM:

If the stranger arrives out of thin air and ends up in an industrial accident it's The Terminator (power press) or Terminator 2 (molten steel).

#113 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 07:47 AM:

If the stranger is accompanied by a young boy, and the town is obsessed with puzzles, he's Professor Layton.

#114 ::: SylvieG ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 08:07 AM:

If the stranger asks you to call him Ishmael, it's Moby-Dick.

#115 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 08:26 AM:

If the town appears once every hundred years it's a Broadway musical.

#116 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 08:28 AM:

If the stranger comes to town and gets into trouble so bad the only one he can reliably trust to help him save his ass is a man who looks for beetles while walking to step on them just a little--not enough to kill them, just enough to cripple them--then his name is in question but his employer is not, and he'd go into shock working somewhere nice and cuddly like The Laundry.

#117 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 08:48 AM:

If the town includes both a stately home and a venerable pub, and the stranger is only one of several people in disguise, and the whole mess must be disentangled by a disreputable elderly relative, the name of the pub is the Emsworth Arms. If the mess requires the fish-enhanced brain of the butler instead, there are aunts named Dahlia and Agatha somewhere in the background, and possibly newts.

#118 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 08:58 AM:

108
It will read better that way, too.

#119 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 09:01 AM:

If the stranger is from an antique land, it's all day Mondays. Or so I heard.

#120 ::: Springtime for Spacers ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 09:06 AM:

If, whether the stranger arrives intending to kill people or not, the daily corpse count rises it's a Vlad novel by Steven Brust.

#121 ::: judyt ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 09:12 AM:

If there are three of them, and they're in a boat, say nothing of the dog.

#122 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 09:17 AM:

If the stranger is wearing only one shoe, it's a Samuel R. Delany novel.

#123 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 09:51 AM:

If the stranger is a mysterious aviator of questionable repute, and the town is somewhere in Italy, there is certain to be speculation about whether Fascism might not be a better idea than Socialism.

#124 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 09:53 AM:

If a stranger comes to a town and, even though he has no idea how he got there and yet it's the locals who want information from him, by hook or by crook, and he can't escape, it's a Patrick McGoohan TV series.

#125 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 09:53 AM:

If a stranger takes a train to the middle of the USSR and instead winds up in a British town, from which he barely escapes, it's an episode of an earlier Patrick McGoohan TV series.

#126 ::: Throwmearope ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 10:01 AM:

If the stranger winds up spending way too much time with Mr. Rochester and isn't named Jane, then it's Jasper Fforde.

#127 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 10:14 AM:

If he has a let-pass from God tattooed on his forehead, he is one bad brother.

If he employs triply-qualified epithets unprintable even in a modern and realistic novel, it is not a modern and realistic novel, but it is by E E 'Doc' Smith.

If he employs language so unvaryingly mannered as to strain crass and jejune notions of 'credibility', rejoice! Yours is a unique felicity: you find yourself introduced to the oeuvre of the bibliarch Jack Vance: your brain races, swoons, and dies a thousand lesser literary deaths. It is customary to express one's appreciation to the agent of such happiness via the piquantly contrasting exchange of filthy lucre. The beggarly sum of two hundred dollars would acquit the beneficiary, in many minds, of all but the least shadow of boorishness.

However, if you nearly think you have been saying nothing for the last hour but that it does not resemble Jack Vance at all, then it is by Steven Brust instead.

#128 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 10:20 AM:

If the stranger ends up marrying the recently-widowed queen, and a mysterious plague ensues, you should check whether the local oracles can cast any light on the matter.

#129 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 10:28 AM:

Charlie Stross at 108:
How is it possible to go halfway around the world in the wrong direction? If you go halfway around the world in any direction you end up at the same place.

#130 ::: recyclergeek ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 10:31 AM:

If he comes to town specifically carrying a towel, it's a Douglas Adams trilogy. er, series.

#131 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 10:32 AM:

If the stranger wants to revolutionize your financial system, have improbable adventures with historical figures, and go on constant interesting digressions, it's a Neal Stephenson novel.

If the stranger is a woman accompanied by a snarky toy, and they both have what seems to the town to be magic, it's either a Mahou Shoujo anime or a Culture novel.

If the stranger is a dragon and the town is full of dragons, it's a Jo Walton novel...
unless the stranger is an English dragon learning about how dragons are treated elsewhere in the world from the local dragons, then it's a Naomi Novak novel.

#132 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 10:37 AM:

If, on the other hand, everyone in the story was born in the town, and no matter what anything does nothing will ever change, it may be a (the) Harper Lee novel.

But if a stranger comes to town and finds herself surrounded by endearingly wacky characters that nobody born outside the region would ever believe, but people from there instantly recognize as That Guy I Sat Next To in High School, it's a (the) Bailey White novel.

You can tell the difference also by the fact that race is the central issue in the former, but not visible at all in the latter.

#133 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 11:36 AM:

Erik 129: How is it possible to go halfway around the world in the wrong direction? If you go halfway around the world in any direction you end up at the same place.

If I recall correctly the character in question was trying to follow his birthday around the world, resulting in celebrating it for 48 hours. This only works if the character starts at Christmas Island and goes west. If he goes east...doesn't work.

#134 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 11:37 AM:

Erik @ 129: If you go halfway around the world in any direction you end up at the same place.

He wasn't looking for the same old place. He was looking for the Old Same Place. (It's out back, here's the key.)

#135 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 11:37 AM:

If the stranger's father coached the first woman to swim the English Channel, and she and her husband humorously address each other formally, then the stranger is Mickey Rooney.

#136 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 11:46 AM:

If the stranger is a giant who pees on the city for a laugh and thus names the town, you're reading a novel by Rabelais. (Hello TexAnne & Serge.)

If the stranger is accompanied by a fat fellow on a donkey, then his journey is definitely quixotic.

If, when the stranger arrives at your house, he turns out to be black and you run behind your mother's skirts to hide, crying out "Mama, the bogeyman's here!", it's a Spanish picaresque novel.

#137 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 12:06 PM:

#136 ::: Fragano Ledgister

If the stranger is a giant who pees on the palace to put out a fire and is banished for upsetting the queen...

(not succeeding in making a "Tom Swifty" pun here)

#138 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 12:23 PM:

Carol Kimball @137: "She said, urgently"?

#139 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 12:40 PM:

Nicole, the Dickens novel with human spontaneous combustion is "Bleak House".

#140 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 12:42 PM:

you're reading a novel by Rabelais

Hm -- I thought the genre of novel postdated Rabelais.

#141 ::: Jordin ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 01:27 PM:

If the stranger has many names, but a single nature, it's a John Brunner novel, and the townspeople should be very careful what they wish for.

#142 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 01:37 PM:

If you are in the fourth or fifth book of the trilogy, it's a Douglas Adams novel.

#143 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 02:02 PM:

Nancy C Mittens @142:
If you are in the fourth or fifth book of the trilogy, it's a Douglas Adams novel.

Or it's set in Earthsea.

#144 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 02:13 PM:

If the stranger is a young orphan boy accompanied by a runaway slave, it's early Twain. If the stranger is a supernatural being bent on illustrating the author's distaste for theism, it's late Twain.

#145 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 02:17 PM:

...if the stranger is a supernatural being bent on illustrating the main character's shortcomings, it is early Dickens.

#146 ::: Braxis ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 02:38 PM:

If the stranger is sleeping rough on the wrong side of the tracks because their pockets are empty of meat, and there is the tang of salt and ozone in the air, welcome to the Kingdom of Loathing.

#147 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 02:42 PM:

If the stranger is a supernatural being who needs the help of a title character to keep from being eaten from inside, it's an Eliot Fintushel story.

#148 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 02:53 PM:

Nancy Mittens... Abi... Or it's part of the Foundation trilogy.

#149 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 03:00 PM:

If the stranger arrives himself on a metal sphere, he's Jack, a Walker and the Mage of Four, Mage of Luck is after him.

#150 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 03:10 PM:

If the town is an island, and the stranger is a doctor, or Death, or the island is a doctor or Death, it's a Gene Wolfe story.

#151 ::: Sarah Magpie ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 03:18 PM:

If the stranger harasses a third of your wedding guests, he unwisely poaches endangered sea birds.

If the stranger is a person from Porlock, then you are Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

#152 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 03:19 PM:

If the town is also Hell, then it's an apocryphal gospel, the Divine Comedy, or the Silmarillion.

If he's fleeing the sack of his native Troy, STOMP ON HIM NOW WITH ELEPHANTS.

If he's been conducted there in a dream by a magic martlet, you will forget about him shortly - as will the narrator.

If he's smuggling questionable *ahem* textiles, and laughing like a stoned young Santa, it's by Hope Mirrlees.

If he's come there to get married, and resembles a sober young Santa, it's by John Crowley.

If they're killed off shockingly within the first couple of pages, it's a projectile.

#153 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 03:35 PM:

beth meacham @ 122:

But if the stranger is wearing one black shoe and one red shoe, the action will begin and end at Orly airport, and slapstick will ensue.

On the other hand if the stranger is wearing red shoes, she's in for a bad end.

And on the gripping hand, if the stranger gives her diary to the Red Shoes then it's soft-core porn.

#154 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 03:37 PM:

Ah, thank you, Carol. *adjusts to-be-read list*

If said stranger is rather young to be driving, but that's OK because the car he's driving is a toy, do make sure he paid his chimerical toll upon entry; he may go on to upset the Alphabet Market and we wouldn't want that.

#155 ::: Wrye ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 04:13 PM:

If the car is no toy but an autophile's wet dream that moves like liquid speed and the driver, swathed in black and bathed in the glow of displays and advertisements, is delivering a pizza - not to a bored housewife, but rather for the mob - then the town is a burbclave and there are only seconds left. Hack the sound barrier. Bring the noise.

#156 ::: JM ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 04:29 PM:

If the stranger is an ex-lover for whom the usually hard-boiled protagonist still harbors painful feelings, you're in a mystery and s/he is the murderer.

#157 ::: jnh ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 04:32 PM:

If the stranger arrives in town, then keeps waking up again and again to the same damn day all over again (again), that new day is "Groundhog Day"

#158 ::: Bruce Blackistone (Atli) ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 04:45 PM:

IF the population of the town is slaughtered, it's a history of the Huns.

If the population of the town is slaughtered or carried off into slavery, and all of the canals are destroyed, it's a history of the Mongols.

If the population of the town is slaughtered or carried off into slavery, and no two stones are left upon the other, and salt is sowed upon the ground to prevent anything green from ever growing again, it's a history of the civilized Romans.

#159 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 04:53 PM:

(abi @149 -- so nice to see another de Haven fan!)

If the stranger is accompanied by a prostitute, a mechanic, a doctor, a mercenary, an old war buddy and her husband, a preacher and a crazy girl: he aims to misbehave, and people with blue gloves are likely to have trouble.

#160 ::: Ariella ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 04:54 PM:

If the stranger has only one eye, it's Norse mythology.

#161 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 05:16 PM:

If the stranger comes to town following a Man in Black, it's the beginning of a Stephen King series. Be wary if your name is Jake...

If the stranger comes to town and winds up editing a novel that seems to bear strange resemblances to things he's thought about his whole life and which he categorizes as being of Ægypt, it's by John Crowley, too.

#162 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 05:20 PM:

(Tom @159: we meet by accident.)

If the stranger is male, in a really well-tailored coat, and has a good eye for tasty men, then there's a sarcastic Welshwoman coming along fairly soon. Brace yourself.

#163 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 05:57 PM:

If the stranger is a superfluous clergyman, and the response of the townsfolk is to build an additional entrance on to the town's only church, you're in Greenwillow. Bring kleenex, but don't worry; everything will be OK by the time the clergyman leaves.

#164 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 06:02 PM:

If a young stranger comes to town, and the rest of the world goes away, it may be Anthony Fremont.

#165 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 06:13 PM:

If the stranger has come to free the Lll, that kid who's always lived in the town may be the stranger too.

#166 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 06:25 PM:

Nicole @154: Ooh! ooh! You're going to read Bleak House! What a wonderful thing! and other enthusiastic outbursts. One of my very favorite books.

#167 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 06:56 PM:

If the sky over the mystical portal is the color of television tuned to a dead channel, it's the long-awaited Stross-Gibson collaboration.

#168 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 07:04 PM:

If the stranger comes to a large estate to work as a governess for a man with a mad wife in the attic, Reader, she'll marry him.

#169 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 07:15 PM:

If "the color of television tuned to a dead channel" means mottled gray, the book is from the 80s. If it means bright blue, it's from the oughts.

#170 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 07:38 PM:

If the stranger is a woman who thinks she's an FBI agent, then we're in Maine, and things are about to get deeply weird ... again.

#171 ::: Braxis ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 07:44 PM:

If the stranger is an orphan, raised by the inscrutable inhabitants of Sol IV, and really doesn't understand anything about the towns inhabitants, we're in a Strange Land indeed.

#172 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 07:47 PM:

If the stranger is an eligible young man and the people next door have five marriageable daughters, these days, it's quite possible there might be zombies involved.

#173 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 08:23 PM:

If the stranger is a priest and his companion is a monk, and someone at the abbey they are visiting has just been murdered, it's time to update the monastery's fire insurance.

#174 ::: Trey ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 09:07 PM:

If they're a magistrate, his special assistants and his household, its a Judge Dee novel.

#175 ::: tnv ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 09:34 PM:

If the stranger's children start seeing spirits in the house they move into, it's a Hayao Miyazaki film.

If the stranger opens a chocolate shop, Johnny Depp will come down the river eventually.

If the stranger rides in on a mysterious white horse that seems smarter than most, it's a Mercedes Lackey novel.

On the other hand, if the stranger is riding a dragon - it may be Anne McCaffrey, Naomi Novik, or Christopher Paolini. Please use costuming cues to figure out which one you're in.

#176 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 09:39 PM:

If the stranger opens a chocolate shop, Johnny Depp will come down the river eventually

Funny, I thought he looked a lot like Gene Wilder.

#177 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 10:12 PM:

Makes one think of opening a chocolate shop.

#178 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 10:26 PM:

If the stranger is an orphan boy and it's the Victorian Era, he will turn out to be the son of a nobleman.

Unless he was born on February 29, in which case his disreputable companions will all turn out to be the sons of noblemen. And orphans. But the nobleman who says he is an orphan isn't, and what's more, he never was one.

#179 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 10:40 PM:

If the stranger brings fireworks, and then a birthday honoree disappears, I can't believe no one's done this one yet.

#180 ::: Sarah Magpie ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 10:52 PM:

If a stranger vandalizes your front door, then be wary of rings found in caves.

#181 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 10:53 PM:

Allan Beatty @179:
He wasn't a stranger, though. When he was a stranger, there were dwarves involved.

#182 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2011, 11:00 PM:

If the stranger gets maimed in the hand, it's a Tim Powers story. Possibly because if they got maimed in the foot they couldn't run. Although the blood would cause a nice connection to the Earth...

#183 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 12:59 AM:

If the town is the county seat of Champaign County, Illinois, and the stranger has come to fight his worst enemy, the two of them are Urbana rivals.

#184 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 01:04 AM:

#55,57:

And if it's 70 pages, it's Victor Hugo.

#185 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 01:07 AM:

#76: If the story is being narrated by someone who nearly pretends to be writing a condensed popularisation of the actual history and furthermore is astonishingly verbose and goes off on long digressions, it's by Stephen Brust.

If the narrator is not quite so verbose but still prone to long digressions, some of them involving cough drops, it's by William Goldman.

#186 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 01:09 AM:

#92: If a whole bunch of strangers come to town, apparently independently of each other, and

spend the month of October engaged in subtle and complicated negotiations, it's by Roger Zelazny.

#187 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 01:13 AM:

#175: If the stranger rides in on a mysterious white horse that seems smarter than most, it's a Mercedes Lackey novel.

Except if the horse, when asked, eloquently denies possessing the ability to speak; then it's early Tanith Lee.

#188 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 01:47 AM:

If the stranger describes herself as a cock-eyed optimist, and her hair is thoroughly washed, you may expect to first see her across a crowded room, and after much turmoil, things will turn out alright. But don't pay no attention to the colours of the sky, and take care around all those sailors, seabees, and marines. They're a bit frustrated.

#189 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 02:12 AM:

If the stranger explodes violently on contact with the protagonist, it is rather unexpectedly a New Yorker article.

If they're one woman, two women and their dog, it's by Mercedes Lackey and they've come to mow a misogynist.

If they're a tall guy, a short guy and their swords, it's by Fritz Leiber.

IF HE TALKS LIKE THIS, it's by Terry Pratchett, and something is sooooo not about to end well for somebody.

If they're one woman, two women, their dog, a tall guy, a short guy, and their swords, it's a crossover fanfic which is soooooo not about to end well for anybody. NO, I DO NOT DO A 'SPECIAL BULK DEAL'. I DO NOT DO 'ICHOR POINTS'. I DO NOT DO REDEMPTION.

#190 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 02:28 AM:

Paul A. @ 186:

also by Gahan Wilson.

#191 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 02:30 AM:

If the stranger rides an extremely phallic sky-cycle and doesn't want the power hooked up, it's short story with a long title by Chip Delany in homage to Roger Zelazny.

#192 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 02:30 AM:

If the stranger mentions that he has a slight flaw in his character, brush up on your nursery rhymes, but trust that the children will be safe.

#193 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 07:37 AM:

If the stranger says he has many names, but only one nature, start telling him your entire life story. Things will change for you.

#194 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 08:05 AM:

abi: If the stranger mentions that he has a slight flaw in his character, brush up on your nursery rhymes, but trust that the children will be safe.

The women, men, monks, elephants, rulers, and supernatural creatures? Not so much.

#195 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 08:43 AM:

If the stranger rids your town of its rats, you'd be well advised to pay up.

#196 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 09:16 AM:

If a starnger comes to town with a grammar-impaired companion, your troubles will soon be over and someone will ask who that masked man was.

#197 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 12:16 PM:

If the stranger is a burrowing mammal whose been doing spring cleaning, he's about to spend a lot of time messing about in boats.

If the stranger and hir annoying but attractive new next-door neighbor are both single, it's a contemporary romance novel.

If one or both of them has several unmarried siblings, it's the start of a romance series.

#198 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 02:18 PM:

If the stranger is a female engineer who comes up through the floor of a temple to Ganesh-ji, it's a really great webcomic.

#199 ::: Joy H ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 02:56 PM:

If the stranger is a teacher in a southwest mining town who encounters students with unusual abilities, it's a short story by Zenna Henderson.

#200 ::: Nonentity ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 03:11 PM:

If the stranger breaks into a child's bedroom and tries to sew his shadow onto his feet, then it's Peter Pan.

#201 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 03:40 PM:

If the stranger breaks into a child's bedroom and discovers that clockwork monsters have beat him to it, it is inexplicably 18th century France.

#202 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 03:53 PM:

If the stranger is curiously specific in his requirement for cocktails[1] it may be time to reconsider that job as a security guard at the big facility.

[1] Also his food, suits and gadgets

#203 ::: Janni Lee Simner ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 04:09 PM:

If the stranger is a baby, a puppy, or anything else newborn, it's a picture book.

#204 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 05:38 PM:

If the stranger appears with others in a shimmer of light and is wearing a red shirt, don't stand near him.

#205 ::: Nonentity ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 06:10 PM:

If he's there to pay his phone bill, and everyone's afraid of contracting a horrible disease from him, then you may need to keep a dictionary close while reading.

#206 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 06:21 PM:

If the stranger comes first to the Admiral Benbow and immediately sets into "fifteen men on the dead man's chest," summon for the magistrate.

#207 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 06:56 PM:

If the stranger is accompanied by the rattle of dice, roll a saving throw and prepare for combat.

#208 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 07:39 PM:

If a stranger comes to town accompanied by an old man and a couple of droid, they're not the droids you're looking for, and they should move along.

#209 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 08:03 PM:

If the stranger is a heretic prince travelling incognito (along with his father's very special friend) with intent of courting the local princess, and you have been hired to kill him but decide not to because you don't like the look of things, you are Diego Alatriste and will have trouble with Important People from here on out.

#210 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 08:41 PM:

Serge @196:

If a starnger comes to town with a grammar-impaired companion . . .

. . . and the companion is a large young man of little brain who likes to play with mice a little too roughly, keep your distance from the big guy.

#211 ::: Randall ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 09:04 PM:

If he comes ostensibly to solve a murder, but is actually the opening move in a Xanatos Gambit by either of two immortal magnificent bastards, the stranger's name is Anton.

#212 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 09:11 PM:

If the stranger arrives in an old jalopy and wants you to tell her your best front-porch stories, she's Zora Neale Hurston.

#213 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 09:58 PM:

If a atranger clad in black comes to your door and he looks like Royal Dano, it means a relative crashed into the ground.

#214 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 10:01 PM:

If a stranger shows up in your town, and he looks like Tony Randall in Asian makeup, you'll soon learn some truths about yourself.

#215 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 10:11 PM:

If a stranger shows up in your town, and he looks like Tony Randall in Asian seven different kinds of makeup, you'll soon learn some truths about yourself.

FTFY

#216 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 10:15 PM:

If the stranger is female, a schoolteacher, and the town is full of people who are hiding telekinetic and telepathic abilities, together with the fact that they're from another planet, then it's a Zenna Henderson story.

#217 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 10:26 PM:

Xopher @ 215... True, but the first disguise he wears as he comes to town is the Asian one.

#218 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 10:28 PM:

If a stranger comes to your town with his circus, and he looks like Jonathan Pryce, or like Gene Kelly, your town is in big trouble.

#219 ::: Ian C. Racey ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 10:48 PM:

If he's dark-haired and wears only a loincloth, it's a Conan the Cimmerian story.

#220 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 10:58 PM:

If he's an Inspector from Scotland Yard, and has been called in to solve a murder amongst a nest of relations and acquaintances, most of whom have motives, and all of whom have exquisite dialogue, some sarcastic, and much of it dryly humorous, then it's a Heyer mystery.

If he's missing two fingers, has a pale wedding ring, and is given to angst-filled outbursts of power, then your society's in for some drastic changing. (But many people Won't Care What Happens To That Person.)

If the stranger is larger than the whole town - indeed, than the whole world the town is on - but wants to help them, and/or is approaching at high speed after having plotted to relieve the inhabitants of their Christmas presents, it's a Seuss-based product.

--Dave

#221 ::: Nonentity ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 11:00 PM:

If the stranger is very logic-oriented woman who specializes in the psychology of robots, it's an Asimov story... and the precise phrasing of orders is about to become *extremely* important.

#222 ::: Singing Wren ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 11:03 PM:

If the stranger arrives in Italy 65 nanoseconds before it left Switzerland, someone else should try to reproduce the journey.

#223 ::: Nonentity ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2011, 11:29 PM:

(I should have just included this in my last one, sorry)

If he wears black-and-white cowboy boots and has met martians, it's also Asimov (but he didn't want to be associated with it).

Making the earlier one more generalized:
If all A.I. in town must conform to the same set of three (or four) rules in every interaction with humans, it's an Asimov story.

#224 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 12:32 AM:

If he's an Inspector from Scotland Yard, and has been called in to solve a murder amongst a nest of relations and acquaintances...

...and if he's played by David Tennant, the town is Blackpool. And the tango scene is priceless.

(It's been awhile. I'm hazy on whether he was actually from Scotland Yard. I am completely non-hazy about the tango.)

#225 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 12:46 AM:

If the stranger gets to town after dropping radio-telephones from the sky and asking you to tell a story, your town's about to get a lot stranger.

#226 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 01:09 AM:

If the stranger is dressed in formal wear, top hat, and cane, and dances with a companion who's as good a dancer as he is, you might be in Rio.

#227 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 01:17 AM:

If the stranger is holding a sword, introduces himself, and accuses you of killing his father, prepare to die.

#228 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 01:23 AM:

Nicole @ 224:

I'd completely forgotten about that show until I saw your comment, and I still don't remember a lot more than that I really liked it, especially Tennant. But I can't remember the tango scene at all!

#229 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 01:50 AM:

If the stranger is pale, sickly looking, and carrying a very big sword, run away now.

#230 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 01:58 AM:

If a stranger shows up in your town and he looks like Tony Randall in a suit, clean your room.

#231 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 04:00 AM:

If she's sporting an unfeasible amount of fruit on her hat, you may think that kind of silly, but your life is about to get a whole lot sillier still.

If she's wearing pink pyjamas, it might be your lucky night as well as hers.

If she's small and boyishly slim, and her companion is most conspicuously neither - hide all the food, shut up, and run away.

If she's wielding a sword with a black hole on the end of it, consider the possibility that a quarrel may not end to your total advantage. Also, consider the possibility that your society is about to be introduced to sage and onion big time, or perhaps I ought to have put that the other way about.

#232 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 04:51 AM:

If the stranger first confesses to having murdered his father, then is witnessed murdering his father, then leaves town again in the company of his father, it's a play by John Millington Synge.

(Although, reading that sentence back, I would not be at all surprised if it turns out there's a work of SF with the same description.)

#233 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 06:44 AM:

If the stranger's means of transport crushes the oppressor, there will be great rejoicing in the town.

If you welcome the stranger by offering him Turkish Delight, you are Evil.

#234 ::: Slithy Tovah Feldshuh ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 10:34 AM:

If the stranger, unlike any others of his species, has the ability to communicate via speech, then get your hands off him, you damn dirty ape.

#235 ::: Slithy Tovah Feldshuh ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 10:39 AM:

(Really? Only one "view all by?" Okay, then, quick de-lurk: long-time reader, sometime-very infrequent poster [but apparently under a different email]. Happy to have anything to add, at all, ever, but this does not happen often--invariably I find much more enjoyment in seeing what you lovely folk have to say instead.)

#236 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 10:59 AM:

... if the stranger is a perfectly-shaved FBI agent, check your beaches for corpses wrapped in plastic.

#237 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 11:02 AM:

If the stranger looks like nothing more than a white mare to you, what do you see when you look at your children?

#238 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 11:29 AM:

If the stranger has his brother riding shot gun and they start asking about strange deaths or odd sightings, you're in a Supernatural episode.

#239 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 11:43 AM:

If she's blonde, cute, and weirdly strong, it must be Tuesday.

#240 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 12:00 PM:

If the stranger offers you free samples of bread mix, call the Scottish police . . .

#241 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 12:20 PM:

Ginger @ #94:

Stieg Larsson? He lived in, IIRC, Stockholm and was a "Stieg" rather than "Stig" to not be confused with another journalistic Stig Larsson of the same name.

If the stranger arrives on a goose, he's named Nils and is written by Selma Lagerlöf.

#242 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 12:21 PM:

If she's a ship captain with 2 husbands and a knack for talking to anybody, time to start winding down that war you've been fighting.

#243 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 12:25 PM:

If she opens doors into a London you've never imagined and gets you into trouble with your boss and your fiance while almost getting you killed any number of times, it's a shame you won't get to meet her family, but you will want to see her again.

#244 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 12:26 PM:

Ingvar @ 240: That's what I get when I rely on memory..thanks for the correction!

#245 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 12:30 PM:

If he's a tall, lanky, dark-haired figure wearing a black cloak and carrying a WWI gas mask, pinch yourself to see if you're dreaming. Though that might not be conclusive. And if he's accompanied by a cute young Goth chick, be polite to them both. No sense going out on an unfriendly note.

#246 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 12:31 PM:

If she's wearing a winged helmut and singing operatically he might be a rabbit.

#247 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 12:32 PM:

If the plums are still in the refrigerator, he's probably not a poet.

#248 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 12:35 PM:

Hey Bruce...that sounds like a book I might be interested in reading. (So do some others, but this one I can't identify.) Could you clue me in? Rot13 if you want others to figure it out.

#249 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 12:37 PM:

Xopher, if you mean #244, he's probably talking about the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman. Graphic novel.

#250 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 12:47 PM:

Can't believe I didn't mention the number, or notice that Bruce has done several of these in close succession. No, I meant 241.

#251 ::: narm00 ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 01:18 PM:

If the stranger arrives in a chariot pulled by pegasi, accompanied by a baby dragon, you should go to the surprise party in her honor so you can make friends. This will be very important later, not least for her studies.

#252 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 02:09 PM:

@244: But if he's accompanied by a wild looking redhaired chick, it's just Neil and Tori.

#253 ::: Dragoness Eclectic ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 02:16 PM:

Abi @149: Or he's Saiyan warrior here to exterminate everything in sight, except that he'll be stopped by your local martial arts hero after a humongous battle that destroys everything in sight.

#254 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 02:17 PM:

If the town's criminals are physically distorted and the cops do their patrolling in flying garbage cans, you're in a "Dick Tracy" comic-strip of the mid-1960s.

#255 ::: Dragoness Eclectic ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 02:18 PM:

If it's a transforming robotic truck with an overdeveloped sense of duty, then it's a long-running toy franchise.

#256 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 03:00 PM:

Xopher: that's Onory-17 ol Fnzhry E. Qrynal. The MacGuffin will probably seem pretty silly to a linguist, but the story is a lot of fun.

#257 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 03:01 PM:

Jon Meltzer @ 252:

Oh, so Neil's got the mask and the cloak now? Did he get the bag of dust too?

#258 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 03:30 PM:

Bruce, I've read that one but didn't recognize it (it was a long time ago, and it IS very silly, so I never reread it).

#259 ::: Antonia T. Tiger ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 04:44 PM:

If the stranger is a leather-clad vixen riding a Brough Superior, you're just going to have to wait until she gets back from Maidenhead with her new shotgun, because I'm still writing the story...

#260 ::: Nonentity ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 05:31 PM:

If he has an unending supply of incredible inventions and enjoys mysteries, but doesn't go in for incognito vigilante crime fighting, then watch out for potentially punny adverbs in conversation.

On the other hand, if those inventions tend to malfunction at humorous moments, it may just be Inspector Gadget.

#261 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 06:30 PM:

If he's wearing a red cape and goggles, and arrives by balloon, it may be Cory Doctorow...

#262 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 06:37 PM:

If she's carrying a kongo, watch out for that blond Cockney sidekick of hers, and prepare to be Nailed.

#263 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 07:28 PM:

If he tries to sell you a lightning rod, then Something Wicked This Way Comes.

#264 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 07:55 PM:

If a lot of strangers come to town, room in the same hotel, and are read an eccentric millionaire's will, then it's The Westing Game.

#265 ::: nebroadwe ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 07:59 PM:

If he has a tattoo that says "Mom", it's a WWII story (or possibly an episode of NCIS).

If she has a tattoo that says "Son", it's a Dos Equis commercial.

#266 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 08:28 PM:

If he is a one-armed man who steps off off the train, resign yourself to it being a bad day here in Black Rock.

#267 ::: Wrye ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 08:35 PM:

If the stranger is an old flame from decades ago now become a billionaire, and she is accompanied by a butler, bodyguards, eunuchs and a panther, you're in a play by Friedrich Dürrenmatt. And you need to run. Now. Do not count on your standing in society, and do not wait to hear what she has to say. (Actually you should probably run if you find yourself in *any* play by Dürrenmatt, even if you yourself are the stranger)

#268 ::: Jordin ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 09:52 PM:

If the stranger is a bald alien in a starship, and the town is in medieval England, you're about to set off on a High Crusade.

#269 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 09:54 PM:

Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) @ 245 ...
If he's a tall, lanky, dark-haired figure wearing a black cloak and carrying a WWI gas mask, pinch yourself to see if you're dreaming. Though that might not be conclusive. And if he's accompanied by a cute young Goth chick, be polite to them both. No sense going out on an unfriendly note.

If, on the other hand, he's accompanied by a rather scruffy man in a dirty beige trenchcoat, under no conditions should you allow yourself to start exploring houses with them. If you should be so fooling as to start exploring houses with them, don't get separated.

#270 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2011, 11:20 PM:

If he's driving a black '67 Chevy Impala, and he and his buddy have ID in the names of classic rock stars, be prepared for things to get very spooky, and very messy. Pick up an extra bag of rock salt JUST IN CASE.

#271 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2011, 01:05 AM:

Wyre @ 267

Should you also keep a careful eye on the colour of people's shoes?

#272 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2011, 02:24 AM:

If it's a white wolf on whom some (but not all) people can see elaborate red markings and a floating bronze mirror, then Nippon is going to have its natural beauty restored with great justice and an occasional sonic wave of exploding cherry blossoms.

(And if the wolf is really small, it will be further armored with lethal cuteness.)

#273 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2011, 03:47 AM:

praisegod barebones @271, if the stranger's shoes are blue suede, don't step on them.

#274 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2011, 05:54 AM:

Wrye @ #267: you're in a play by Friedrich Dürrenmatt. And you need to run. Now.

This reminds of something I once wrote elsewhere: "Being a non-regular in a Jim Mortimore novel is an almost certain death sentence. (One of his novels has the last surviving member of the supporting cast eaten by a gratuitous giant lizard on the second-to-last page, just in case the readers thought he was going soft.) And given his penchant for massive cataclysms, you're not even safe if you stay off the page; just being on the same planet as a Jim Mortimore plot is a hazard to life and limb. Or in the same solar system. Or, in one memorable instance, the same universe."

Unfortunately, I can't think of any useful diagnostics that would alert you that you're in a Jim Mortimore plot before it's too late. Describing the stranger who comes to town is no good, as the selfsame stranger also appears in novels by other authors where sticking around would be the best decision you ever made.

#275 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2011, 10:55 AM:

If the stranger arrives shortly after you have a monitor removed from your head, you're going to learn first how to fight in space and second how to deal with unimaginable guilt.

And then people will continue reading the series and almost invariably wish they hadn't.

#276 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2011, 11:04 AM:

oh. my. What a massive faux pas.

I am so sorry. Patrick, Teresa, other mods: please feel free to remove that last comment if you want. I did not check author against publisher before I made that comment and it was unspeakably rude of me.

#277 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2011, 11:26 AM:

johnofjack @276:

You seriously overestimate the defensiveness that anyone here can muster about someone purely because some of his books are published by Tor.

And this is as it should be, given the way that the publishing industry works.

#278 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2011, 11:39 AM:

johnofjack @ 264

If a lot of strangers come to town, room in the same hotel, and are read an eccentric millionaire's will, then it's The Westing Game.

But if they are instead read excerpts of WIPs, then it may be an sf convention.

#279 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2011, 12:52 PM:

And if that seller of lightning rods is followed by a St. George with a kite on a day with no wind, then you're in a Matt Ruff novel.

#280 ::: ctate ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2011, 06:48 PM:

If they were your One True Love who sailed away to sea... no good will come of it.

#281 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2011, 08:04 PM:

If a doleful ghost has come to town, you've been in a folk song, and your last words will start Come All Ye...

#282 ::: ctate ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2011, 08:08 PM:

Heather@278:

But if they are instead read excerpts of WIPs, then it may be an sf convention.

And if they read excerpts of The Eye of Argon, it's DEFINITELY an sf convention.

#283 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2011, 08:30 PM:

If the stranger is a Seattle Police Department detective who rides into town on a motorcycle looking for his missing girlfriend, there'll be a new mayor soon, and it's not who you might expect. Stock up on good cuts of meat for the election.

#284 ::: Tatterbots ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2011, 08:52 PM:

If he's been in town all along, but everyone thinks he's only just arrived and is pretending to be a time traveller, you ought to be able to spot him on Google Earth.

#285 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2011, 01:45 AM:

If you live not in a city but on an island beneath a large parental tree, and the strangers are powerful and extremely funny-looking (in several different ways) and have strong effects on your ecosystem (for good or for ill) then you're a bean.

#286 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2011, 06:28 AM:

If the stranger gets into a disagreement with the butler of the local manor house over some odd-looking belt buckles, five shall return and one go alone.

#287 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2011, 08:59 AM:

If the stranger is a Danish biologist in the Caribbean, the interracial hijinks, armed revolt, and Rastafarian anger at taking live samples from the swamps will all occur.

#288 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2011, 09:46 AM:

If a bunch of odd guys show up at your hotel for what sounds like some kind of cereal convention, run away.

#289 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2011, 09:55 AM:

If a cute (but rather messed-up and occasionally violent) indie chick starts chatting with you in a bar, and also works at your favorite coffee shop, it's going to be frustrating at times, but your life will get a lot more interesting and fun.

#290 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2011, 11:38 AM:

If the stranger is a professorial type talking about doom and psychohistory, he's Paul Krugman.

#291 ::: Cal Dunn ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2011, 09:34 PM:

If the stranger is a slight and wiry stripling on a small and weedy beast, you will soon have your lost colt back with interest; but if he sings over his tea, keep an eye on your sheep.

#292 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2011, 12:48 AM:

#291:

And if he's just in from Ironbark, playing that really funny practical joke on him would be a bad idea.

(There really ought to be one for "Clancy of the Overflow" to complete the set, but it's got me stumped: nobody goes anywhere.)

#293 ::: Jo MacQueen ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2011, 01:00 AM:

Paul at #292: Something like this, maybe:

If a stranger comes to town after droving down the Cooper, where the western drovers go, then I'd doubt he'd suit the office. (Also, he may cause your fancy to become wild and erratic.)

#294 ::: Cal Dunn ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2011, 04:56 AM:

#291-292: if the stranger's gone to Queensland droving, nobody will know where he are?

And if he's from Eaglehawk, don't sell him a bicycle, no matter how well he swears he can ride.

#295 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2011, 08:01 AM:

If the stranger, done with droving, will go no more a-roving,
And shall no more dowse his fire, with the dregs of tea-stained mire.
Now he takes his pleasure, in a dig for golden treasure,
And it's still the man you know, Clancy of the Overflow.

#296 ::: Pete ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2011, 03:12 PM:

If somebody comes to in town, it's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Or possibly Under the Volcano.

#297 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2011, 05:11 PM:

If he comes over the hill, down through the valley so shady, whistling and singing 'til the green woods ring, and you're a lady, he's a better lay than your husband.

If you're a lord, lock up your lady. If she gets away, the brown horse is faster than the white one (always).

#298 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2011, 05:19 PM:

If the stranger is an alien organism left in Antarctica for the last 20 million years, and it wants to give our cells back their independence, then you have three choices:

  1. You're in a John Campbell story; everything will be OK (except for the corpses, of course) because white males of Northern European extraction rule.

  2. You are in a John Carpenter movie; everything will be OK (although you'll feel a lot worse about the dogs in this scenario because their end is much more graphic in film) because Carpenter didn't want to change the story too much.

  3. You are in a Peter Watts story. The world is SOL, because Earth's multicellular life is the bad guy here. Get used to the idea of being a colony of cells.

#299 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2011, 05:51 PM:

If he's captaining a Turkish revelry, he is not at any price your problem.

If the town is Camelot, and he seems to be the least noble and most unpromising candidate for knighthood you ever did see, remember that it is a silly place.

In related news, if she is fabulously beautiful and winning, and about a quarter of your age, then persistently serenading her window with, "Ay-up, a hey-up, a hey-up, a hey-up, a hey-up, a hey-up, a Nim-oo-eh!" all night long will get you a restraining order to end all restraining orders, daddy-o.

In further related news, do not get cute with him if he is anonymous and wishes to try your mettle in deadly battle. Tell him your sodding name! He is almost certainly your brother, shonky Made-in-Barry-Island shield not withstanding.

If he challenges you to cut off his head, he knows something you don't.

If he introduces himself as 'Tramtrist', 'Lottalance', or 'Onan the C-Cimmerian', trust the instincts which are telling you he seems strangely familiar.

#300 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2011, 06:19 PM:

If he's young, blond, has leadership qualities and the whisper is all round town that "He's back!" lock up your everyone, including yourself, because by the time he proves that honest he didn't do it, and discovers exactly who did give him a nice galley vacation, the lifestyle of the entire country will have been subverted.

#301 ::: Carrie S ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2011, 07:53 PM:

If he's middle-aged and commanded a garrison while it was under siege, and went missing in the prisoner exchange afterwards, make sure all five of the Gods are happy with you.

#302 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2011, 08:15 PM:

If he's middle-aged and commanded a garrison while it was under siege, and went missing in the prisoner exchange afterwards...

...some Bastard is playing games.

#303 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2011, 10:12 PM:

Xopher (302): No, that was the next book.

#304 ::: Trey ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2011, 11:31 PM:

Xopher @ 198: Thanks for introducing me to that. That was a very pleasant way to kill several hours.

#305 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2011, 01:47 AM:

If she's a fiddle player looking for her missing daughter and has a cup of Oolong with an expert in languages, she also will disappear, and philosophical problems will be addressed in the course of finding them both.

#306 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2011, 05:25 AM:

If "town" is a survey camp on a planet that would make Ben Franklin swear off kite-flying for life, and the stranger is accompanied by a former colleague and a small robot drone operated by her partner back on the ship, the secondary specialist was right all along and, stylish toenails or not, you're doing yourself no favours going barefoot.

#307 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2011, 08:24 AM:

If when informed that only they can save the world, their response is, "Why me?", it is an epic fantasy, and they will eventually get around to it.

If when asked, "Why you?", their response is that only they can save the world, it is an electoral fantasy, and they will never get around to it, unless you are extremely unlucky.

If on discovering how they propose to save the world, your response is, "Why, you - !", it is political science fantasy, and they will get around to it quicker than 'Colossal' Dick Seaton exploding a hostile galaxy with a sixth-order black magic ritual that he whomped up in his garden shed, however much you wish they wouldn't.

If it is obvious to everybody that only they can save the world, and that it is probably only worth saving as a foil for their marvellous sparkly brilliance anyhow, they are either Mary Sue or her brother: sadly, it isn't in fact worth it.

#308 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2011, 10:10 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ #305, oh how I love that book.

If you are the stranger, and the brilliant physician you've come to town to study with is a harsh eccentric who's wasting his genius taking care of a bunch of charity cases, take quarantine precautions seriously no matter how lovely the psych patient is.

Also, bear in mind that knowing how people are put together also gives you hints on how to take them apart.

#309 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2011, 10:15 AM:

If he goes to the free clinic, it's not lupus.

#310 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2011, 12:24 PM:

If the stranger is the dark, silent type and keeps his feet carefully hidden, drug dealers and MIBs need to watch their worthless asses.

#311 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2011, 12:24 PM:

Paul A. @306:

a planet that would make Ben Franklin swear off kite-flying for life
Or not. He was a scientist, after all.

#312 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2011, 12:40 PM:

@289: Is the chick in question aerodynamically curvacious ? (And if so, why hasn't anyone, ever, hit her back? Personal point of crankiness.)

#313 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2011, 01:01 PM:

Geekosaur:

It's linking to a person's "view all by" that's annoying the gnomes. A portion of the address matches a Common Spammer Trick and I don't have the ability to whitelist the ML URLs.

#314 ::: Chris W. ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2011, 01:29 PM:

Xopher @310:

If the stranger is the dark, silent type and keeps his feet carefully hidden,

Or maybe it's a Rob Liefeld comic.

#315 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2011, 03:11 PM:

If he's the dark, voluble type and keeps his feet carefully hidden, he may be a kallikanzaros: check your real estate deed, avoid Hot areas, and don't trust your friends as much as blue strangers.

#316 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2011, 09:32 AM:

If the arrival is newly affianced to somebody whose parents have been strictly warned to present an appearance of normality for the duration of the visit, that doesn't narrow it down enough to say anything with certainty; but there's a disproportionate probability that one of the parents is played by Nathan Lane.

#317 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2011, 10:01 AM:

Nancy Mittens @ 261... If he's wearing a red cape and goggles, and arrives by balloon, it may be Cory Doctorow...

...and it's the pre-Hugo Ceremonies's photo session.

#318 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2011, 10:04 AM:

If the town is a place where nothing could go worng, but it does, and bad design isn't blamed, but Chaos Theory is, you're in a Michael Crichton story.

#319 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2011, 10:06 AM:

joann @ 262... ...but hopefully he's not played by Terrence Stamp otherwise you will despair at the 2 hours of your life that you've lost forever.

#320 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2011, 01:51 AM:

If he's a Federal agent with a persistent presidential hallucination caused by very poorly designed implant, and his assignment is an independently wealthy troublemaker, the conversations between the gene-spliced koala bear and the ghost of Ben Franklin are worth the price of admission by themselves.

#321 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2011, 12:41 PM:

If the man coming to town isn't a stranger but a long-incarcerated local son who's now on a Mission from God, the town is likely to be Chicago.

#322 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2011, 08:07 PM:

If the stranger is a bleached blond vampire with a chip in his head, you live in southern California on a Hellmouth.

#323 ::: Trey ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2011, 10:28 PM:

Lila @ #308: I give. What is the book?

#324 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2011, 12:31 AM:

Trey:

Grn Jvgu Gur Oynpx Qentba ol E. N. ZnpNibl.

#325 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2011, 01:02 AM:

If the stranger is one of a group of time-travelers and all the hotels get filled up, it may be too late to start stockpiling the supplies you're going to need.

#326 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2011, 01:17 AM:

Tom, do these strangers say they're from South California?

#327 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2011, 03:48 AM:

Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) @ 324: I don't think that's the one Trey was asking about! (lovely though it is) I may be wrong, but I think Trey wanted to know which book was "If you are the stranger, and the brilliant physician you've come to town to study ..."

#328 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2011, 03:17 PM:

If the stranger is there to oversee preparations for the solstice celebration, and doesn't have time for silly things like making friends, you're in for a long night.

#329 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2011, 03:33 PM:

It's kind of you to say, abi. Still, it would be good practice for me to pay more attention and speak more gently.

Chris @ 328, you've reminded me:
If the stranger is a policeman investigating the disappearance of a local girl, next year's harvest may prove bountiful.

#330 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2011, 04:50 PM:

Trey @ #323, dcb @ #327, Bruce is identifying the book (as in "oh how I love that book") that he describes in #305, but if you're asking about the plot I'm describing at #308 it's not a book but a film: Erq Orneq, qverpgrq ol Xhebfnjn.

#331 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2011, 09:35 PM:

johnofjack @ 329 - If the stranger is a policeman investigating the disappearance of a local girl, next year's harvest may prove bountiful.

Heh. Nice one.

Or next spring's thaw, if the stranger isn't a policeman but rather an ex-con.


Belated reactions:

BC (StM) @ 228 - the song in question is, "These Boots Were Made For Walkin'."

abi @ 237 - artfully done. I do love it when you drop those references so quietly.

#332 ::: Springtime for Spacers ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2011, 10:07 PM:

If he looks impossibly suave despite turning up in his dressing gown (albeit a rather wonderful looking dressing gown) then somebody has just spoken a most powerful charm and everybody must be very careful in case lives are lost.

#333 ::: Ellemay ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2011, 10:09 PM:

If the stranger is the first ever tourist, it's early Discworld.

If he's a military officer called Johnny Greene, it's a McCaffrey.

If they're 5 strangers previously unknown to each other who proceed to drink a nice cup of tea every 30 pages while taking magic tests, it's Sharon Green.

#334 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2011, 01:10 AM:

Lila @ 330:

Yes, a great movie. Little known hyperlocal fact: our first dog, a German Shepard, was named after the director, because when he was a very small puppy, he found a glove, and brought it proudly to us in his mouth. Now remember a scene rneyl va Lbwvzob, jurer n qbt (ybbxf yvxr n Trezna Furcneq) pbzrf gebggvat hc gb gur pnzren jvgu n frirerq uhzna unaq va vgf zbhgu? Sbe gehr pvephynevgl, vgf fnvq gung Xhebfnjn tbg gur vqrn jura ur fnj n tybir bar bs gur yvtugvat grpuf unq qebccrq.

#335 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2011, 05:35 AM:

If the stranger doesn't know who he is, and his companion does, but deliberately conceals it from him, then the town may be in very big trouble. On the other hand, if the stranger is a dragon who has recently been released from crucifixion and imprisonment in a pocket dimension, the world may be in very big trouble, because some families should not have family reunions.

If fires spontaneously go out whenever the stranger gets upset, and an airship visiting town has a misfortune, then *you* may be in very big trouble, but it will turn out to be a good thing that he mistakes you for your cousin (who, you will eventually discover, isn't actually your cousin).

#336 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2011, 08:37 AM:

Bruce @ 334, not only is that my favorite scene in that movie, it's among my favorite scenes in any movie. Right there you know what kind of story this is going to be, and if you don't like it you should leave now.

Also, great dog name.

#337 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2011, 12:47 PM:

If the stranger is toting a small piano and the year is 1967, Kip W just mentioned it on the Open Thread.

#338 ::: Martin Owton ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2011, 04:21 PM:

If the stranger is a Vogon, he is here to build a hyperspatial bypass and your planet is in the way

#339 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2011, 10:13 PM:

@338: But if you're lucky he won't read his poetry first.

#340 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2011, 10:51 PM:

339
If you're really lucky, your guts will climb up and strangle you first.

#341 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2011, 01:16 AM:

In the computer game based on Gur Uvgpuuvxre'f Thvqr there was a point in play where you had to listen to a Vogon reading his poetry. The only way to exit that point without blood coming out of your ears was gb rawbl gur cbrgel.

#342 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2011, 01:25 AM:

If the stranger is carrying a sword almost as large as he is, has very bright blue eyes and spiky blond hair, and is found in a near-coma near the train station by the local bartender, now is a very good time to move out of Sector 7, and indeed Midgar itself.

If the stranger is accompanied by a lot of other strangers in military uniform, and they're there to evict the hostile force that arrived earlier this evening, don't worry, the Galbadians will be leaving just as soon as they've finished reconnecting the communications tower.

If the stranger doesn't seem to understand what the hell the end of a Summoner's Quest involves, he may not actually be suffering from Sin's toxin as he keeps saying. Try not to do too many Sendings near him or your dad's old Guardian, just in case.

If the stranger arrives on the same night as a fete to welcome the new military governor, and is accompanied by a Viera, he thinks he's the leading man in this story, and you've just stumbled into the middle of a lot of politics you're not going to be able to understand in a hurry. Keep hold of the magicite you've nicked, it'll be useful later.

#343 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2011, 03:17 PM:

If the stranger is wearing a piratical headscarf and has just bought the last bottle of champagne in the hotel, _don't_ try and make him a permanent employee. (It's also more polite to use the term "Difficult Data Retrieval" even if the bed isn't bugged....)

#344 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2013, 08:34 PM:

If the stranger is bundled from head to toe, is curt and demanding, and wishes to be alone with his experiments, you won't be seeing much of him.

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