Pizza Hut

October 22, 2013

My Upcoming Novel and Ping-Pong

Yes, the two are connected. Table tennis or ping-pong is mentioned 19 times in 11 different scenes in the novel. Why? Because the 13-year-old protagonist (Neil, alias Armstrong though his last name is never mentioned in the novel) is a sorcerer's apprentice and wannabe ping-pong star who has to leave behind this childhood ambition to save the world in this humorous parody of the 1960s space race. Included in the scenes are mentions of several real players, the Florida State Finals between Brian "Speed Race" Pace and "Tricky Dicky" Fleisher, and two flying carpets that Neil names after Marty Reisman and Tim Boggan.

I'm going to list all the table tennis mentions below, but first, two news items. First, it's been retitled "Sorcerers in Space." (Previous title was the boring "The Giant Face in the Sky.") And second, the really horrible cover that I linked to a week ago has been replaced by a very nice cover. (I really like this one!!!) The novel comes out Nov. 15.

Here's the blurb on the back of the book - no table tennis mention, sorry. The novel is described as Hitchhiker's Guide meets the Space Race.

It is 1969, at the height of tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Neil, 13, badly wants to be someone. Instead he's stuck as a sorcerer's apprentice for Gus, the "meanest sorcerer in the world." Gus creates a magical talisman to spy on the Soviets, but instead it spies on them and sends text into space. A Giant Face in the Sky shows up, reading the text.

Since whoever gets to the Face will have the world at their mercy, the Race to the Face begins. The Soviets invade the U.S. in their attempts to kill Neil, who is prophesied to defeat them. A floating, talking meteor assassin named Buzz becomes Neil's companion--but in one week, Buzz must kill Neil.

President Kennedy puts together a motley crew that includes Neil, Gus, Buzz, a dragon, the god Apollo, a 2-D sorcerer, and the sorceress Jackie Kennedy. Can they make it to the Face before the Soviets, and before Buzz kills Neil?

And now we get to the table tennis!!! Here are the eleven ping-pong scenes with 19 mentions.

Ping-Pong Scene 1:

I still dreamed of being a rock star or ping-pong champion, but those dreams had taken a bad turn after I'd been sold into slavery, I mean, become a sorcerer's apprentice. Somehow my parents had thought it was a good idea.

Ping-Pong Scene 2:

"Not Russia," Gus said. "The Soviet Union. Russia's just the main part of it. Don't you pay attention in school? Or do you just play ping-pong and listen to Beetles music?"

"It's not ping-pong, it's table tennis! And it's better than practicing magic I'm not allowed to do."

"Maybe, but according to Chef Wang, someday you're going to have to battle the Soviets, so I suggest more studying and less ponging.

Ping-Pong Scene 3:

"Can I go home now?" I asked. "I want to practice my serves." There was a school tournament coming up next week, and my reverse pendulum serve needed work. Maybe ping-pong was where I'd someday be someone, do something.

"Will you forget your ping-pong!" Gus cried. "A Russian agent just tried to kill you, you're supposed to defeat the Soviets, there's a Giant Face in the Sky that that compels us to say its name as if capitalized, and a murderous meteor is following you around, and that's what you're worried about?"

"I'm not murderous!" Buzz exclaimed. "I'm a pacifist." More quietly he added, "Except when someone makes me apprehensive."

"How am I supposed to defeat the Soviets?" I asked. "I'm just an apprentice. Maybe I can beat them at ping-pong."

Ping-Pong Scene 4:

I decided to change channels and said, "Mirror, mirror, on the wall, find a station with a ping-pong ball."

The mirror showed me the latest lottery, with numbered ping-pong balls in a container. With gritted teeth, I tried again.

"Mirror, mirror, about to get whacked, find me some table tennis unless you want to get cracked." The mirror found the Final of the recent Florida Table Tennis Championships while the Beetles played "Strawberry Feasts Forever." I pulled up a chair to watch the final between Brian "Speed Race" Pace and "Tricky Dicky" Fleisher.

"Aren't you packed yet?" Gus said. "Tonight, we're going to Washington D.C. to see the president, and you're watching ping-pong on the mirror?" He aimed his staff at the mirror, and the table tennis and Beetles action was replaced by my reflection.

Ping-Pong Scene 5:

I named it the Red Reisman, after a famous table tennis player.

Ping-Pong Scene 6:

So, Gus and I left that afternoon to buy supplies at the Black Market, using the new flying carpet Gus had bought to replace the recently-destroyed Red Reisman. It was identical to the Red Reisman, except this one was blue and even more worn out. I'd named it the Blue Boggan, after another famous table tennis player.

Ping-Pong Scene 7:

Why was I here? What was my purpose, and why was I put on this world? It couldn't have been just to serve Gus his mid-day tea. I'd always wanted to be a ping-pong champ or a rock star, but there had to be more. Was I here to defeat the Soviets, as prophesied by Chef Wang? Or did I have a higher purpose, one which I would only discover in time? I just knew that someday I was going to be somebody, do something. I just didn't know what.

Ping-Pong Scene 8:

Gus looked disgusted. "Don't remember the formula for force, my apprentice with ping-pong balls for brains?"

"Isn't that F equals MA?" I said.

"Correct, Force equals Magic times Acceleration," Gus said.

Ping-Pong Scene 9:

Kennedy was watching the two go back and forth like a ping-pong match.

Ping-Pong Scene 10:

Ten more evils occurred before I finally pronounced it to the booming voice's satisfaction, leading to traffic tickets, an edge ball in a ping-pong game, dandruff, and other calamities.

Ping-Pong Scene 11:

She'd also brought a number of baby hooting owls, parahoots, that, in an emergency, could carry us safely back to Earth. They were cute little creatures, with big, almond-shaped eyes—like all cute creatures—and soft, wavy, brown feathers. Their eyes were the size of quarters, far too large for their ping-pong-ball-sized heads.

Epic Retrieving! Turning Defense into Attack!

Here's a great point (42 sec) showing some great lobbing and counterattacking. Not sure who the players are, though I'm sure I'll recognize them once someone comments below telling us who they are.

How Ping-Pong Saved My Life

No, it's not about me, it's someone else at Uberpong (Eric Jensen).

Kramer (from Seinfeld), Tommy Lee Jones, and Steve McQueen Playing Ping Pong

Here are gifs showing this from Uberpong.

Pizza Hut Table Tennis Commercial

Here's a video of a recent Pizza Hut commercial (31 sec) that includes about one second of table tennis 23 seconds in. Why does it include table tennis? I have no idea. The rest of the commercial they show pizza and people eating pizza, then out of the blue there's table tennis for no apparent reason other than perhaps to show that if you eat pizza, you'll win at ping-pong. Of course, the greatest pizza place on the planet, Comet Ping-Pong, learned this long ago.

Tumba Ping-Pong Show

Here's a video (65 sec, on a page in Chinese but the video doesn't need language) that was first shown to me by Chinese players at my club. I've posted videos by the Tumba Ping-Pong Show before, but this is a compilation of their best ping-pong tricks that's apparently going viral in China. 

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