"Dickens didn't need a computer, and neither should you, unless you're a bunch of wimps. Who cares what everybody else is doing?"
Mike thought for a minute, then typed out a careful message. "It is true Dickens didn't need a computer, but he also had access to many more print markets than the number that survive today. Since the world Dickens lived in no longer exists, writers who want to live today must adapt to today's world."
He hit Enter and went on to another portion of the site. He'd spent a lot of time building it up, and he was proud of it. He liked to keep it working smoothly. After a little while, he remembered there was a link to a great online magazine he'd wanted to post in the Markets section, so he went back to the thread he'd been reading before. There, staring at him, was a reply to his message.
"Dickens wouldn't waste his time on this crappy site. He'd write, not whine about writing like you losers do. Hey, I might as well read spam!"
Mike grimaced. This was more than a simple misunderstanding. This guy was trying to stir up trouble. He typed quickly. "Okay, troll! Get lost! I'm banning you right now."
He looked at the username, and almost snorted his coffee all over the screen. The guy didn't even try to hide what he was. He quickly banned henrytroll from the site, then went back to work. Except for a few snickers with friends over the username, he forgot all about it by the time the registered letter arrived. He ripped it open, scanned it, then reread it in horror.
It seemed the law firm of McCann, Hertz, and Howe was representing a Mr. Henry Troll, who was suing him on the basis of "discrimination based upon the plaintiff's race or ethnic origin". Was this some joke the troll whipped up because he got banned? Mike dialed the number on the letterhead, and a professional sounding voice said "McCann, Hertz, and Howe. How may I direct your call?"
He hung up, then dialed his own lawyer. It took a while to convince him this wasn't some strange practical joke, but then he faxed over the letter. His lawyer read it, made a few calls, then got back on the line to him.
"Mike, yeah, I know this sounds crazy, but we're going to have to be in court to answer this."
"The judge will just throw it out, right?"
"I'd assume so, but you never really know."
Mike tried to reassure himself, and put it out of his mind until the day he had to show up in court. He got there just in time, and his lawyer glared at him.
"You can't afford to be late, you know, even for something as crazy as this."
They walked into the courtroom and sat down. Next to the starched lawyer occupying the opposite table, a huge mound of a man slumped in his chair. He was rumpled and misshapen, with a ruddy complexion, and the ugliest, bumpiest face Mike had ever seen. He saw he wasn't the only one trying not to stare. The judge walked into the courtroom, and when everyone stood up, Henry noticed the guy was at least half a foot taller than anyone there.
The judge scanned the paperwork, then looked over her glasses at them. "It seems someone forgot to let me in on the joke. I do use the Internet, you know. Did you think I wouldn't notice?"
The other lawyer shot to his feet. "Your Honor, this is far from a joke! My client, an innocent man, has suffered insult and harm at the hands of that bigot over there, for no reason other than his racial or ethnic origins."
"All right, counselor. Suppose you tell me, briefly, what this is all about."
"Thank you, Your Honor. My client, Mr. Henry Troll, is a homeless man. He shelters under the I-72 bridge, and his only Internet access is through comupters at the public library. Mr. Troll knows little about his family, but there is a tradition his father's people, at least, were called trolls back in Europe. That is the origin of his, ah, unusual surname."
"And just how has Mr. Troll been persecuted by the defendant?"
"My client, Your Honour, was peacefully enjoying the benefits of the defendant's web site, and engaging in a discussion of his opinion on a certain issue, when the defendant posted a message calling him a troll, then banned him from the site. My client had not made any attempt to hide his origins, so it is clear that the defendant was singling him out on the basis of his ethnic or racial identity."
The judge frowned, and said nothing for several minutes. "All right. I guess I'm going to have to allow this to proceed."
Mike groaned, knowing the troll was going to win. He'd figured out a way to some easy cash, and he'd found a lawyer who liked the idea of a big commission for winning a case that would make headlines, and now the judge was taking the whole thing seriously. It was just like the Dark Ages; run across a troll, and pay, and pay... He didn't even dare say that aloud, of course. It would be just one more bone tossed to the troll.