A Critical Examination of Pens that Shoot Little Balls of Fire

Uh-oh, looks like we’ve got a little controversy brewing. SansMinds is releasing a sharpie that shoots a little ball of fire. And Ellusionist is also releasing a Sharpie that shoots a little ball of fire. And, apparently another guy who runs a place called House of Fire has been selling a Sharpie that shoots a little ball of fire for a while now.

It’s certainly a problem trying to sort all this out. By that I mean the legal or ethical issues in regards to intellectual property and which of these companies you support.

But I’m not here to talk about those problems.

I’m here to talk about the bigger problem which is the fact that this sort of thing looks fucking ridiculous.


I know that’s just a gif and there’s no sound so if you really want to enjoy the real-world experience of this, make a gentle “pffft” sound between your teeth and lips to really experience the savage power of this fireball!

What exactly is the reaction you expect this to garner other than an incredulous, “You spent money on a Sharpie that shoots a little ball of fire? Isn’t there a foodbank in your area you could have donated to?” There’s nothing magical about this. The best response you could hope for is, “Neat. Do it again.” To which you’d have to reply, “Uh.. yeah sure, okay. Uhm… can you be a dear and hold on for a minute while I cram some flash cotton and flash paper into this hole in my Sharpie?”

Ellusionist is much smarter than SansMinds. In their trailer, which is over a minute, they don’t show a single unedited clip of their Pyro Pen in action. They don’t want you to see how underwhelming it is in real life. Instead, every clip is slowed down to the point where it seems you’re going to be shooting an impressive stream of fire. You’re not. Ellusionist is on a big pre-sale kick for this right now. They have to be. They know that once this is out in the wild and people see what it actually looks like, their sales will pop and fizzle like… well, like the little nugget of fire this marker ejects.

Here’s the thing, when you perform magic you can choose to come off as someone with supernatural powers, or you can try to come off as just a normal person who has learned some interesting or mysterious things. Whether you’re going for all-powerful entity or normal guy who knows some cool stuff, a sharpie that shoots a dollop of fire is not helping you. Instead of “powerful” or “normal’ you come off as “a guy who’s desperate for people to acknowledge his presence so he bought a little trick marker.”

“Ah, but Andy, fire gets people’s attention.” Yeah, so does screaming the N-word or taking a shit on the floor. Getting people’s attention isn’t difficult. Doing it in a way that doesn’t make you look desperate is the key. Look, if at any moment you could casually look around and shoot a stream of fire from the palm of your empty hand, that would be cool. It would seem incredible. But these sort of half-measures—where you have a big bulky wristband or a gimmicked marker shooting off little pops of fire—they’re not going to get you the reaction you’re hoping for.

That being said, I do appreciate that Ellusionist has their typical sterling ad copy to go along with this…

If James Bond were real, this is the kind of pen he'd have stuffed in the top pocket of his bulletproof suit.

Ah yes, in fact I hear he actually does carry around this pen in the next Bond movie… James Bond: Involuntary Celibate. Seriously, Ellusionist, have you never seen a James Bond movie? He doesn’t use joy-buzzers and a squirting corsage to take down the enemy. Admittedly, that would make a cool movie. An owner of a prank shop who has to use the items in his store to take on the men who have kidnapped his daughter or something? I may have to write that.

In response to SansMinds pen, Ellusionist writes this in their ad:

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“Many will imitate Pyro, some will even try to sell off our back through their product naming tactics... but there's no mistaking originality, quality or presence. [Ed. Note: Presence? WTF?]

Coca-cola needs store brand cola to show people why it's #1. [It does?] In that same vein, Ellusionist vows to pursue the quality and safety of it's [its] innovations for decades to come... no expense spared.

As the old saying goes, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.”

Yeah, that’s not what that “old saying” means. If it was about the quality of goods you receive, then paying peanuts and getting monkeys would be a great deal for the guy who gets monkeys. The saying applies to employers (not customers). It means that if you don’t offer a good salary, you’ll get poor workers. It has nothing to do with what the person is writing about in the ad. (Other than the fact that Ellusionist is unwilling to pay someone to write their ad-copy and, in turn, they get this junk cranked out by one of their in-house monkeys.)

They also write:

The PYRO Pen itself has been designed to contour to your palm like any other marker…

Ah, yes, just what I look for in a marker: that it contours to my palm. “Like any other marker”? Hey, Ellusionist, you know how markers work, right? Your palm shouldn’t be involved. Although that does explain something about who is writing their ad copy. I’ve always thought, “This seems like it was written by a dumb child or a smart gorilla.” And those are the only groups that hold writing implements in the palms of their hands.

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