Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My own novel and screenplay projects: Watch out for Angels, no matter how benevolent

I have several projects which I would like to turn into commercial success. 

The most important of these are a novel manuscript called “Angel’s Brother” (previously, “Brothers”), and a layered screenplay called “Do Ask Do Tell” after my book.  These two I will focus on the most this morning. There are some others, such as “Titanium”  (and its sequel “Prescience”), and “69 Minutes to Titan”.  There are older ones’ such as “Baltimore Is Missing” (entered into Project Greenlight in 2004) and even “Make the A-List”.

These projects all present characters discovering and facing existential challenges, so my first job in mapping out everything is to make sure that the grand design works. Yes, with my characters I play “god”, and I have to make sure that “god” has set up a consistent set of rules.  The laws of physics are about to be expanded.

Once you have the “Idea”, you have the specific Characters, and then you have the abstract political infrastructure around – yes, the US government, the secret right-wing establishment, the Army, etc.  In one of his books, Stephen King called this element “The Shop”.   And what is its purpose?  Does the right wing really want Armageddon so it can re-emerge in complete control?  That’s our fantasy, isn’t it?  Some Evangelicals probably want the Rapture of the Believers and the Tribulations (Post or Pre, I’m not sure).  It seems as though Establishment takes on a life of its own, generates and empowers (quite at the physical level) marriages, and takes care of families within a social structure, and excludes others while pretending to include and convert them.  There’s always a danger of slipping back into feudalism.

 And so why, then, would the “Shop” cover-up what it knows about UFO’s?   Is it just because it doesn’t want to lose control?  The “Shop” must believe things can purr along with some stability, even if aliens are perched out there, only 20 light years away (or even 69 light minutes away) ready to bring our history to a Finale.

So here’s the lowdown, folks.  The extraterrestrials are angels, and some of them walk among us.  We may think we recognize them.   I’m getting ahead of myself – this is about the book  (“Angel’s Brother”).  And they’re about to do a housecleaning of sorts.   They’re going to offer some people a new kind of vicarious immortality, but remove them from society as we know it.  In the meantime, the society that is left comprises much more social humans than we are today. It can sustain itself, in the wake of climate change and everything else.

The “immorality” comes through a kind of virus, which at first seems a bit like a retrovirus.  It seems to infect (through close personal contact) men with weaker circulatory systems, especially after they suddenly spend some time at higher altitudes or sometimes when exposed certain pollution.  The men sometimes seem rejuvenated  for  a while, and then crash and go through spectacular deaths, almost disintegrating.  But a “victim’s” soul  may sometimes be implanted into the mind of an “angel”, who then has memory contact with that person’s life – if he accepts the person.  The virus carries the information of the expired consciousness through the surface of a “microscopic black hole” embedded in trace heavy elements deep within the virus, almost like buckeyballs.

The concept of “consciousness transfer” (and perhaps "contraction") is an extension of reincarnation.  With the “usual” idea of reincarnation, a person starts developing awareness of the life of the person he/she reincarnates over time, through meditation. It’s a single-threaded process. But here it’s possible for the angel to consolidate memories of multiple people (even with overlapping lifetimes), whose own track of awareness is allowed to surface periodically for “exercise” periods, while in a kind of anesthetic unconsciousness at all other times.

As for the characters, there are many, and I’ve experimented with novels from the viewpoints of several of them, including one based on me, “Bill”.  But what I found was that readers (or potential moviegoers or even television series addicts)  will develop a hook for characters they “like” and identify with, people they would like to be like.   Everybody roots for Clark Kent in Smallville, right?  Or the two young men, as brothers, chasing family demons in “Supernatural”. 

So I have one character, Randy, a high school social studies teacher in Dallas, married with three kids (the oldest about 14), about 40, and just about at the end of his young adulthood physically.  He was an intelligence officer in the Army but left, and took in a second civilian career for “personal” reasons. But the government still uses him for “investigations” started during his service.  Once in a while, the school system hires a long term sub and he goes off on fishing expeditions, some of them related to “civilian defense reservists”.  He does help with emergencies like Katrina, usually without his family. But there’s a sinister thread to some of the assignmnts.  He’s long suspected the nature of the “enemy”.

As the book opens, he meets, in late Spring, a lean, attractive college senior named Sal, the other main character, while touring the Auschwitz grounds near Cracow.  Why is he even on a European Eurailpass odyssey by himself when he is a family man?  But his bosses have other assignments, to go up to Finland, and pick up a mysterious object at a camp near the Russian border, and simply bring it back to a secure location.  The “Shop” (the Army, in this case) will get it transported to storage in the US (Nevada), where other characters become involved with it. 
Many of the other characters come into play through a not-so-secret “Academy” in the West Texas prairie, which has its hooks into the civilian preparedness program from the 80s.  Refugees from yuppie layoffs have been learning new skills there, where there is a motto “there is no ‘they’”.   The buck stops with someone.  People there learn to become emergency technicians, getting things recovered from all kinds of imaginable disasters, including cyber attacks.

Besides “Bill” (with my history), there is “Ali”, an ex FBI agent who was seriously injured in a mysterious auto crash in Montana, and his physician wife, who has gotten wind of the existence of this “virus”.  Ali’s son, Amos, had committed a computer crime (planting a “logic bomb”) in the old mainframe world, and that had caused him to intersect with Bill.   Then there is Natalie Skiis, a young woman who has born three mystery kids, the youngest two of which periodically “go up”.  Natalie had once bought a condo from Bill and had to be bailed out. 

Sal, which finishing college and in ROTC in Dallas and suddenly not having to hide because of the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell”, makes his income from working and teaching at the Academy.  Randy gets curious enough to go look at the Academy on his own and eventually starts getting more intimate with Sal, short of sex, but realizes he wants another “peak experience” before he is too old.  His passions in marriage are starting to slip, and his wife notices.  In time, Randy shows symptoms of the “disease”.  Randy had heard of Sal when teaching from a long term sub when Randy had been out while Sal made a high school field trip to Randy’s school.
Randy goes on a few  field trips, to Bilbao, where he is assaulted on the street and picks up another artifact, and then to Russia, where he “goes up” himself.  He finds out “what it is going to be like”.

In the meantime, Natalie’s youngest kid, Matt, a super jock type, has learned about Bill and asks Sal to “set him up”.  Sal arranges an intimated encounter in a motel near the Academy.  Bill, “infected”, becomes his “younger self” for a while, and Sal sets him off to retrieve a piece of unusual computer hardware (matching that retrieved by Randy in Russia) from a local retail store.  It seems to have been moved off the Academy grounds in order to provide a way to set some one up.  Bill “borrows it”, takes it back to the Academy, and transmits the data it wants (to Matt), and then tries to return it.   He ages back, and is arrested anyway.  He expects that the pictures won’t match.

The characters eventually gather for a special ritual in a mountain setting, where the characters discover “the angels”.  Sal finds out he is indeed “one of them” but didn’t know it. Others include two of Natalie’s boys.
Sal is about to be processed out of ROTC for violations of rules (despite repeal of DADT) involving supposed hacking of other kids' "minds" but has to agree to testify against Bill, who then goes bonkers at the trial.

Randy’s wife confronts him about their marriage, and they split up.  Randy takes the oldest son Rick with him as he takes a new assignment in Washington.   Rick gets kidnapped.   Sal helps get him recovered.
Randy, Sal, Bill, Ali, and a number of others gather in the mountains (there is something made of “mountaintop removal” and the effect of elevation on the course of the virus) to meet with the other “angels” who will lift them up.  The world below will indeed undergo a “purification”, although not so catastrophic as in the movies like “Knowing” or “Melancholia”. 
Now, I have to change gears for a moment. Let’s talk about the “main” screenplay, “DADT”.  Here, I’ve layered a fictive short called “The Sub”, some of my “personal history” (William and Mary et al), and an experience where “I” waked up in a bizarre institution where I  am sent through a number of training tasks relating to skills appropriate for different periods of history.  I encounter others in this nether-world, including a single mother named Tovina.  There seem to be some families and a lot of children and rather lost adults all living in a small world that seems like a “magic kingdom” with different little domains and a train that connects them (rather like living in someone's model railroad).  I do encounter people from my earthly life, and one of them seems to have read my history telepathically, with the help of an unusual computer.  (The fictive short that I wrote and the life experiences had been connected in my “real world” by lawyers.)  Unlike the novel, there’s no “virus” that saves consciousness; it seems to happen for some people in this “astral-life” station; others would go back into a group consciousness forever, to live in bliss.  But more is expected of some of us.  We (as in the novel) will get to live in through the memories of younger people.
In the screenplay, as in the novel, there is a ritual scene, called the “Tribunal” (recalling one I had played hookey on in college); after that, I experience the opportunity to become young again, temporarily, long enough to experience the possibility of procreation after all, on this “alternate world”, with Tovina.

Before the consummation scene, “I”  (also) come to learn how I got there.   In the real world, someone had knocked on the door and insisted she had the right to squat  in my home and be provided for, based on past events.  I had gone off on a trip, leaving her and family, and come home and found data center, replaced (with the new “auditing” equipment).  I then fell down my own stairs, which would normally be a fatal event.  But I had already been set up to be rescued.   I was sent out of the house on my bike (with one of the other “rommates”, logically “Tove”) in a storm, to another location, where I “went up”. 

In the meantime, Earth does face another calamity. I will go back from the “ashram” just in time to witness it, as other souls will be scooped up.   Again, it’s a partial “end of the world.”


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