Category Archives: Rapture-driven plots

More background on the connections between my novel manuscripts

I do expect to get back to more detailed editing of the novel “Angel’s Brother” within the next week.

But I wanted to make some more notes about the connection between this novel document, which continues from some notes on July 3, 2014.

First, let me give some history.  To the best of my knowledge, “Novel 2”, or “Tribunal and Rapture”, as started first, in the summer of 1999, after I had been to Europe and my mother was more or less recovered from bypass surgery.  (I did not go back from Minnesota but for about a week, but the whole situation then was stressful.)   I believe a draft with most of it was finished by early 2000, all while I was living in the Churchill in downtown Minneapolis. As I note, the story is largely told through the viewpoint of someone other than myself, a retired Muslim-American FBI agent, with considerable military experience, and with a largely secular, modern life (Dubai-like), including a UFO abduction.  He has no conflicts over scriptural religion and modern individualsm, and tends to believe that all three major Abrahamic faiths have more in common than their differences.  I met Muslims like this in the 1980s and 90s during my career and never gave any thought to terrorism.  The book is apocalyptic, ending with the “evacuation of the angels” to a colony on Titan, a moon of Saturn.

I apparently started the “Novel 1” (“Rain on the Snow”) in the summer of 2000, after a vacation and then a minor crisis at work.  The first part, which presents “Bill” getting invited to a “re-education” Academy (in west Texas) to get to join a doomsday prepper squad (the whole “There is no ‘they’” thing), his getting involved with a mysterious youth Matt who comes across as a Clark Kent, and his being jailed after effectively being framed for Matt’s “death”, ending with his escape with the help of his other minions, and climatic ritual at the end of the book, preparing him for a new world.

When I went to Europe at the end of April 2001, I thought about the idea of deploying the novels.  I remember an afternoon in a hotel in Toulouse, France, having a debate with myself, and thinking about “Rain on the Snow” as the logical choice because the events happened first.

Well, not exactly.  I had written a lot of backstory passages for “Tribunal and Rapture”, which also explained some of the setup of “Rain on the Snow”.  I remember a weekend in July 2001 (about two months before 9/11) when I drove from Minneapolis to the Northwest Angle, and gave a lot of thought to the sequel, “composed first”.  I remember “Frankie and the Path Pit”.  (Frankie is one of Bill’s old boyfriends, who becomes a kind or archangel at the Academy.)  I began to think that this background material needed to be put into “Rain on the Snow”.

So between late 2003 (after I returned to Virginia, because of Mother) and 2005 (in the heart of my substitute teaching) I fashioned a new structure for “Rain on the Snow”, as a kind of Opus 111   The original story center at the Academy and then jail – itself a two-act structure, turned into the “Theme and Variations”, and the entire backstory became the Sonata form, the first movement.   But many of the individual passages and summaries had been proposed as passages in the early chapters of TR (like the “Nighthike” scene at the very end became an erotic backstory insert into Chapter 8, when A;I reads the story of Bill’s escape.)   In TR, I had also played with the idea of lumping much of the backstory material into one prologue (as Clive Cussler and Irving Wallace would do).   I called these passages the “Lumps”.

Finally, I made an Access Database of the enhanced “Tribunal and Rapture” but I applied the stages of screenplay analysis  (Hague, see Feb. 3, 2016), to each of four major characters (most of all Bill) separately.  Later I’ll figure out how to get this analysis into WordPress.

The character Ali has been taking training in remote viewing in a manor in Virginia that is probably modeled after the Monroe Institute.  Some of the materials he views are essentially “The Book of Bill” (rather like “The Book of Eli” (2010)), and some have been stored on optical (EMP-proof) CD’s.

But in “Angel’s Brother”, a major element of the setup is Bill’s duopoly of novels.  The plot builds up to another Nighthike-Initiation-Immolation scene before the “real” Armageddon and evacuation of Earth by the chosen.  But CIA agent Randy has to figure out whether what is in “The Book of Bill” is really fact or fiction (like the 1998 indie sci-fi film “The Last Broadcast” about the Jersey Devil).

In “Tribunal and Rapture” (Novel 2), the protagonist, Ali Mogul, is depicted as mixed-race (about the same as president Obama, perhaps).  So the story is told through the eyes of a minority person (who includes his son, Amos, who gets in trouble with the law with computer hacking, at at time when hacking was just getting started). But in “Angel’s Brother” I move back (that is, regress, from the viewpoint of social and political correctness) to making the primary character subjects white males, both attractive, one gay and one “straight” (sort of), one college age and one entering middle age, in the late summer of life. That makes erotic tension buildup through the first two thirds of the novel possible.   (I’ll have to do a Hauge analysis soon. )  I was drawn back to this viewpoint by my interest in shows like “Smallville”, “Everwood”, etc.  with “attractive” late teen or young adult male character leads.

One can imagine a movie franchise based on all three novels, each of which encapsulates its prequel.  Perhaps the sequence would be called “Tribunals”.  Maybe it could be a Sci-Fi cable series of about three seasons, 8-10 episodes each.  I’d be game for it but I couldn’t do all three alone right now.

At the end, it seems that there is an “evacuation” from an Earth that is going to see its way of life challenged.  (That’s also true of “Epiphany”).  I know how this will come across to some people:  I don’t have room onboard for “losers” (as Trump would see them).

(Posted: Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017 at 11 PM EST)

What “Do Ask, Do Tell: Conscripted” should look like

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One way to work up my screenplay for “Do Ask, Do Tell: Conscripted” (which I may call “Do Ask, Do Tell: Epiphany“), before tackling the shooting script, is to imagine what a reviewer would say about the hypothetical finished movie.

First, it does seem like a device for me to tell my own unusual life’s narrative, in layered flashbacks.  (On the other hand, while I appear as a background character in the novel “Angel’s Brother”, the novel is told through the eyes of two male characters, one a  conventionally married “spy” and another gifted male college student who draws him into a relationship.)

The film, whatever the personal backstories, will offer a view of what an “alien” civilization might look like — first, a microcosm of it built on a space station near Titan, and then at least a vision of the home planet (or maybe that’s just a tidally locked outpost).

The film would open, before credits, with “me” trying to awaken myself in a dark place, that might come across as “The Core” of a NDE.  Then a flashback into the substitute teaching sequence (mid 2000’s), all shown in BW starts.  But soon we see two other imposing young male characters. One, Brutus, is physically preparing Randall for telepathic viewing of Bill’s consciousness (the actual ritual at this point is minimal). Then a third geek-like kid, Tim, joins them and sets up a lot of software for all the “other candidates” to remote view Bill’s life.

Bill’s narrative continues (it culminates with the background of this posting).  The narrative is itself fiction, a piece that he had posted online in 2005 and that had gotten him fired from his job as a sub and in the territory of possible prosecution. But the film reaches a point in Bill’s fiction where the character Craig (who is Brutus in “real life”) saves Bill’s life at school with a defibrillator.  Bill comes to, with Brutus and mostly Randall tending to him, and wondering where he is.  Is he in the afterlife?  In a hospital?  Prison?  Abducted by aliens to another planet, or at least a space station?

Soon Bill is escorted outside on what looks like an alien world, but not so different from ours (maybe like China). He is placed in solitary confinement in a tunnel with nothing but a trolley track and finds it featureless.  He figures out that he seems to be inside a tube set up as a Mobius strip.

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As Randall progresses in “mindreading” Bill’s screenplay, he finally lets Bill out of the tunnel, but in a new area of the “planet” that seems separated from where he was before.  Bill is sent to a somewhat primitive living quarters, barracks-like, with ammenties about what would have been around in 1900.

While Bill adjusts to the other inhabitants of this commune, a few of them seem to be “non-conforming” adults like him, Randall reads the rest of Bill’s story (“The Sub”).  Bill finds he will have to learn to do his part in a community, and is scheduled for training in “practical work” (like foundry, carpentry, even some sports) at various other locations in the “space ashram”, which are set up in separate little communities that simulate the world as it was around  the time of Christ, then 1775, 1900, 1950, and a city “on the other side” that is for the more privileged and is something like a little Hong Kong, according to rumor.  Outside, there is perpetual twilight, a mild climate, and photosynthetic  plants that are darker, almost black, than on Earth.

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Eventually, Bill, by making rail trips back and forth to the “clinic” in the “Hong Kong” area, will learn how the place is set up.  Bill is told that he needs some surgery — they’ll try to be respectful of what is left of his body.  The HK place is more luxurious, as if good enough for Ed Snowden.  But the entire colony is a bit like a “Rama”, with artificial gravity from centripetal force.  A subway connects the “dominions”, said to be set up to resemble another Mobius strip (as at an amusement park in Orlando, maybe).

In time, the rest of the set up becomes apparent.  A number of young adults have been assembled and are in some sort of contest for “immortality”.  They will go back to some other distant planet.  And a selected portion of Earth’s inhabitants, who “qualify”, will eventually be invited to go.  It’s logical to expect that the home planet (Earth) is in deep trouble.

Their destination is interesting — a tidally locked planet with landscapes that will resemble what has been set up artificially on this space station, which has been constructed by “angels” on Titan.

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Bill apparently will play judge — something like a game of “Mother May I” among the candidates, but like an Army recruit, he has to get through his own training and even the PT tests.  (Remember the PCPT in Army Basic in 1968?)

The candidates seem to first think they are in a competition, rather like players at a table of “Clue” (or maybe Bridge or Poker in Las Vegas back on Earth, for that matter).  They note the difference between “chance” card games, and “deterministic” contests like chess. (Football, soccer, and baseball are somewhere in between.) In due course, they learn to cooperate and share more of what they know, as a paradox of self-interest.

In time, a couple of them (a cybersecurity guru named Wechsler, and a physicist named Aaron) interview Bill about what must have happened to his real substitute teaching job.  Aaron, it turns out, was one of Bill’s students and was involved in the backstory behind the reaction of the school system to finding Bill’s screenplay online.

In time, several of the other candidates are lightly “prepped” physically, and they all learn each other’s connections to Bill in the past, and can “remote view” them through a “Viewmaster”. At this point, Bill starts to remember his circumstances before his “abduction”, having to do with his mother’s being in hospice and then suddenly improving and returning home.   The other candidates can now view the other big incident in his life, the “William and Mary Expulsion”, and how that had led to his involvement in overturining DADT.

Bill has his surgery, survives, and continues “basic training”.  He learns that other people who were brought to the ashram expect to move, but will not be immortal, and will have to be able to reproduce in space.  So Bill realizes he will have to, as Tovina, who helps run the 1900 colony, draws closer to him, even tempting a new kind of heterosexual curiosity Bill had never explored before.

Then Bill discovers that a couple of older people in the ashram had been connected to him during the earlier troubled period of his college years.  They all discover that if they cross the “Mobius subway” to a special compartment below, they become young again.

A major issue will be, in what sense is Bill “special” and asymmetric, and deserving of this usual treatment, compared to all the other people in the ashram (including children raised there).

Finally, they set up a concert in the 1950 area, and Bill wants to play some of it “on the other side”.  After the concert, the “Tribunal” from Bill’s WM narrative unfolds, and the angel candidates have to line up for their competition, to find out who will “win” (the “rules” are in a posting here June 9, 2014). They all find out how Bill was “abducted” and his narrow escape when he arrived.

Bill finally impregnates Tovina, but only when he is stimulated first by the “winner”.  (The final ritual could be quite erotic.)  They return to Earth, and learn of the major tribulations faced, as many parts of the country are now without power after a solar storm.

Bill realizes he has in fact survived a peculiar kind of NDE.  He learns his mother is still alive, and, in a broken world, ponders a second journey “home”.  But he loses his self-control just once, and is taken out for good.  The real nature of “death” is shown.

But many of the other people do move on and board for an “Interstellar” migration.

(Published Thursday, July 30, 2015, at 7 PM.)

 

 

“Being John Malkovich”: the idea of becoming someone else has been tried before (and not just during Advent)

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On November 30, 2014 Rev. Judith Fulp-Eichstaedt at the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington VA started an advent series about getting into the mind of some of the characters leading to the Christmas story, with a sermon titled “Being Isaiah”. And she started out by a mini-review of the 1999 independent satire film “Being John Malkovich“, directed by Spike Jonze, from Gramercy Pictures

Here’s a short clip:

The story concerns a puppeteer, Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) who takes a job as a file clerk (a job about to become extinct) on a hidden floor, 7-1/2, in an office building, only 4 feet high, working with Lotte Scwartz (Cameron Diaz),  Craig finds a hidden door, and when sliding down the chute, he finds himself living inside the mind of actor John Malkovich (who plays himself, of course).  After a 15-minute simulation of being another person, the puppeteer gets ejected near the (divided) New Jersey Turnpike, in the days before Chris Christie’s deliberate traffic jams (and accidental overzealous gun control).

Needless to say, a story like this can explore “what it would be like” to have a relationship — if you really could be another person. Craig gets several tries at this experience, before it plays the usual games what we expect from the theory of relativity (he goes beyond the “Schwarzchild Radius”).

It’s one thing to wonder what it would be like to wake up on the morning of a critical day in your life years before, and “play the game” differently — like choosing a different subvariation in a critical chess game.  (Maybe stepping up to some kind of existential challenge to work with others on their terms when you really have to, as with a particular substitute teaching assignment in early 2005, link .)  But what I would relish, as an “old man”, is the chance to wake up and experience my body as it was at, maybe 24 (when I was in my best physical shape ever, after mandatory Army Basic Combat Training), and notice the things I’ve lost to “time” (as a fourth dimension), like leg and “pate” hair.

But waking up in someone else’s body, it he was an 18 year old Clark Kent (for perfection, try the market on another planet, like Gliese 581 G, thank you), would be cool.  Actually, though, this movie is about being inside someone’s mind.  So imagine waking up as “Clark” and knowing all his memories (from Krypton, or maybe a tidally locked perpetual-twilight Gliese planet), for maybe fifteen minutes or so — and then  — poof!  You vanish until the next session (or maybe wake up from a great dream and go back to being “you”).  One thing, about being Clark Kent, is that losing his “powers” even temporarily isn’t cool (see this blog Jan. 7, 2014).

Actually, in my novel “Angel’s Brother” something like this happens to some people, because of bizarre virus that encapsulates a micro black hole  (see this blog June 9, 2014).

One irony is that, of practically all the A-listers  Hollywood (March 4, 2014), John Malkovitch could best play ME as I am now.  And I am working on just the right script for “moi” (July 17. 2014).

And don’t forget, Mark Zuckerberg is an alien.

But he is too young for John Malkovich to play.

 

(Published: Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015 at 3 PM EST.)

 

Plot points for “Angel’s Brother”

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I want to start a running discussion, maybe for my own use mostly, of all the plot connectors within my novel manuscript, “Angel’s Brother”.  See also the posts here for July 9 and June 9.

The first function to cover is, what are the “global” events that this novel proposes?

The most visible, in the early chapters, is a bizarre pandemic.  It starts at high altitude in Colorado (and in fact, that has been the case for some of the enterovirus-68 outbreak) and has some frightening aspects.  The main symptoms in the beginning are skin lesions in areas of the body with poorer circulation, like the legs, of diabetics, smokers, or many older people.  The next symptoms are neurological: dementia, and delusions, that in some people lead to seizures and rapid death; in others, the patients stabilize for some months or even possibly years, to relapse into rapid death spiral.   The disease is found to be caused by a bizarre RNA virus (borderline retrovirus) that might be contacted by prolonged physical contact or frottage.  Gradually, the cases appear at lower altitudes.  The government considers evacuating the highest towns, but then another outbreak occurs in the higher parts of the Alleghenies and Smokies from West Virginia down into North Carolina and Tennessee.  Even more perplexing is that some people who have been moved lower and improve but then start to relapse do better if they go back higher.

The virus has the ability to use certain rare radioactive elements, which during certain periods in half-life generate mini-black holes.  These may cause more tissue damage suddenly, but the main consequence is that the memories of the person and awareness are shared with a younger person after the person passes, or sometimes even during coma.  There is speculation about sleep, too, whether dreaming can lead to telepathy through some unknown viral mechanism.

Younger, healthier people seem to recover from the virus, but are left with permanent intellect loss.  But a very few, including some who test positive for the antigen and show a very brief one-time radiation exposure, don’t become ill and seem to develop supernatural mental powers, including the ability to assimilate the memories of others.

The second function is the arrival of extraterrestrials, who will be shown to be angels, with identities related to the 144,000 in Revelations.  (This sounds like “The 4400”.)  Gradually, it is learned that the “Los Angeles Angels” have set up a base on Titan, which seems to be a complete living colony.  It’s not clear in this novel where else in the Galaxy or Universe they could go.  (Christopher Nolan, with “Interstellar”, is not the first to suggest that clues to alien contact could occur near Saturn, or specifically Titan, the most interesting little planet (3000 miles diameter and an atmosphere) in the Solar System. )

The implication, putting all this together, is that the “universe” is running out of its ration of discrete souls, at least near Earth, and must consolidate them, perhaps into The 144,000.

Now a novel must deal with all this from the viewpoint of both characters, and organizations (corporations, or governments, or subunits of those) as they learn the information and must decide what to do about it.

It’s noteworthy (as a third function) that the manuscript, as it is now, has almost no references to radical Islam and its terror threat, but it does refer to Putin’s Russian expansionism, which I have set in Finland rather than Ukraine. That’s partly because the first elements of the story came to me in 1999, well before 9-11, and other factors since then have given me intelligence that northwestern Russia, near the Finnish border, may indeed harbor some dangerous secrets. There have been films around this idea, such as “Devil’s Pass” (about Dyatlov Pass, though that’s in the Urals, on my Movies blog Aug. 28, 2014),  “How I Ended this Summer” (reviewed Feb, 12, 2012, and that’s in eastern Siberia), and “The Return” (reviewed Dec, 28, 2011) which does happen near Finland.

As to government agency, the parent would be the The United States Intelligence Community (link)  The most obvious responsibility for responding to a pandemic threat like that above would start with the CDC, in HHS, but would quickly shift to the Departments of Defense (including DIA and NSA, and all the intelligence agencies of individual armed services), Homeland Security (I&A), then Justice (FBI), and the finally the CIA (which is totally independent of the Cabinet — multiple choice question for a government test!).  In the novel, information about the “alien” issue has resided mainly with a background character named Ali Mogul, who left the military and spent some years in the FBI and is now retired.  He has some interaction with a right-wing-funded technical education facility in West Texas called “The Academy”.  (Sounds like “The Shop” in Stephen King’s world. doesn’t it.)

But much of the backstory has been embedded (one layer up) in “fiction” (relative to the “real” events of the novel) penned by one Bill Ldzet, who is admittedly based on me.  Bill has thought of the idea of the Academy, which he heard about with a bizarre job interview in the early 1980s in Texas.  He didn’t get the job, but the contracting company that interviewed him, well, talked way too much. His writings bare an amazing parallel to the “truth”, signaled by his connections to the other “angels” that Bill seems to have found, such as Matt, the son of a woman who had purchased his condo.

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This takes us to the two main protagonists of the story, Randy Ephram, around 40, working as a history teacher in ritzt North Dallas (or maybe Plano), and a fanciful Renaissance man, with the looks of Tom Cruise, maybe.  He’s “almost” happily married with three kids, one of whom he was cajoled into adopting.  But he was in Army intelligence, but was asked to leave for reasons that seem hidden.  So he took a civilian job doing the same thing.  Because the government thinks that this alien thing has an origin in Russia, he has been officially working for the CIA part time, and “stumping” his AP students for recruits.  One of these is Sal Garcia, a “white” Hispanic boy, charismatic in personality, gifted in speaking many languages, and in computer hacking, oh yes, always “ethical”,   Sal was adopted and raised by a fundamentalist Christian family in Wisconsin, but somehow he ignores everyone’s objection to his interest in his gay side, and gets away with it.  As an aftermath of a military intelligence class with ROTC, Sal will “hack” Bill’s writings — that is, everything in the Cloud that he didn’t “publish”.  As a result, DOD will examine Bill’s published writings to piece together the story.  Some of Bill’s unpublished writings introduce real characters, like Ali, a retired intelligence agent who had gumshoed the Roswell files before and who claims that the car crash that cost him his legs was caused by a UFO, and Ali’s wife, Ellen, is a surgeon who first leans about the disease when traveling to Mexico City.

It’s important to note how the agency works.  I don’t have “station chiefs” and double agents running around much, as in most spy novels, because what is going on at home really is more captivating.  The CIA does people-centered intelligence overseas;  the DIA does the people intelligence for ongoing military operations, and I&A and FBI similarly investigate homeland threats already known. The NSA does the cyber intelligence for the armed services, but in actuality the CIA does its own, which for characters like these results in their work applying in either agency.

(First published Monday November 3, 2014, 8:30 PM EST; updating will continue.)

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The character Lurku, who has a bizarre appearance that makes him seem old and young at the same time, as well as very mixed race, has actually tracked down former Soviet weapons sites that now seem to house the radioactive elements that, when introduced into the virus, produce the bizarre disease   The CIA sets up an early meeting (Chap 4) between Ephram and Lurku, but Lurku has also communicated with Sal.

Randy’s wife, Erin, is a health department nurse.  She becomes interested in why the virus focuses on high altitude areas of the US and not other parts of the world like the Andes and Himalaya.  She knows enough about her husband’s work (illegally) to pry, and learn about one of “Bill’s characters”, Ali Mogul, whose own wife had been one of the first to notice the new disease.

Notes on the “reality layers” (Nov.  13, 2014)

The narrative layers in the novel focus on “present” day with the major characters (Sal, Randy, their families, their “bosses” or classmates or students, etc), and on two streams of the “past” as associated with “Bill”: that is, how much of the material in his unpublished manuscripts is “true” relative to the novel, how much is pure fiction, and how much is actually true in my own reality.

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I actually had developed a timeline assuming the original novel might be “pubbed” around 2005 or so.  The original  “Rain on the Snow”  (May 13) plotline, where Bill goes to the Academy and is imprisoned after being accused of killing Matt (the character who turns out to be an alien) was subsumed to be inside “Tribunal and Rapture” (April 29 here), as Bill has escaped at the end of RS to join the “Nighthike and Immolation” scene at the end.  A similar scene occurs in this novel, in the “middle section” (Part II), about two-thirds the way through.   (The TR plotline was then re-embedded into an expanded RS plotline around 2005.)

The timeline for Matt becomes critical, as he must be no later than 17 during most of this novel.  So in the “reality history” of the novel he will be the son of “Toby and Shelia”, born near Minneapolis shortly before Y2K.  The parents are minor college-age characters here but were important in “Tribunal and Rapture”.  But the TR and expanded RS (call it “RS1”) manuscripts have Matt to be the son of a fitness instructor named Kelly Skiis (female), who winds up working at “The Academy” as PE instructor, born int he late 80s.  Skiis had bought Bill’s “first” condo in Dallas and lived there some years, losing her first husband to diabetes, and encountering other hardships until giving birth to an amazingly gifted son, seemingly through immaculate conception.  Matt then is abducted by the “angels” for about a year and returned, all the wiser, as a kind of “teenager who fell to earth”, sort of a Clark Kent type (with only more subtle “powers”, like direct telepathy).  No, he looks a little beefier than David Bowie (and, yes, I did love the 1976 film “The Man Who Fell to Earth” by Nicholas Roeg. and might as well mention it here —- the way the identity of Thomas Jerome Newton gets revealed is instructive).

There’s another computer hacker, Amos, the son of Ali in TR, who (according to the novels) got fired from a place Bill worked in the 1990s for check-skimming on a mainframe, a crime for which Bill was nearly implicated.   He was prosecuted, did community service, and hid behind a double-life in the world just before the Internet and Google could out everybody.  Then he changed.  He seems to have been abducted, which could be related to his dad’s auto collision with a UFO years earlier.  He could be “infected”.  Bill will be partially “infected” by his intimate encounter with Sal half-way through “the novel”.  Bill, subsequently, undergoes major transformations toward the end of the book (especially after the Immolation) short of becoming an “angel” himself.

Sal will learn that it is by checking out and analyzing Amos, he can tell how much of Bill’s “fiction” is really true.

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(Dec. 25)

Based on the experience of writing my older manuscripts, I found it was more promising to tell “the story” through other characters who learn things from “Bill” (Me).  So, the writing is still “selfie” but less so.  The most interesting protagonist would be someone I would admire and want a relationship with — the Sal character, or the earlier time slice of Randy.  If Sal is to become an “angel”, it’s noteworthy that he will learn this by “hacking Bill”.

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(Jan 9, 2015)

Notes on the split between Bill’s “novels” (as hacked by Sal and later even Randy) and his actual life (as hacked by Matt).

Most of what is depicted in the novel before 2000 “happened”.  Bill was contacted at work by each of two defaulted condos in Texas, in the logic of the novel.  But the older one (which first was sold in 1981) gets cleared a second time by a mystery realtor who sells the unit to “Kelly” who then has Matt in the mystery mudroom by immaculate conception.  Kelly is a younger doppleganger to the woman who bought the unit in 1981 and lost a husband to diabetes, and then became impoverished before the realtor found this doppleganger.  The CIA knows about this, seeing it as a kind of prophecy resolved by the “real”  Matt who must reconcile the timelines (Chap 17);  but Sal will find it only through hidden writings — until he meets Matt then at the “health fair”.   Randy’s wife has heard rumors of the “mystery disease” through her job, but the narrative in Bill’s TR novel about how Ali’s wife, a surgeon learns about it will be generally true in reality, as is the isolated EMP attack on Ali’s second home.

Although Sal and Randy develop a romantic relationship, it would be interesting to give Matt a chance to challenge it — with Sal.

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(Jan. 15, 2015)

Early in the novel (Ch 1), it is noted that Ali Mogul had also hacked Bill’s harddrive in the early (or maybe late) 1990s, before Bill even had Internet.  But then the CIA lost interest in his musings, and simply provided a summary, which Randy learns about when he is hired as a civilian and later meets Lurku in Chapter 4.  Because Bill’s TR novel “predicted” Ali’s UFO encounter, leg loss, and then heart attack (and EMP incident), the CIA takes Bill seriously again.

Sal finds, however, that Ali had kept looking until shortly before 9/11, when he has his “real” accident in west Texas with the UFO and loses his legs, and becomes a civilian.  (Actually, the real accident was in W Va, but even Ali has told everybody the UFO story in the desert.)  He stays in domestic intelligence work, but no longer has access to Bill’s stuff, whatever he says his reasons.  (Bill had predicted the accident to happen in 1977; also Bill had correctly described Ali’s boyhood in rural Florida around migrant farms and near Belle Glade.)   And shortly after Bill’s real life transfer away from his job in VA, Ali’s son Amos really did get arrested for tampering with a financial system where he worked.  So the period right before 9/11 turns out to be the division between “future fact” and fiction in Bill’s private writings.

 

 

Classifying my angels

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One Sunday night in October 1983, I was returning to Dallas in my 8-speed Dodge Colt  from a weekend trip in Oklahoma (and as far as Springfield, MO), and had actually hit a dog who had run out in front of the car on an isolated road.  After crossing back into Texas, and driving somewhere around Commerce, I heard a sermon from a fundamentalist preacher, talking about what happens when you “die”.  An “angel” comes and accompanies you as you are processed for your judgment, he said.  He spoke about an angel as a real person, an idea which I found interesting.  Now, living in Texas then, I had gotten used to hearing a lot of car radio sermons arguing for post-tribulationism v. “Pre”, which is beyond me now.  “Pre” makes more sense.

There’s something intriguing to me about the number 144,000.  In Rev.  14:3-5.  One of the interpretations of this number is that it is a count of redeemed make “virgins”.  I’m not quite sure why they would need redemption (except that all of us do, in Christianity), but it sounds like there is something special, or permanent about these men.

In at least two of my screenplays, and in the main novel “Angel’s Brothers” that I will describe soon, the concept of an “angel” comes up , in a few different contexts.  I’ll lay out the “rules of the road” for them in this post.

There really haven’t been a lot of movies about the topic (outside specifically “Christian’ films like the Left Behind series).  One of the best is “Astral City: A Spiritual Journey”, by Wagner de Assis, from Brazil, a 2011 release from Strand.  Of course, we remember “What Dreams May Come” and “Reviewing Your Life” and even “Ghost”.  Some of the leading males in television series and comic book movies (ranging from “Smallville” to “Spiderman”) may be seen as having angelic characteristics.  There is a female angel who travels between Purgatory and Earth in the play “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot.”

In the vision, I’m laying out, the characters comprise several kinds of entities:

(1) Biblical angel.  Such a person could be one of the original 144,000, if still alive (essentially immortal).

(2) Original angel,  Such a person would be born with the reincarnated memories of one of the 144,000.   Such a person would not have children.

(3) Ordinary angel.  Such a person has been elevated in such a way that he has some of the memories of one of the 144,000 but only through those of other people, transmitted to him through infection with a bizarre virus (dealt with in the later novel manuscripts). Such a person does not have children after “conversion”.

(4) New angel.  Such a person has memories of other individuals with whom he has had close contact.  He has also been infected by the virus in a superficial, non-symptomatic way.  The number of “new angels” varies with the number of those of the first three types lost in various ways.  The number tends to converge so that the total will be close to 144000. Susceptibility to the right kind of “infection” may result from some kind of supernatural contact early in life. Such a person may or may not have children at any time.

There are ways that angels can “fail”.  These would include

(1) Moral corruption, similar to ordinary human failing (call it “Satanic” if you like).

(2) Being challenged and failing the challenge. Failure can come from (a) not recovering lost appearance or function or (b) enjoying defeat in a morally inappropriate way.  But some angels are not challenged.

My manuscripts present only males as being angels (partly as a result of the “144000” idea).  In fact, the characters are depicted as white males., from Bill’s “world”  There is nothing wrong with the idea of female angels (as in the play by Andy Guirgis) or those of other races.  But in one of the screenplays, “Bill” will become involved in the process of “choosing” who can become a new angel, and perhaps who (among those already established) can be challenged and survive.  Bill, in a different sense, makes a similar choice in the novel (among a smaller set of people).

In “my world” (especially “Angel’s Brothers”), the rest of the population comprises

.(5) Old souls (“Bill” — although Ephram was called an “old soul” in “Everwood”).  Such a person can survive indefinitely but “intermittently” through a new angel, but usually must have children first. The old soul is not an angel himself.

(6) “Ordinary People” — and that was the name of a hit 1980 movie.

Infection is supposed to happen through a micro black hole or quantum mechanical black hole embedded in a retrovirus, with generally low but somewhat unpredictable transmission. The surface of the micro black hole would hold the information or track records of other people’s lives., sometimes even living people.

In general, the screenplays depend on various characters knowing the content of Bill’s later novels, particularly on the idea that “Angel’s Brothers” has been published and established.

Does the concept of an immortal or nearly immortal human make sense?  (In NBC’s “The Event”, the aiien humans could live ten times as long as us.)  It could make space travel a lot easier.  (In a couple of the screenplays, I’ve posed the idea that the angels use Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, as a base.)  On the other hand, entropy is part of physics, and a cycle of reproduction, procreating new beings with new instances of free will, seems to be a way for nature (or “God”) to counter entropy.

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There is something disturbing, however, about the idea that the character “Bill” has invested so much in identifying and nurturing angels or “superheroes”.  What about those who are not so gifted?  (Conservative columnist George Will has written about this issue in his own family, as he recognizes a divide between those who are gifted [like in sports, intellect, arts] and those who are no,; a discussion for another time.)  If it is acceptable to ignore them when they come knocking, then that can have very dangerous consequences for society (as history proves).  Perhaps for someone like Bill, a requirement to “pay your dues” is the only answer.   On the other hand, when Bill accomplishes and finds “what he wants” be becomes more generous with his time and attention.

 

(Published: Monday June 9, 2014 1t 3 PM EDT).

With “Tribunal and Rapture II” (2003) I start storytelling from “another character’s perspective”

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While I lived in Minneapolis (1997-2003), and after I had finished the first “Do Ask, Do Tell” book (1997) and then “Our Fundamental Rights” (1998), I began to look again at fiction, toward the end of the year 2000, as I best recall. I recall that period in my life well. In October 2000, I had spent Columbus Day weekend in San Francisco for a special SLDN benefit. In late April of 2001, I went to Europe for a second time (and this time had no mess-ups). Among other places, I visited the Guggenheim in Bilbao. The summer of 2001 was a strange time for me, with a certain sense of foreboding, well justified as history would show. But during that time, I turned a lot of attention to another novel to be called “Tribunal and Rapture” which I have to refer to here as “TR II”. It really is not a sequel of the other 1988 draft. Since it was never commercially published, I can make no claims to a trademarked franchise or series.

However, I tried a new tack. The novel would be told through the eyes of another character. I invited a protagonist, Ali Mogul, a mixed race (black and white) man in his sixties with a background in moderate Islam and conversion to Christianity of sorts. But Mogul is somewhat of an intellectual for its own sake, who views religion as to be balanced with science (as had Islam a millennium ago). His Caucasian ex-wife is a surgeon and expert in tropical medicine, and they have been separated as the novel starts. Mogul has a long history in the military, as an FBI and then homeland security agent, and has been tasked to investigate what seem like paranormal threats, mainly on his own insistence, because of his long history of delving into deep secrets.

I introduce myself (Bill) as a kind of mystery character, who seems to link everyone else. Bill has escaped from prison by changing his body (David Lynch style), but has a history of connections with other important characters, such as “Frankie”, who ran a “re-education” Academy in Texas, and even Ali’s own son, Amos, who got in trouble over a bizarre mainframe computer hack (long before hacking was a common plague), and a recent college grad, Toby, who seems to have his own supernatural connections to the “angels” who are about to invade.

An important element of the book is a new retrovirus, which seems to like to live in cooler areas of the body (like the legs of older men), and is transmitted by close contact. It seems to have the ability to transmit the conscious memories from one person to another. A person make wither and die, or he may survive by taking on the memory of one of the “angels” (one of the 144000 in Revelations). Gradually, his life would become that of another (as if by lapsing into the same dream, like in “Inception”). There may be other ways to survive, with less desirable results, serving the interests of others, like by causing their children to be born. As people are infected, their grip on reality changes, and so could the entire country’s.

The early chapters present some other medical concepts, such as the possibility of other novel viruses, and the extremes to which physicians might have to go in the future for absolute infection control, including maybe male body-shaving.

The detailed history of Bill, and especially his “re-education” at the academy, his encounter with the super-teen “Matthias” and his history with Matt’s mother, Kelly (as a result of his personal history in Dallas in the past when he sold a condo) becomes part of another document, which I’ll discuss in detail here soon.

Here is the synopsis, presented in levels of increasing detail. The first summary is what I sent to “Mark Sullivan Associates” in New York for review in the spring of 2003.  The plot is basically a road trip that circles much of the nation.

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Book Title: “Tribunal and Rapture(II)
Author: Bill Boushka
Genre: Thriller (suspense and sci-fi)

Time and setting: Late 2004, United States (various locations) and Titan (moon of Saturn)

Premise: American society is quickly and progressively threatened by a new virus that reincarnates the “souls” of those religiously “chosen” in Biblical times and overlays these “souls” onto current victims, while at the same time these same entities provide at last a way for today’s “chosen people” to escape to other worlds. In particular, a retiring African American FBI agent seeks to rebuild his own family so that he can escape, while (in a layered plot) an aging homosexual man, recruited into training for homeland defense in the trying days to come, stumbles onto tasting again his biological youth. While both social collectivism (particularly communism) and excess individualism have reduced “traditional family values,” escape from societal collapse might depend upon rebuilding the idea of family and lineage within a closed escape environment.

Conceptual Plot Synopsis

The protagonist is a religious 60-year-old African-American, Ali Mogul, who approaches the end of a long career as a decorated (and twice badly wounded) Army officer, defense contractor, and FBI sleuth. He has become separated from his wife and estranged from his rather sissy-boy son because the “real life” associated with family performance seems mundane compared to the disconnected creativity that he discovers in those he investigates and that he would like to develop within himself.

After an older alleged sex criminal whom Ali had helped apprehend escapes from an Arizona prison by inciting violence at a work detail, another informant (Frank L’Istesso) from a civilian defense training academy invites Ali to join a clandestine intelligence school where law enforcement, intelligence and military officers learn to use extrasensory perception and remote viewing to investigate possible terrorist threats.

During his first viewing he learns that the real threat really derives from the tribulation processes roughly like those in the Bible. Startled that his own “faith” and personhood will be challenged, he first throws up and then capitulates with a major heart attack. He had gotten himself into psychic intelligence as a kind of self-indulgence. Now, facing mandatory coronary bypass surgery and recuperation, he realizes that he must rebuild his small family, not just to survive, but to understand his first viewing.

His Caucasian ex-wife, an accomplished orthopedic surgeon, has learned of a major public health threat, a new virus that gives its victims very bizarre psychic properties before they die and selects its victims in a way that it threatens the demographic stability of American society. (It prefers victims with poor peripheral circulation, like diabetics, and is much more prevalent in high-altitude areas.) She takes a break from hospital duty and decides to invite Ali back into her home and help him recuperate. (He has to persuade her to take his new career interest seriously, and as deserving of personal respect more than love.) Ali revs up and starts recovering (like David Letterman), desiring again to “escape” from the taming influence of “family” and go back into the world and investigate the threat on his own. He sneaks out from his ex-wife’s house in Alexandria, Va. and travels on the Acela to New York to meet his son, who has reformed and transformed himself from childishness and aimless compulsive criminality to being able to help others now through newfound mechanical cleverness—hacking “legally: and secretly into the PC’s of other private citizens as well as large institutions. Rebuilding communication with his son (who had almost been killed in the 9-11 attacks) is a first step in realizing his own epiphany.

His encounter with his changing son highlights his focus on how he would spend the rest of his life if his world of relative freedom really does go to “hell and a handbasket” because of unstoppable terrorist attacks or this new biological epidemic threat. He would face some choices: re-connect with his family and live through that, return to his religious (Assemblies of God) faith as rather literally interpreted, or participate in the power struggle of those officials who would hunker down and plan surreptitiously to seize power in a society, paralyzed by martial law, that is “easier” to rule. Now he is suspicious that there are people like that; over the years he has sometimes been like that himself, just as more recently has come to discover “pleasures” of living outside of himself. He will sink into a quicksand created by those others whom he has come to emulate because of his own ennui over conventional life. And, going through his own investigative files (which he rescues after his own condo is burglarized) he finds plenty of evidence that the “old men” running the remote viewing school are on to real threats, however self-serving their personal motives. So Ali’s “problem” (in novel plot skeleton terms) comes in to focus: to given himself a valid “purpose” (participation in either “saving the world” for escaping from it), he needs to rebuild his family; the converse is also true. And he needs a purpose to survive (even “religiously”) at all.

His son’s efforts point him back to his own files as a former investigator, particularly the stories of the disappearance of the toddler son (Matthias) of a (female) health club fitness instructor (Kelly Skiis) and of the apparent criminal sexual encounter, some years later, between a middle aged colleague (Bill Berkowitz) and a vivacious Smallville-like “superman” pubescent teen who may after all be Kelly’s son, returned after a mysterious “abduction” and two-year disappearance. Bill’s “personnel” records had built up during his stay at “The Academy,” a network of largely privately funded training and living centers to house “asset persons” (or “civilian reservists”) who will keep the country going after expected and unpreventable terrorist attacks. Berkowitz’s own encapsulated “Ghost” story is that of an anti-hero escaping from his own character weakness (lack of empathy for others and a predilection for living “third person” in his own fantasy world), threatened with firing and unemployment, getting a “job” as an Academy trainee through reviving a personal connection with Frank L’Istesso, a former boy friend who had become ex-gay in the military himself and then helped start the “Academy” as a private businessman after leaving the military (when the “gay” problem catches up with him under “don’t ask, don’t tell”). Berkowitz has encountered and become involved with the teen friend (that is, probably Kelly’s son) through his misadventures at the Academy, been arrested and prosecuted, sent to prison in the high country in northern Arizona, and through his own ability to tease the homosexual fantasies of other prisoners, overcome “all odds” and escaped. But during the escape Bill has transformed or disguised himself as a younger person and taken on a girl friend, Tovina who, with her motorcycle, had helped with his escape. Before his “employment,” sex crime and imprisonment, Bill had built up some amateurish notoriety as a writer pushing for a constitutional convention or town-hall to discuss a new Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights convention, having percolated for two years among interested third parties, is actually coming off, and provides Ali Mogul with the opportunity to network with old friends (especially Frank L’Istesso and a graduate student, Tobey Strickland, who had befriend Bill and helped promote some of Bill’s ideas) and solve the “mystery” as to whether the remote viewings really mean the coming tribulations and as to how to escape. Mogul goes through some “terror-related” misadventures on his odyssey to Minnestoa: a train wreck (when Tobey finds him), a construction accident in Pittsburgh (where Frankie is now working), a major security mishap on his flight to Mineapolis-St. Paul (when he isn’t supposed to fly so soon after coronary surgery). His wife, Ellie joins him in the Twin Cities and they all adjourn to a college “fraternity house” belonging to Tobey. Ali and Ellie reconsumate their relationship for the first time in ten years, while Bill, apparently in disguise, and Frankie appear.

Ali will have the legal duty to get Bill arrested and returned to prison if Bill “tells” who he really is. As the congregated acquaintances bridge the tensions among themselves and put their heads together and hack further into Academy records, they decide to visit a series of sites to look for “clues” that confirm their worst fears: that “angels” from Revelations will capture the personalities of many male persons, leading to the tribulations and the end of modern civilization, but that an escape to a new civilization (facilitated by “miracle” technology available through the angels to those who meet religious requirements) on another planet will be possible. For Ali, the clues and capabilities are in his own life to understand something like this. For example, Ali recalls the modern physics and engineering courses way back at West Point and then at war colleges, and reconciles this Wissenschaft with the Assemblies of God religious training (including speaking in tongues) that forces appreciation of a kind of aesthetic realism as well as the selective theology surrounding the “rapture” and the remote viewing. But the most important evidence comes from the story of superboy Matthias Skiis (who had died after the sexual encounter with Bill), as he has actually been to Purgatory and seen what tribulations are coming, as well as confirming that our recent technology came, not from extraterrestrials in the usual sense (“Roswell”) but from the “144000” angels who commute between our world and “Urantia.” There is also “Second Kind” evidence of “angel visits” related now to what he saw in the initial remote viewings: that very ancient societies (back to Atlantis) had information technology superior to ours but kept it within their priesthoods and conveyed it to the “masses” through ingenious mechanical technology with devices such as astrolabes (and monuments constructed as “computers”). Ali comes to understand that his eligibility to “escape” will depend on his ability to participate again in a closed society that will for some generations depend on blood family dynamics and propagation, and that this ukase will be even more critical for Bill. He makes a deal with Bill that Bill can go on the ship (and escape arrest as a fugitive from prison) if he proves that he can “perform” with Tovina and potentially father a child.

By now the nation is disintegrating as the news of the epidemic spreads and mass evacuations of higher-altitude areas where infections are common proceed. The “tag team” meets victims (and spouses) of the disease victims, and recognizes now how the disease has personally affected them, all of this providing and ante-climax. Frankie helps Bill, Ali, and others “escape” to the spaceship site at a major strip mine in West Virginia, but, having hijacked a train during the final race for the launch site, is arrested and kept behind to live in an unpromising world—a disappointing but deserved end for a character who as a young man had been almost as gifted as Matthias, without having (like the Clark Kent character) the advantage of indirect extraterrestrial lineage. Ali will take his reconstituted family into space because there is no other future, and Bill will get to go now once (on the last night of their “road trip” when a “first experience” provides a personal point of recognition) he has proven that he can procreate and start a family, however late in life. The ship takes off and makes a 24-hour journey to Saturn’s moon, Titan, which, at the end of the novel, the characters learn has always been synonymous with Purgatory. During the “transoceanic length flight” angelic medical technicians determine that Tovina is indeed pregnant with Bill’s child. The journey to one other reachable civilization some dozens of light-years awayangels can get them close to Einstein’s limit of light speed but they don’t violate the laws of physics and “uncertain” causality will require families to be able to carry on lineage for a generation while living in a closed space environment, yet ironically none of the major characters escaping had established lineage until near the time of their group departure.

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Major Characters:

Ali Mogul: An African-American, born 1940, has had a career in the Army, severely burned in Vietnam in 1969, loses both legs in an auto accident in 1977 in what he believes to be a collision with a UFO; has had a career with FBI in covert operations and domestic homefront preparedness; in 2000 has joined a highly classified government program preparing for an alien threat. Converted to Christianity from Islam during early boyhood.

Ellen Cantor, white, born in 1941, married to Ali Mogul, married Ali Mogul at a West Point ceremony when Ali graduated in 1962, went to medical school and became a surgeon in an era before many women could do this (and tried to raise Amos at the same time). Separated often by Ali’s military and government duties, Ali and Ellen have become estranged after Ali’s second accident, and have been separated but “friends” since the 1980s. But Ellen has very recently become more curious about Ali’s work after learning through her contacts of a surgeon of “rumors” in the medical community about a second “AIDS-like” virus.

Amos Mogul: Only son of Ali and Ellen, born 1962, grows up and (perhaps because of less parental attention as he has been raised by a nanny) becomes a somewhat effeminate homosexual, has a relationship in the 1990s with an Air Force pilot, Gary. He had stood by Gary as Gary mysteriously developed diabetes, in a manner unrelated to AIDS. But then he falls into committing computer crime, and is fired and jailed for supposedly trying to pilfer money from insurance agent commission checks. Reformed, he has become a much more practical and trust-gaining persons, and now works as a process server and, secretly, as an Internet security consultant.

Bill Berkowitz: White and single, born in 1943, has lived a life of a “professional” homosexual dilettante. He has attracted the attention of the government by gradually stumbling onto pieces of the UFO research program.

Frank L’Istesso: Born 1960 to a West Virginia coal miner, he is apparently gifted and his his parents send him to school with relatives in New York City. He decides that he is gay and “comes out” at 18. Then his family has a crisis, and (keeping his sexuality to himself) he joins the Marine Corps to help his family with income. He does extremely well in the military, joining Naval Intelligence. He has also developed more interest in the opposite sex. He eventually marries a female Marine who has been thrown out after being falsely accused of lesbianism. After he leaves the military, he helps establish a company, Handyman Systems, that will secretly help the government set up homeland security while publicly acting as an I.T. consulting firm. .

Kelly Skiis: Born 1958. A woman with Ukranian and Turkish roots, has worked as a fitness instructor since the early 1980s. She marries a financial planner in 1980 and with her husband has bought a condo from Bill. She has a son, Dan, who dies in 1986 in a freak accident, being struck by lightning. She has a second son, Matt, in 1986. She has trouble raising him as a single parent, gets fired, and then goes to work at one of Handyman’s rural training facilities in Texas. Her son disappears, only to reappear in Utah as a very precocious teenager who has enjoyed an epiphany on another world.

Tobey Strickland: Has graduated from a Twin Cities area college in the late 1990s, and though starting a career acting and modeling for high-end commercials, has secretly entered the world of covert planning for a national emergency after meeting Bill.

Robert Stiles: A young resident surgeon whom Bill had befriended in the 90s.

Arthur Femeri: Born around 1930, informal head of a shadow government (informally called “The Brotherhood”) behind the FBI and part of corporate America who has gradually set up preparations for an eventual “rapture”—literally, escape to the outer reaches of the solar system where those favored by Revelation have set up a space station on Titan Femeri has at times functioned as Ali’s “matrix” boss both the military and the FBI. (This is a loose reqorking of the idea of an “Opus Dei.”)

THE SET-UP

An aging African-American FBI agent tries to re-establish his ties with and then “escape” with his estranged wife and adult homosexual son after he learns of a grave and probably unpreventable national security threat and, at the outset of his effort, has a heart attack himself.

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LONGER SYNOPSIS:

Prologue:

Ali is attending his first remote viewing session in a secret facility in the Virginia Blue Ridge. He experiences “becoming” two characters from pre-Incan South America and then views a social encounter between an aging homosexual, Bill Berkowitz, and a graduating college student, Tobey, whom Bill is courting.

Part 1:

After the viewing session, Tobey gets a bizarre email from his estranged wife. Disoriented from the remote viewing, he falls ill with a frank myocardial infarction and is rushed by helicopter to University of Virginia hospital. He is told that he is acutely ill and must have immediate bypass surgery, and join “the zipper club.” He recognizes one of the surgical residents, Robert Stiles, as a friend of surveillance subject Bill Berkowitz, and also notes bizarre new infection control procedures at the hospital. Stiles helps Mogul reach his wife, who drives down to visit as he recovers. From the hospital, he reaches (by cell phone) younger business associate Frankie L’Istesso, who confirms his suspicion that an upcoming shadow convention on rewriting the Bill of Rights was actually set up by Bill Berkowitz, who has escaped (with some underground cooperation) from jail in Arizona where he had been convicted of sexual activity with someone under 18 (Matthias Skiis) in an encounter two years ago where Matt was found dead.
Ali and Ellen drive back to Ellen’s home in Alexandria and note a large number of mishaps along the Interstate highway. Once home, Ali begins to recover very quickly and is well enough to visit his own condo near Frederick Maryland when he learns that it has been burglarized and the nearby gated residential area disabled with an e-bomb. Ali had kept his dossiers on several “subjects” in his home, perhaps foolishly, but he had converted them to optical format and some of them were scanned personal papers, so they are intact. He picks them up.
He “escapes” the “prison” of his wife’s house and rides an Acela train to New York to visit his son, Amos. Amos takes him to his secret, post-terrorist-attack sniffing facility in New Jersey and hacks into various databases for information about this “new disease,” a retroviral disease of skin and central nervous system attacking mostly middle aged men, causing them to hallucinate that they have become other people connected to the “angels” who will live on earth after the Rapture, and then to die—although some disappear and some are found in various landfills and campsites with body parts missing.

Part 2

Ali continues his journey by train the shadow convention in Minneapolis. (He is careful not to fly because of his invasive heart surgery.) But his train wrecks on the Eastern Continental Divide, near the Horseshoe Bend curve. He hitchhikes to a truck stop on the Pa. Turnpike west of the Allegheny Mountain tunnel. He encounters Bill’s important college-age friend, Tobey Strickland, who made it through the tunnel ten minutes before a bomb closed it. Tobey says that Ellen called him, but he wonders how Tobey knew his movements.
Tobey drives him to Pittsburgh to meet former business partner Frankie L’Istesso, who has had to find freelance work as a high-rise building security consultant. Along the way, Tobey talks about having to cancel plans for competing in the Rockies next year in the annual cycling race. Ali didn’t even know that Tobey had become a competitive athlete, and Tobey indicates that Bill’s knowledge of Tobey’s previously colorful life as a college student was limited to Tobey’s modeling and movie-extra cameos.
Frankie provides Ali his own biographical notes and burns some of Bill’s paperwork onto DVD;s; given the distraction of Ali’s surprise visit, makes a mistake an allows a tragic accident in a high rise drill using a net-funnel. Frankie will lose his job for real, and find himself on the run.
Ali now must fly to Minneapolis to get there before the convention. A fellow passenger—an elderly man—becomes sick on the plane and goes into hallucinations, and then Ali becomes sick in sympathy. He is grilled by airport security but allowed to pass.
When he reaches the safety of his hotel in suburban Minneapolis, he reviews all of his files. Bill’s notes tell the story (in “flashback” fashion, relative to the observation point of the novel) of how he was “recruited” by Handyman to attend a homeland defense “Academy” in rural Texas just before being fired from his conventional I.T. for uneven performance and perhaps for conflict of interest over “the power of his pen.” During the travels associated with his apprenticeship, he encounters precocious teenager Matthias Skiis, who eventually tricks Bill into a fulfilling homosexual encounter, after which Matthias mysteriously dies.

Part 3

By now Ali is convinced that some younger men, affiliated with Bill (including Tobey), have become upwardly affiliated with angels by their “infections” with the new virus and the ability of the virus to transmit identity cells holographically.
Ali, Frankie, Kelly, Tobey, and other associates attend the Shadow Convention, just before Thanksgiving. Bill—looking younger after an apparent makeover—helps to lead it in conjunction with several conservative groups. Is it really Bill, or mistaken identity? As long as he is not sure, Ali does not have to make an arrest of Bill as an escapee. Bill has a new girl friend, who picked him up recently in Wisconsin and brought him to the campus.
The convention takes a shockingly left wing turn, as participants view collective good as more important than individual rights.

Part 4

The participants adjourn to Bill’s adopted “group home” with other “younger” college students in St Paul. Kelly tells her story, including the two-year-long disappearance of her gifted son, Matthias and his reappearance as a “young man.” She apologizes for the trouble her foreclosure caused Bill, whose note she had assumed twenty years before. Bill brags that he has a capsule DNA sample to prove he is no longer the same person; Tobey had arranged his status as a graduate student in philosophy.
That night, Ali and Ellen have their first satisfying sexual encounter in 20 years in the master bedroom of the house. But Bill, now bringing along a “diesel dyke,” Tovina, who had mysteriously assisted with his escape from jail, has lost sexual interest in Tobey.

Part 5

Picking up on the gumshoe work of Amos but without any more illegal Internet hacking, Tobey presents proof (in the form of an Internet worm) that “the Club” (the underground network of government officials and defense contractors who have been preparing the comprehensive civilian emergency readiness program) expects societal capitulation and preparing an escape for the chosen few. News reports report the disease spreading rapidly, by the day, in all locations in the United States at higher elevations. Tobey takes off, and lets Frank, Bill, Kelly, Ellen, Ali and Tovina take off on a cross country road trip, visiting several locations with important progressive clues about the escape. At one point, they visit the astronaut training center in the high country of Arizona, which is now being closed while nearby high-country civilians are evacuated. Near the Academy, north of Abilene , Texas, national guard units are managing mass evacuations and local authorities are setting up legal infrastructures. The “disease” epidemic has started mainly in areas of high altitude (where presumably blood carries less oxygen) and high air pollution, and moved out. Congress has quickly passed a law bringing back the draft.
The travelers wind up on the Texas Gulf Coast, where Frankie hijacks a train to wheel them to the space ship, which will be launched from a large strip mine in West Virginia. Bill consummates his “relationship” with Tovina and must prove that he can sire a child if he is to join the escape—indeed partake of “real life.”. But in just two more days political disintegration of the country is quickening, after e-bomb attacks on several smaller communities in the Eastern states. Several states plan to secede and announce their own sovereignty as mass casualties among the middle-aged and older male population mount, and evidence of mass infertility among younger men is reported.

Part 6

The tag team assembles at the space ship in the middle of an artificial “moonscape”—a deep strip mine in the West Virginia Alleghenies. Mystery “bad guy” from the Club, who has apparently been courted by these omniscient “angelic” beings from Revelations, Femeri shows up (the first time he appears “on camera”) to arrest Frankie but falls ill. Amos must stay behind to help them both. Bill is allowed to go if he will marry Tovina on ship.
The “flight” to Titan takes about as long as a flight from New York to Australia. On board, they have a consciousness-raising group, watch some unusual time-lapse videos of human growth and aging, sleep, are served breakfast, and get views of what the mysterious Titan really looks like. It has been settled in only one area with a small, “Disneyland” type model city and artificial gravity wheel. Kelly relates that this is where Matthias was educated. The “Angels”— now clearly shown as monosolar beings intermediate between God and humans, run the place and use Atlantean-like technology that seems like magic and can never be widely shared (as on the Internet). The tag team will go to another world 60 light years away (requiring two generations of extended family life on the space ship) and start over a new experiment in freedom.

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Breakdown by Chapter Follows:
Part 1 Family First

Chapter 1 “Chest Work”

Ali Mogul has heart attack after first remote viewing exercise and is evacuated to hospital.

Chapter 2 “Sick Leave”

Ali is prepared for surgery and learns about a bizarre new disease.

Chapter 3 “Pivot Point”

After surgery, Ali recalls a turning point in his life, an auto wreck in which he lost his legs and which he thinks a crashed UFO was involved. Then he learns that one of his attending physicians, Rob Stiles, is gay, and this brings up a former long-term contemporary, Bill Berkowitz, who has reportedly escaped from jail after sexual involvement with a precocious teenager, Matt Skiis, who died in the encounter.

Chapter 4 “Family Life”

Ali’s estranged wife, Ellie, visits him as he learns more reports about the disease.

Chapter 5 “Your Duty to Escape”

Frankie calls Ali, still confined to the hospital bed but adept with palm pilots, to tell him more about Bill’s escape and his disguise as a younger man, to escape not only arrest but this bizarre new disease. The “new Bill” still plans to direct a liberty conference.

Chapter 6 “Do Men Still Change Tires for Women?”

Ellie drives Ali to her Alexandria, Va, home and along the way they witness many accidents before they have a breakdown themselves.

Chapter 7 “The House”

Ellie teases Ali about their being an interracial copy before Ali’s former boss, Art Femeri, calls him and tells him that his own condo in exurban Maryland has been burglarized. When Ali gets there he finds the complex was targeted by an e-bomb but he is little affected since he had stored his own data on optical CD’s.

Chapter 8 “Remembrances With and Without War”

Back at the House, Ali plays the CD that shows Bill’s “going down” and conversion to a younger man.

Chapter 9 “More Streets and Roads”

Ali reviews his entire history with Bill in flashbacks, back to the 50s days that Bill introduced him to backyard baseball.

Chapter 10 “Full Tray”

Stiles advises Ali to have a pacemaker implant. Ali agrees, and decides to go on a voyage to look for Bill.

Chapter 11 “Coming Alive Through the Lord”

Ali attends an Assembly of God revival in northern Virginia and spots on of Bill’s idols, Williams, still unphased.

Chapter 12 “Sometimes a Great Notion”

Without his wife’s permission, Ali escapes the House and takes an Acela train to New York to visit his estranged son, Amos, who is putting his life back together as a process server after a conviction for computer hacking..

Part 2 “Frankie and the Path”

Chapter 13 “The Path Pit”

Amos takes him out to New Jersey where he still has access to a computer that he can hack, into Frankie’s “Academy” computers where there is a lot of information about the new disease and rumors of extraterrestrial origin.

Chapter 14 “Train Wreck, and the Cab Stays On”

Ali takes another train, intending to go to Pittsburgh and catch up with Frankie, and then proceed to the Liberty Forum. On the way the train is wrecked.

Chapter 15 “Tobey”

Bill’s younger friend Tobey (from the Introduction) appears near the wreck site to escort him to Pittsburgh. Tobey was also present when Bill was “changed.”

Chapter 16 “Consultant Kelly-Boy”

Ali catches up with Frankie in Pittsburgh, where Frankie is testing a new escape chute for high rise buildings. There is another accident as the chute falls.

Chapter 17 “Frankie’s Pre-History and How He Changed”

Femeri comes to give Frankie a chance to tell his side of the training accident. This is the first time he has been in real trouble in his life, despite a long military and the industrial history with the corporate right wing (and a forced “reparation” from homosexuality while in the Marine Corps).

Chapter 18 “Airline Security”

Ali, against doctor’s orders, tries to fly to Minneapolis, but an adjacent elderly male passenger (with the disease) goes crazy and vomits all over him. The Ali gets sick himself. The plane lands in Cleveland and Ali will make the rest of the journey by bus.

Chapter 19 “Bill’s Current History and Proof of Illness”

Ali settles into the hotel, and reviews his history of Bill, how he attended Frankie’s (civilian reservist) Academy, met teenager Matt Skiis, and gradually moved into a fatal sexual encounter, followed by arrest and prison.

Chapter 20 “Getting Arrested”

Ali and Josh Williams go on a walk in the area where Frankie claims he “initiated
Bill so he could disguise himself as a young man. Now Ali realizes that Robert Stiles, Tobey, and Williams himself are undergoing transformations that will change their identities to live through a coming catastrophe.

Part 3 “Bill and the Path Pit”

Chapter 21 “The Instantiation of Bill”

Ellie appears, and then Bill, looking a bit oriental, at the hotel, and Frankie convinces Ali that Bill has legal cover.

Chapter 22 “Shadow Convention”

They hold Bill’s shadow convention, which deteriorates into angry exchanges over meritocracy.

Part 4 “Virile Grad Student”

Chapter 23 “Meanwhile”

Bill, Ali, Ellie, Tobey, and Amos congregate at the old 1521 club and Bill will enjoy his new youth. He confers the supernatural nature of his experiences, even with respect to helping convict Amos after his own trial. Frankie assures Ali that Femeri (as of the time of the accident) expects martial law soon.

Chapter 24 “Virility”

Ali and Eli consummate their marriage again.

Chapter 25 “The tribunal of Frankie:

Over breakfast, Frankie gives his own account of his viewing Stonewall as a boy, his encounter with Bill 25 years before, and his straightening in the military.

Chapter 26 “Tough Love”

Kelly tells the story of her purchase of a condo from Bill, her default, and the virgin birth of Matt Skiis after her divorce, followed by Skiis disappearance and reappearance as a young man.

Chapter 27 “U.S.A. bis Australia”

They discuss the evidence of the new disease hitting eldery men, first at high elevations, and decide to go west, to see a country that will lose its mountain playground as a habitable area.

Part 5 “Tag Teams and Ascensions”

Chapter 28 “Road Movie Personnel”

The seven friends now head first to southern Minnesota for their first clue, in a gun shop, and Frankie finds out that he is fired.

Chapter 29 “Back to Sparta”

Their next clue is near the site of Bill’s initiation, near the bike paths in Sparta WI, in a house that used to be a smaller remote viewing center. The woman living there and her aging gay son claim that Femeri used to be their father and a good family man until he “changed” and seemed hell bent on bringing on the purification.

Chapter 30 “Waters of Jordan”

They visit the Jordan commune in Montana, near the site of the 1977 accident, and find more clues of a previous crash, including clues that the craft might have been the relic of an earlier earth civilization rather than extraterrestrial. Amos is given a competence test with an arranged girl friend and fails. Bill, of course, already has Tovina (from the ceremony).

Chapter 31 “Black Mesa”

They visit northern Arizona, including the Academy training site for the astronauts, and Tobey is “processed.” Tobey has become an angel and will have immortality but not procreate. Williams tries but doesn’t make it.

Chapter 32 “Academy”

They visit a refugee camp as most of the higher altitude areas are being evacuated. Then they stop by the Academy, where Amos find the remaining information and evidence that the spaceships that they will escape on were brought here in the 1970s by selected survivors from an ancient civilization.

Chapter 33 “Hijacked Trains”

Bill impregnates Tovina, to prove that he can father a child to take off the planet, and Frankie steals a freight train to take them to the space ship.
Part 6 “New World”

Chapter 34 “Escape for the Raptured: Few are Chosen; Many are Taken”

They arrive at a West Va. Stripmine where the ship is stored. Frankie is arrested and taken away by federal troops as they learn that martial law is nationwide now. The rest board the ship.

Chapter 35 “Titan”

The remaining travelers make the quick voyage to Titan. Bill and Tovina are married on ship, but Bill shows his hots for Tobey as they descend to the surface. Femeri disintegrates and Amos dies. The last triumph belongs with Tobey.

(Published Tuesday April 29, 2014, 2 PM EDT)

 

 

My 1988 Manuscript, “Tribunal and Rapture”, submitted to Scott Meredith then

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The novel “Tribunal and Rapture”, completed in March 1988 as a printed manuscript on an ATT 6300 computer with “QA” is the word processer and printed with a 1985 HP laser printer (one of the earliest possible at home), at 546 double spaced pages, is at this time the most complete fiction manuscript that I have.  The diskettes are lost, but I do have one printed, very legible copy (a few pages tore out and are missing).

The first cut of the book was written throughout 1986, in the second of the two condos I owned in Dallas, a two-story unit in the “Canterbury Crossing” development on Lake June Road in the Pleasant Grove Section of Dallas.  I have a vivid memory of the day I finished the first draft, and then couldn’t sleep that night as a stray dog barked all night long.

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The novel has some threads similar to the “Rapture” document of the previous post, but the story is more compact and takes place over much less time.  In particular, it starts as “Al Bruckner” (that’s the pseudonym for me, “Bill”, this time) struggles at his mainframe IT job in Dallas and meets a charismatic young man, Craig Nickershtann, at a pseudo-evangelical church service.  A couple meetings happen, and Craig tells Bill about a strange research facility and “academy” in West Virginia.  In time, Al loses his job in Dallas and travels to West Virginia to attend the “academy”, where be slowly builds up a relationship with Craig.  The relationship comes to a climax about the time that Al tells of his background and a previous experience with “tribunals” at William and Mary.  Bill undergoes the “tribunal” at the end of his training in West Virginia.

In the meantime, the external world is falling apart.  As in the previous novel, but offstage this time, Communists attack the East Coast with dirty bombs, and part of the country comes under commie control.  But Craig has arranged for Al to be “raptured” along with other people chosen to be “angels”.  But then the geopolitical climate settles down, and the US is partitioned, with a communist East and a privatized but “fascist” (and heavily Mormonized) West.  Al finally returns to Earth (from what looks like an angelic output on Titan, the moon of Saturn) to see Craig get married, and he gets to be best man.

The novel is in 32 chapters, divided into four parts.  Part I is “Peripetia”; II is “Communion”; III is “Tribunal” and IV is “Rapture”.  Each part is prefaced by a title page with a few applicable literary and biblical quotes.

The relationship between Al and Craig is built up slowly with repeated scenes and a lot of tension. Craig is represented as a musician, able to play some of Al’s old piano compositions at the academy in an event just before the “tribunal”.  He shares his own past, and eventually, for the “tribunal”, Craig satisfies Al’s every fantasy.  Later, during the “Rapture”, the significance of Al’s lifelong fantasies is discovered with great detail.  In particular, Bill can watch the changes of his own body (and those of others) in time-lapse.

The novel, like the two previous ones, is “concentric”.  It assumes that the protagonist (here Al) resides at the center of his own universal, like anyone does in the sense of cosmology and physics, due to the nature of space-time.  His world seems normal and “universal” to him, even if it seems weakless (by cutting out normal heterosexual passions, which still can be manufactured) when compared to the worlds of most men. He feels anyone could become tantalized by his own universe.

There is a passage in Part 3 that speculates on a new kind of retrovirus, one someone what like AIDS, but which prefers to live in cooler areas of the body, as on the legs, perhaps of diabetics.  The books speculates that a retrovirus with very limited transmission might have longer incubation periods when smaller amounts are transmitted or the transmission is cutaneous.  I am not aware that any disease has ever clearly fit this pattern, but if one ever did, it could have enormous implications for public health and for calls to regulate sexual freedom. (See “Do Ask Do Tell Notes” blog Feb. 11, 2014, here ).

The manuscript was mailed to a literary agent, Scott Meredith (author of ‘Writing to Sell”) in March 1988.  In about four weeks, he wrote back quite a long commentary, while rejecting the manuscript.  He did say that the speculations on public health were quite frightening and seemed credible, and that the relationship between Al and Craig did show a lot of tension and suspense as it built up.  He said that the relationship had been the subject of some “meetings and conferences”.  But he thought that the plot itself was weak; outside of Al and Craig, the other characters seemed stock and their interconnections not well developed or particularly interesting.  A successful novel of this size (or film or television project) would need a number of diverse interesting and original characters, not just two.

There was a much earlier attempt to write this novel, which I sketched in 1985, my first year at the Lake June Condo, but with the “academy” still in Texas, and with the superman character named “Charley”, introduced early in the book, and with a second “commune” scene on a space colony (much as in the 1982 novel).  This document is lost.

(Published Sunday, April 6, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT)

My 1982 manuscript, “The Rapture of the Believers”, as written on a TRS80 in Dallas

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On December 1, 1981 or thereabouts, I bought my first PC.  It was a Radio Shack TRS-80.  I also bought an Okidata dot matrix printer and Scripsit software.  There was no hard drive; everything had to be saved on floppy disks.

At the end of 1981 and through much of 1982, I worked on a novel manuscript that I called “Rapture” (the same as the 1992 film with David Duchovny) or “The Rapture of the Believers”.  At the time, I lived in a modest but ample one bedroom apartment in Harvey’s Racquet back in the Oak Lawn Section of Dallas (about two blocks north of Cedar Springs, a mile from the bars, a mile from Love Field).  The computer was in a little alcove near the front door.  It broke down a couple times and had to be repaired, so I just kept working on a typewriter.

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The novel was autobiographical, providing episodes of life through “my second coming” in New York City, through 1978, and my move to Dallas.  It then envisions a series of events that lead to a Communist attack on the homeland, a “rapture”, and then rescue of the “believers” taking them to another planet.

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The novel presents several other men who would become significant in my life.  In the first version, their backstories were presented more or less chronologically.  Some of the characters would gradually come into Bill’s life (I’m “Bill” again) as the years progress.

After a trip to Britain in November 1982, I decided to restructure the book and cast it as a collection of more or less standalone “stories” that could be published separately.  Backstories were taken out of chronology and put into the story corresponding to a particular character or issue.  It’s more useful to discuss the plot in terms of this structure.

The first “story” was based on my “first coming” in the high school years, my friends in the Science Honor Society, my exposure to the outdoors (“A hike in the mountains is worth any grade”).

The second “story” more or less matches “Expedition” in “Do Ask, Do Tell III” (“Speech is a Fundamental Right, Being Listened to Is a Privilege”).  I present the idea of upward affiliation with another young man in the workplace, and where that can lead.  There is more material about that person and the workplace here than in the final published story, but it had come from the original draft of “Expedition” written on a typewriter in 1981 when I lived in my first condo, the Park Lane Townhomes in North Dallas.

The third “story” is probably the central episode.  It covers the attachment I had to a particular “boyfriend” in my last year living in New York City, between the Villages, in 1978.  There is a particular evening and sequence that leads me to be concerned that he has a medical problem that will probably lead me to feel less attracted to him in the future.  (This did not turn out to be factually true, but I present the possibilities had it been true.)   That eventually leads to my own moving away and starting a “new life” in Dallas.  It is ironic that this whole sequence occurred several years before AIDS was known, although the very first cases had already been percolating.  If you read the stuff now, it gives an idea what gay life was like in the City in the years before AIDS, but well after Stonewall.  Everybody was quite jealous of his own life.  People didn’t care about “equality” the way we do today; separation was OK if they could make a living and were left alone.  At the time, it was more about “privacy”.  This was the time shortly after New York City’s financial crisis, and the Yankees’s tremendous 1978 season (and Bucky Dent’s notorious home run in Fenway Park in Boston).  The economy was difficult, struggling with inflation, overregulation, and the aftermath of the Arab oil embargo a few years before.  My belief that I could not remain “interested” if the other person underwent chemotherapy (a subject just starting to get a lot of attention in the media) generates a lot of “moral energy”.

The fourth “story” presents a couple new friends in Dallas, and finally winds up centered around a particular chess tournament (and my accidental self-outing with the local chess club).  There’s also a preview of communal living with visits to the Lama Foundation in New Mexico, where I write an introspective essay and share it in a camp-like dormitory. At church (Metropolitan Community Church, in the days it was on Reagan in Oak Lawn) Bill learns a lot about the “Rapture”.  One evening, a new friend helps start a healing merely by playing guitar and singing “He’s alive.” In Dallas, on the Bible Belt, there was something to being a Believer and not a Doubter.  People would recruit to save others’ souls.

The fifth story presumes economic challenges occur, threatening my job.  The employer becomes involved in supporting the earlier versions of FEMA, and the “civilian defense reservist” program that got some attention in the 1980s.  I wind up getting sent to an “academy” in West Texas.   The idea of being “re-educated” and re-socialized in a “boot camp” out on the boonies became a theme in several of my manuscripts.  There was not, at the time, the appreciation of diversity and immutability that we have today.  The mentality was more that everyone should “pay his dues”.  But there was an idea that people needed to learn more self-sufficiency, and not depend on “buying their way” out of trouble.

The sixth story presents the coming of the Rapture.  (Maybe this is like a Sixth Symphony, maybe Mahler’s, or maybe Vaughn Williams.)  First, “Bill” meets a particularly charismatic young man at the academy, named Charley, who has what I call “The Theta Property” (which confers certain powers). Charley is by far the most exciting person Bill has ever met, and there is the start of some intimacy, remaining clothed (mostly).  Then Bill is sent on a maintenance trip to Alaska.  He gets a call to come back home, and then is sent to New York for one more assignment.  While he is there, he goes to the baths, and while in there the facility is evacuated when there is a radioactivity dispersion device let loose in the city by “indignant communists”.  Yes, I had envisioned the idea of a dirty bomb back in 1982.

The practices developed at the Academy are put into place, and people are herded into communal living, which turns out to be dystopian.

The seventh episode does as much as possible with this environment, which is far short of what JJ Abrams does with “Revolution” although again, that is what has happened (another theme in all my books).  Bill does encounter his parents, and learns a particularly old-fashioned idea of the derogatory word “faggot”, which is taken to refer to someone whose limelight-seeking demoralizes others upon whom he is dependent but doesn’t know it. (This is 1982, the days of the Moral Majority, remember.)  But Bill gets with Charley, has a final intimacy which prepares him to be “raptured” and then board the space ship to leave the solar system forever. Note that the “communal living” in this chapter is different from the “academy” earlier;  it’s an end-in-itself.  It may sound a bit like an “intentional community” today, but in this novel circumstances have forced this “sustainable living” concept on the people.  But at the very end, Bill really does go to outer space, however changed.

One problem with this whole concept, of course, is historical obsolescence.  It pre-dates AIDS, but is curiously prescient of it.  It is predicated on the Cold War, but it recognizes the indignation of individual “revolutionaries” and the harm that they might do asymmetrically, an idea we didn’t really grasp until after 9/11 with radical Islam.  And it’s not too kind to those who are different in such a way they can’t port their own water jugs.

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Around 1983, a computer operator at Chilton Corporation in Dallas showed me a short story he had written, called something like “The Mutants of Lake Murray“, about an alien attack on a popular resort lake in southern Oklahoma, followed by a nuclear war.

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Published: Friday, April 4, 2014 at 12 Noon EDT

 

“Smallville”: Superman was once a teenager himself; recalling the 10-year television series

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The science-fiction television drama “Smallville” premiered on “TheWB” (eventually to become CWTV) on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2001, about five weeks after 9/11.  The Pilot must have been filmed weeks before, that summer, in British Columbia, but the scene of meteors crashing into the town of Smallville, KS may have seemed terrifying then.

That sequence had been preceded by a brief prologue, introducing the loving couple (John Schneider and Annette O’Toole), the Kents, who would find baby Clark in a corn field and take him home and raise him as their own (a godsend, since Martha couldn’t have children).  In that prologue we saw a boy Lex Luthor made bald for the rest of his life by the meteor exposure – a play on radiation fallout (or dirty bomb) fears?


Fifteen minutes into the Pilot, we’re shown a handsome teenage Clark, played by a youthful enough Tom Welling (then 24), gently arguing with his dad about not being allowed to play football because he could hurt other people.  Tall and strong but lean and lanky, he actually looks more like a future baseball 100-mph fastball pitcher than a lineman or quarterback.  He a freshman at Smallville High, apparently in ninth grade, and his legal records show him to be 14.  He is tall and physically strong for his age, but very socially awkward.  He is morally sensitive.  He wonders if he is special or just different. No one can explain his unusual strength (although that does exist in nature, genetically, in some young men), or ability to heal, or “speed” – ability to teleport himself by altering space-time.  Later, he will develop x-ray vision, which would allow him to scope people, and then heat vision, which could allow him to set things on fire telepathically (like Zak in “Revolution”).  His father, upon questioning, finally tells Clark that he is an alien, and shows him the spaceship in the barn.  It is quite a touching scene.  Clark “speeds off”, upset, after saying “You should have told me.”  Soon, he is somehow “disabled” and hazed in a notorious scarecrow scene (which some people see as an allusion to Matthew Shepherd), with the “S” painted on his smooth chest.

So this is to be the story of how the future Superman came of age, as a teenager.  The series would run for ten years.  But after the first three seasons, it seemed to lose focus and become more episodic.  But the earlier years will filled with suspense.  Season 1 ends with a tornado.  In the middle of Season 2, Clark meets Dr. Virgil Swann, played by Christopher Reeve, now a quadriplegic from his own 1995 horsemanship accident, trying to decipher his origin from hieroglyphics.  As his father Jor El and other forces from his home planet Krypton chase him, Clark faces a crisis at the end of Season 2.  He fears his end is coming, and in one scene the “S” is burned into his chest as a scar (although it seems to be reversible).  At the very end, Clark takes a motorcycle to Metropolis (usually shown by Vancouver, but in this episode the skyline of Kansas City MO was used), having invited Lana to come with him. The seasons ends with dramatic music (I think by Tchaikowsjy) as Clark rides to the city.

Clark usually has a moral compass that would make any parent proud, except when he is exposed to red kryptonite, which unmasks all inhibition and turns his usual kindness into a curious moral nihilism.  He can be brought back by green kryptonite, which can cause him to lose all his powers.  In fact, in another episode, he learns it is better to be “different” and have powers than be like everyone else.  (Like it is better to marry than to burn?)  In season 3, he starts working for the Metropolis Mafia (that is, Kansas City MO or Vancouver BC, interchangeably) and robs some ATM’s (which in more recent years has become a real crime problem), but then gets his moral compass back and returns home.  At the end of Season 3, it seems as though he has to go back “Home” – to the Phantom Zone – for the summer.

I was living in Minneapolis when the series started, and had been laid off at the end of 2001, and was about to start my “second life”.  Somehow, I saw a rerun of the Pilot over Christmas that year, I think while “home” in Arlington visiting mother.  I became intrigued with the series.  I remember seeing the finale of Season 2 the day before a successful job interview, still in Minnesota then.  But I also remember watching it in May 2002 in a motel on a trip to talk about my own book and movie possibilities. Smallville became a fixture.

Logically, Clark should have entered college in Season 5, and that would have been a better track than the episodic plot that followed.  Starting in 2004, Smallville had moved to Wednesday nights, at 8 PM ET, and I typically looked forward to watching it regularly in the middle of the 00 decade anyway, despite a weakening plot.  Instead of college, Clark actually works for a professor Fine for a while, on his way to eventually becoming a journalist.  Lois enters the plot during these years (having found him and “imagined him naked” at the start of Season 4 when he is back from the summer “abroad”).

Other devices from the comics come into the series, such as the Fortress of Solitude.  Other kinds of kryptonite get mentioned, such as black, which gives Lex powers.  There are all kinds of episodes with bizarre experiments, such as trading bodies.  Other interesting characters are offered, such as Oliver Queen (Justin Hartley, after a body shave relative to the soap “Passions”), reporter Jimmy Olson (Aaron Ashmore), whose cognitive abilities as a mere human can match Clark’s, and another teenager who can fly played by Richard Harmon (who would later star in “Judas Kiss”).

TheWB and later CWTV had impressive websites, with video and discussion boards, for the show, which in the early years added to suspenseful speculation as to where the plot would go.

There were some “revelation” scenes toward the end of the series that were a bit homoerotic, but homosexuality as an issue was rarely mentioned.  However, in one episode, when Clark did get to play football (and perhaps catch his own forward pass) he came to the defense of a gay classmate.  The issue probably would have been covered more had the series aired only two or three years later in span. Nevertheless, the parallel between Clark’s being “open” about his extraterrestrial origin (despite appealing human appearance) and openness about sexual orientation would be obvious, and the series ended while the final steps in the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy were being certified.  I think the show made a difference even in that debate.

Technically, the series was always broadcast in HD, and tended to use garish colors, lots of comic-book bright oranges and reds, which must have been achieved by manipulation of film stock.

Some individual episodes have some silly premises, such as when Clark and Lex exchange bodies.  A few show flashbacks, such as when Jor-El visits Smallville in 1961, and a marque for “Splendor in the Grass”, one of my favorite classic films, shows.

Created by Miles Millar and Alfred Gough, the series was produced by Tollin, Robins Productions, which went on to produce the less successful “One Tree Hill“.

I have a detailed writeup on my “doaskdotell site” here.   The Blogger chain can be accessed from this link.

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I went to graduate school at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, getting my M.A. in Mathematics in early 1968, and I always equated Smallville to Lawrence, which really does look like Smallville in the show.

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I ask, does a real teen Clark Kent, who can teleport himself instantly, exist on Earth?  Maybe.  If so, I hope he goes to college.

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