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.
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.
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.
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.)