Sunday, May 17, 2020

Of Apathy & Absence

First issue
Last summer my friend Eric Matthies reached out to me because he was planing to publish an anthology, "in the spirit of the old school punk zines",  and was looking for contributions from friends. As one does with these sort of things, I read it, and filed it away  - meaning to reply later. I got a reminder from Eric a few weeks later, and I'll admit I didn't reread the original pitch, I just dove into writing an idea that had been taking shape after his first email. Looking back, my contribution to Eric's zine turned out to be a bit literal, but only because I remembered the title of the Zine, "DEFY APATHY!" as a theme for the first issue... So it goes. What follows is my dispatch from another country: the past. (although I do feel like the conclusion rhymes nicely with the COVID present.)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Prometheus (re)Bound; Scene Four

(Return to Scene Two)
You haven't missed anything. Scene Three - which shows David moving through the ship alone - is one best, and most consequential of the movie  - which is precisely why I've left it untouched, and I see no reason to lay it out with images. If you care to read the scene, the full (re)Bound script is posted here, it begins with line 23 and ends at line 40. Or better yet, track down a copy of the movie (00:09:30 - 00:11:53), the scene is not just brilliant, it provides the key to David's deportment, if not his motivation: "The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Prometheus (re)Bound; Scene Two

There are large swaths of the original Prometheus script I left untouched. I don't plan to repost those scenes, they are easy enough to track down and watch. Scene Two is almost identical to the original, but I change the end, "Because that is what I choose to believe" is trite Hollywood theology, and I am fanfixing this film to be theological horror. So rather than asking if heaven is beautiful, Shaw asks her father something I remember discussing with my father: Can the dead see see the living? While my father was also talking to a child, unlike Shaw's imagined father, his response was adult and lacked all sentimentality. I also changed the arrival date.

Prometheus (re)Bound; Scene One

It bugged me that in the original version, Shaw and Holloway were searching for cave paintings of star constellations. Finding undiscovered cave paintings in the year 2089 is already an near impossibility, a once in a lifetime find that alone would have insured these two young scientists life long fame and fortune (of the academic variety). Instead, we are to believe that these two have been circling the globe like the Scooby Gang finding a series of finds on the level of the Chauvet Cave. I can not. Noticing the constellation is sort of discovery would be made by a diligent researcher hunting through an archive, noticing a pattern that had escaped others. So this scene was rewritten, no to deepen the theological horror, but just to make Holloway man-splainy, and Shaw the student of the archive.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Prometheus (re)Bound; Prologue

If you have not seen Ridley Scott's Prometheus, what follows won't make a whole lot of sense, and even if you have this may be a head scratcher. This Introduction will help explain the why-for of it. The what-of-it is fanfiction. In 2012, after seeing Scott's film I decided to gently rewrite the screenplay; to bolster what I felt was the movie's greatest strength: the 'Cosmicism' of Weyland and David. The artist, and hardcore Alien and H.P. Lovecraft fan, William Powhida corresponded with me a great deal while I worked on this, and helped to give what follows a Cthulhu pedigree, but also supplied a number of suggestions to help make the story fit squarely within the original Alien cannon. 

What follows is just a reworking of the film's opening. Rather than drop the entire screenplay - as I did the first time around, I'll serialize it, posting scenes as I rework them. 

Spoiler Alert: What follows is a word for word reworking script of the film's dialog and stage direction. What remains of the original is in black, my changes are in red. [The illustrator PJ McQuade, whose Prometheus fan art project inspired me to tackle this rewrite, originally illustrated the revised opening sequence. This time around, I am using images harvested from the web, most of which were taken from Terrence Malick films.]

Prometheus Delayed: A Foreword

Drones: Stanley Kubrick, 2001; A Space Odyssey (1968); Ridley Scott, Prometheus (2012)
Writing about the counterfactual histories of Cowboys & Nazis got me thinking about my very first foray into FanFic, I rewrote the screenplay of Ridley Scott's Prometheus. Not a Shaw/Vickers story (although I'd read that), I rewrote the whole thing. My aim was to right what I saw as wrong with the film. Call it FanFix. It was only as I looked back on that early project that I realized that I had never published a long introduction I written for it, or a conclusion I had prepared. I also remembered how unhappy I was with the way I presented the screenplay. I've decided to remount the Prometheus project from the beginning. I've reworked the intro, below, and in the coming weeks I'll serialize the screenplay, this time with a lot more imagery - which is what I regret not doing the first time.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Cowboys And Nazis; Alt-FanFic

Men In Black and Brown

I watched both HBO's Westworld and the second season of Amazon's Man in the High Castle with deepening ambivalence. Formally, I found both productions entertaining and visually exciting; real pleasures to watch. The casting, acting, cinematography, sets and costumes are the best any fan of scifi could hope for. And while I could nit pic some of the writing choices, my misgivings about both shows are political. Because of our political moment, shows about mega-rich rape tourists and a Fascist ruled America ARE disturbing. But the problem with both shows isn't their subject matter, it is that they treat their subjects like fan fiction - they uncritically except the exact fictions that crony-capitalists and white nationalists want and need to believe about themselves - the fictions our current kakistocrats want and need us to believe.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Darth Vader Is A Homophobe

In his 1972 book, Society And The Healthy Homosexual, the psychotherapist and gay activist,  George Weinberg,  coined the term "homophobe" - arguably one of the most powerful rhetorical turns of the past half century. As Darth Vader is about to return to cinemas for the first time in decades, it is important to remember that he is not a Nazi, and the Empire isn't Germany, or Russia, or any foreign power. The Empire is, and will always be America, and Vader is and always be the Ugly American. While I'd like to have believed that America had changed since 1977, it hasn't. I thought it might be interesting therefor to remember who exactly Vader is, and who we are, by revisiting Weinberg:

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Matrix: The Artist as Superman

Neo-avant-garde (1999); Historical Avant-garde (1916)
The impulse to write my first essay about Star Wars was born out of a frustration. My frustration was that a movie that had created such an obvious aesthetic break: even as a very young boy I could instantly recognize scifi movies made before Star Wars (because they sucked), from those made afterwards (they still sucked, but at least they looked like Star Wars). That the seminal film of my youth had garnered little, if any, serious consideration; and that what scholarly attention it had received was so obviously wrong-headed, spurred me to action.

My experience of The Matrix was entirely different. So much philosophical, theoretical and intellectual ink has been spilled over franchise that I've hesitated to write anything about it - for years. Not because I had nothing to say, but because, almost immediatelyThe Matrix suffered from an embarrassment of riches; too much - too serious - attention can, as it turns out, be as bad as too little. Or, as Joss Whedon recent quipped about his own blockbuster, "At some point the embarrassment of riches is actually embarrassing." Enough time has passed, and the logorrhea has lapsed into an embarrassed silence, as the disappointment with the Trilogy has cemented into a consensus: the sequels "ruined the mythology". For myself, I enjoyed The Matrix sequels in much the same spirit I enjoyed the Star Wars prequels (they are all good-spirited and fun, if still deeply flawed, movies). I'd like to contribute one more flood of words about The Matrix, serious, but not a philosophical. I am less interested in what The Matrix might tells us about reality, than what it tells us about movies. In a season of superhero movies, in an era of superhero blockbusters, what follows is a consideration of The Matrix as a truly singular Hollywood portrait of the avant-garde artist: the artist as superman.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Selma Alabama, 1965, According to The Rev Robert Leonard Powers

"Basement in Selma" Franklin McMahon (1965) - illustration for Look Magazine [RLP standing at center]

I traveled to Selma Alabama this past weekend to meet my two older sisters Sarah and Rachel, to witness the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. We went, because in 1965 our father, Robert L Powers, answered Martin Luther Kings' call for white clergy members to joined the black protestors in a march to Montgomery. I've posted about my father in the pasthe was an ordained Episcopalian Priest, although by the time I was born he was no longer wearing the collar, and was instead practicing psychology. My father passed away two years ago, and my sisters and I went to memorialize him. I have been thinking about what I might say about our time in Selma, about my father, about race, equality, and voting rights in America (no small beer in that list). But yesterday my brother-in-law reminded me that five years ago I asked my father to email me an account, in his own words, of his time in Selma. It took me only a few seconds to find after being reminded of it. The comedy (which I think my dad would have appreciated) is that my sisters and I spent our weekend together struggling to remember what we could of our fathers visit: when did he arrive? how long did he stay? who did he meet and see? The discovery of his email is exciting for me, but I wanted to share it as a reminder to those who have not been to Selma, this is a jubilee year, just because you missed being there when President Obama spoke (my sisters and I did too - we made our plans well in advance of Obama and arrived to late to see the President), does not mean you have missed taking part. Even if you father or mother wasn't in Selma 50 years ago, it is never too late to answer King's call. I am very happy my sisters and I did. What follows is my father's unedited email, sent to me on March 12th, 2010.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

2H2K - August 2050 - “No faiR"

MUDC work train on the 3rd Avenue El[This is the sixth short story in a series, the 1st story is here, the 2nd is here, the 3rd is here, the 4th here, and the fifth.] 

His phone vibrated a warning. Rush hour. Dean realized. He could feel the heat rising across his face. You're such a fucking fuckup.

He'd missed the early morning free ride by two minutes; pictured himself looking in the mirror one last time Pausing to The faRe had gone up to 45 minutes. It would clean him out. Two fucking minutes - classic.

Whether or not he got the job he wouldn’t have enough to get home, much less eat for the next 16 hours when his Gimmie would come through.

Dean paused at the entrance. If he waited the three hours until the faRe dropped back down to 25 minutes, he'd be late for the interview… Fuck it.

He pushed through the turnstile. He had ten minutes left If he got really hungry, it was enough to get a coke or a candy bar. But not both.

Either way, it would have to hold him over.

He had nothing to do for the rest of the day anyway. He could always walk back over the bridge.

Dean looked at his sneakers, disposable orange Juntos. Or at least they used to be orange. They had seen better days. Not the best gear for a job interview. Much less a long a walk... 

Dean watched the well dressed commuters passing through the turnstile, as if 90 minutes a day meant nothing. It probably doesn't.

It was a week night, the faRe would drop to zero after nine. I need this job.

It was a nice day, not too hot, he could always find a park to a hang out in. With that decided, he wondered what would happen if they wanted him to start work today. One Problem at a time Dean.

2H2K - August 2050 - #adviceforyoungjournalists - An Introduction:

The Craven Family, Peter Manzel (2001)

When I started working on this series of short stories about the second half [2H] of the 21st Century [2K] I asked my friend Felix Salmon: "What kind of company would the 'Felix Salmon of 2050' work for, and what will he be doing?" This was well before Felix was "post-text" - well before there were even rumblings of him leaving Reuters (the only job I had ever know him in up until then). I asked Felix because I trying not to imagine dystopian 2050, but instead, I had set myself a more difficult goal: to imagine a "well-paid middle-class lifestyle down the road." Since then I have tried to imagine a future in which there is a place for Felixes, lots of them. He is not the type of person I have had in mind as I've written these stories - he is EXACTLY the person I have had in mind. So I was not surprised when he advised young journalists yesterday: "if you’re more career-oriented, and want a good chance at a well-paid middle-class lifestyle down the road... if you enter the journalism profession today, have probably never been lower." The reason I wasn't surprised, is because it agreed with the answer Felix gave me to my question over a year ago; an answer that didn't discourage me, but pointed me in the direction I have taken with these stories.