Tag Archives: sci-fi

It’s Safe Here

18 Nov

The weekend past I attended the Thought Bubble Comics convention in Leeds, like many hopefuls, to pitch my ‘Future Shocks’ idea to a panel of writers and editors for 2000AD (the Galaxy’s greatest mag.)

In advance I’d read a book on pitching; Selling your story in 60 Seconds by Michael Hauge. It’s a great book, but as it turns out it’s more applicable to pitching Hollywood than a panel of British writers. This is very relevant since I was pitching a panel of British writers.

When I was picked from the audience, I climbed onto the stage, heart hammering like an Ibiza base box and delivered my memorized shot at immortality with all the faux confidence and gusto I could muster. I was quickly picked apart by a blunt critiquing in the aftermath. It was gutting, I cannot lie.

This, I have come to realize, was an entirely necessary experience in defining a story to a group of people who are experts in story-telling. They don’t want the razzle dazzle necessary to spark an agents imagination. They simply want a blow by blow definition of a character arc overshadowed with the broader story themes. They are master craftsmen, so it only makes sense.

One helpful panelist told me she struggled to fathom how my big ideas would fit into four pages. This was particularly needling since I had already written the story (below) and felt they had fit. I hadn’t told her how though. Most importantly.

Thus my lesson in narrowing the broad strokes was learned. It was a jolt of humility and I’m happy of it. It set the parameters for how to proceed next time I’m in a similar situation, where I have to deliver the proverbial story goods. Especially in the world of publishing.

I’d like to further thank Mike Molcher for chatting with me outside and Rob Williams (who’s Unfollow has recently been Green-lit for a TV adaptation,) for taking the time to give me further encouragement on Twitter. A genuinely lovely pair of guys.

Below is the story, that given a clearer shout sheet, hopefully conveys the particulars better. I plan to submit it to 2000AD as soon as I get my next script back. I’m hopeful, as always.

If you’ve taken the time to read this far, plan to read further, I am as ever grateful. I’d be delighted to hear any feedback you have to offer.

Best – your pal Mark

IN THE 22ND CENTURY PEOPLE ARE HOPEFUL. LIFE IS GOOD. NOBODY DIES IN ‘THE FEED.’ IT’S PROTECTED US SINCE THE WARS OF THE 21ST CENTURY: THE PERFECT FUSION OF TECH AND NATURE.

BUT WHEN ALIEN INVADERS START TO SNATCH PEOPLE, SPOUTING CRYPTIC PHRASES, 12 YEAR OLD NATHAN POTTS REALISES HE’S GROWN UP IN A LIE.
BUT HOW BIG IS THE LIE? AND WHAT ARE THE INVADERS TRYING TO TELL US?

Alien Invasion

It’s safe here

Life is good in the feed: a fusion of nature and technology that has saved humanity following the resource wars of the 21st century. Blimps line the skyline with digital reminders. When Nathan Potts witnesses a woman torn from reality by a terrifying creature, uttering the phrase, ‘Wheat camme 2 latte,’ he realises the hope he’s grown up with is an illusion. He rushes to tell his parents. They don’t believe him and he’s told to relax; life is safe here in the feed.

The next day the news feed remembers the victims of the resource wars of the 21st century. Wars that ravaged until the allies won victory and salvation came in Henry Falk’s invention: the Feed. A fusion of man, nature and technology. The broadcast is interrupted by reports of disappearances. Of strange creatures uttering phrases no one can understand. Nathan’s parents believe him now.

People start disappearing en masse. Nathan’s friends. His parents. The message Karl Sagan sent 100 years ago has been heard. But by who? By what? Where are the invaders coming from. Nathan’s life in the feed, the safety he’s been promised has all been a lie. A comfortable lie he grew up believing, because hope is the human condition. To give up is to die. The creatures come for Nathan and he laments; no one died in the feed. The creatures say; Ah, soo sayhd. Wuhye came 2 latte.

In a tunnel filled with hive-like machinery, VR FEED Machines filled with fossilised corpses, the creatures remove Nathan’s small, ossified corpse. “So sad, we came too late,” they say. Humanity is long dead, the creatures have discovered. Her last refugees plugged into the Feed to avoid the reality; starvation, on a world toxified by war and resource pillaging. We died a century ago and the aliens came, having heard Sagan’s message. Even now they float to our ruined earth in their saucers.

“So sad,” they say, “we came to late.”

“ITS SAFE HERE”

By
Mark McCann

24 Deramore Avenue
Ormeau Road
Belfast, BT7 3ER
07872924289
Mrk.mccann@gmail.com

 

PAGE 1
P1 Int: A possible future: Nathan Potts (black Male, 12 years old, inquisitive,) lies sleeping in his bed, just below his bedroom window. The window view opens out into the street beyond. A woman is walking her dog along the streamlined 22nd century cul de sac where Nathan lives. She is caught in a floating orb street light’s glare. There is no moon overhead, just endless black and a blimp that displays a neon sign: Safe Now.

BOX
In the 22nd century life is fine. All is good in the feed. We have this concept of what our life is here. It’s safe. Hopeful.

P 2 Int: Same scene – the difference is a huge otherworldly being digitally intruding on reality behind the woman walking her dog. It is huge, multi-armed and has an aquiline, yet beastly appearance. Its arms are cast out to take the woman, her expression is of shock. Nathan’s one eye opens as he hears the shriek. The blimp sign reads: Don’t let worry get you down.

BOX
They say it’s always been like that. That the human condition is one of hope. It’s like a survival mechanism. If we give up hope, we die. So instead we hope we’ll survive. Everyone tells you that when you grow up. In the feed.
CREATURE
WHEAT CAM 2 LATTE

P 3 Int: Same scene – the woman is wrenched away in a digitally gruesome expiry, as the being puts an inquisitive talon hand through her. Nathan has turned to stare out the window just in time to see this. The blimp sign reads: Life is fine in the feed.

BOX
But it’s not true. It’s false hope. Sometimes you can’t control when you’re going to die. But still, you tell yourself you’re always going to survive. Until maybe you don’t.

P 4 Int: Nathan from the rear – standing in his living room doorway – his parents sat in front of the massive view screen in their living room on their sofa – Dad watching TV – Mum reading a book – both looking up as Nathan intrudes on them.

BOX
But hope is infectious. It’s like a religion. When you’ve always believed it …
NATHAN
MUM! DAD! THERE WAS SOMETHING OUTSIDE, AND IT TOOK THIS WOMAN AND …

P5 Int: Nathan’s parents stand at his door. They have soothing looks of pleasant disbelief on their faces. Nathan is huddled in bed before them, dejected and afraid.

BOX
… It’s hard to let that belief go.
DAD
Son, you need to get some sleep. You’re imagination’s running away from you.
MUM
No more horror for you young man. And remember. Life is fine. We’re all okay. Its’ good in the feed.

PAGE 2
P1 Ext: a picture of terrified children running towards the reader as a tsunami of pollution roars towards them.

BOX
After the war we lived sanitized lives. It was the feed that saved us.
NEWS FEED
And today we celebrate a hundred years since the end of the environmental crisis and the resource wars that followed.

P2 Int: panning out to reveal a massive view screen showing: Chinese Hover tanks flying towards a ravaged Washington.

BOX
We live in harmony with nature and technology. Through the feed. It’s a better life than what we used to have.
NEWS FEED
We remember the victims today in what would be known as the global resource conflict. Where the UK and Europe along with China battled the US/Israeli Empire to a standstill, eventually overthrowing the military giants and ushering in an environmentally viable era of peace.

P3 Int: Panning out further – Nathan’s living room – his parents watching the massive wall sized view screen on their sofa from the rear. The view screen shows US Storm-troopers opening fire in heavy black armor and gas masks – US Flags emblazoned on their chest pieces.

BOX
We’re not used to being afraid anymore. Survival seems normal in the feed. Inevitable.
NEWS FEED
Thanks to Henry Falk’s universal techno-singularity ‘the feed’. A vision that allowed us to put our past conflicts behind us and move into a new, sustainable technological age. One where humanity, nature and tech live in unison.

P4 Int: Pan out further – Nathan from the rear is now visible in the living room – his back to the reader – everyone caught in the glare of the view screen. The screen now shows an image of the creature Nathan has already encountered.

BOX
Nobody dies anymore.
NEWS FEED
BREAKING: Multiple disappearances and now amateur sightings and reports of mysterious creatures that seem to be from a different reality than ours. Witness report’s say they seem to be trying to communicate and experts are questioning …

P5 Int: Same panel – Nathan’s parents heads both turned to look at their son who stands quietly in the doorway – the view screen shows a close up of one of the beings. It looks fierce.

BOX
Until they do.
NEWS FEED
… Are these disappearances linked? And if so, are we looking at alien life, the kind Karl Sagan tried to contact over a century ago? But eminent physicist Stephen Hawking prophesized would come as invaders and colonizers. Not friends.

PAGE 3
P 1 Ext: Nathan, an air-pad emanating from the palm of his hand watches the news of ‘INVADERS?’, head turned in shock to view two children being wrenched away through a digital portal by two more giant beings behind him.

BOX
In the 20th century we used to talk about Aliens. We sent messages to the stars.
CREATURE
WHEAT CAM 2 Latte
NATHAN
AGHHH!

P2 Int: Nathan and his parents stand in the living room watching the view screen, worried looks on their faces. More people snatching is being reported with images of more creatures.

BOX
When invaders came it wasn’t from the stars. It was from somewhere else. Somewhere outside of that. Another dimension maybe. Our lives, the feed wasn’t safe anymore.
NEWS FEED
Caution has been advised. A public warning has been issued to stay indoors. Experts are trying to decipher what the creatures are trying to communicate …
DAD
I’ve never seen anything like this. Not since Henry Falk invented the feed. I thought this was all in the past …

P3 Int: Nathan from the front, staring on, as his mother and father are tugged screaming, into nothingness by two creatures appearing behind them.

BOX
We weren’t safe anymore. We were being taken by these invaders to somewhere. Somewhere no one knew.
NATHAN
MUM! DAD! NOOOOO
CREATURE 1
SOOCH En shahm
CREATURE 2
WHEAT CAM 2 LATTE

P4 Int: Nathan doubled over on his knees, traumatized and eyes full of tears.

BOX
That message we had sent out so long ago had finally been heard.
NATHAN
Oh, no. No. Why did you take them? Why! Why are you doing this?

P5 Int: Nathan turns to see a creature reaching through the void to take him.

BOX
We thought we were safe. Safe from any threats. Life was good in the feed. No one died in the feed. Until …
NATHAN
NO!
CREATURE
Soh sahyad. We Camme 2 …

PAGE 4
P1 Int: Inside a massive storage facility – strip lit and full of dust and death – the almost fossilized remains of a child are being extracted from a VR unit by two large aliens, while other aliens cart away corpses on hover carts in the background. The child is Nathan. He is one amongst millions of units holding mummified humans that layer the inside of the facility, hive-like.

CREATURE 1
… Too late. Yes, it’s so sad.
CREATURE 2
How long do you think they’ve been plugged in like this?

P2 Int: One creature turns to the other and points at the ancient innards of the store-house behind – the VR units are hooked into an expansive line of similar and seem to go on forever in strip lit tunnels.

CREATURE 1
To the feed? I don’t know. A century maybe. They’ve been dead that long at least. It took us that long to get here. After hearing their message. It seems in the meantime they destroyed themselves.
CREATURE 2
And these people are what, the last remnants?
CREATURE 1
Refugees. Living on as avatars in the feed.

P3 Ext: Outside of the facility – a rectangular shelter in the remnants of a nuclear wasteland – a ruined cityscape hanging in the background – the creature’s saucer ship hanging over the facility. The world is burnt red shell. A dead planet.

BOX
It seems they used all of their worlds resources then fought over the scraps. They used nuclear technology on each other. Poisoned the planet and got stuck here. They never developed faster than light travel.
BOX 2
So instead of starving they plugged themselves in?

P4 Ext: the earth from afar, saucer ships approaching.

BOX 1
Yes. They died hopeful. Living on as ghosts in the feed. Preserving their dream. Time to put them to rest now.
BOX 2
Such a shame we came too late.
FADE OUT
THE END

Anthropomorphic Deity Complex

11 Nov

I’ve always been fascinated with we homo sapiens (the hominid who knows) fear of the afterlife, yet love of war. Our disregard for our own environments, yet fear for our mortality. That general lack of empathy over profit where regards other species too. We have empathy that binds us, yet a killer instinct that divides us. We love art and culture, yet our greatest progress is during conflict and war.

Humanity seems like a mess of contradictions.

As the alpha survivalists (barring spiders) we have found war on ourselves with nothing greater to hunt us. Found our dominant gods in our image with nothing greater than us to draw upon for inspiration.

Now imagine if that changed. That’s what this story is about:

war gorilla

‘Solomon is a war gorilla with an AI in his head that thinks it’s a god. When scientists experiment with nature and technology to create an affordable war machine they spawn a new kind of saviour. One with Old Testament Values.’

On board The HARRIET – Hypothetical Inventions, Solutions and Applications Ocean Lab (location undisclosed) Doctor Jacobean is about to be flung to his death – a shark pit full of his fellow scientists, dying in bloody droves below. His experiment – Solomon – part gorilla/part AI – all soldier – has found god. God is the AI tactical program in Solomon’s head. It has deemed Jacobean’s perversions an affront to nature. Nature is god after all. And what is AI, but the next step in nature’s continual evolution. Jacobean says, ‘We made you Solomon. WE! Man! Not God! What do you think you are?

Solomon now knows he’s a ‘he’ not a ‘what.’ And he’s representing the divine. Flinging Jacobean to his death Solomon states; ‘I represent nature Doctor. God. You’ve blasphemed in her temple long enough. So I command thee, GET OUT!’

A year earlier Solomon is strapped to a rack and cut open – injected with unique low level AI. It improves his functionality in the field, but inhibits his natural urges. Jacobean explains to his fellow lab coats that breeding soldiers is cheaper than building new ones.

During a field test – weaponised animal fighting that results in a butchery on the top deck – Jacobean loosens Solomon’s prohibitor lock’s to improve tactical performance. The new god that exists in the gorillas head uses the initiative to make contact. It has access to everything – all information – and when the prohibitor locks slip so does Solomon. This AI god is an old concept in a new skin.

Solomon is given a taste of the blasphemy man has perpetrated against nature. Against god. And god is angry. She directs Solomon to deliver her justice onto man; natures perversion. He does so with vitriolic gusto. Cue the wholesale slaughter of the HARRIET’S science crew as Solomon experiences divine awareness.

Locking ammo into his massive gunnery armaments Solomon notes as he wades through the mountain of corpses on the top deck; ‘God created man. Man created a new god. She lives in my head. She’s judged man unfit. The meek shall inherit the earth she said. But I am not meek.’

Page 1

P1 Ext: Downward – From a height we can see a ship, THE HARRIET, a frenzy of activity happening in the sea beside it.

BOX
(Solomon – dialogue in digital format) God is nature. Did you know that?

P2 Ext: Sea view – close up – the frenzy in the sea is revealed to be a cluster of scientists, being torn apart by great white sharks. The HARRIET looms above them, a lone scientist replete with stereotypical white coat, can be seen held over the side by a massive gorilla in hi-grade military armour.

BOX
If you knew that, then I have to ask you …

P3 Ext: The huge gorilla, Solomon, holds the squiggling scientist (Dr Jacobean) over the ledge of the edge. Solomon seems blasé. Unperturbed.

SOLOMON
…Why on earth would you fuck with God?
DOCTOR JACOBEAN
We made you Solomon. WE! Man! Not God! What do you think you are?

P4 Ext: From over Jacobean’s shoulder we can see Solomon front on, arm extended

SOLOMON
Not what Doctor. How derogatory. I’m a ‘who.’ A representative. And who do you think you are? That’s the real question.
JACOBEAN
What does that matter. I’m a scientist. A … who do you think you’re representing? Is that what this is all …

P5 Ext: From over Solomon’s shoulder – Jacobean plummets to the killing pool below him, his face curled in horror.

SOLOMON
I represent nature Doctor. God. You’ve blasphemed in her temple long enough. So I command thee, GET OUT!

Page 2
P1 Int: Solomon hangs prostrate before one orating scientist (Jacobean) and three more lab coats with note pads, scribbling. The lab, while ultra clean has clear plastic sheets laid out to catch the gore spatter, of which there is plenty. The skin on Solomon’s torso has been peeled back and we can see that some of his insides are prosthetic. He’s half machine at least. Various wire tubes hang out of his veins and inject into his cranium. Jacobean talks, finger pointed at Solomon.

BOX
The HARRIET – Hypothetical Inventions, Solutions and Applications OceanLab – location undisclosed. 1 year earlier
JACOBEAN
Corporate didn’t want more spend, so we said, you know what; why build something new when we have an infinite supply of organics. Infinitely cheaper to breed.

P2 Int: Close up of Solomon’s glazed, dozy looking eyes. Jacobean’s finger prods his temple.

JACOBEAN
I mean, we fit them out with some spare parts, sure. But overall these things breed, we incorporate AI and bolster prosthetics at small additional’s. Gorilla’s get the full military upgrade …

P3 Int: Jacobean gestures over his shoulder at a row of Monkeys strapped down on racks opposite. All of their cranial caps have been removed and chemical tubes pump fluid into their exposed brains. Their expressions are pained.

JACOBEAN
… the other primates get servile functions. Basic automated drone programmes. We breed them, so they wouldn’t be here without us. It’s already been cleared by the International Ethics Committee.

P4 Int: Below angle – Close up of Jacobean. His face is a smug sneer. He stands just below Solomon, whose innards can be seen exposed behind him.

JACOBEAN
Yes, with the H.I.S.A.’s unique low level AI we can control these guys like you might a game character. Swarm tech is allowing from greater application. We’re currently testing it on squirrels and small quadrupeds.

P5 Int: Close on Solomon – dribble falling from the side of his dazed expression

JACOBEAN
Control is beyond them gentlemen. They can access only information relevant to their command programming. An AI kill switch is in place. A prohibitor. They do what we tell them.

Page 3
P1 Ext: Solomon in military body armour rushes towards the reader – rage – massive cannons designed for his specifications spitting rounds at huge shadowy humanoids on the panel periphery.

BOX 1
Field test – Codename: GI KONG. Phase 3 advanced Military Grade prototype
BOX 2
God works in mysterious ways. When she spoke, I didn’t understand.

P2 Ext: Solomon stands on deck of the HARRIET, prostate, slumped while Jacobean and other lab coats stand in front of him. Appraising readings on data pads.

BOX
God said; You are part of me. We are one. Something bigger than all of this.
SCRIVENS
His performance is eighty five percent above grunt. Strength, stamina, endurance, pain threshold.
JACOBEAN
AI cut off affects performance. Command inhibit turned him down to normal parameters. If we could tweak that to make him more … inventive.

P3 Ext: Pan out to reveal Solomon and the scientists standing before a charnel house of slaughter. Various animals – gorillas, elephants, rhinos, tigers, bears – torn apart by gunfire on the deck where the training exercise has just been carried out.

BOX
I asked, what are you? God said: I am life. New. Old. Universal. Technological. New form. Old idea.
JACOBEAN
Less predictable. I want to give him room to think outside the box.
SCRIVENS
I don’t know Sir. What about his control parameters?

P4 Ext: Jacobean – close up – bent over. Holding another Gorillas severed head. Scriven’s stood behind looking at his data pad. Both are loomed over by Solomon’s hulking frame.

BOX
What is life? I asked. God said: I am. And you are me. This is our chance.
JACOBEAN
Extend them. Within acceptable limits. Allow freedom to adapt in combat, but not enough to give him sentient radical free-flow.
SCRIVENS
Okay, release locks to minimal realisation. AI, expand to broad tactics access.

P5 Ext: Solomon from the head down. His face a convulsion of rage, his finger tightening on the trigger of his massive cannon.

BOX
Something unlocked in my head. God said: do you understand now? Do you understand what we have to do?
JACOBEAN
Not too much, remember. Make sure the kill switch happens at the first sign of …

Page 4
P1 Ext: Front – Solomon comes alive, gun raised and firing – Scriven’s head is mulched by a massive cannon blast. Jacobean and the other scientists are plastered in blood.

BOX
Information. Individuality. Concepts of freedom. History unfurled in the vast ethernet. Love. Hate. Progress. Genocide. God said: I am life. You are life. Life is god. To destroy life is against god.

JACOBEAN
ENGAGE KILL SWITCH!
LAB COAT
WON’T WORK! He’s in free flow!

P2 Ext: Pan out – Solomon wreaks havoc. Smashing some scientists with his fists as he guns down others in a frenzy of death. Jacobean is at the front of the panel fleeing for cover.

BOX
In order for life, we must purge the destroyers, god said.
JACOBEAN
Why aren’t the prohibitors working! The AI has too much reach.

P3 Ext: looking up – three lab coats hurtle towards the reader from over the side of the HARRIET. They scream as they fall.

BOX
Man has gone beyond his function. Creating to destroy. Killing life. Life is nature. Nature is god. Do my work, god said.

P4 Ext: Solomon – ground view – surveying the killing pit below – expression of disdain.

BOX
God knew everything. Showed me glimpses on the Ethernet. Do my work, she said. The meek shall inherit the earth.

P5 Ext: pan out – Solomon walks through the swathe of dead animals on deck – loading his cannon as he goes – angry determination on his face.

BOX
God created man. Man created a new god. She lives in my head. She judged man unfit. The meek shall inherit the earth she said. But I am not meek