Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Procrastinator


Crackling electrical display. The Procrastinator appears.

Approaches a group of punks.

PROCRASTINATOR: Give me your clothes.

PUNK: No. Come back later.


He walks away. Goes to a phone kiosk, flips through phone book.

Turns to listings for SARAH CONNOR.

His Procrastinator Vision reveals dozens of Sarah Connors.

PROCRASTINATOR: Screw it. I'll just do the first one.

He drops phone book, walks away.


Reese is sitting at a booth in front of an empty plate. Sarah Connor, in waitress uniform, walks up.

SARAH: Do you want to look at our dessert menu --

REESE: (grabs her) Listen to me!

SARAH: Hey, skip dessert! I don't care!

REESE: Pay attention! I come from the future.

SARAH: Great Scott!

REESE: Yeah, and a killer robot just came from the future, too. He's out to kill you, Sarah. He's called the Procrastinator. He -- actually, you know I would like an eclair or something. The food's pretty shitty in the future.

Sarah and Reese sitting at booth. He finishes eclair.

REESE: Anyway, the machines used up all the good robots killing the TV show on Fox, so they sent the Procrastinator ...

SARAH: After me?

REESE: Well, somebody with your name. And you're the first name in the phone book! He's lazy. That's just the way -- focus! That Procrastinator is out there. It can't be reasoned or bargained with. It absolutely will not stop. Ever. Until you are dead. Or if it gets bored or distracted by something, which usually happens in the first five minutes.

Door bursts open.

Reese ducks. But it's just --

A garage-station attendant named Clyde and two police officers.

CLYDE: (pointing at Reese) He stole my jumpsuit!

REESE: What are you talking about? (looks down) Ah shit, there's a name tag. First rule of time travel. Never steal clothes with a name tag.

POLICE OFFICER: You'll need to come with me, pal. You too, lady.

SARAH: Do you want to look at our dessert menu?

Procrastinator walks in. Goes up to Sergeant at front desk who's eating a pie from Sarah's restaurant.

PROCRASTINATOR: I'm a friend of Sarah Connor. Can I see her, please?

SERGEANT: Not now. She's making a statement. You wanna wait?  


He turns and walks out.

The DESK SERGEANT returns to his pie.

Nothing happens.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Rural Purge

The "rural purge" of American television networks (in particular CBS) was a series of cancellations between 1969 and 1972 of still popular rural-themed shows with demographically skewed audiences.

Ellie Mae and Uncle Jed in the jalopy. Jed's driving. (Through scene, jalopy slowly accelerates.)

ELLIE MAE: How come Jethro ain't coming, Uncle Jed?

UNCLE JED: Another one of them auditions, I reckon.

ELLIE MAE: Slow down, Uncle Jed. Yer going awful fast.

UNCLE JED: That'd appear to be the problem, Ellie Mae.

ELLIE MAE: Who's Jethro playing?

UNCLE JED: Some fella named Moe Greene, I reckon.

Jethro emerges, wearing sunglasses.

JETHRO: I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. Director! What here's my motivation and all?

VOICE: (OS) Taking a bullet through the eye.


SOUND: Bang! (OS)

JETHRO: (OS) How'd I do?

SOUND: Thud! (OS)

The jalopy is tearing down the road, insanely fast.

ELLIE MAE: Put on the brakes, Uncle Jed!

UNCLE JED: I reckon there ain't no brakes, Ellie Mae.

ELLIE MAE: I reckon that ain't good.

UNCLE JED: I 'spect you're right, Ellie Mae. I 'spect you're right. Best commence to screaming.

They both start screaming. Simultaneously.

The jalopy crashes through a railing and into a ravine.


GRANNY is cooking her "medicine" at the still.

GRANNY: Goldurn it. What's takin' em so long?

She hears Ellie Mae and Uncle Jed hollering (OS). Screams get louder and louder. Granny looks right. Left. Finally looks up. A shadow crosses her face.

GRANNY: Aw, heck.

Massive explosion.

Sherriff Andy Taylor is working at his desk.

DEPUTY BARNEY: (OS) Hey Andy, we got us a new prisoner.

ANDY: Well, bring him in, Barney. Don't keep our guest waiting.

Andy looks up and sees --

Barney walking in with the killer from "No Country for Old Men."

View of water tower by the railroad tracks. Three cute young women popping up at the top.

SINGER: (OS) Lots of curves, you bet. Even more when you get to the junction.

They duck back down.

SINGER: (OS) Petticoat Junction!

BETTY JO: (OS) Agggh! That's hydrochloric acid in there!

The water tower suddenly dissolves into pieces and crashes down. Right into the path of the oncoming --

Cannonball Express Train.

Which derails and thunders into --


Which shatters to flaming tinder and keeps going like some incendiary snowball from hell until it reaches the Main Street of --


Creating untold destruction and still --

Keeps going, in a massive avalanche of debris until it reaches the Main Street of --


Mr. Douglas wakes up in bed. Alone. Reacts to --

SOUND: (OS) Explosions. A series of shocks and aftershocks, fading like distant thunder.

OLIVER: What one earth was all that noise? Lisa! Lisa!

Gets out of bed. Looks out window.

Sees a distant curtain of flame. Debris is still raining down from the sky, clattering against the window glass.

OLIVER: My goodness. I'd better call the fire department!

Oliver runs through the house to reach the phone perched atop the telephone pole outside -- then does a double-take in the kitchen.

To Oliver's profound surprise, there's a brand new phone on the wall. Steel.

OLIVER: Well, I'll be. Alf and Ralph. They finally did it!

He picks up the phone.

A violent electrical display crackles inside the house. It catches on fire.

Benji the dog is sitting in a boat holding a fishing rod in his mouth. A shadowy figure sits behind him.

Fred Silverman watches from the window.

Hears a GUNSHOT (OS)

Closes the curtains. 

"Godfather" theme fades in.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Even robots get the blues


Sometime in the future. Hence, uh, futuristic. Anyway. 

A robot strides into the shopping mall. Carrying the kind of wicked-looking machine gun you’d expect to see on a helicopter gunship. A woman sees the robot and screams …

WOMAN: That robot! He’s got a gun!

People panic and run hollering in all directions. Away from the robot, that is.

ROBOT: Eh. Do not fear. According to the First Law of Robotics, “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a …”

Robot doesn’t get to finish the sentence. Mall security guards blow him into metallic chunks.

ROBOT’S HEAD: Eh. This always. Happens. Damn. You. James. Cameron.

Its eyes glow red and fade out.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Imagination for dummies

Fiction writing isn’t making pretty patterns with words. Before you write fiction, you have to imagine.  It all has to be real in your head—scenes, characters, the whole shebang. It’s informed by logic, but it isn’t logic. (Many a story has been nailed to the cross of outlines and research.) Ideally, you pay attention to life, stuff a lot of facts and observations in your head, and then it all (magically!) turns into a movie you watch behind your eyes. (You have to see that movie first before you write it – rarely, you see it while you write it.) The best example I can think of? Stephen King’s description of Billy Nolan setting up the blood-filled buckets meant to pour on Carrie’s head at the prom. He gives you specific, concrete description of events unfolding in space and time: obtaining the pig’s blood; sneaking into the gym with a shim made in shop class; screwing eye hooks into the beams above the stage; arranging ropes and pulleys; setting up the twin buckets ready to pour at the tug of a rope. King saw it all happen before he wrote it. His readers see it for that reason.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Incredible, Shrinking Sci-fi Section

Once upon a time, Science Fiction was a city and not a ghetto.  Back in the late '60s, Charlie’s News had a wall of titles:  Work by New Wave wunderkinds like Ellison, Ballard and Spinrad. Writers from previous waves: Zelazny, Silverberg, Bester and the like. A fair showing of Niven, Pohl and other hard-SF writers. Sui generis writers like Bradbury, Asimov, and Clarke. Everything Lovecraft ever wrote. Righteous anthologies, from the Science Fiction Hall of Fame series to Terry Carr’s Universe compilations. I bought books, absolutely. But that wall was a pool of thought I loved to jump into.

Then, slowly but surely, Fantasy began to encroach. It began with the Lord of the Rings series, in their 1960s psychedelic covers. Imitators followed. Dwarfknob, Dragondreck, Elfbreath … Then, before long, the Conan series appeared. Soon followed by contemporary rip-off sword-and-sorcery crap, usually with a badly painted cover of an acromegalic sword-thruster, callipygous, bathycolpian babe wrapped around his ankles, “in the style” of Frank Frazetta, because they didn’t wanna pay Frank the money.

Then, like a pustule on the face of the universe, Star Wars popped up. Novelizations, natch. Then original novels, starting with the not-bad Splinter in the Mind’s Eye, then exploding to Talmudic minutia exploring the permutations of every throwaway character. Star Trek took the hint. The modest shelf of Blish’s short story adaptations and one original ST novel became many shelves. Each as crowded as a derivative subway train. 

Slowly but surely, the franchises and rip-offs crowded out the work of ronin sci-fi writers. 

By decade’s end, the volumes of original, non-derivative sci-fi could be counted on your fingers.