The Eternal Emperor filled up his glass again. "You took care of everything? On the Sten matter?"
"Just like you said, boss."
The Emperor thought a minute. "Let me know how he works out. I think that Sten is a boy to watch."
"He sure is, boss. He sure is."
Mahoney forced himself to finish his drink. And then held out his glass for more. In his job, you made sure you always kept the boss happy.
And the Eternal Emperor hated to drink alone.
.......... (From Sten #1 - The Final Scene)
I said everything was fine and it was. The sun was doing its usual South Florida best. Through my office window the orange blossomed Poinciana Tree on the opposite bank of the canal delighted the eye. A fish leaped from mossy waters for a flitting dragonfly and was almost snared himself by an enterprising hawk. Besides the blessings of a benevolent Mother Nature, I had a good start on a new book; I was healthy and so was Kathryn; and now I was talking to one of the only two decent agents I'd had since Chris and I broke into the game. (To learn what happened to the first one see Episode #69: Hollywood Screw -Up.)
I was thinking of telling Lew about the bull gator Kathryn and I had heard bellowing for its mate the night before, but as The Boss Man at Preferred Artists he was perennially short on time so I just asked, "What's up?"
Lew replied, "We have a situation here that I wanted to run past you, Allan."
I said, go ahead and in his clipped, efficient manner, he said, "A kid from (Redacted Inc.) stopped by to inquire about Sten. (Redacted Inc.) has a pretty good reputation, so I said we might be interested in hearing what they had in mind."
I thought - Hmm. Movie deal? In my head, Chris warned, "Careful, Cole. They're gonna try to fuck us again."
I told both Lew on the phone and Chris in my head, "Won't hurt to listen."
Lew said, "Exactly my take on it, Allan. He said they're thinking movie - possibly even a series of movies. All the Big Tent Pole franchises in Town are getting pretty worn. Everybody's looking for new properties with legs. He thought with eight novels, Sten would be perfect."
In my head, Chris gave a cynical, "Yeah, yeah." But what I said to Lew was, "Can't disagree with that. There's enough material for a dozen movies. "
But, in my head, Chris was still arguing: "Been down this fucking road before, Cole. Sten is, Number One - too expensive. And Number Two - Hollywood just doesn't get it. They'll think it's just a bunch of bang, bang you're dead books."
Lew said, "This kid said he was a big fan of Sten. He said his father turned him onto the books years ago and he's read the whole series dozens of times." (This was not unusual. I've had communications from all over the world from people whose father - and sometimes mothers - introduced them to Sten. One Russian's old man was even a Soviet-era fighter pilot.)
In my head I told Chris, so much for Number Two. To Lew, I said: "Well, the bit about being a Sten fan is heartening. But what about the cost? Isn't it too damned expensive? Chris and I budgeted it out years ago, and a Sten movie would go for an easy hundred million dollars."
Lew laughed. He said, "Yeah, but, Allan - that's back when a hundred million dollars was A Hundred Million Dollars. Even adding in inflation, with all the computer Blue Screen stuff they have now it would probably cost about the same. Except, these days they'd consider a hundred million dollars for a Sci-Fi action movie pretty cheap."
In my head, Chris said, "Hmm. Maybe. But who the hell are they?"
Good point. I asked Lew, "Who are these guys? They some kind of a production company, or something?"
Lew said, "Part production. Part management. They're mainly a Canadian company, and now they're expanding their presence here."
"So, what do they want to do with Sten?" I asked. "Option it? Shop around for backers?"
"Pretty much like that, Allan," Lew said. "Except, it's my guess they'll try for more of a commitment than just an option. They'll probably want to manage the property as well."
In my head, Chris said, "Fuck that. Movie - maybe. TV - maybe. Nothing else."
No argument from me. I told Lew, "If they want to option the film and television rights for a limited time, let's see what they offer. But they can't have a say over the past, present or future of the actual books."
It was good to see that, as usual, Lew and I were on the same page. Chris didn't say anything, so I figured he was of same opinion.
Lew asked, "What's the readership of Sten, now? The kid asked me, but I didn't have the details."
I said, "Ah, geeze, Lew. We're probably up to twenty five million sales... maybe more... and in half-a-dozen languages. The Dumb Asses in the U.S. let it go out of print, but we're doing gang-buster business in Europe. (As of this writing the books have been re-issued in both the U.S. and the U.K. See The Sten Page for details.) Last I heard from my Russian editor we'd sold ten million copies there. And that's in hardback. Top of the Moscow best seller list for over two years. And the German publisher is going to be republishing them as well."
Lew said, "Perfect. It's got a built-in international market. And it's action-adventure science fiction, which always sells a lot of popcorn and Coke no matter what country you're in. What's not to love?"
In my head, Chris said, "That's what we've been telling ever Tom, Dick and Lucas Films for years. And see where it fucking got us."
Ignoring the gripe - which was legitimate - I asked Lew, "What's the next step?"
Lew said, "I think the kid would appreciate a call from you, Allan. Get your take on him. Then get back to me."
And so that's what I did. My call was directed to voice mail, but I had no more than stated my name when The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) picked up. In a voice that started high, then went to just a chest hair less than shrill, he gushed, "Allan, it's such a thrill to speak to you. I've been a Sten fan for so many years. I just love the series so much. And when I got into this business I swore that someday I'd be in a position to do something with it. And now I can."
(See Episode #32: The Hawks Take Care Of Their Own.)
I had to bite back laughter as The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) gushed on, while in my head Chris muttered things like: "Yaps like a poodle in heat." And, "Maybe his balls haven't descended yet." And, "Comes on like a cross between The EatAnter and The Weasel." (A producer and an agent, respectively.) And then I really almost lost it when Chris started singing Tip Toe Through The Tulips in a perfect imitation of Tiny Tim. (Chris repped Tiny briefly in his days as "the worst PR man in the history of Rock and Roll.")
Finally, when The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) wound down, he told me some things his company was involved in, which were moderately impressive. Explained that they had a big fat Line Of Credit, which was more impressive. And that they had a relationship with the Weinstein Brother, which shut even Chris up.
I called Lew, told him what I'd learned, and asked the crucial question, "What's your take on this, Lew?"
Lew said, "Let's see what the numbers are. If we like them, we can bounce it off Karen and take it from there."
In my head, Chris said, okay, we'll see - and so I told Lew to go ahead. Then I got back to work on Lucky In Cyprus, an-in-progress book about my life as a CIA brat in the Middle East.
If all this sounds crazy - me talking to the ghost of my late partner - it probably is. But the fact is, even though Chris and I split up back in the mid-90's, and he died some years before this incident (July 4, 2005) we had been friends and writing partners for so many years that an area of my brain had been altered from long use to consider his point of view. Whether he was actually there in the flesh, or not.
Also, Sten was just as much his brain child as mine, and he'd poured just as much sweat and murdered just as many brain cells as I had to complete the series. So, I had to consider what he'd think about any deal involving our joint authorship.
Bottom line: I might be nuts, but name me a writer who isn't and I guarantee sleep-inducing prose. Either that, or a diabetic coma.
A couple of weeks later Kathryn and I flew out to LA. We visited her mom and younger brother, (Phil Bunch - an amazing musician.) and my son and his wife, Jason and Hiroko, and my grandsons. (Can't resist. Here's a picture of Ryan, the youngest, and his little girlfriend.)
Jason drove me to a meeting with The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) and his boss. They had a Beverly Boulevard address and a reassuring (Inside The Loop) 90048 Zip, so I went to the meeting wary, but encouraged.
The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) was a tall, good-looking lad and proved to be just as gushy in person as on the phone. His boss was small, wiry and nervously aggressive. He was in constant motion, running his hands through his hair, finger-drumming the conference table, shifting around in his seat like - well, as Chris opined in my head: "Fucker must have an anthill for an ass."
At that moment The Kid From (Redacted Inc.)'s Boss shifted forward, until his Anthill was right on the very edge of the seat, and with great sincerity said, "I've heard all about you and your books, Allan. To be honest, I haven't read more than a few pages of Sten, but what I read was impressive. Very impressive. I really think that this is a property we can work with."
In my head, Chris snorted laughter. "Property? Things never fucking change, do they, Cole?" But I knew he really wasn't insulted. We'd grown thick hides in our time in Tinsel Town. Never mind calling books "property," that's how they viewed people as well.
I said, "I'm not quite clear on what you guys intend to do with Sten. I've heard movie. Series of movies. And even a television series. Maybe we could narrow that down a bit."
The Kid From (Redacted Inc.)'s Boss said, "Definitely a series of movies. After we hook up with the right people, we'll start with one, then move up to the next level."
"That's the best sales point," The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) put in. I thought I saw a flicker of annoyance on his boss's face (he wasn't done yet) but his oblivious employee went on, "Sten starts out young - seventeen, right?" I nodded."Then in each book he ages and gains more abilities."
The next line he addressed to his boss: "Just like Harry Potter.'
Outraged, Chris went, "Harry Fucking What?"
But The Kid From (Redacted Inc.)'s Boss seemed pleased with this. He nodded. "Absolutely. And the Potter franchise is over and done with. Everybody's looking for a replacement."
"And that should be Sten," The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) said.
"Aw, fuck, Cole," Chris said in my head. "Set 'em straight, would you?"
I said, "Sten is a long way from Harry Potter, guys. To begin with, he kills people. He's the Eternal Emperor's number one assassin."
The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) waved that aside. "Not a problem," he said. "We can have all the blood we want and even flash Bet's tits, and we'll still score a PG rating." (Bet is Sten's first girlfriend.)
In Movieland, the preferred rating is P(arental) G(uidance) A much-tamer G rating is for kiddies, and that means too many half-price seats for a big bucks movie. Bottom line: you've got to have multiple viewings by millions of little Rug Rats before you can make a dime.
An "X" rating almost never happens because the multiplex has to spring for extra security to keep the theater swapping from getting out of hand and bringing down the local law, Ministry, and the PTA on them.
But, with a PG rating you can have all the violence, fart jokes, and barely contained Jiggle you need to lure the young popcorn and Coke chugging minions, who, after all, have about the only real discretionary money there is to spend these days. (Outrageous ticket prices barely pay the bills at a multiplex. All the profit is in the outrageous candy counter prices.)
The Kid From (Redacted Inc.)'s Boss was starting to look less twitchy now. In my head, Chris said, "He's smelling money."
The Bossman said, "Is there a script?"
I said there wasn't. Chris and I had had only briefly considered doing a Sten movie script and decided against it. Unless somebody crossed our palms with silver, that is. We were too busy writing books. And I still was.
"Not a problem," The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) said. "I've got just the writer who's dying to do a spec script on something of this quality." (A spec script is for no money, but for the hopes of same. As Someone In The Know once said, "A freelance writer is somebody who is paid per piece, per word, or perhaps.")
The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) named the guy he had in mind, which seemed to more than satisfy The Bossman. "He's certainly, A-List," he said. I'd never heard of him, but then I'd been out in Boca Raton for quite some time.
I said to the (Redacted Inc.) Pair, "Sounds good to me."
In my head, Chris remained silent. No surprise there. If he were still alive and banging on the keyboard he'd have no more time than I did to write a Sten script on spec. Besides, as I've mentioned several times in these MisAdventures, books are way more fun and you don't have to take shit from anybody.
Then, just to make sure that we were all on the same GPS spot, I said, "Summing things up: We're talking option on film rights only, correct?" They agreed that it was. "And Lew is my agent, so any deal has to include him, right?" They said, right. "And I get final say-so on the script, obviously." It was and they said so. "Then, I'll give Lew a call when I clear the meeting and tell him what we all agreed on, okay?" It was.
We left and for a change the Beverly Boulevard traffic was mild enough to get back to Jason's house in Culver City in time to take my 5-year-old grandson - Ryan Ito Cole - to the park. And what a time we had running Grandpop's legs off.
I'm taking a break from the Cyprus book, perusing my e-mail, when I see something from The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) I open it. To my surprise he informs me in the email that he's had (Redacted Inc.)'s Business Affairs people work up a contract, which is attached.
In my head, Chris says, "What the fuck? Over."
I'm thinking the same thing. Lew hasn't mentioned anything about contracts. Hell, he's barely mentioned any details of a pending deal. In any deal in any field, there's always a tendency for the Side With The Big Bucks to grab as much as they can. In Hollywood, you can double that. No, triple that. As far as Lew and I were concerned, everything was still way up in the air. (Karen had been consulted from the very beginning. She was an experienced Hollywood hand herself, and had a positive, but wait-and-see attitude.)
As I clicked to open the PDF attachment, Chris was saying, "They trying some kind of end run around Lew, for fuck's sake?"
My thinking, exactly. Contracts and contract details should be handled by agents, not writers. There has to be a middle person between The Art, and The Business Of Art, or nothing but grief is sure to follow.
I open the attachment. Scan it. "Fuck!" Chris says.
I agree. It looks like total bullshit. Starting with the fact that it's basically a no-limits contract and the way it is worded there were loopholes that might not only give them control of all future Stens - in all media forms - but gave them a piece of the royalties of the completed series.
"Fuck!" Chris says again.
I forwarded the email and attachment to Lew's office. It was lunch time in Boca, meaning LA was just getting good and snarled in rush hour morning traffic, so I waited a couple of hours to call.
Lew was not happy. And by this time I was going from irritated to steamed. We talked it over, then Lew got me - and partner's ghost - calmed down. He pointed out that if we can make things work, maybe - just maybe - we can finally kick start Sten The Movie.
"He's a kid," he said. "Chalk it up to inexperience."
I agreed, although in my head Chris was making rude noises.
A day later The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) called to make squeaky apologies. It was never his intention to - blah, blah. Business Affairs communications screw up, blah blah. Unfortunate boilerplate language that slipped by, blah, blah, blah. Blah. (Ever notice that Boilerplate language always favors the We Say So Corporations of this world?)
Chris wanted to rip his lungs out just on GP, but I did my damndest to graciously accept his apology, said go thou and boilerplate no more, then got back to the far more rational world of 1950's Mideast terrorism.
A few weeks go by. Contracts bounce back and forth and are finally approved by me and Karen. I'm told the writer is excited to get to work on the Sten Script. Mild alarm bells jingle when I get the idea that the writer thinks all he needs to do is read the first book, and he'll be ready to go. (Everybody hates to read actual books in Hollywood, including many writers.) I warn The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) that if the writer wants to get a handle on not just Sten's character, but the all important character of The Eternal Emperor, plus the Galactic Empire Chris and I have created, he'd better read at least a few of the other books.
Sure, sure, The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) tells me. No problem. Not to worry.
In my head, Chris says, "Wanna bet?"
I sigh, tell him, "Back in the box," and time travel back to the good old days of the Cold War. Time passes. Every once in a while I pull my head out of the book long enough to ask how the script is going. Wonderful, I'm told. Just great. The writer's really "broken the back of this thing."
It's a familiar writer's lie that I've used often enough myself. But, I can't begrudge its use by a fellow ink-stained wretch. (See The Four Most Important Writers' Lies in Episode # 76 - Hooray For Hollywood.)
I pretend I believe the writer and return to my book.
More time passes. I finish the first rough draft of Lucky In Cyprus. Just short of nine hundred manuscript pages. By now, the Sten script - which ought to come in at around 90 to 120 pages with lots and lots of white space instead of prose - should be way, way done.
"He had to take a break," The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) tells me, "to do some character tweaks on a movie he's on."
"Character tweaks?" Comes Chris' outraged internal voice. "Only a Twinkie would fuckin' talk like that. Who are these guys?"
Alas, I have no choice but to let it go for a little longer. Kathryn and I have booked a trip to Cyprus so I can gather material for the second draft of my book.
All this made the goings on in Hollywood seem like baby stuff - which, of course, is what it really was. And is.
The visit complete, we headed home - only for me to be waylaid by a heart attack at Athens Airport. Fortunately, I remembered enough of my childhood Greek to get help and stave off the Grim Reaper. A week in Intensive Care later, we returned to Boca Raton.
In my experience, near death has a way of wonderfully focusing the mind, and so I threw myself into my work, pouring out pages. (So little time. So many books to write.) I finished the last draft of the Cyprus book. Published it. Finished a book about my adventures in the Crazy Hazy Sixties in Venice Beach - Tales Of The Blue Meanie. Published it. Also published The Hate Parallax, which I'd collaborated on with Nick Perumov, the Russian fantasy author. Got a dozen books that had been out of print back in print. Moved all my books into the e-book market and some into the Audiobook market. And, along with that, I resurrected two books that Chris and I hadn't quite finished when we were still partners: The Wars Of The Shannons and Freedom Bird. (One's about the Civil War, the other about The Summer Of Love in the Vietnam era.)
Sten The Movie was rarely on my mind, but once in awhile I'd pause long enough to make an inquiry, hear another writer's lie - which don't work as well when told by a Wannabe Producer.
But, I let it go, let it go, until, one day Chris stirred around in the back of my brain and informed me: "The asshole could have written War And Fucking Peace three times over, by now."
I made inquiries with The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) He did not reply. No return emails, or phone calls. I was starting to get pissed. Finally, I posted a "What The Eff?" on his very public Facebook page and instantly got this email saying that the writer had delivered a first draft and that The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) would read it over the weekend and get back to me on Monday.
Monday came and went. No word.
"They're dodging us, Cole," Chris said in my head. "This can't be good."
"No shit, Dick Tracy," I mentally growled in reply. "Where'd you park your squad car?"
Finally, The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) called. Squeaky apologies for the delay. Somebody got the flu. Yeah, yeah. Somebody else was stricken with Beriberi. Yeah, yeah. "Fuck me," Chris said in my head. "Will this son of a bitch ever get to the fucking point?"
Finally, he did. Sort of.
He said, "I read the first draft and except for a few things here and there, it's pretty good. We have a meeting set up (whatever day) so I can give him my notes."
In my head, Chris said, "Hold the fuck up! Why can't we see it, first?"
I said as much to The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) Hemming and Hawing commenced.
"What the hell's the problem?" I finally burst out. "Does a first draft actually exist? If it does, I'd appreciate the opportunity to look it over and offer notes of my own."
Enough! I jump in. "What marketing changes?" I demanded.
The hemming and hawing started again. I said, "Tell me."
He tells me. And with dawning horror I realize what they have done. Chris is going apeshit, and I'm only a few beats behind from joining him - howling on the bars.
"It's like this, Allan," The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) began. "Sten is what, seventeen when the first book begins? And you know how hard it is to cast somebody that age in a major feature."
Dismay. Of the heart-wrenching variety. But I hold it together long enough to say, "Sten's seventeen at the start. Twenty two at book's end. In my experience, they'd cast an actor about 25 - or even 30 - for the part. Ask any Casting Director - it's routine casting. "
"Well, yes, but we thought somebody older might have more appeal to general audiences," he said.
"What the fuck's he talking about?" Chris said in my head. "What this kid knows about The Business you could stick in the small end of frigging nothing and it'd still rattle around."
I want to scream and shout, but I clamp down and say, "Would you please tell me what's going on?"
The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) finally got it out. "We made Sten older. He's 25 when the story starts."
"What the fuck?" I blurted. "So, now he's twenty five when his parents and his brother and sister are killed?"
"Well, that's the other thing," The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) said. "In this version, it's not his parents who are killed. But his wife and kid. We thought it better to give him a family of his own."
In my head, Chris said, "Don't they get it? The military becomes his family. The Imperial Guard. Under the Eternal Emperor. Whole damned point of the character. That's why in the end, it's..."
I break through Chris to say, "Let me get this straight. So, now instead of seventeen, he's twenty five when - not his folks - but his wife and kid are killed. And then what... is he still thrown into the Hellworld slammer?"
"Yes, just the same," The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) said. "And he escapes, too, just like in the book. And hides out until Mahoney comes along."
"Who does he hide out with?" I said. "In the books it's the Delinqs. Teenage - and younger - runaways and malcontents. All hunted by the Company."
"Yeah, yeah, the Delinqs," he said. "Same thing as the book"
I said, "Don't you think it's a little weird for this twenty five year old guy to be hanging out with a bunch of kids? Not only that, he's got a Delinq girlfriend he's fucking. She's about sixteen. So now he's a pedophile?"
"Well... That's one of the things we have to fix," he said. "We're going to make Bet older too."
Chris started to say something, but I'd already gone way around the bend. "That's just plain fucked," I told The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) "And it is so fucked in so many way I won't even begin to spell them out. Absolutely no way would I agree to anything vaguely like that. It's not only stupid, and unnecessary, but insulting."
The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) bleated a string of apologies. No insult intended. Stupid mistake. Don't know what I was thinking. Sorry. Sorry. Yadda. Yadda. And on.
One thing I'll give him, though. He didn't cast the blame on the writer. Took it all on himself. The writer was only following orders, and such.
That small act of generosity calmed both me and the internal voice of Chris Bunch, who always was a softie at heart. Witness the multitude of pussy cats that dined off his largesse wherever he lived. Or, how fast he'd reach into his pocket when told a tale of woe.
In my head, he said, "We've got, what, two three months left on the contract? Let them run it out. Maybe they'll surprise us."
"Fat fucking chance," was my take. Once again reversing roles - as was our habit. But he continued to plead their cause, and so I finally relented and told The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) that they could continue, but only if they returned to the original source and motivations of the novel's hero.
Sounding much chastened, he swore on stacks of holy nonsense that they'd sin no more and got off the phone. I sent Lew an email, briefly describing the imbroglio and the temporary status of things. A day or so later, Lew called back to say he agreed, but that we'd better "keep a close eye on things."
Time passes. I write many more words, some of which even involve these MisAdventures. A few days before the contract with (Redacted Inc.) ends I still haven't heard anything, so I send a "what's up?" email. Then another. Then I repeat the Facebook routine. Still nothing. I hit him on Linkedin.
Bam! The phone rings. Shrill voice proclaiming, "It's done, it's done!"
I open it.
"Aw, fuck!" says Chris.
And that's just at the Fade In.
It gets worse from there.
Instead of the accident that triggers the first novel being the simple error of a hungover tech, it's now caused by a freighter that bangs - somehow unnoticed - into the factory planet that is Vulcan. Those of you who have read the books know that the old "for want of a shoe, etc." is at the heart of the whole series. Even three thousand years from now, things just don't work the way they're supposed to. Sten and Murphy's Law march very much in step. (Except when Murphy screws up.)
Okay. Never mind that. Proceed.
I flip pages. Come upon Sten's father, moments before death, staring meaningfully into the eyes of Sten's mother. Saying, "Everything's going to be fine, dear."
More "Aw fuck's" from Chris.
The gates to The Row come crashing down and Sten charges them "like a fullback charging the line." Chris goes from "Aw fuck," to "What total, unmitigated sour owl shit!"
Sten jumps on a small hooded figure, the hood comes off. Long hair spills out. And it's - no shit - a girl! Bet. The love interest.
"Who are these guys?" Chris demands - not for the first time. But, he knows. He knows.
Enter the Eternal Emperor. But, instead of the down-to-earth guy in the series, who rules with a cat's paw instead of a mailed fist, we get this brooding figure, slouched in Thinker-like poses on a huge throne in a darkened throneroom.
"What's he think this is - Batman?" Chris demands. "The Emperor doesn't do thrones. He does barstools."
And, "What's this shit?"
The feces Chris is referring to is the big fight scene at the end. Suddenly the Eternal Emperor is there with Sten and his Mantis team. Fighting side by side. This is a glaring example of how fucked up Hollywood can get. The Emperor showing up for the fight on Vulcan, would be like President Obama flying in with the S.E.A.L. teams to whack Bin Laden. Dumb. Never happen. But, it does here.
Then we have the penultimate scenes, in which things that never happened, happen. Mahoney saves Bet's life. She thanks him. He says (No kidding) "Just doing my job, Ma'am." And... get this... Bet says, "Not you weren't." And rises on her toes to give him a little thank you kiss.
I skipped the final scene and closed the file. Too depressed to go on.
Chris said, "Time to pull the fucking plug, Cole."
So, that's what I did.
Later, after the deed was done, Chris rose up in an idle moment and said, "Maybe we should write it ourselves, Cole."
Then Lew called and said the ties had been cut with (Redacted Inc.) and I said maybe - when I had time - I'd do a script for a Sten movie myself.
Lew said, "I've thought that all along. Who better than you, Allan?"
And maybe I will.
If I did, it would probably start something like this:
By Allan Cole & Chris Bunch
THE BLACKNESS OF UTTER MOST SPACE
HARSH WHISPER: Death came silently to the Row
FADE IN: VULCAN - HUGE AND MENACING
Spinning slowly on its axis. Vulcan is a gigantic artificial factory planet. Many thousands of miles long, but only a few hundred miles wide, it looks a bit like an enormous cop’s flashlight - with a glowing “Eye” at the top.
Old, space-worn freighters move in and out of gaping space ports that belch fire and gasses from the factories within. The “Eye” is a vast brightly lit “greenhouse” - think “Silent Running” on an immense scale. It contains forests, green fields, crystalline lakes and the luxury homes, apartments, and offices of the Execs - the planet’s elite.
But the main body of the planet is in desperate shape. It’s composed of many sections, and each section is an enormous and self contained module with loading docks, factories, crew spaces, Migratory labor (MIG) dorms and apartments, mess and recreation areas.
But the supreme bottom-line thinking of the Execs - especially their hereditary leader, BARON THORESEN, can be seen in the supreme neglect of anything but the comfort of the Execs. Cheaper to abandon then remove, some sections appear dark next to more efficient modules newly installed. Patched and pitted areas appear on the older modules, many hydraulic leaks are seen spewing into space.
And just then:
ANGLE ON EVA UNIT
A small powered space suit is seen cruising over a low maze of pipes. As it moves past we can hear the Tech inside bitterly complaining.
TECH’S SPEAKER VOICE: Clottin’ suit stinks so bad, boss, I’ve got heaves. Somebody ought to make Jonsey take a bath, once every planet fall, or three, or four.
FOREMAN’S SPEAKER VOICE: Ah, you’re just hung over. Jonsey don’t smell any worse than the rest of us. I saw you knockin’ down the narco-beers last off-shift. Get your butt movin’ out there, or I’ll bust you down to MIG status.
TECH’S SPEAKER VOICE (contrite - but surly): Okay, boss. Whatever you clottin’ say.
As the Tech in his EVA unit moves on. But hungover as he is, the Tech doesn’t notice the small wrench drift out of one his storage pouches. It’s on a tether, and as he continues on the wrench swings violently to the side.
It soundlessly impacts one of the pipes, and we see metal fragments shatter outward.
The pipe array is laid across one of Vulcan’s modules. An identifying marker tells what it is: REC 26. And through large plas-glass viewing ports that peer into Rec 26 we see people moving about.
ANGLE ON PIPE A crack starts to form from the pressure and the wrench impact. Pale yellow gas begins hissing out. Fluorine - a highly corrosive yellow/green gas spews out, hosing against the side of the Module.
The metal wall begins to blister and boil.
CAMERA PUSH THROUGH the module - a MIG recreation area known to the inhabitants as:
Think of it as a mini Las Vegas, complete with a Red Light district where JOYGIRLS AND JOYBOYS ply their wares. ‘BOT GAMBLING MACHINES hoot the odds, and drinking machines dispense narco-beer, and other heady refreshments.
Way down along the aisle is the FAMILY SECTION, where MIGs and their kids can enjoy family-rated livees - movies with full quadra-sensaround - touch, hear, smell and feel - entertainments.
STEADY ON a MIG family: Father, AMOS STEN; his wife, FREED STEN; and two kids, a boy and a girl, eight and ten respectively. The boy is JOHS STEN, his sister is AHD STEN.
They hurry toward a livee marquee, which advertises: THE EXEC AND THE JOYGIRL. As they move past scantily clad hookers of both sexes and gambling machines, Freed tries to block her kids’ view of the seamier side of “The Row.”
JOHS (shouting): Hurry! We’ll miss the livee!
FREEZE UNTIL THAT TIME
When I may, or may not continue.
Meanwhile, as we await the glorious day when Sten - The Livee - comes to Multiplexes near us, the books are still the books, and you can read them by actually turning pages, or hitting the next page bar on your e-reader, or listening to them on your favorite listening device. And they can all be found in The Sten Page alcove in Allan's Bookstore.
THE COMPLETE HOLLYWOOD MISADVENTURES
The entire 8-novel landmark science fiction series is now being presented in three three giant omnibus editions from Orbit Books. The First - BATTLECRY - features the first three books in the series: Sten #1; Sten #2 -The Wolf Worlds; and Sten #3, The Court Of A Thousand Suns. Next: JUGGERNAUT, which features Sten #4, Fleet Of The Damned; Sten #5, Revenge Of The Damned; and Sten #6, The Return Of The Emperor. Finally, there's DEATHMATCH, which contains Sten #6, Vortex; and Sten #7, End Of Empire. Click on the highlighted titles to buy the books. Plus, if you are a resident of The United Kingdom, you can download Kindle versions of the Omnibus editions. Which is one clot of a deal!
Two new companion editions to the international best-selling Sten series. In the first, learn the Emperor's most closely held cooking secrets. In the other, Sten unleashes his shaggy-dog joke cracking sidekick, Alex Kilgour. Both available as trade paperbacks or in all major e-book flavors. Click here to tickle your funny bone or sizzle your palate.
|Venice Boardwalk Circa 1969|