21 November 2008

On Titles

I would have come up with a wittier title for this week's story, but not a lot of English words rhyme with "Zenda," and none of them means "orbit."

I grudgingly admit that this idea was inspired by the end of the otherwise craptastic X-Men 3: The Last Stand. (If you haven't seen it yet, Spoiler Alert: IT SUCKS.) During the climax, when Wolverine staggers toward Dark Phoenix to kill her, you can briefly see his adamantium skeleton as his flesh is burned away and then regenerated by his mutant healing factor. Very little else works in the scene, but that one image is pretty powerful.

And yes, I basically stole the fourth paragraph from Con Air. Sue me. Cusack really sells it in the trailer, even though the movie itself is bloated and nonsensical.

Finally, as you may have guessed, I am a huge fan of The Prisoner with Patrick McGoohan. I'm not sure why AMC thinks it's a good idea to remake it. I'll reserve judgment until I see the finished product, but why not come up with a new idea? Or, as shown above, remix some existing pieces to create something that at least seems fresh?

D and I will be at OryCon this weekend. If you're in the Portland area, feel free to give us a call:


Audio: "Prisoner"

Music: "Decaying Orbit" by Fireproof_Babies, licensed under Creative Commons from ccMixter.

Hey kids, it's a monologue!

I remember back in high school, when I really fell in love with drama, I found a used copy of a book containing monologues by famous playwrights. Some of them were pretty odd--like the priest counseling a married couple who breaks into an impersonation of sizzling bacon--but they all challenged me to understand and interpret different personalities. And, on the other side of the coin, it helped me start to see how a writer could create a character through carefully chosen words.




By Curtis C. Chen

Here comes the sun.

For a few seconds, as the blinding light thaws my body, it's bearable. Almost comfortable. Then I'm on fire for the next forty-five minutes, boiling hot until I fall back into the shadow of the planet.

I don't even know the name of this world. I was already drunk when I stumbled off my freighter, celebrating the end of a long cargo haul. I don't know the name of the bar. I don't remember the woman's name.

I do remember the name of her jealous boyfriend, the guy who couldn't throw a punch, the man I killed without even trying. I heard his name plenty during the trial. His father, the Planetary Defense Minister, publicly called for my head. He got what he wanted.

I wish I could forget what they did to me. First they replaced my blood with healer nanites. Then they cut out my lungs and stomach. They didn't use anesthetic. I felt every cut and slice and staple into my flesh. That I remember too clearly.

There are no prisons here. All the convicts get thrown into space. They turn us into cyborgs, able to survive on sunlight alone, and they put us in stable, isolated, high orbits. Every ninety minutes we circle the planet, alternately burning and freezing, all the time wishing they'd just kill us.

I can feel every pinprick of cold and blister of heat on my skin. The nanites work fast, repairing my nerve endings first so I'll feel the stinging as they regenerate tissue. They also collect the solar energy that powers my body, now that I don't breathe or eat. I don't know where the water comes from. A lot of it probably gets recycled inside my mechanical belly.

I tried to enjoy the view for the first few months. I've never spacewalked, and it was breathtaking despite the pain. But it just added to the torture.

It took me a long time to figure out how to turn around. There's nothing to push against up here. But what am I now, if not a man-sized spacecraft? And how do spacecraft maneuver in vacuum?

I rotated myself by spitting to one side. Now I'm facing away from that beautiful planet, looking out into the black.

My body's basic functions haven't changed. It's now using sunlight instead of food, but what it does with that energy is the same as before.

When my nails grow long enough, I chew them off and spit the ends out into the infinite darkness. The rest of the time, I just spit. It's not a lot of reaction mass, but it'll add up.

Sometimes I imagine I can feel friction heat on my back, but it's just sunlight. It'll take years for these tiny bits of fingernail and saliva to push me down into the atmosphere. I don't know if the nanites will keep me alive through re-entry. Probably not.

What's the saying? The first duty of every prisoner is to escape.

Besides, I don't have anything better to do.