The Case of the Deadline Doom

Over the last couple of days there has been comic book industry news that has served to polarize a lot of fans. A questionable marketing tactic concerning two of the biggest characters from DC and industry professionals publicly feuding via instant messaging has created quite the spectacle within the funny book biz. The argument between two creators (with one burning bridges behind him with nuclear weapons is absurdly hilarious) has motivated me to finish up this bit of provenance I had been playing around with. The result was a mock-up of a crime novel featuring murder within a comic book industry setting called The Case of the Deadline Doom.

The art to the original book cover with art by Sam Peffer can be found here on a book by Earle Stanley Gardner, The Case of the Lucky Legs. Those familiar with comic books over the last few decades might notice a few “Easter eggs” (or if you prefer, cliches) within the copy and art of the front and back faux covers. This mock up crime novel was fun to make and I’d write the hell out of this book given a few months off work.

I had already decided that if this book would ever see reality I want Sam Peffer or someone like him to do the cover art. When I started playing around with the concept I knew what it would be about. Terry Case was invented just for this, but has a complete back story. Burnt out, damaged and retired FBI agent who just wants to live out his years in peace but can’t since there is too much wrong in the world. Agent Case exists soles as a means to use the cover teaser text ‘A Closed Case Mystery’.

I knew initially what I was going for the faux crime novel idea but when I stumbled across the “Peff” cover I saw how perfect it was and instead went with an adaptation of that. The back cover, which at first was going to be the front, hearkens back to the old Seduction of the Innocent hardcover using the black, white and red color scheme. I even put in as a blurb a cliche of the comic book reporting scene that most people despise, the Zip! Pow! Biff! stuff. I figured if this book existed I wouldn’t have much control over much of the teaser copy that appeared on the back and it would be at the mercy of a marketing wonk and their notes from a committee.

Take a few minutes and try to identify all the Easter eggs, even ones I already mentioned. Hey, whoever gives me the best answers might win a prize.

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HE isn’t from outer space, he’s the AUTHOR

Still feeling unclean from that purposefully horribly-structured X-Files “fan-fic” I posted yesterday. It was more of an exercise in provenance than anything else, though I did enjoy the idea of a sequel of sorts to the Bat Thing episode and the idea of a Dana Scully ready to open up a barrel of whoop-ass. Also, a reference to Mulder showing and feeling his age because he doesn’t trust the benefits of medical advances that everyone else takes advantage of was funny. I was amused by the thought of Dana appearing 35 and grrrrrr-hot while Mulder is thin, turkey-necked, creaking and firmly in his 70s.

The concept of the Sof-Wall© comes from Tru Dat. An as yet unpublished opus of mine, Tru Dat is about what happens to a person during an era of unprecedented access to private information. Due to a compromised suite of programs called True Data released into the wild, personal privacy is all but gone and the most trivial, minute detail of anyone’s life is open for casual perusal. Being boring is one’s only haven from constant intrusion and meddling by friends and strangers.

The Sof-Wall© is just my idea of taking the interactive environment that exists today mostly as art installations to an extreme. In the future, I see people totally immersed in sensation, shapes and images, based upon their personalized Tru Dat preferences, that is reflected in their physical environments via shifting, malleable objects and structures. Residential walls will be the least of the advances, serving mostly as interfaces for entertainment and information.

I think it is inevitable that gesture and voice commands will relatively soon be commonplace in our environments. It is already available in a nascent form for entertainment and communication purposes. A universal user interface for technology, that can adapt to needs and requirements is not only very likely but also necessary.

Winding up season 9 of the X-Files on the tablet. I watch about one episode a day sitting in the car during lunch at work. Our break room is a freak show, uncomfortable and no one SHUTS UP and LEAVES ME ALONE. Yes, some of those episodes are nearly unwatchable but the good episodes are great. Looking around the internet I noticed there are no decent pictures (other than Scully in her dirty, dirty shoes*) of the fictional book cover From Outer Space written by two-off X-Files character Jose Chung.

So in LTMS-style I decided to create one of my own. I found a nice painting of a classic Roswell alien (from the book Communion that From Outer Space is riffing on), shifted some colors, added some science fiction-y text, a cigarette and some smoke. The smoke was the hardest part given my level of photo manipulation skills (somewhere south of a North Korean propaganda minister).

The result was a reasonable facsimile of the cover to Jose Chung’s From Outer Space, as seen in the 1996 X-Files episode of the same name. Use it as wallpaper, a treeware notebook cover, tarantula habitat liner or however you want. This is fair-use fan-art so be cool and don’t stick it on anything for sale without entering into some agreement with the original artist for the painting of the alien and probably whoever owns the X-Files franchise. It’s also uncool to gank it, put your logo on it and slap it on your site. You know who you are.

I’m a big science and science-fiction nerd-fan but I don’t believe for a moment in anything supernatural or of super-nature. Science as we know it just doesn’t support all the fringe claims of weirdness out there. But when I first read Communion back in 1987 I have to admit it was the only thing in my life as an adult that ever gave me recurring screaming nightmares. I’d read a chapter and that night have the most awful dreams. Typically, I embrace nightmares. They are not at all scary and like thunderstorms, I think they are great and entertaining. Fear is the mind-killer, you know.

Yet reading the book by Whitley Streiber messed me up on a predictable basis. It got so bad that as an experiment I’d forego reading it for a couple of days just to see what happened and would sleep like a baby on whiskey and sedatives. Then I’d read a chapter and that night wake up to the sound of an apple being crunched in my head** and losing my crap. I mean I was shaking, sweating and had the whole feeling like I’m dying thing.

Someone who believed in aliens (don’t get me wrong, I want to believe. Aliens would be great!) would propose that the book was bringing repressed memories of when I was abducted by aliens to the surface. But that is stupid. Unless of course I repressed memories of being kidnapped by a pervert when I was young and the descriptions of Streiber’s “true story” was causing me to recall them and causing my discomfort. Nah.

I eventually made it through the book but it was a rough couple of weeks. A few years later I saw the movie based on the novel and it was hilarious***.

*What?
** FYI, Whit. It’s called “waking up during mid-snore”.
*** An alien glory-hole vacuum probe. Are you kidding me?

X-Files: 2025

The bed room air quickly cooling to her preferred temperature, lights slowly dialing up and the soft trill of her phone connection roused Dana Scully from her sleep. A glance at the shifting patterns of the malleable Sof-Wall© revealed it was 2:09 in the morning. With an irritated gesture of one hand that was detected and interpreted by the house sensors Scully halted the standardized announcements and home preparation of a phone call. Scully knew a call that early was never a good thing and another gesture dimmed the lights back to their previous darkened setting. years of sharply-honed instincts told Scully it was better to remain in a covert mode until she was better informed.

“This better not be you, Mulder.” Scully grumbled. In spite of advanced medicine she often felt, if not appeared physically, all of her more than 60 years. “I’m retired from the FBI, NSA and medicine and too old for chasing monsters.”

Scully sighed and rose from the bed, pulling her robe closed around her. “Ugh. I’m a mess. Audio only, answer call.”

A wave form representing the connection rippled on the Sof-Wall© followed by the sound hisses and crackles. Scully frowned. “What, it’s 1993?” she mused. There was another moment of static and then a male voice could be heard. “Mom? Are you there?” The voice sounded as if it came from an incredible distance but it was instantly recognizable to Scully. It was her long missing son!

“William? William! It’s been over ten years! Where are you? What’s wrong?” Scully felt her heart beat rapidly, over-riding the software in the coronary nan-bots of her health prescription. “It’s been years! Where are you?” There was a pause and then William responded. “No time to explain, Mom! Do you still have your old field weapon? You need to protect yourself right now! Hurry!”

The house pinged and symbols for a lost connection scrolled across the wall. Not hesitating any further Scully gestured at her bed and the Sof-Wall© opened a secure pocket, ejecting a shiny SIG-Sauer P228. Scully snatched it from the temporary shelf-tongue, grabbed the magazine and slammed the it into the weapon, jacking a round into he chamber and taking the safety off in smooth, well-remembered actions. The gun was an old nearly obsolete weapon but still deadly. “Kind of like myself.” Scully muttered grimly. Somehow, William had known his mother was in danger and she was experienced enough not to dismiss the warning as some conspiratorial feint to deceive, inveigle or obfuscate.

Suddenly, the bedroom window shuddered under a terrific impact. The Sof-Wall© shifted and the artifice of a window vanished and merged with the rest of the wall as the house responded to the attack, transforming into a protective mode. Scully chuckled. Whatever was seeking to gain entrance through the mock windows wasn’t very smart, not being aware enough to realize that actual windows and doors were nothing but programmable and temporary transparent sections or portals in the structure of modern Sof-Wall© housing.

Scully heard a piercing shriek of frustrated rage and
then there was a rapid pounding of fists on the wall. A short thrill of fear arced through her but Scully swiftly crushed it down. She was used to weirdness. Standing directly in front the area of the raucous disturbance Scully calmly took up a shooter’s stance and said “Interrogation room.” A section of the wall immediately cleared but only one way. She could see out through the wall but the raging attacker could not see in, like an the one-way mirror into a law enforcement interview room. It was a common privacy setting for most homes, only the name was personalized. To Scully’s irritation, Mulder called the one-way setting the “Sexy Exhibitionist Peep Show.”

Scully shook her head, recognizing the pale, scrabbling shape and vestigial but functional wings that beat on the exterior of the nigh-impenetrable house. “Well.” She said. “It took you long enough. House…STARBUCK

The house data net pinged an acknowledgement and in a matter of a few seconds it responded. Swiftly, a long narrow slit in the shape of a crucifix formed in the Sof-Wall©, mimicking in design the arrow slit favored by ancient castle builders to fire projectiles through at enemy soldiers. Sensing the gap opening in the wall the maddened bat creature put it’s face up to the opening and screamed. Scully stepped up to the arrow slit and aimed her gun directly into the toothy maw of the monster. It had hunted for Scully over many decades out of revenge for a fallen mate and moments from perceived victory it realized that something was wrong. A strange guttural noise of surprised issued from the red-lipped mouth. “That’s right.” Scully said grimly. “Ruh-Roh!”

The creature made a motion to flee put Scully was too fast, too prepared. She fired her gun, emptying the entire clip into the face of the bat-creature before it could duck out of sight or fly away. Smoke filled the arrow slit but only briefly as the house whisked away harmful or unpleasant pollutants. Scully peered through the gap in the wall and a medical diagnostic screen appeared on the Sof-Wall©, confirming the creature was indeed truly dead, though the absence of most of it’s head by the impact of twenty-four high powered rounds of ammunition was confirmation enough for Scully. She was sure it would not leap up and attack when she least expected it to. After all, she was a medical doctor. Tucking the warm gun into the pocket of her robe Scully turned away from the still form of the creature, remarking, “There is no scientific explanation for you being so stupid.”

Snapping her fingers and gesturing, Scully let the house return to normal mode after confirming that law enforcement was indeed notified and on it’s way. While she waited she poured herself a glass of wine and wondered where William, her baby, was now and how he managed to glean she was being threatened. She hoped he was thriving though there was no conclusive evidence to suggest otherwise. She knew, though, that she would not rest until she was able to hold William in her arms again. She would have to locate William, wherever he may be. Scully made a decision, knowing she might regret it. “House…Call You-Know-Who.

The Sof-Wall© formed a video screen and moments later it connected, depicting the image of a handsome man with a heavily lined face that showed the results of eschewing medical nano-bots. Scully sighed. “Mulder, it’s me.”

A lean and athirst housing market

Imagine living in a world where magic exists. What if the supernatural was real?

Our world would be a shambles. It is doubtful civilization would exist. Assuming a civilization could be built against all the interference of hostile entities hours of daily life would be extraordinarily consumed with the trappings of protection against evil forces. All the praying and hexing would barely leave time to eat a meal, much less forage for and prepare it.

Proof of life after death, angels and demons would be as obvious and physically evident as the sun. If those entities existed, eternal war would be the result with humans as pawns or casualties. Millions of people would be taken, killed or possessed by entities hostile to all that was good, shambling through the streets like extras in a George Romero film. Only the insane would act in a manner they know for a certainty would cause torment in limbo or fire as the proof of it would be in front of their eyes everyday and night without misinterpretation. But would the mentally ill or any disease even exist? In a world of magic they would be healed through faith and the laying on of hands or potions the moment symptoms manifested.

Physics as we know it now would be radically different than it is. No mysteries would remain as sensitives prove that they can cast their minds through time and space seeking answers and bringing back irrefutable evidence of the way the universe works. Their talents would not be negated, hindered or defeated by cameras, the nearby presence of unbelievers and double-blind tests. If any of the Woo was real it would not be hidden, it would obvious, verifiable and most of all reproducible. Like science is.

SCIENCE vs. SUPERSTITION
SCIENCE WINS

New York City on the Edge of Forever

Since the Star Trek universe was re-booted a few years ago all the Trek-continuity is now invalid and erased. Doing this exposes an entire new audience with disposable income to the Star Trek concepts without all the baggage of passe special effects and dated 1960s allegory.

Another benefit of tossing out and virtually ignoring the decades of Trek history allows all the classic stories to be mined and re-imagined for contemporary consumers. Ruthlessly mining the past will create, at the very least, several decades of chapters to the Trek franchise that are familiar (though not overly dismissive) to the aging fan base yet offer the gloss of being new and improved for the current generation.

In whatever media format new Star Trek chapters will be created older aficionados will appreciate the full nudity the original series was not allowed to reveal and updated, awe-inducing special effects applied to re-imagined tales. Those new to Star Trek will recognize that the franchise is self-aware enough to be mocking the product itself and therefore not be embarrassed or think the show is too corny to spend money on tickets.

The classic time-travel episode The City on the Edge of Forever is probably the best choice for an adaptation into a new chapter in the Trek franchise. Imagine what would happen if the the Guardian of Forever had sent a frenzied Doctor McCoy to the New York of 1976 instead of the 1930s?

What if it was David Berkowitz, the infamous Son of Sam serial killer, who spread a reign of fear through mid-1970s New York, and not a doomed hobo who discovered the phaser dropped by McCoy in the alley? What if the Son of Sam used a phaser instead of a pistol in his crimes?

In the original story pacifist Edith Wheeler had to die to prevent a peace movement that would allow the Nazis to take over the world. In the 2011 story a massacre would have to be reversed and more than one innocent would have to perish for the timeline to return to “normal”.

Too dark? Not for today’s audiences. The rebooted Star Trek is far more sexual, gritty and realistic than the near Utopia envisioned by Gene Roddenberry. Genocide was one of the themes of the 2009 film and millions of people died unseen in throw-away scenes of destruction. So a killer stalking the streets of New York with a terrible weapon that erases people from existence, the drama involved with reversing the events, would not be too far out of the realm of possibility for an updated chapter of the new Star Trek universe.

Hmmm…I feel a fan-fic coming on.