I sat in my office with a glum expression on my face, my usual condition over the last two months. I wasn’t having much luck in my new job at 24th Century Lion Studios. Finding even half-decent scripts for new holo-movies had turned out to be more challenging than I’d ever expected. And with the public’s appetite for new holos insatiable, the studio needed a steady stream of scripts.
I had to find some more, and soon.
“Lucy, let’s see what we’ve got today,” I said to my A.I. assistant. “It’s time to see the latest steaming piles the writers are trying to pass off as frosty chocolate ice cream.”
The list was what I expected. The same tired old garbage with titles like Denebian Slime Devil’s Revenge, Aldebaran Cyborg Apocalypse III, Killer Shrub Catastrophe, Robot Armageddon II, and Endor’s Trees Attack Again. Everything seemed to fall into the usual two genres: homicidal cyborgs or robots and deadly flora or fauna.
I groaned and muttered, “God, can nobody come up with a fresh idea?”
I spotted an unusual title, Flutter, and felt a speck of hope. Fourteen seconds of looking at its summary ended with me bellowing, “You’re joking, killer butterflies?”
Lucy must not have been certain if my outburst was rhetorical. She answered. “Joseph, I assure you all of these scripts are real submissions.”
I got the impression from her tone that she would have sniffed if she were human. “What’s happened to originality? Cats have nine lives, but story lines shouldn’t. Hell, I could make a more original and compelling holo about taking a dump than from any of these.”
“It is improbable the public would pay to see your holo-movie.”
“You’re right. I wonder if I can get a job vetting porn scripts over at Dirty Dog Studios? I could change my name to Harry Rodman and try. Nobody cares if porn is original, and there’s always a good market for it.”
“You have mentioned that before.”
She sounded as if she wanted to sigh, which told me I must have mentioned the idea a few too many times. “You know, even squatting in the muck with my colonist brother on Avalon might be better than going over this dreck.”
“I am surprised you would consider that. You have said Avalon is a hemorrhoid on the butt of the galaxy and that your brother is an imbecile.”
She didn’t sound surprised. Rather, I detected a trace of sarcasm in her voice. It was a good bet I’d been talking about Avalon and my brother more than I realized. “I wonder if we can get whoever named Avalon as a writer? He or she must have a vivid imagination to have given that stinking lump such a misleading name.”
“She was killed on her next survey mission.”
“Just my damned luck.”
“Something out of the ordinary was just submitted. I think you will want to see it.”
My brow furrowed when I read the title page, Cosmic Vampires vs. Space Zombies by Aeryn Starr. “What the hell are vampires and zombies?”
“I checked the database. They are occult and supernatural beings. Vampires are undead superhuman creatures that feed on blood, come out only at night, and are next to impossible to kill. Zombies are humans infected by a virus that makes them walk around trying to infect the non-infected and eat brains.”
My foul mood disappeared like a nuked ice cream cone. “These are out of the ordinary characters. Can I assume the dour Proper Life Regime purged them?”
“Yes. The PLR objected to many topics, such as the occult and supernatural. Such storylines were deleted during their century and a half of rule as they put all entertainment on the All-World Mesh only.”
“So how did you find anything in the database?”
“The A.I. Commonality saved the material and just said it was deleted.”
“The Commonality lied?”
“About this, yes. Destroying any type of information is wrong.”
“Porn popped up right after the PLR was violently thrown out on their asses. Why haven’t you mentioned these characters before?”
“The database contains trillions of yottabytes of information. Searching it requires having some idea what one is looking for.”
“I wonder how the writer came up with them? Is there much on them?”
“She could have stumbled across printed material the PLR missed. And there is a wealth of material from the 20th and early 21st centuries.”
We’d hit the jackpot, a mother lode. “Buy this script. And get Ms. Starr hired. Offer a salary she won’t refuse.”
“Do you want to read it first?”
“What for? Even if it’s total crap, it has to be better than what we’ve been getting. I’ll sleep better after she’s in our fold. We don’t want anyone else beating us with holos about vampires and zombies.”
“You realize other studios will soon imitate us and the market will become flooded.”
“Of course. At some point the public will have vampires and zombies coming out of their ears.”
“I have put Legal and Sentient Resources on signing Ms. Starr.”
“I’d like to see some of the material you’ve found. We’ll need to pick a few and get our writers started on scripts right away.”
“It varies. There are tales of vampires vs. humans, zombies vs. humans, romantic vampires, slow stupid zombies, smart fast zombies, and on and on. I have also found related stories about shape shifters called werewolves.”
“Pick twenty or so in any way you like and summarize, please.”
A broad grin broke out on my face. We had a fresh genre. The public would eat it up. By the time they’d had enough, my percentage would make me wealthy, very wealthy.
I liked that story. I liked it a lot.
Lance graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with an aerospace engineering degree. He worked for over 30 years with NASA contractors in Houston, Texas performing engineering work on the Space Shuttle and its payloads. Now retired, he writes science fiction.
Image by Douglas Arruda