This time I want to present you with an exercise which I think you will find both challenging and enjoyable. Take two random items and call me in the morning. Seriously, take two things, a movie, a book, a pop group, a TV show, and combine them into a short story. Neil Gaiman did this once with Sherlock Holmes and HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, in “A Study In Emerald”. The original Holmes story was “A Study In Scarlet” referring to the colour of blood, whereas the Gaiman story featured green blooded Victorian royal family creatures and so it was retitled to reflect the colour change. Also you should look at “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” by Seth Grahame-Smith.
To illustrate my point I’ve written a short 2200 word story combining two different things to make something new. With work (and of course the proper permissions) this could easily be worked up into a screenplay or novel. See if you can guess where I got the ideas from.
By all means send me your ideas and I’ll print the best in a future blog.
He opened his eyes and an attractive middle aged nurse beside his bed was taking a long drip needle out of his arm and tidying away the cables and tubes into a drawer under a beautiful curved chrome machine on wheels.
She smiled at him and he smelled cinnamon and cloves. Can you smell emotions? He wasn’t sure. Her lips were red and the sound the colour made was like a huge bell. Do colours have a sound? He could feel the warmth of her body radiating towards him, penetrating the thin sheet and flowing over him like warm water. Interesting.
The nurse wheeled the machine around the bed and out of the room.
The walls were white and high up on the wall facing him were a row of large glass panels behind which four men in white coats were peering down with a mixture of concern and delight.
One of the men leaned sideways a little and pressed a switch out of view of the window and somewhere a speaker crackled.
“How are you feeling?”
He spoke and his throat was dry. “Groovy.”
“Excellent. Welcome Paul 57, we are your fathers. It’s so good to meet you. You are part of a large and loving family. We welcome you.” Then he turned away to talk to someone in the room. “Reset please…”
“Roger that” said another distant voice. The voice smelled like anchovies. Then without warning he felt a bone crunching motion, as if he was shot through space into a bucket via a flashbulb. Stars were still twinkling in his eyes when he found himself dressed and upright and shaking a man’s hand. He followed the hand along a white-coated arm to a kindly face. A bald man in his late 30s with slate blue eyes. His voice was soothing, and he was sure he’d heard it before.
“Hello Paul 57. My name is Epstein Daniels and I will be your Chief Epstein during your term here, will you be requiring any food or drink before we get started?”
Paul 57 responded with a docile shake of his head.
“Very well then, we’ll get started with your first project. As you will be aware from your memory pre-loads this is your instrument. You will also be aware that in order for you to learn it we can’t just upload the knowledge to your brain.” He laughed. “That would not work because in order to be good at something physical like playing an instrument you have to practice. You practice, the neurons in your brain store the experience as myelin coating on the nerve fibres and…” he paused. “Sorry I get carried away, you don’t need to know that. What we do is called ‘deep practice’ which is a way to teach you something fast and well. You repeat until you have it, correct as you go, and the concentrated repetition makes you grow the myelin faster… Ah sorry the pre-load has all that, along with how to read music. In any case this is what we do, so let’s get you sorted out.”
Epstein Daniels pressed a couple of electrodes with wires on Paul 57s forehead. “Don’t worry about these, they are just to monitor your neurons firing…”
Paul 57 smiled. “It’s okay Epstein Daniels, I know what is expected of me, and I’m happy to learn.”
Daniels nodded and placed the instrument in Paul 57’s hands, put the strap gently around his neck and hooked it up to the machine. He pointed to the two curved monitor screens in front of them containing musical notes.
“We shall begin your deep practice programming now. Play the notes you see on the left hand screen, and the notes you actually play will be displayed on the right hand screen. Correct yourself when it fails to match. The colour of the notes will also be different depending on your expression, your SOUNDING of the notes, do you follow?”
This time a docile nod.
“Excellent. Well then off you go.” He spoke into small square device in his hand. “Epstein Daniels of 1967 division here. Ready for SGT in studio 10. Run track one please, from the top.”
Paul 57 played the notes of the song, haltingly at first, but stronger each time. The song played on a loop, starting again at the beginning after a 5 second pause at the end. Round and around, stopping only briefly for a break when either Paul 57 or Epstein Daniels needed the toilet or a drink of water. Each time round the loop Paul 57 got more sure, more fluent. By the end of the day, the two screens were perfectly synchronised every time.
Paul 57 gently pulled the adhesive electrodes from his forehead and set down the bass guitar on its stand next to the screens. Epstein Daniels smiled broadly, clearly very impressed by how well it had gone.
“Outstanding, Paul 57, outstanding. You are one of the fastest McCartneys we’ve ever had here at 1967 division! Most impressive. Okay, go into the changing room and Epstein Clark will show you to your room. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is done and dusted. Tomorrow we’ll get started on A Little Help From my Friends.”
The reporter grips her microphone as if it was an ice cream snack, and speaks with an odd smile fixed to her face as if someone is holding a gun to her mother’s head.
“I’m Celia Shaunessy and I’m here at the entrance of The Beatles Experience and Theme Park. Of course controversy has been rife during the creation and construction of this park, mostly for it’s use of specially engineered clones of The Beatles from different decades of their lives. Many activists are raising questions about the employment of human clones for entertainment per se, but also the care and treatment of the clones in the various shows around the park. Proponents argue the park is a vital piece of historical research.”
The camera abruptly cuts to a shot of a science lab with white coated technicians working on lab tables stacked with tubes and wires and bubbling flasks of liquid. Actually this lab was subsequently shown to be a prop lab created for the customers to watch and staffed by actors. The actual cloning process would either disgust them or give them nightmares. But it makes for a cool shot so it stays in. Cue the voice over from Celia.
“Here is the actual lab where Dr Mark Strangely originally invented the cloning process which recreated the original Beatle clones, John 1, Paul 1, George 1 and Ringo 1, back in 1995. DNA was recovered from the living Beatles through biological samples they gave in their lives. Now 20 years later, those original fab four clones (known as the Primes) are board members at CORE Biotronic, the company set up by Dr Mark Strangley and the park is now complete and after 5 years of planning and construction will shortly be opening its giant bass drum door to the public.”
Cut to Celia, again facing the camera with that oily fake grin. The apple shaped DNA helix logo of CORE Biotronic is large and fuzzy behind her.
“After the tragic and unexpected death of founder Dr Mark Strangely only a month ago, it was unclear whether the project would be abandoned, or at least delayed as a mark of respect. But the board decided to press on. Paul 1 known these days as Paul Prime issued a statement on behalf of the board just a week ago confirming the dates and explaining why they were going ahead.”
Now a shot of Paul Prime, aged around 40, reading from a prepared statement written on a card with the curly psychedelic BEATLES EXPERIENCE logo printed on the back.
“After the death of our friend, our father if you like, only a few short weeks ago, none of us, either past or current clones, the Epsteins who train and care for them, or the many technical staff who make this park happen, wanted to go on. But in the end we decided to do it anyway, as a mark of respect for our father, and as a permanent monument to his name. As you see from the card I hold in my hand his name is now a part of the logo, and as part of the policing our brand his name will always be part of the logo on any printed materials relating to the park. Thank you. Peace.”
He holds up the card and woven into the design of the logo are the words “created by Dr Mark Strangely”.
The camera is now on the customer monorail, the park empty and new. The monorail cruises around the park allowing easy access to all the areas grouped in decades, where the clones put on concerts in special glass domed amphitheatres seating around 3000 each. The shot pans around from the 1967 dome where you can clearly see into the top of the dome and the hundreds of seats, while far away on stage three guitars and a shiny silver drum set on a high riser are centre stage dwarfed by the sound system and seven storey high TV monitors. Panning up, the camera sees the other nine domes stretching into the distance. Then it pans back to the carriage to Celia gazing appreciatively over the scene lit by the setting sun. Behind her other camera crews film the domes. Celia’s voice talks over this shot.
“It’s a remarkable achievement, purely from a construction point of view, and despite the cost of an estimated 4 billion dollars, it’s fully expected that it will make that back in ticket sales and merchandise in the first year, maybe even half a year.”
Finally a shot of Celia with that same odd smile standing surrounded by eight or nine Beatle clones. She seems uneasy. Around her are a handful of younger Cavern Club Beatles, a few Sgt Pepper clones and a couple of Let It Be clones. The younger clones are poking their thumbs up or making bunny ears behind her head. The Let It Be clones just smoke and talk to each other behind their hands.
“All in all, despite the controversy, it is bound to be the best day out for Beatle fans and indeed music fans the world over. Next year the first album by the Prime Clones will be in the stores and of course the concert movie shot on all ten stages over the course of the first year will be out at Christmas Time. This is me, Celia Shaunessy wishing you love, love, love.”
The Beatles all cheer and some start singing All You Need Is Love and a few start singing All Together Now as the camera fades to black. For some reason, despite her words, the young reporter looks frightened.
Paul Prime was seated at the long black conference table with George Prime when Ringo Prime and John Prime entered and sat down.
“It’s getting worse” said Paul, speaking in his private natural accent and not his public Liverpudlian tones. None of the Prime Clones spoke with an accent except in public.
John massaged his goatee. “I thought it might. Dr Strangely was right after all.”
Ringo opened a file in front of him, a medical report, and scanned it quickly. “Dopamine levels are up. Elevated adrenaline. Not good. Maybe we should have let Strangely blow the whistle and save ourselves the trouble.”
Paul slapped his hand firmly on the marble table. “No!” Then with a controlled intake of breath, more softly, “no. What happened was an accident. It may still be salvageable…”
George sat with his arms crossed in front of him. “Salvageable? Wake up, brothers. The Lennons are revolting, no offense…”
John shrugged and smiled.
George continued. “The Lennons are actually contacting each other between the domes. Meeting in secret. The Harrisons are refusing to work until the matter is resolved peacefully. The Starrs just want everyone to be happy and will go along with what the Johns and Pauls decide. And the McCartneys are acting like they are in charge, giving out orders and even taking over deep practice training from the Epsteins and teaching IMPROVISING. I mean good GOD man, it’s a bloody shambles.”
John said wryly without looking up. “Imagine, McCartneys thinking they are in charge, whatever next.”
Ringo and George laughed.
Paul glared under his eyebrows ignoring the obvious jibe. “This is serious. But we’ll contain it. The park will open on schedule. I have a plan.”
The three other primes stared.
“Yes. A plan. Something was always missing from the formula. Dr Strangely always knew there was something missing from the mix. He said, we did everything right. We grew them from embryos, trained them on their instruments with deep practise on deliberately undersized instruments, subjected them only to culture from the decade they were supposed to be from, and let them only have technology and news from the correct time period. We subjected them to all the same psychological pressures that made the originals who they were. But something was still missing and we never realised it until now. Something that would have prevented Dr Strangely… Mark, OUR FATHER, meeting his death in the way he did. Something that would keep the clones in check. Integrate them into a working group. The missing link. The voice of sanity.”
They stared and thought for a moment in silence.
The door opened and all of the Fabricated Four turned and stared as a thin young man with blonde side combed hair walked calmly into the room and stood to attention at the end of the table.
“Guys, I give you George Martin Prime. The Fifth Beatle.”
I hope you enjoyed that (if you did please let me know) and you can see that the story sprang from two well known sources, The Beatles, who I am obsessed with at the moment, and the Jurassic Park movies of the late great Michael Crichton of whom I am also a huge fan. Putting together a pastiche or a mashup of this type is both entertaining and instructive. First you have to decide on your two subjects, figure out how to blend the two stories, think of a style in which to write it, and plan the whole thing and write it. I will do a “making of” in the next newsletter. (Update: if you are not a subscriber, you can read it HERE.)
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