While visiting my parents in El Paso I ran across two great paperback editions by PKD, one was "The Unteleported Man" and the other was "The Eye in the Sky". I picked up both for $5.00 which was awesome and I started reading "The Unteleported Man" immediately.
The first 100 pages of the book are seriously amazing. I was all prepared to declare it one of my favorite PKD books, up until page 100 when the story took a complete left turn into stupidity.
Apparently the book has been published in various forms over the years with the additional material (where things get really stupid) being added in by the author himself to expand a short story which originally appeared in a sci-fi anthology as a long-form short story.
Those first 100 pages are good enough to inspire a feature length film, as long as the adaptation avoided the detour added in to pad the story.
I would recommend the book to those who already love PKD as I do and who are patient enough to plow their way through the second half of the book to get to the ending which was part of the original short story.
For the record, these are my favorite PKD books in no particular order:
*Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? *Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said *The Man Who Japed *Ubik
I might also note that I have read but not particularly enjoyed "The Man in the High Castle" and "A Scanner Darkly" which are often hailed as some of PKD's greatest novels.
Of course, I have barely scratched the surface since he wrote over 40 novels and hundreds of short stories in his lifetime.
I am currently reading the "Paycheck" collection of short stories by PKD and have just finished "The Eye of the Sybil" collection.
While I'm in a list-making mood, here are my favorite sci-fi films of all time:
*Blade Runner *Brazil *Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind *Children of Men *Gattaca *Alien *Aliens *Terminator *The Matrix
It's not uncommon for a film director to use a recurring visual theme to communicate something to the audience that transcends the script or the performance of the actors.
For example, "Blade Runner", the epic sci-fi film directed by Ridley Scott, employs a recurring eye theme throughout the film. The movie opens on a tight close-up of an eye wherein we see the reflection of giant refineries belching fire into the night sky. The camera lingers on the eyes of each actor. Characters sport strange eye-glasses. We are inundated with the human eye throughout the film and it becomes a visual touchstone for the viewer and a subtle whisper for the director to point us to notice something unspoken in his art.
One of the most unexpected themes of the new "Dark Knight" film starring Christian Bale and Heath Ledger is teeth.
Anyone who watches this film will know what I'm talking about. The teeth in this film are a significant visual touchstone.
First we have our main star, Christian Bale. The first time he smiles on camera you'll notice that he's wearing a set of those fake vampire teeth that you buy from the vending machines at Toys R Us, which is kinda cool except then you realize that he's not wearing one of those and you say to yourself, "Hey, that guy has really weird vampire-like teeth."
Morgan Freeman, an actor of amazing range and ability, also has a set of very scary teeth. Just watch the scene where he smiles at the Chinese business owner from across the bargaining table. It will make you wish you were a dentist…or maybe thankful that you're not his dentist.
The Joker, played brilliantly by the late Heath Ledger, also sports a set of yellowed, coffee-stained chompers which he flashes to us continuously throughout the film in scenes gruesome, black humor.
Finally, Aaron Eckhart, who plays the tragic Harvey "Two Face" Dent, displays a mouth full of perfectly-formed pearly whites which become even more prominent when you get to peek through his grotesquely burned cheek at those never-ending, shiny white molars.
Not sure why the film has such a strong teeth motif, and I'm not sure if it was intentional or not, but this film leaves a serious bite mark.
Apparently comics writer Grant Morisson has plans to replace Bruce Wayne with a new Batman following the end of his upcoming "Batman:RIP" storyline.
Although we're not sure what will happen to Bruce Wayne, it seems clear that Morisson plans to introduce a new Batman under the cowl. The question is, will it be Dick Grayson- the original Robin and currently fighting crime by night as "Nightwing"; or will it be Tim Drake the new Robin; or will it be Damian Wayne, the recently introduced son of Bruce Wayne and Talia Al-Gul?
Here's a great idea: Let all three of them be Batman!
Part of the mystique of Batman is the sense of fear he places in the hearts of criminals. Imagine if Batman started showing up all over Gotham at once?
Why should there be only one Batman? All three of the above candidates could easily wear the cape and distribute justice in Gotham liberally.
Instead of leading fans through a year-long pissing match between these 3 heroes competing for the cowl, just let all of them be Batman collectively. They could even take shifts!
Not only would this be a novel idea, they could also justify all those Batman books on the shelves and better explain how one Batman could fill 10 books a month!
So, I predict we'll have Batman: Nightwing; Damian Wayne: Batman; and Tim Drake-Batman books when all is said and done.
And they can ride that horse until sales fall on those books, and then they can jump start things again when Bruce Wayne returns to kick ass and take names.
Key scene in the "Mulitple Batmen" storyline? Gordon refuses to address any of these guys as "Batman" and says, "The only Batman is Wayne, and you know it."
You mean...you knew?
"Of course kid, I was a detective in this city when you were eating your own boogers."
This is posted online elsewhere, but the link is almost 10 years old and one day, who knows when, it will probably disappear.
In preparation for that inevitability I will re-post these poems for posterity here:
NOVEMBER SKY by Keith Giles
I remember the closing eyes the last breath the silence after the snowflake of life has melted and gone. I yearn for words of comfort for great peace to blow the hurt away, for a brief minute to share your name in this November sky. I understand the sharpness of tearing away into something only memories can gather, the great depth of wishing the ears could hear or the blind could see the way you will always feel. Only sharing in the likeness of your sorrow I may speak without a sound. I will take your burden we will find a quiet hill somewhere and our fingers will press down and pull away the land together we will bury it.
There was rhythm in the air that morning a seed-planting rhythm in a land of broken ground. It traveled from my heel to my fingertips and circled in my neck until I bowed my head in submission. The beat continued, echoed across the arid stretch of the hillside and all of the faceless people stood swaying to the rhythm the compelling metronome of hammer and nail and the crescendo mounted until the blood the blood gushed hot and wet onto the grass we held our breath until they lifted the crossbar over our heads, until the sky turned to black cloud, until he whispered that it was finished and the soldiers took him down. But the rhythm never left my feet kept time with the beating in my heart, turned my blood to wine.
I see a moon out of orbit falling into a laughing star exploding like fears feathers dark and spreading over my child's bedroom window wings tempered in iron furnaces of light tap at the glass deep, bloodless eyes below hooded lids that open and close with falling of rain or stars solemn, avenging.
In the doorway in the dark aware of every breath no one sees me no one smiles tomorrow I will summon a Doctor a specialist, a grandmother a friend and my wife we will all watch a different part of her as it passes into the raging star.
Not running anymore the thunder of blood in my ears the only hint of rain quiet lightning across the tree line shatters the night sky for an instant then heals again heals in me the storms you've raged. No answer in the whisper of leaves, no hope in the cold of a cat's-eye moon I inhale my portion of the dark exhale the deep ache of your ghost in me give back all the hurt I've ever known. I give it back.
Here, beside a slow river receiving alms of sand, wages of heat prayers of rain I admit failure.
Here, beneath tired limbs ghost-brown cicada shells cling to the gray mesquite where I lean my shoulder contemplating nothing.
Here, in the long shadow of a sage-covered mountain bound in a chain of wondering I am quiet, holy and evil in a desert of wandering souls, driven by thirst and sin, forgiveness and sand receiving alms wages, and a few heavy prayers.
** All poems copyright 2007 by Keith Giles and may not be used, printed or reprinted without permission from the author.
Contact me at "elysiansky" at hotmail (dot) com for more info
This week's "Elephant Words" burst fiction. See image" Here
After years of running the diamond smuggling cartels throughout Africa, the mysterious Nicolai managed to operate completely through only two men, and of those only one had ever seen him face to face. One man was Alphonse Meridian, a short barrel-chested assassin who only received orders from Nicolai via telephone, and the other was Randolph Siegel, Nicolai's accountant.
The closest Interpol got to him was an undercover agent who entered Nicolai's operation on the ground in Nigeria as a gun-runner. After two solid years proving himself worthy Siegel promoted him to an overseer in their diamond smuggling operation as a pilot. The agent, David Camp, was perfect for the job. His experience flying helicopters into combat zones in Korea proved invaluable to Nicolai's operation and his fame soon spread throughout the organization.
Five years later the agent was installed as Siegel's personal bodyguard and he occasionally flew a private jet to high-level negotiations throughout Europe and Asia.
Interpol nearly threw the switch to take down Siegel and the exposed portion of the operation, but Camp assured them he was only months away from a face-to-face opportunity with Nicolai, and he was right.
Siegel confided in the agent one night that Nicolai was fearful of being identified by the authorities and had scheduled a surgery to change his facial appearance and forever disappear. This meant that, once the operation was complete, Nicolai would become invisible, even to Siegel. Camp knew their time was running out. If they ever hoped to catch Nicolai he time was ripe to act.
Under orders from his superiors Camp assisted in the abduction of Siegel's wife who lived in a large private estate in southern Spain. A small team of five black ops agents hit the water one mile off the coast of his private villa and snorkled onto the beach two hours before dawn. From there they made their way through the forest behind the house and took her and a twelve year old daughter out at gunpoint.
Siegel received the news of the abduction when Camp revealed his identity and demanded to know where Nicolai's surgery was scheduled to occur. Siegel held up brilliantly, even under torture, and only relented when his wife's middle finger was presented to him in a bloody newspaper.
When Camp arrived at the private doctor's office where Nicolai's surgery was scheduled he found a room splattered with blood and two dead bodies, one being the plastic surgeon and the other, presumably, Nicolai. But Interpol could never be sure if the body was indeed that of Nicolai or some other man's dead body planted there to throw them off the trail.
Soon the news of Nicolai's death spread throughout Europe and the power vacuum inspired a bloody internal power struggle. Siegel served only five years in minimum security prison due to his willingness to share a few names and details of Nicolai's operation, although he never divulged the location of Nicolai's massive wealth, claiming that only the now deceased kingpin knew the actual bank account numbers and passwords.
Camp received a commendation and was put on a desk job, which he never liked, and eventually he retired from the business and took a flat in central London.
One day, roughly fourteen years after the biggest undercover assignment of his life, Camp was out on the street, enjoying the rare moment of sunshine and he saw Siegel. He was sitting at a local farmer's market behind a booth selling homegrown mushrooms.
Camp stood across the street staring intently until he was sure it was really Siegel. He studied the mannerisms, the way the old man held his cigarette. The way he brushed his hair away from his eyes. The way he coughed and spat. Finally he placed his hands in his pockets and walked slowly across the street towards his old nemesis.
"Hello Siegel," he said calmly. The man looked at him through old, tired eyes and it took him a moment to connect the face and the voice. Siegel said nothing at first, only nodded slowly and looked away, flicking ash off his imported cigarette with his middle finger and watching the specks float to the sidewalk like isolated flakes of snow.
Slowly Siegel looked back and this time he was smiling. His teeth were yellowed from years of nicotine. They had the color of an old bruise against his weathered lips. He coughed and spat and then looked back up at Camp. "Would you like to know something funny," he said.
"After what we've both seen, I think a good laugh would be in order," Camp said.
"After you abducted my wife and daughter she left me for another man," he said. "She said she could never trust me after finding out that I had allowed you to find her and our child. I can't say I blame her, of course."
Camp waited for the punchline. "I thought you were going to tell me something funny," he said.
Siegel took a last drag on his cigarette and dropped it on the concrete, crushing it out with a few pivots of his boot toe. He looked off into the sky, over Camp's shoulder at the skyline. "Looks like rain again," he said to know one in particular. Then he refocused his weathered eyes on Camp's face and smiled. "I suppose it's funny depending on your perspective," Siegel said. "My wife, she was Greek. Her maiden name was Nicolai."
Camp stood there staring at Siegel's mushrooms.
"In the end," Siegel said, "I think it's funny that Nicolai gave you the finger."
Camp found it hard to laugh as Siegel's cough erupted into a mocking hack.
"At least you got the finger," he said again through his uncontrollable cough and cackle.
Camp could only stand there with his hands in his pockets as the first few cold drops of rain began to patter against his shoulders.
This is how it always starts. First it's one sign. Company policy. Nothing I can do about it, M'am. And then, before you know it, sooner than you'd expect, the martial law orders come down in the middle of the night and policemen in riot gear are riding through the streets firing tear gas at college students and pummelling the innocent in unison.
No one ever takes responsibility for these things. The media blames the government, the politicians blame the media, and the average joe suffers. People like you and me, we're only necessary to keep the machine pumping. Our muscles operate the conveyor belts of progress and our lusts fuel the economy built on the consumption of taxable vice.
The angel spoke to me again last night. Couldn't sleep at all. My damn tooth again. I could put pressure on that side of my head and feel the hot infection spread beneath the skin, radiating over my skull.
I was in the bathroom dabbing the last of the Ambusol on the molar when she began to sing to me. Just like last time only louder. "Send them to me," she sang. The colors of the vision were liquid joy. They spun in the air between the mirror and my head, just out of reach. I wanted to close my eyes and sleep to the heavenly music, but I couldn't bear to shut out the colors.
It only lasted ten, maybe fifteen minutes but when it was over my eyes were full of tears. I blinked them away, letting them run like hot rivers down my swollen cheeks.
Donnie had given me a pound of dynamite last year, before he jumped off the bank building, before Janet left him for that guitarist. I found it under my bed, wrapped in an old U2 t-shirt. It smelled like a pair of old boots my dad used to make me shine for him every Saturday afternoon.
"Send them to me," the angel sang. I couldn’t get that music out of my head. All night long it resonated, echoing in my mind like a song you hate but cannot keep humming once you've heard it playing over the radio.
I shoved the old dynamite, still bundled in the t-shirt, into my backpack and zipped it shut along with a picture of me and Donnie from his birthday party last winter and a letter I had written for my Mother but never mailed.
The next day, at the DMV, I went into the bathroom and unspooled the lump, held together with two orbits of duct tape, and lit the lead fuse with my dad's old Zippo. I always loved the "Clicht" and "Snicht" of the chrome cover as it opened and closed. I felt like a Soviet spy purging the world of capitalism and mindless oppression.
As I watched the fuse sizzle down I heard the angel sing to me again. It was faint at first, but soon I could hear her soft whisper, "The poison in my veins sang like jaded copper bees, the blood it spilled rain down in drops, rained down my arms, filled up my sleeves…"
Tiny sparks were popping intermittently out of the fuse. Tiny tendrils of smoke spun off of each flashing ember and faded slowly into the air above my head like silver daydreams.
I unlocked the bathroom door and tossed the lump high into the air, underhanded like tossing a grapefruit to a friend across the room. Before it hit the ground it erupted into a shower of force and light. Kaleidoscope of color and fury set to the sound of angels in joyous release.
"Here they come," I said to the angels, just before all of the lights went out.
Richard Kadrey is the master of what I call "Burst Sci-Fi" which is the art of writing short stories that fit onto a single page yet are more intriguing and beguiling than any novel-length story you've ever read.
Kadrey manages to pack more great ideas, with exquisite language, into a small space than anyone I've ever known.
Proof? Here it is:
MUDROSTI (the burning satellite re-entry) http://www.infinitematrix.net/stories/shortshorts/kadrey17.html
And this: DOG BOYS (the pre-"Desolation Jones" short): http://www.infinitematrix.net/stories/shortshorts/kadrey21.html
And this: SURFING THE KHUMBU (mega-cool sci/fi spy girl action): http://www.infinitematrix.net/stories/shortshorts/kadrey27.html
The damn machine sputtered and shook violently before it back-fired and died with a slow belch of black smoke. I sat back and let the great yellow beast roll a few more feet before it finally ground itself to a stop. The sound of the gravel crunching beneath the knobby black tires was like the hot sizzle of grease in a hot skillet.
I closed my eyes and for a moment I imagined I wasn't covered in dirt and sweat. I was at home, my family was alive and this damn war had never happened.
My hand strayed absently to the raised scar across my stomach. It was still tender. The Jackals had inserted their toxic sacks into my abdomen before I could escape. The rest of my family hadn't been so lucky. Their bodies were already providing nutrients to the genetic embryos growing inside them. In a few weeks they'd be cut open to harvest the biological weapons inside and discarded into the pit behind the barn.
When I opened my eyes reality snapped back into place. There were only two rounds in the pistol and my canteen was mostly condensation. The last bite of food I'd had was days ago. Almost on cue I could hear the sound of distant gunfire. Getting closer? It didn’t matter. I had to move.
I dropped out of the cockpit and pulled my backpack down from the cab in one single motion. The sun would be down soon and I needed to find cover before dark.
My feet started to hurt immediately and I remembered why I'd stolen the dump truck in the first place. Either way I had to keep moving. The Jackals would certainly have missed their vehicle by now, and even if they were mostly ass-backwards religious nut-jobs, they were also well-known for their creative forms of torture. No turning the other cheek for them, no sir.
My pistol was digging into my hip as I ran so I had to pull it out to keep my pace. It felt good in my hand. The weight of it was seductive and it gave me the illusion of power. For a moment there I really felt like I could make it another day without a fight, and then I heard the approaching sound of the helicopters. I didn't need to look up to know the gleaming hornets were headed straight for me. I decided to drop the backpack and run hard for the treeline.
Those were Government air patrols. I'd run into them before. They swept the countryside looking for people dumb enough to venture outside in the daylight. People like me.
I'd rather face the Jackals than be gunned down in my tracks by fifty-millimeter canons. The tree line was thirty yards away. I could tell without looking that the helicopters were probably a half mile behind. Almost within range to squeeze off a few shots at me. My lungs were on fire as I sprinted for the trees.
Suddenly I felt a hot ripping in my stomach and at first I thought they must have shot me, but looking down I could see my wound had re-opened. Bright red blood was pouring out of the gash as I ran, but I couldn’t stop. I had to reach the treeline.
The sound of the helicopter was impossibly loud now. The blades were chopping the air into chunks and I couldn't hear myself breathe. Any minute now the bullets would come and I would never hear a thing.
Closer now. Were they toying with me? Why else would they wait so long to cut me in half with their guns?
Suddenly the air around me filled with swirling dirt which caked onto my skin and filled my eyes with sand. I had to stop and cover my eyes as the copter hit the ground just twenty yards away. My hand went up to aim the pistol and I realized the helicopter was white, not black. There was a large red cross against the fuselage.
I lowered my weapon and a young woman dropped from the passenger side to jog over to my side.
"My name is Soreena," she said into my ear as the rotor blades wound slowly down. "Congratulations, Sir."
I cocked my head and licked my lips. The smell of her hair was like honeysuckle. Her green eyes were flecked with yellow and her skin was clean. She had recently bathed and was wearing clean clothes and new shoes. I hadn't seen anything like this since before the war which was years ago.
"Who the hell are you?" I asked.
"I'm with the network. You've won, sir. Our viewing audience has selected you as our grand prize winner. How do you feel sir?"
I looked down at her slender hands and realized she was holding a wireless microphone. Over her shoulder I could see a camera man and a lighting engineer. They were wearing new clothes too.
I shot her once in the forehead and as she fell forward I shot the cameraman who was also, apparently, the pilot.
The lighting engineer dropped his parabolic lamp and raised both hands into the air. I couldn't hear what he was saying but I didn't really care.
The pilot’s seat was still warm when I slid into the cockpit. The fuel gauge read full. I wound up the rotors and as I pulled back on the stick and cut into the skyline the sun was setting just behind the hills.
RANDOM ACTS by Keith Giles (A prequel story from "UV:Target")
Claire told everyone who would listen that she saw things. Visions, and premonitions. She said she was clairvoyant. I think I was the only person in our entire school who didn’t need to look up the word in the dictionary to figure out what she was talking about.
Anyway, we got to be friends. I imagined that she had a crush on me, but it was really the other way around. I would’ve done anything for her, but I think she just needed someone to talk to and I was a good listener.
About a year ago, around the Fourth of July, she and I were talking on the phone. She was crying and telling me that three little kids were going to get shot that evening, accidentally. She kept asking me why it is that only little kids and single Mom’s get hit by the stray bullets that drunk assholes fire into the air on Independence Day. “Why don’t the gang-bangers and the rapists get hit by those bullets?” she asked. I didn’t have any good answers.
The next night on the evening news there was the story of three separate stray bullet accidents where little kids got hit in the head and died. One single Mom was hit in the chest and had to be rushed to a hospital but was going to be ok.
That’s when I got the idea about how I could answer Claire’s question.
My Dad had a silver-plated .357 Mangum handgun he kept between the mattress on his side of the bed. I had a wristwatch with this global positioning feature on it. I took a map of the city and worked out a radius that a .357 Magnum slug would possibly hit based on the known speed velocity of the bullet leaving the barrel, and the angle of the trajectory. I also factored in the variant wind speed in the upper atmosphere using a local weather site I found online. After a few tries, I was able to develop a formula where I could, theoretically mind you, hit any target on the map in a three mile radius of my house.
I showed Claire my calculations and told her the next time she got a vision that another child was going to be hurt or shot by a stray bullet, I could put a bullet into the air and strike any target, if she could tell me where the shooter was and when it was going to happen.
At the time she just wrinkled her brow. Her nose crinkled up and she half-smiled at me, but I think mostly she was just fascinated that my Dad owned a handgun.
The next Fourth of July she came over to my house. My Mom and Dad had gone out to a company party and fireworks show and I pretended I needed to study for a test on Monday. As soon as they left Claire came over.
I confess I was pretty nervous about having a girl in my room alone. She had on a skin-tight black tube top that showed off her pale white belly and these tight black jeans. She laid down on my bed and curled up with my pillow because she said she only got the visions when she slept. She fell asleep after a few minutes and I surfed the web a little, but mostly I watched her sleep.
Around 10:30pm she woke up talking strange. Like she was half-asleep and half-awake, but still dreaming about something.
“There’s a little boy on San Juan who’s going to get shot by a stray bullet,” she said.
“Where’s the bullet come from, Claire? Where?” I said.
She never opened her eyes, kind of swayed around the room a little, then said, “His name is Matt and he lives on Baine Street. 1478 Baine Street.”
I got to work on the map. Found Baine Street just about two miles North of my house. Marked it on the map and used the Global Positioning Unit to triangulate the trajectory of the bullet first.
“Hurry,” she said. “He’s getting his gun now!”
I didn’t have time to double-check my calculations but they looked about right. Next I tried to pull up the URL for the weather site but it was taking its time loading up.
“He’s loading it.”
Finally it came up and I had to type in today’s date and my zip code. A pop-up window blocked my typing in mid-stroke and I had to grab the mouse to close it.
“There’s a girl about to be raped,” she said. “On Newport and First.”
“Wait, I can’t do two at the same time,” I said. The website was slow loading the current weather report.
“Matt’s got the gun now. He’s aiming into the sky.”
“Almost done, Claire. Hang on,” I said. My fingers fumbled on the calculator keys.
“There’s a cop in Album Park about to get shot. Hurry.”
I couldn’t do that many at one time. I was still struggling to get the first address and trajectory calculated when suddenly Claire grabbed my Dad’s gun.
The sound of the gunshots felt like someone stabbing my eardrums with icepicks. Car alarms down the street started going off.
I watched her lift the heavy, chrome-plated revolver in her small white hands and randomly fire three shots out the window, turning slightly to place each bullet at a different angle.
The gun dropped to the floor like a rock. Smoke curled out of the barrel like silver ooze. Claire shook her head and broke out of her trance. “What’s that smell?” she asked.
I tried to explain to her what had just happened and then said she needed to go home. Without another word she was out the door and down the stairs to the street.
I quickly put my Dad’s gun back in the closet and tried to clean up any evidence of what we’d been doing.
The next night on the evening news they ran a story about a guy named Mathew Ward who was hit by a stray bullet, right through the skull, just as eyewitnesses say, he was preparing to fire a drunken shot into the sky to celebrate our Nation’s Independence with his friends.
Another story followed about a Cop in Album Park who nearly died when a thug grabbed his gun in a scuffle but was saved when the kid got hit by a random bullet in the arm and dropped the weapon.
The last victim of random gunfire was a boy in an alley on Newport and First who got shot by a stray bullet in the leg just as he was about to date-rape his girlfriend.
Claire and I never talked much after that night. She ended up moving to another school the next semester.
Still, random bullets fall out of the sky in Maverick County every Fourth of July and New Years and they always seem to hit the right kinds of people.