Friday, October 14, 2011

The Space and Time Travel Agency

Excuse me for a few moments of self-indulgence and another chance to tell you what an amazingly good ideas man I am...

My good and dear friend Roger commented on musician Boo Hewerdine's FB page today with something that reminded me of an idea I had back in the 1990s (before Dr Who got its revamp). An idea that I occasionally delve back into, but rarely do anything with. In 1997, when I had just started to get back into writing fiction and started to put my myriad of weird and wonderful ideas down on paper (or computer), I had this idea which I dubbed The Space and Time Travel Agency a kind of cross between Mr Ben, Doctor Who and Jim Starlin's Metamorphosis Odyssey and his Warlock saga (the latter two being a very much acid influenced cosmic saga by one of comics' most respected drug fiends).

The nuts and bolts of the idea was that a man - not too dissimilar to the kids' programme Mr Ben - had run off with his race's only means of salvation. A machine that allowed them to go back in time and erase the mistakes that caused their ultimate downfall. The man, who still hasn't got a name (oddly enough), stole the machine because the changes his race intended to make would almost certainly destroy his family rendering him non-existent.

The man buys a shop in a back alley of a city on Earth and offers people the opportunity to travel to any when or where to observe monumental events; the only proviso being they cannot tamper with time or change the course of history or the future. Sounds all a bit DW, but remember that it was a dead concept in 1997, the film had essentially flopped and the BBC were not in any hurry to bring him back.

The man grabs the attention of a future earth that is run by the Multi-dimensional Church of Disorder - a quasi-religious movement that controls the planet and uses time travel to change events in Earth's past for their benefit. As soon as the man discovers their interest in him, he becomes aware that they have been manipulating the past; changing things, allowing others, so that they would ultimately be the most powerful organisation on the planet and this rogue man with his machine could feasibly change back all the changes the MDCD make or it could fall into the hands of rebels, causing a Time War (yep, something else I envisaged in 1997).

That was about it; I got about 10,000 words down and eventually moved onto other projects and ideas. The thing was, the concept of a man out of time (so to speak) stuck with me. I had an idea about a time traveller, created by a future world, who lived outside the constraints of time. He rebelled against the authority that created him to change events in the past and eventually had to fight different time travellers from different points in the future, while all the time killing ancestors so that whatever point in the future invents time travel, he could make sure it doesn't actually happen. However, despite putting down a few thousand words of this, the concept blew my brain apart and just thinking about it left me gibbering like a demented fool.

Eventually, I started on a massive idea called Cosmopolis - set 1million years in the future; which, while it didn't have any time travel in it, had a man who was half a million years old and another who was a couple of billion. It also started the seeds of another idea I had; something called Stasis - an invention that allowed you to place something out of time, so that it never aged or in the case of its fictional invention, allowed space travel, the transportation of perishable goods and was a future equivalent of cryogenics. Stasis froze things in time, so that anything going on outside of it would continue to age, but anything inside would emerge as if they had spent less than a second of their own lives. I'm sure I've discussed Cosmopolis here before - probably the time I gave a list of all my failed projects - but it was a really ambitious idea of mine. I envisaged an entire series of books all based in the Dyson Sphere that was Cosmopolis. I even stole the name of a comicbook villain as my hero for the series - Korvac.

I even attempted to write a kind of prequel to the story, about the invention of Stasis and the battle to control it. That, like all the others mentioned here, sits in stasis, waiting for the day I win the Lottery, when I can create my own publishing company and write or finish all the ideas I've ever had.

The thing is, all the above are science fiction, something I've never really been a big fan of. I think I've read about 5 SF novels in my entire life (not including the faux SF by Stephen King) and as I'm not particularly science minded, this makes a lot of sense. Yet, science fiction and fantasy are such good mediums for outlandish and impossible stories; it amazes me it isn't a popular as it could be.

But then again, when you have TV programmes like Terra Nova, which purports to be SF, but is actually The Waltons with dinosaurs; or the BBC's Outcasts, where nothing interesting happened until it was cancelled; you can understand why SF isn't treated the way fans believe it should be. I think it would be excellent, especially in light of HBO's Game of Thrones excursion into pure fantasy, if one of the larger Cable companies invested in a proper SF series; with a commitment to have at least three series. Several months ago, I wrote a long thesis, originally designed to go up here, but probably consigned to the bin, about Babylon 5. It was written as an exercise in seeing if B5 could be transposed into a 21st century TV show, especially as it offered as many truly SF moments as it did cheesy character building moments.

Probably the most obvious SF TV show at the moment is Fringe, but that is more bonkers than SF and obviously is constrained by the requirements of being obsequious to fuckwit Yanks. You can't really call any thing with the initials ST or SW as SF and showers of shit like V or Falling Skies are only SF in setting. Hell, I had a great idea for a TV series; it was called Second Contact about a race of aliens who come to Earth and are introduced as the first alien visitors, but are actually the second alien race to come here, the first being hidden away, because the second race is actually trying to exterminate them. It had all the usual intrigue; juxtaposition and plot twists that you'd expect and was going to be ambiguous enough to make the viewer wonder if the benign and wistful original alien race is really to be trusted or the monstrous, mega-aliens with big guns and a completely alien culture are really as bad as they seem. That, like the idea I had with my good and dear friend Martin Shipp is probably also confined to the text bin of history...

I can't remember if I've told you about Sea View. It was another time travel idea I had, which I roped Martin into a few years ago. We decided that two such inventive and excellent people as us should not be doing what we normally do, but should be courted by Hollywood (and the BBC) to create and produce stunningly brilliant TV series. Sea View was about a seaside village that just happened to have a time portal in it, which the locals used and abused, but everything gets thrown into disarray when their benefactor dies and his son becomes the new owner of the hotel - Sea View - which is the centre of all the shenanigans. It was Time Tunnel meets The Monarch of the Glen and was going to be Sunday night drama with a touch of the weird and unusual thrown in to tempt the fans of Lost and programmes of that ilk. However, after people read it they thought it was a pile of pooh, so Martin and I slumped back into reality and haven't attempted to work with each other since, despite talking about it a lot. We did have another idea, but it was a bit of a Dexter derivative, so nothing ever really came of it.

It isn't just me; I see lots of my mates ideas; either for their own comics or for short stories and ideas and wonder how the fuck you get the opportunity to usurp the lazy, useless wankers who continually churn out shit like Terra Nova or Haven. I mean, for Chris'sake, do TV executives really think that the vast majority of viewing public adults still need toilet training?

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