Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dead Planet XIII

Dead Planet XIII

“Gosseyn stared somberly
out of the curving corner
window of his hotel room.
From its thirty-story
vantage point, he could
see the city of the Machine
spread out below him.”
—A. E. van Vogt,
The World of Null-A

Well, the funny thing is—I ended up down there anyway. Deep down there in the Tyrell Corp headquarters boardroom. In the sub-Mars bunker zone anyway. What a fuckin' joke...

Like Dr. Tyrell said—my droidboy Lover knew the quickest way down there. Into the Martian Sub-City far below Hellas Town. And that’s when the kid took me—as soon as I fell asleep.

Smack-dab in the middle of the Tyrell boardroom—with all the TTT suits & off-planet creepazoids. Just like I thought would happen—I was fucked.

You can’t trust douchedroid boytoys—they’ll play dumb on you & then they’ll end up getting what they want anyway. What’s the use—once you’ve gone Droid, there’s no turnin’ back.

The kid waited until I was asleep in bed—working my way down thru alpha, beta, delta & all the other brain waves. Most humans did it that way. Sci-writer A. E. van Vogt knew that—he’d time it. The dream cycles just right. He knew how long it took to start dreaming. Ninety minutes…

Usually it takes 90 minutes to get into R.E.M. sleep. When your eyelids start jiggling & dancin’—that means you’re dreaming. Well, van Vogt set the alarm on his nightstand clock—so that he’d wake up during those REM cycles. He’d write them down in a dream journal—then he’d set the alarm & go back to sleep again. It’s simple enough—he discusses it in him memoirs.

That’s how van Vogt dreamed up so many unique, kinky, fragmented scenarios in his novels. Like Slan and World of Null-A—they were more like dream-journal adventure stories. It’s what gives his Astounding Science Fiction early stories like “Black Destroyer” so much eerie, oneric action & otherworldly atmosphere. Dreamtime storylines…

Van Vogt’s novels opened up the same effect—kicking in the Golden Age of Sci-Fi back in the ‘40s & ‘50s. No wonder so many juvenile Sci-fi fans got turned on by van Vogt’s swerve—he was “jacked-in” long before CyberPunk fiction. Long before Gibson’s Necromancer—captured the Internet generation.

I didn’t have to do that—it didn’t take me 90 minutes to get there. I dreamt instantaneously—and lucidly thanks to my droidboy lover. Droids don’t need all that alpha-beta-delta wave jazz—they can jump into REM just like that. The kid was good at it—instead of taking 90-minutes, he mind-melded & jacked me into dreamtime right away.

“Pretty neat, huh?” the kid said.

So like Tyrell wanted to meet me—after all I was an authority on online Nexus-9 performance by then. Plus I was pretty cynical & realistic—since I’d been a droid bounty-hunter back there on Earth.

It was more than cool. The Tyrell Headquarters—was this chic LA nightclub like The Cockatoo Lounge in Tarantino’s Charlie Brown. Cool, dark, lots of chrome & leather. A mirrored bar—with the usual suave bartender. All of it relaxed and air-conditioned—like a calm rendezvous with your girlfriend.

Except it was 700 stories beneath the surface—the hum of Krell back-engineered high-tech & rumbling invisible machinery in the background. The kid took me into an intimate backroom—that’s where the suits were waiting for us.

Tyrell was just finishing up an interview with a tall menacing Bill Gates drone—in his Microsoft Zoot-Suit with his gang of Venusian bodyguards. All women of course—cloned after Jan Sterling for some reason. They looked bored & slutty—like in Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole.

Slumpin’ down the rickety wooden stairs—on the outside of the dumpy café. Swooped up by nefarious Kirk Douglas—in some swank convertible. Kept around for his big newspaper story—the one about the poor sucker dying back there in the guts of the dark fuckin’ cave somewhere.

That’s how REM dreamtime imagination works—it never seems completely real. There’s always a little bit of magic realism involved—kinda like Borges’ seminal Spanish translation of Faulkner’s Wild Palms. That single one translation of Faulkner—kick-starting the whole real marvavilloso americano thing. The new South American “Boomer” fabulation genre. All the way from Buenos Aires, Argentina—to Havana, Cuba. And into the future…

Whatever that means…

So that whenever the kid—got inside my head. Well, there was always a little auteur cineaste aura to everything I saw and did. Not as bad as Severo Sarduy's Cobra—a little more like Borges’ Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius. That’s what the Martian City down there reminded me of—that weird Borges Circular City story I read back when I was a kid on Earth. Before the Gulf Apocalypse…

So that when I talk about it—and describe it. About what happens down there—well, take it with a little bit of cinematic skepticism and cheesy Lo real marvavilloso americano. The baroque marvavilloso in a dream—it begins unmistakably when suddenly & unexpected you find yourself in a strange intensity and singularity.

It already presupposes a suspension in belief—as if that’s a big deal when you’re dreaming. Most people accept the reality of their ongoing dream without question—unless they’re trained to know the difference. To know you’re dreaming & still dig it—that’s the trick of magic dream realism.

There’s this swerve—this baroque shift into timeless liquidity. When everything seems fait accompli—with its own logical precision. But there’s always a little bit of stealthy swerve to it—something that incorporates metropolis marvavilloso thinking. Even if its from the far future…

Or paradoxically from the ancient past as well—the immediate, spontaneous magic dream-text being more realistic than any realist text could be. Baroque magic realismo turns into itself—like two mirrors bending backwards away from each other. One has to constantly refocus—to keep from being destroyed by Oort Cloud muck & galactic oozing mucous.

The muck & mucous is you—on the marvavilloso downslide moving thru REM time. The kid walked me thru it—at least he was good for something. He’d learned the gamut of human reactions pretty good—he could guess where the nature & limits of the knowable were for me. It helped to have a cute young hustler—being one’s guide as we tripped & transgressed supernatural boundaries down thru the usual ho-hum undesignated typologies of the fantastic unreal. The baroque subway…

I needed a little young male beauty—to offset some of the grotesque stratagems of the skanky hypertext imagination. That’s why Tyrell picked a bounty-hunter like me with literary leanings—I was a quick study for carnival sideshow scams and unresolved antinomies. Martian mythology was full of that kind of shit—like the myths & legends of the Aztecs, Mayans and Inca exiles.

Certain French directors got pretty close—like Jacques Tourneur in the voodoo flick I Walked With a Zombie. The same his The Cat People—and Out of the Past. Even more so with Night of the Demon (1957)—aka "Curse of the Demon. That opening scene with the doomed professor—driving thru the tunnel of dark trees late at night to the Magician’s mansion. That’s how I felt as we descended—quickly down into the depths of Mars.

The idea of alien terror can be both—rejuvenating and overwhelming. Everybody needs a guide down thru that kind of real marvavilloso americano stuff—whether he’s a young Virgil in Dante’s Inferno or a handsome Heurtebise in Cocteau’s Orphée.

The kid was my guide—I looked over at him. Driving the Mercedes dream-limo. He was my chauffeur down into Martian Hell. A couple of young doubles—were escorting us goin’ over 100. They were driving sleek black BMW motorcycles alongside us. Wearing mean beat-up leather jackets—and black leather boots. With dark thick goggles—and baroque Zoid rayguns under their belts.

What else? What else could get me down there—quick and just like that? It was just like Tyrell said—the kid knew the fastest way to get me down there. And that’s what he did—despite all my fuckin’ moanin’ & bitchin’.

“Smile like you mean it,” the kid said, as we entered the nightclub boardroom…

After Tyrell dismissed the Gates gang—the doors dialed shut & clicked. We were alone—and yet we weren’t alone.

Tyrell was telepathic, of course—I came to expect that kind of thing during these dreamtime episodes. It was better for business that way—no secrets, no special deals, no blackmail bullshit. Even the fuckin’ greatly feared Venusian Jacuzzi organizations appreciated it—the telepath-business angle.

So did the Exo-terrestrials—invisibly crowding the room. Earthmen at first thought—they needed tons of translators. Big mistake—translation was automatic. It’s hard to describe it—other than what you see is what you get. Exo-eidetic anyway.

It happens when you’re dreaming. That’s where the Nexus-9 droids came in—they were good at longdistance surveillance and distance exo-viewing. The kid was designed for that. He needed some private dick training tho—hook him up with Deckard they said. He’s a slough-off miscreant and neo-Martian misanthropes—but WTF he’s the best. They usually dug me up outta retirement—for that kinda shit.

Private dicks like me—were dime a dozen. The romantic dayz of Hugh Marlowe & Mike Hammer were long gone. There was that weird extraterrestrial nostalgia tho—a kind of Chandler-esque ache for LA noir. It kinda leaked outta the putrid past—into the crummy future.

A kind of van Vogt decadent voluptuousness—to the kipple decay of old Earth metropolises. Sterling Hayden in Concrete Jungle. Tarantino in Charley Brown. A kind of Kiss Me, Deadly swerve—a weird Mickey Spillane / A. I. Bezzerides melancholy echo of what might have been, what could have been, what really was when Null-A kicked in…

I looked over at the kid—he was in the wise-ass, pouty hustler mode. He usually played hard-to-get that way—when he was up-tight & didn’t know what was comin’ down. I leaned over against him—he leaned back. It was dim in there—Tyrell motioned for us to sit down at the table.

Tyrell zipped thru my mind—like the Yellow Pages. Lookin’ for something—but he didn’t find it. The kid had trained me in my sleep—to be kinda tricky. I knew they needed me for something—it wasn’t that I had something they wanted. It was just the opposite usually. They needed my newly acquired droidboy quasi-human skill—to get a job done. I knew that—the kid knew that. Tyrell knew that…

It was like a nest of vipers—down there beneath the surface. A Martian Termite City of thriving Terra-incognito mobs & no-good slimy Venusian-gangsters. Saturnian sluts lurked in the shadows—Titan transsexuals and Uranian queers were eyeballing the kid. Sizing him up—Nexus-9 droids were hot stuff.

The worst scum of the skanky solar system was down there—wheelin’ & dealin’ like all the other Late Capitalism sub-space dynasties in for the take. Lookin’ for cool deals and planning ahead. For the next fuckin’ Asteroid Archipelago Job—ready to suck up the apocalypto-profits & anything big coming down.

It wasn’t pretty—whatever it was. Nouveau riche barons were never polite—there was too much to gain & everything to lose. Planets didn’t self-destruct—their terraforming was closely managed. Developed by the best end-job raconteurs—it was just business.

Their motto was simple: “Smile like you mean it.”

The Terran Space Fleet was already mapping out war-game scenarios—EVE programmers & flight technicians—were already testing out the cyborg paradigms & psych-perimeters. The cyberpunk Neuromancer generation—that was the first test group. Now the galactic game-planners—were managing the next stage of it.

The Golden Age Sci-Fi Meta-Fiction…

I tried centering myself calmly & aloofly. Like I wasn’t really there—like it was just a fuckin’ wetdream in a house I once grew up in. On a street—where I was a kid. Way back when—way back when my juvie sci-fi imagination first kicked in. Back when I was a dumb teenage Heinlein punk—Have Earthboy Suit, Will Travel, baby…

I kinda smiled—like I meant it.

I felt the kid’s foot—nudge me under the boardroom table. He had a smile on his face too. It made me feel like he was on my side. I don’t think he like Big Daddy Tyrell—or being back down subsurface. Those stinkin’ fuckin’ droid-vats gave him the heebie-jeebies—the tubes he grew up in.

Lots of cyborg eyeballs were paying close attention to us—it made me feel nervous and expectant. I almost popped myself outta REM time to get away—but the kid kept me in there.

Those Nexus-9 boytoys had nerves like steel—did he still love me way down here? With Big Daddy in control—and the Replicant suits shuffling their feet. WTF did Tyrell want anyway? I don’t think the kid knew either—he had his Zoid gun ready tho.

“The Martian Archipelago?” Tyrell asked.

Not so much a question—more like an image.

The kid shrugged & dozed off. He wasn’t impressed by the Martian bargain basement routine down here. He had bad memories from all that time—wasted in the droid vats floating around in the virtual void.

“You mean the Asteroid Belt,” I tried to say. “That’s what we call it now anyway. I never heard it called the Martian Archipelago, tho, Doctor Tyrell?”

It was getting late—and I had this image projected by the kid into my sub-cortex. The last crimson rays of a Martian sunset—sliding down thru the Venetian blinds. Back upsurface—in our Hellas City condo. I was still nervous about this whole Tyrell thing—the recessed vidscreens in the walls all around us. Flickering silently—with tele-images comin’ outta nowhere into my head.

The Martian Archipelago? Jesus Christ—was that next? Where does Tyrell come up with this crap? I thought it was gonna be—some kind of fuckin’ shit about his douchebag droid-son.

Shacking up with me—both of us training each other. To be more human—to be more droid. To be Martian exo-lovers. The philoprogenitive planetary thing—extraterrestrial romance. Something the Desperate Solar Suburban Housewives out there—would go for?

But of course—it was business not sitcom shit. All the mining techs & engineers out there in the asteroid belt. It was a fuckin’ goldmine—for military-industrial wetdream development come true.

That’s why Hellas City existed—it was a Jump-Off Zone to the Asteroid Archipelago. The big bucks were out there just waiting—heavy metals, valuable ores, undreamed of riches. All exposed & easily accessible—for Like the rings of Saturn—it was there for the taking. It was like a gold mine—floating out there inside-out & ready for the stealth-freighters to haul the shit away

Plus gold… gold, silver, diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, rubies. All the precious inner guts of whatever planet had been there. Easy pickings for research & development. The droid-mining ships—the whole new Baron dynasties. Lucrative as sin—opening up fast.

TerraCorp was in on it obviously—they’d blow up a planet just to get the natural resources. Plus every thing else—all the way down to the dead star core. Tyrell & TerraCorp had plans—TTT development plans. Managing the terraform meta-job—all the way out to the Oort Cloud Belt. Ah yes, the Zoid Zone…

The kid next to me was already dozing off. It was like talking to myself—without myself there anymore. That was one thing about Nexus-9 droidboyz—they never suffered from insomnia. Neurotic human bullshit—didn’t bug them. It was like Zonk all of a sudden—and they’d be outta there.

Which only meant one thing—the Tyrell interview was over. Already the nightclub interior was fading fast—Tyrell didn’t seem to mind. I guess he found out what he wanted to know—or knew how to come back inside my mind if he needed too.

Tyrell smiled ironically—like he meant it.

I knew he didn’t—the rest the TTT gang didn’t like it. I didn’t know anything about the stupid Martian Archipelago—I didn’t want to. Other than get the fuck outta there—if they were gonna blow it up?

Oh well, what did I know? And what did the kid know either—what does any droid kid know? The kid was just another fuckin’ droidboy—grown-up without any love or affection. No mother to love him—not even arms to hold him or a breast to feed him.

No wonder the kid—hated Tyrell and Mars. He’d been grown coldly & aloofly in a droid-vat—and then turned loose upsurface in a zoo parking lot. Left to fend for himself—victimized by the worse scum of Hellas Town.

Fuck the Tyrell connect thing…

The same thing with the worrisome interview with his father. And the hint in the back of my mind—that something else was comin’ down.

I felt the kid pull me back to Hellas Tower—outta Tyrell dreamtime. Back into time—back into the highrise condo that had been his only home…

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