miercuri, 23 noiembrie 2011

How Justin Timberlake screwed me over

Ok, it wasn't Justin Timberlake, his only the main actor in the film which stole my idea, but hey, I gotta attract readers somehow, and how many of you tabloid consuming, product purchasing cretins know who Andrew Niccol is?
Well, he is the director of such films as "Gattaca" (and others I'm sure) and director and co-director of a Science Fiction film called "In Time" featuring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried. But will get back to that later.

About 5-6 years ago, on one of those occasions in which life bores me to tears (yawning tears) I started constructed a fantasy world; I tried to conceptualize what the World would look like if people were immortal, and I soon realized that for such a society to function properly some form of severe population control needed to be put in order, otherwise people would just live forever and multiply until there is no more room or resources on Earth. My solution was a timer which would let people live only a period of time, in this case people would die after a certain number of heartbeats.
I like the concept and decided that one day I will turn it into some form of fiction. Now, I'm a lazy little fuck, and won't scratch my nose without an outside force putting pressure on me to do it, so it wasn't until March 2010, when I had a short story module and we were analyzing SF, that I actually wrote down the first version of the story based on the concept I made up. And here it is:

(don't worry, I know for some of you it is impossible to read a whole 700 word long short story, with all the facebook, and 9gag and ADD and all, so you can find a synopsis after the short-story, just skip and scroll)


The man was sitting at a table in a restaurant and was checking his watch nervously. “Ten minutes now!” he thought, “Where is he? Maybe something happened, maybe they got him!” He checked the small monitor of the rectangular device implanted on to the underside of his left arm, his heart rate had risen to 100 bpm. “No, must not get nervous, calm down!” he picked up the restaurant’s magazine which was on the table and started randomly reading the articles and advertising. “Aren’t you tired of time-consuming queuing? How many beats are you loosing weekly while waiting to pay for you groceries. At TESCO we value your time and that is why we tripled the number of our cashiers in order to insure there is a free one for you when you want to pay and get out. TESCO: Every little beat helps” The advert calmed him down, any thought of improving his beat administration made him feel more at ease, as if he had already saved those extra precious heartbeats. The heart rate had gone down again to a regular 85 bpm, but it slightly rose again, when he looked at the other number on the device: 244800 out of 150 million; that was barely two more years.

He was sixty nine years old, but one could not tell, considering everyone around him looked about the same age once they passed twenty, but he knew he was probably the oldest person in the restaurant, termination usually occurred around 65 years of age, that’s how 150 million heartbeats would get you in a regular life. And what a careless life it was. The  second you were born the Counter was attached to your arm, immediately adjusting to your blood type, pumping nanites into your body; microscopic robots taking care of you, killing bacteria and viruses, eliminating cancer, healing injuries in a fraction of the time it would’ve taken your body to do it, but most of all, once you reached your physical high at about 22 years, they bring the aging process to a near halt. An everlasting youth, free of disease. A dream come true. Just that to avoid overpopulation people still needed to die, and accidents were not by far enough to do the job. So everyone was given 150 million heartbeats, after which the nanits would turn on their hosts and terminate them quickly and painlessly. And that is the moment which the man at the table feared most.

The other man came in with not a hint of hurry in his attitude.
“Hello Jon.” he said.
“You are late!”
 “Do you really care about ten minutes now? Are you forgetting why you are here?”
“No, but that still isn’t respectful behavior towards others. If you are careless with you own beats, Jerry, that’s fine, but you should mind others’. Do you have it?”
“Of course I have it.”
“I don’t understand why you are not using it! You throw your beats away, skydiving, clubbing, sports…”
“Don’t forget the sex. All the sex I am having and you are not.”
“Yes, another useless, beat consuming activity for the easily impressionable. You don’t even take calming pills! Well, anyway this I all understand, but why don’t you use the virus?”
“We are given what we are given. We must make the most of it! I presume you aren’t going to change your life-style after the procedure.”
“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
“A near eternity of boredom, now why would I want that?”
“Maybe when you reach my age you’ll understand. Then again you won’t, you’ll have consumed all your beats by the age of forty.”
“Do you know how to use it?”
Jerry handed Jon the little device containing the very rare, highly illegal computer-virus which overwrites the nanits termination program. Jon took it with a reluctant eagerness and the men parted ways.
An hour later Jerry received a phone call: “Another job well done. He just activated it. 244634 beats transferred into your account. We suggest you attend his funeral to avoid suspicion.”
“Sorry Jon," he said to himself after hanging up, "but I will use the beats much better than you ever could’ve. You would’ve understood if you had reached my age.”

Somewhere in the future, all disease has been eradicated with the use of microscopic robots which are injected into a persons body and stay there for the rest of his life mending them and stopping the ageing process at around 22 years, so basically only accidents and murder can kill them. To avoid overpopulation, people are given a certain number of heartbeats, which will give them around 60-70 years to live at a normal life-style, after which the robots kill their host. People have devices on their fore-arms telling them how much longer they have to live.
Jon, who has lived a very boring to keep his pulse down, is close to the end of beat-number and meets Jerry, a man who enjoys adrenalin inducing activities, and who will provide a virus which will hinder Jon's termination. However Jerry actually works for an agency which seeks to eliminate people who try to cheat their way out of death, and as a reward gains their remaining heartbeats once he eliminates them

Now, the story itself isn't very good. The second paragraph is a classic example of telling not showing (a writing NO!-NO!) and the rest is so-so, but that's because I never meant this to be just a short story, so I had to explain the concept quickly. I just wanted to get feedback on it, see what people think about it. And I must say it was well received; it worked, it pushed the story along, there were many aspects I could explore, it had room for expansion. It was among, or even the best SF concept made up by members of that particular group. Even the tutor, a published SF writer said he was actually a bit jealous of this world I made up. So, hell yeah! 
This gave me courage to start thinking about a novel/movie script based on the short-story, even if with different characters. I actually started working on it, which was unusual for me. I thought about characters, plots and mostly about how this society would look like. I wanted it to be well thought out, a Phillip K. Dick style proper utopia/dystopia story.

Fast-Forward to August 2011.
I am at work, cleaning the restaurant after closing, and am talking to a movie-buff friend. He is telling me about the trailer for the new Justin Timberlake movie coming, which pissed him off, because it was chock-full of trailer cliches. He told me it was about a not-so-distant future in which disease is eradicated and people stop ageing at 25 years. To avoid overpopulation however people only get a certain time to live, and time has become the new monetary system. Justin is a young guy who meets a guy who was able to cheat the system and live indefinitely. And then some action scenes happen.
After saying this my friend couldn't understand why I was just staring blankly and I didn't talk for a while. Finally, I asked: "Is this a joke?"
"What? No. Why?"
"Did you read my short story?"
"What short story?"

Later I went home to watch trailer, and this is what I saw:

Well, that didn't see slightly familiar...MOTHERFUCKERS! I'LL KILL YOU! I mean, they even have the device on the fore-arm counting your minutes. What the fuck?
Sure, it's not heartbeats, it's literally minutes and seconds, and the rules are different, you have to earn your time, and you can buy stuff with it and some people are immortal, but the concept is the same. No. Not only is the concept the same, many of the details are the same. Why would anyone do this to me?

I wanted to explore how people act when they need to mind their heartbeats. What do they do for fun? What drugs do they use? How do they view each-other considering nobody ages? What do relationships look like? I had all sorts of small details like that TESCO advert. So, what now? Should put effort and time intro writing the novel (because a script is out of the question), just so every publisher can tell me "Wasn't this a Justin Timberlake movie? We can't publish this, they'll sue us for plagiarizing". Of course, my story wasn't published. It was read by a handful of people in a classroom, so how could I prove i wrote it even before production on the film began?

Don't get me wrong! I do realize that they didn't actually plagiarize me. And that the whole thing is a coincidence, even the details. But I still feel cheated. The first thing I actually planned on properly working on has become obsolete, unusable. Fuck this shit!
Besides somebody already sued them because apparently there was a similar story written and published in 1965. They sued successfully, even though that story is far less similar than mine.

But I digress, it's a weird fucked-up twist one me, and I just wanted to tell it. If I've been robbed of my story, at least I can show that it was there. But the worst is that not only was my story 'stolen' by a block-buster action SF film, but it was stolen by a block-buster action SF film with Justin Timberlake in the main role; and not only that but apparently it is not a very good film, it has a rotten rating of 38% on rottentomatoes, and 6.7 on IMDb. If at least it was one of those good SFs, like "Gattaca" even, but all that potential is lost.


And what is the lesson supposed to be here? If you have good idea, kill everybody in Hollywood first, and also everybody with a creative mind just to be sure? Or, just forget it?
I don't even have the benefit of a lesson.

2 comentarii:

Scârbă spunea...

Great minds think alike.

În știință asta se întâmplă de fiecare dată.

Scârbă spunea...

Srsly, dacă mai ai short-story-uri dinastea, eu zic să te grăbești, până nu mai apar câteva filme pe ideile tale.

Beats count.