Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Chapter Eight


Early afternoon. Protestors gather outside a large black tower in Manhattan. A new Mercedes parks down the street from it. A red-haired man steps from the car dressed in the garb of a scruffy protester. From the car's trunk he takes a sign and joins the shouting mob. "Power to the people!" he yells. "Close the corporations!"

Near him stands the editor of The Nation. He knows that her investment portfolio is even larger than his. They both own substantial pieces of this building. They shout with genuine anger at the monolithic tower facing them.

"Destroy it! Destroy it!" the mob is saying. Several of their number push at the building's glass doors, a low-paid black security guard watching from inside. For a few minutes, the red-haired man joins them. "Destroy! Destroy!" he screams.

A chant begins:
"Send the pigs to outer space,
Shove their money in their face!"

The red-haired man notices from his expensive watch that it's time for him to leave. Shortly he'll enter the structure from the back. Inside, a change of clothes and identity awaits him.

The Man in the Black Hat is one hour early for the meeting. This leaves him time to consult the Wise One. He needs guidance for his upcoming actions.

A plastic pass card in his wallet gains him automatic entrance to an off-limits floor. It gives him entrance to a room at the end of a hall. The room is without light. The specially programmed card in his pocket causes a set of green lights to turn on at the far end of the room. He walks to these lights as the hologram machine warms up.

In a few minutes, on a stage behind glass, stands a holographic representation of deceased literary master George Plimpton. It's completely lifelike. The old man smiles graciously, as if happy to be released from his machine box.

"Hello, again. So good to see you. As you, er, know, this was recorded as contingency in case I became disabled, incompetent, or worse."

(The three-dimensional image frowns, hands casually in the pockets of its khaki trousers.)

"I've anticipated your needs and your questions."

The image paces about its cell for a long minute, staring at the floor, before it looks again directly at the camera-- toward the questioner-- and returns to its monologue.

"I am from the greatest generation: the Creators of Empire. We are the Wise Men. We created the literary world you live in. In many ways, it could be said, we created you.

"We know that those who follow won't be up to our ability. It's the nature of the universe that in a civilization such as ours, the ruling generations decline. Not due to any fault of their own. Don't mistake me, please. It's a natural process. It's inevitable that you're less forceful, less intelligent, less shrewd. Your own father mocks you about this, I know. The question is whether you're intelligent ENOUGH to rule this machine we the Creators have set into motion.

"Why is this struggle important? This battle over literature? Because literature is language, the foundation of culture, of civilization, of thought itself. Without words we are not even human, will regress to become mere grunting animals. Beasts! Mere beasts. This fate is what we oppose. Without our wisdom to guide humanity, through literature, through ideas and discussion, we will have in this world only chaos. Another Dark Ages. Freedom equals Chaos. We have given humankind the illusion of freedom but we've always directed their path. You know this." (The image pauses.)

"I will give you now, to arm you for the intellectual battle ahead, a proper way to view the map of battle.

"Think for a moment about science fiction novels which use the universe of galaxies, planets, and stars as metaphor for this planet. Let's use this metaphor to explain real objects. Let's imagine-- imagine!-- this nation as an entire galaxy."

The Image of Plimpton turns suddenly. Behind him has come alive a large map of America dotted with lights-- sparks of lights representing cities of the civilization, as if they were glowing planets against a night sky. He points with wonder and pride at this sparkling backdrop before continuing the narrative.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Chapter Seven


Boss Eggers just arrived in New York City speeds in a dark blue limousine, the Ogre as bodyguard beside him. The limo disappears into the parking entrance of a gigantic skyscraper. A speeding elevator whisks the Boss to an uppermost floor while the Ogre waits back at the vehicle.

The smug publisher of one of the giant book companies takes Boss Eggers on a tour of his company's office suites. The publisher is a smarmy preppy type wearing a dull gray suit with a yellow polka-dot bow tie. Eggers endures the man's in-born condescension. In five years Boss Eggers will own this building. In their eagerness to cut publishing deals with him, the conglomerates are ensuring their own destruction. He is the vital life force embedding itself into the declining body of established literature.

"How does one combat the underground?" the preppy announces to him. "Why, we buy them out!" (He could add, "The same way we bought you.")

They turn into a hallway and stare at a display of a man washing dishes. "One-way glass," the publisher murmurs. "An underground favorite. He's now fully ours."

Boss Eggers smirks. They move down the corridor to another display. A dark-haired, slope-shouldered man is ranting to the walls.

"Chuck Palooka," the publisher states. "Our creation. He will be the leader of a new Underground-- an underground controlled completely by us. It's 1984 all over again, for real. Palooka will be our O'Brien. He's ours through and through. He goes where we tell him, speaks to who we tell him to speak to. He speaks what we allow. It's perfect co-optation. Palooka writes about the underground without being part of the underground himself. Through him, we the literary Establishment will become our opposite."

Boss Eggers sees that this doesn't fit exactly with his own Master Plan for takeover of American literature. That these decrepit publishers are thinking for themselves after decades of stagnation isn't a factor he's allowed for. Are these moves coming truly from the man before him? Or is someone with greater power, who Eggers had taken to be his friend-- his dupe-- about to betray him?

He'll find out at the meeting tomorrow.

At this same moment, Lindsay the rookie cop (Literature Police Department, the patch on her uniform says) is again on her rounds.

"Click." She runs fast to the next key station, in a minute stands before the forbidden steel door to the utility closet. Three minutes to spare. She allows the seconds to click away. She stares at the door. Tomorrow night, she vows, she will open it again. She'll investigate its depths to discover, for good or ill, its well-guarded secret.