Today, nobody believes in reality. Fiction remains stronger than fact. All stories are true - satires in particular. Imaginary heroes are more dependable than the other kind, living or dead. Whatever you need is unavailable, so choose the brighter new tomorrows that you want instead. FAX 21 is a muse (news) blog-fest of science fiction concepts and fantasy ideas for genre enthusiasts. Paradox free since next year!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Thomas Jerome Newton - exclusive interview

The Scary Creep Who Fell To Earth

He was here way back then, he’s still here now.
The alien who fell to Earth, and stayed. So what
happened to THOMAS JEROME NEWTON since
DAVID BOWIE played him in the biopic
‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’?
At last, ANDREW DARLINGTON can reveal the truth
in this interview exclusive to ‘Fax 21’

‘There are secrets and lies. Then there are bigger lies. There is reality, and there is truth. Then there are scary monsters and super-creeps.’ In a darkened room, temperature at low chill-level, he folds his angular frame neatly into Louis Quinze velveteen-upholstery with all the grace of a long-legged flamingo. Behind him, a wall of silent TV’s swarm collages of squirming movement in a low-level luminous glow that outlines him to black. This figure is unable to see the colour red. But he can see X-rays. His exotic air of androgyny and his near-transparent ‘snow-white tan’ combine to betray his alien origins. He was the nazz. Now he’s below the radar. But he’s still here.

‘Yes, I am Thomas Jerome Newton, the Thin White Duke. On good days, my life is tolerable. I live by the ocean, and watch its endless rhythms. It’s something I still find wonderful. All that water. The stuff we hoard and ration on drought-stricken Anthea. So much of it here. I walk the beach, 198cm-&-a-bit tall. But I have long thin fingers with no natural fingernails, which makes it awkward, it necessitates prosthetic implants like translucent coins. I can also blend in by wearing false nipples. But having four toes means no sandals, and some degree of concealment. And my retinal membranes conceal screwed-up feline-eyes. There are traces of accent I work to disguise, the tendency to enunciate too precisely, too formally. Then there’s the weight of this place. The pain in my gravity-sensitive joints and the bird-frail bones at the small of my back. Caused by gravitational pull on my own slight weight.’

He has the sickly appearance of a consumptive poet. Look into his eyes and they are blue, but no-one’s home. For his pensive gaze is detached from his surroundings. And it took a long convoluted search to track this Cracked Actor down. His visibility is deliberately negligible. As though he’d like to come and meet us, but he’s afraid of the consequences. On both parties. He works by stealth, learned by cruel experience. ‘They say you can never be too thin, or too rich. I’ve been both’ he comments softly, in hazily dismissive cosmic jive. ‘There’s this idea about a twenty-first century person thrown back in time to the Paleolithic, and revolutionising Cro-Magnon society into premature techno-geekery. Except of course, it wouldn’t work out that way. Far from churning out proto-versions of micro-waves, iPods and Blu-Rays he wouldn’t cut it with the most basic survival skills. Without a lighter he couldn’t even make man’s red fire. He can’t program the DVD timer without the manual anyway, never mind build one from bits of sharpened flints. Cro-Magnons might take pity on him and toss him the occasional bit of Mammoth, because he’d be lost without the gastro-Pubs where he usually grazes. It doesn’t work that way. It works this way. You adapt to your environment before you can begin adapting it. Same with me. I’m here. I’m the twenty-first century person thrown back into Cro-Magnon society. Washed up on the reefs of space. Like Icarus, the boy who fell from the sky. And it takes time. I began with existing technology. Rudimentary baby-step patents, such as self-developing photographic film. That’s the way it had to be. I couldn’t leap directly into digital because the infrastructure wasn’t there to support it. So instead I tweak TV antennae and transistors, cheap junk-trinkets to amaze the natives. Ten-thousand years of Anthean technology to draw on, but I had to introduce it gradually. Through my ‘World Enterprises Corporation’ conglomerates. But that takes time. And time inflicts other changes.’

‘Trouble is, you can adapt to your new environment a little too far, making it less easy to begin adapting it. I live among clever, devious apes. A man surrounded by animals long enough becomes more of an animal than he should. Have I ‘gone native’? There are moments I think that’s so. I had Earthling pets, lawyer Oliver V Farnsworth who first negotiated my entry into marketing, Betty-Jo Masher who – loving the alien, introduced me to the numbing intoxications of Beaujolais and Gordon’s gin. And fuel-technician Nathan Bryce who was smart enough to work out my extraterrestrial origins. They age. I don’t. How human have I become? I’m not human. But human enough. Where do I belong? I no longer know for sure.’

This Space Oddity sips from a glass of clear water. His biographer, Walter Tevis, attempted two novelisation of his story, with ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ in 1963, then revised in 1978. More high-profile there’s Nicholas Roeg’s movie-interpretation (March 1976) with the ‘starman’ who whirled the soul played by David Bowie, and the novel’s plain Betty-Jo prettied-up as Mary-Lou in the luscious guise of actress Candy Clark. There’s even an MGM-TV pilot by David Gerber (1987) featuring Lewis Smith, Will Wheaton and Robert Picardo. They all cover the same span of years from slightly altered perspectives, but they all end with Newton’s extraordinary-rendition ordeal at the hands of FBI & CIA government agents. Hitting an all-time low. Since then, there must have been changes? He gives little more than an enigmatic smile. ‘I now realise how much brutality lurks beneath the face of your liberal democracy. I’d been too trusting. Too open. In time, my eyes regenerated. Slowly, over a painful period. But they did regenerate. For years I assumed the guise of ‘John Dory’, a reclusive hermit. A man apart. A Greta Garbo, Howard Hughes, or a JD Salinger. Now, chastened, I find it’s more efficacious to operate through shadowy behind-the-scenes manoeuvres, using entrepreneur front-men. So ‘World Enterprises Corporation’ operates more covertly, through avatars. I’d come so far. Achieved so much. But I was impatient, so impatient for more. These smart-chimps are so slow. So mired in their social-inertia. So intent on looting, plundering and irresponsibly over-breeding Earth into premature-extinction. Not all humans are insane. But many of you are. Enough of you. It’s also become apparent that, within the political dialogue about asylum-seekers and illegal-alien migrants, that I’m far from alone in my unfortunate predicament. The ‘Men In Black’ movie (1997) and its sequels – for which I acted as adviser, played it as comedy. ‘Alien Nation’ (1988) treated it slightly more sympathetically. Now there’s NBC’s on-going ‘The Event’ with its aliens interned in a kind of Alaskan Guantanamo. But yes, there are other extraterrestrial scary monsters and super-creeps here with their own agendas, which sometimes conflict with my own. Sordid details following… at least one totalitarian dictator I know for certain is a Sirian shape-shifter. A devious secret clique of Kreggari pod-people engineered the financial credit-crunch meltdown for their own acquisitive motives. My objectives are more benevolent.

‘For me, stage two of my project began with searching out Steven Wozniak. As with Bryce, I intuited potential. He was a high school drop-out employed by Hewlett-Packard, dabbling in computer-design, but with guidance, with nudges and prompts he had potential to inch it further. Yes, he would suffice. My networking also turned up his high school buddy Steven Jobs. He was with Atari, another project I’d nursed into being with low-grade gadget-toys. Through one-to-one tutorials they became my fine-tuned tools. With me as the third corner, the invisible partner injecting fairly basic Anthean upgrades – user-friendly interface, windows, drag-and-drop file moveability, and plug-in-and-play compatibility, evolving into velocity-engine and simple 128-bit-wide architecture, we went hot-tech start-up April 1, 1976. A slow development curve for me, revolutionary for the newly wired-world I’m stranded in.’

Behind him the wall of silent TV’s blare their chaotic news-feeds from around our troubled globe. Can he be trusted, can the words of this strange Man-Insane be believed? ‘That my initial mission failed is a tragedy, for us all. Now, it might be too late. Together we might have saved the Earth. I’m closer now. Closer to the next phase that will prod this monstrous, beautiful, terrifying planet another paradigm step towards my objective. If only things hang together long enough for me to complete. That’s what I’m most unsettled about. I fear this is a race we might lose. It’s a race between time… and time-out.’ He waves his hand dismissively. A pale ghost now, ethereal. Obviously tired by the exertion. Signaling that he’s winding down. He’s talked so much. Time for just one more shot.

So why are you divulging this now? Why grant this interview after so lengthy a silence? ‘Why not? Who will believe it? No-one will accept that this is not a spoof contrived to amuse. That this is not the desperate fabrication of a hack with an Apple lap-top…’


For the full Thomas Jerome-Newton back-story check out the helpful DVD review of The Man Who Fell To Earth on the excellent VideoVista website…

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Dictators !

Dictators –Series One, -reviewed by Alexander Stark.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised about good television coming out of Iraq, after all its neighbour Iran has been a producer of award-winning films for the last decade. But who would have thought that the world debut of Iraqi creative talent in the post-Saddam era would be a sit-com? And what a sit-com!

The writers of “Dictators” seem to have avidly watched and digested the soap operas and situation comedies of America and the UK through years of repression and now their belated response is an eruption of free speech and irreverent humour.

The plot for “Dictators” is genius in itself: a household of four uncouth young men living together, “Young Ones” style in 1990’s Iraq, except that these men all share one unusual profession: they are each identical body-doubles for Saddam Hussein himself.

Current affairs, the invasion of Kuwait, Gulf War One and in the next series Gulf War Two: are all seen to take place casually in the background, as the constantly bored stand-ins watch television and compete and bemoan over who will be next to be given a public engagement role. The four characters, Hassim, Ali, Tariq and Youssef, all wear different outfits about the house, Goodies-style, expressing their wildly differing and ill-matched temperaments: Hassim is hugely patriotic but a bit stupid, Ali is obsessed with the secret police and conspiracy theories, Tariq is effeminate and lazy, lying around the house painting his nails like a supermodel, while Youssef longs to pick up girls but is conflicted over his parents Muslim faith, and more to the point basically shy.

Needless to say, hilarious and excruciating scenarios constantly unfold between these four, like when Hassim is selected to meet Gaddafi (making a special guest star appearance as himself in episode 7), but being too stupid to remember his lines has to take Tariq with him disguised as a woman. Tariq then gets embroiled in a lesbian scenario with one of Gaddafi’s butch female body-guards, leaving Tariq hopelessly exposed as the cameras start rolling. All works out well in the end of course, because Gaddafi is out his face on mescaline and totally bonkers.

Ridiculous schemes to blow up Israel using super-guns get repeated airing, Ali taking on the role of mad inventor among the group, his best shot seeing the four of them landing in The West Bank in light aeroplanes made out of toilet rolls and getting loaves thrown at them by Palestinian women in a bread queue.

The boys get roped into assisting at a biological weapons plant and end up growing extra limbs and heads, one of which looks like Dick Cheney, and spouts right-wing psycho babble.

Youssef, constantly sexually frustrated goes out on an urban babe-pulling mission with Saddam’s sons but is too embarrassed to buy condoms. On the strength of a television story about American troops using them over their gun barrels, he crosses the desert to negotiate and inadvertently brings about a ceasefire, on his knees, weeping, with his shoes off. The cameo role of Robbie Coltrane as General Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf (episode 9) at this point, is worth the DVD price alone, and rumours that Jack Nicholson has been contracted to play Donald Rumsfeld in Series Two are appetite-whetting to say the least.

Not since Father Ted, has there been so much fun to be had the expense of figures of dubious authority. Our four Saddams are never less than loveably dumb-assed, but always full of hilariously ill-founded hope, standing up at public gatherings and getting their hats shot off, and trying to score Speed off Chemical Ali.

The theme tune and end-titles are a joy in themselves: the tune from “Neighbours” sung in Arabic with subtitles: Dictators, everybody loves Dictators, with a small misunderstanding, you can meet a sticky end… That’s why Dictators don’t make good friends…