Continuing our epic roll call of contributors to A Darke Phantastique, next we present Greg Bear.
His contribution is a screenplay titled “Genius”. It starts out:
Commissioned for The Outer Limits,
Mark Stern, Sam Egan, 2000
EXT. CAMPUS OF BURLINGTON UNIVERSITY – EVENING
POV: CUBIST PERSPECTIVE. The campus seen from all angles at once, like a PICASSO PAINTING. This REARRANGES VISUALLY into DAN SHAEFFER walking at sunset to a large brick building. Dan is tall, thin, mid-thirties. He looks middling handsome, feckless, and harried, and carries a box overflowing with papers, and balanced on top, a laptop computer.
SUPERED OVER: Burlington University, Washington State
INT. FUSION REACTOR LAB – NIGHT
SUPERED OVER: DOUBLE PULSE FUSION REACTOR LAB
Desire and loneliness are not limited to humans, or to the familiar coordinates of Earth. For some, space and time are playgrounds of the mind, a game, an opportunity . . .
He says about the origin of the script:
A few years ago, I was asked to write an original screenplay for the anthology television show The Outer Limits. Considering the circumstances of the deal, I doubted the screenplay would ever be produced, but I was finally persuaded to go ahead and do it anyway. The whole procedure was challenging, educational, and fruitful; I was treated well, and the screenplay was critiqued professionally, rewritten, and then . . .
But I held out for the publication rights, and got them. Pitching the story was perhaps the most educational aspect of all. My original idea was to sell the producers “Tangents,” but they did not find that award-winning tale suitable. So I did a quick-step and pitched a reworking of The Exorcist, with fourth-dimensional elements. Eventually, this
was masticated, revised, and approved. I sincerely doubt that William Peter Blatty would have noticed any real similarity; but that was how it was pitched.
Pitching stories to producers is an art form that sometimes leads to desperate grabs for ideas. Over the decades, I’ve noticed my work appearing in some altered form or another in movies and television shows, usually just ideas, which are fair game, but sometimes wholesale borrowings, without even a tip of the hat from the screenwriter. My rule in working with ideas developed by other writers is that I must honestly acknowledge their influence, and I must add something new—a new variation, a new insight, and of course, a completely new story and plot.
If my stories are going to be ripped off, then it’s best I do the ripping off personally, no? I doubt I would have sued if “Genius” had been written by somebody else and if it had
been produced. No doubt, however, I would have experienced a vague rankle of irritation, seeing it on the TV screen.
It’s so suspiciously like “Tangents”!
Greg Bear is the author of Hull Zero Three (Orbit, 2010), City at the End of Time (Del Rey, 2009), Mariposa (Perseus paperback, 2010), Halo: Cryptum and Halo: Primordium (Tor, 2011 and 2012). He is the father of two young writers, Erik and Alexandra. Greg’s wife, Astrid Anderson Bear, has sold her first short story to San Diego Noir, in collaboration with Diane Clark.
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