ANTISOCIAL MEDIA

A year ago two of my production students made a presentation about crowdsourcing: the differences between Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, and the importance of social media to drive interested parties to your fundraising activity. The guys asked how many of their fellow students were on the Twitter: about half were. They asked the ones who weren’t Twittering to join up, and then to Tweet and reTweet their call for money. Apparently the Facebook can be employed in a somewhat similar way.

It was a very clear presentation, though I haven’t employed its lessons till now. I still write with a quill pen, and send letters via pneumatic tube, so am not at all clear on any of the above concepts. The Facebook, as far as I know, is a place to post embarrassing pictures of oneself (I already have a website for that). And the Twitter has something to do with the Occupy movement. Nevertheless, BILL, THE GALACTIC HERO clearly requires a social media presence – y pronto!

To my surprise I discover several BILL, THE GALACTIC HERO pages already in existence on the Facebook. So my next assignment must be to introduce my project to them, and to their well-heeled, film-financing followers…Not that I wish to give the impression that my new interest in social media is all about money. Far from it. I’ve been thinking I don’t spend enough time with my computer lately, and this will be an opportunity for us to bond.

And besides – there’s a reason to make BILL THE GALACTIC HERO into a film: because it is that rare thing, a genuinely anti-war story. Histories of science fiction tend to race from STARSHIP TROOPERS to ENDER’S GAME and overlook the anti-war novels which appeared in between. THE FOREVER WAR gets a mention, but BILL THE GALACTIC HERO is notable by its absence — perhaps because it is the most critical of military culture, or technology-worship, and of the military-industrial-capitalist end game. TROOPERS and ENDER’S are both very right-wing texts by right-wing writers. BILL isn’t just a left-wing text — it’s funny, too!

(In the interests of full disclosure let me point you to this video of a scene from BILL shot by students of UMKC. Our version will look a little different – to be shot in 35mm black and white with all the characters in full space suits – but this is a worthy Missourian effort, lacking only the Zoroastrian angle…)

BILL, THE GALACTIC HERO

So, in honour of my dear friend Harry Harrison I embark upon this new site, and a new project: the feature film version of BILL, THE GALACTIC HERO – Harry’s immortal science fiction novel, which I first optioned and tried to make into a film way back in 1983! This was right as I was finishing REPO MAN: I met Harry at his hotel in Hollywood – the one where everybody used to stay, with the famous diner attached, long bulldozed now – and he plied me with gin and limes, and I optioned the rights to the book for six months. My attempts to make BILL my second feature didn’t succeed: “Too expensive! Too anti-war!” So I ended up making a picture called SID & NANCY, instead.

But BILL, the great, transgressive riposte to STARSHIP TROOPERS, remained unmade. Heinlein’s right-wing tract got made into a picture, and many, many, many bad science fiction films were shot. Harry’s MAKE ROOM, MAKE ROOM! had been filmed back in the 70s, as SOYLENT GREEN. He was a popular writer in Russia, and over the years I helped him try to get DEATHWORLD made there, as a superproduction funded by Gazprom, and also WEST OF EDEN, his dinosaurian alternative history, as a cartoon film. Splendid projects which did not materialize.

And then, as luck would have it, I found myself teaching film and making movies at one of the world’s premier universities, and the thought occurred to me, now, at last, I can make BILL, THE GALACTIC HERO the way it should be made: not as a hundred million dollar studio picture, but as a hundred thousand dollar student picture, shot and acted by my esteemed students, working for free! I tried the idea out on Harry, who was all in favour. He persuaded his agent, Nat, to grant me an academic license to direct BILL … a non-exclusive license, so if you’re reading this, George Lucas, you can still direct your own hundred million dollar version, simultaneously.

Meanwhile, I embark on the thrilling prospect of a Kickstarter campaign… Image