Monday, December 12, 2011

Spanner Interlude 13: Six Degrees of Keenan Sasser

...from previous

Chaos Angel Spanner
Interlude 13: Six Degrees of Keenan Sasser

“Keenan Sasser in the Tommyverse,” an article by _____:
The husband-and-wife team of writer Keenan Sasser and artist and producer Ada Paulette Wintergreen have a favorite game they love to pull on Hollywood people. Some people like to play a game called “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” Keenan and Ada have twisted it into “Six Degrees of Tommy Westphall.” They claim that every story that has ever been shown on television is a figment of an eleven-year-old autistic boy’s imagination, within six degrees of crossover with St. Elsewhere, the Kevin Bacon of TV shows. You remember the last scene of that series’ final episode, don’t you (you know, before they killed off Mimsie the MTM Kitten in the credits)? The whole series was just a dream, and the dreamer was one Tommy Westphall. Except “Tommy Westphall” was his name only in the dream (i.e., St. Elsewhere). Characters from that series crossed over into other series, which crossed over into other series, which crossed over into still more series—until the imagination of “Tommy Westphall” took over the entire television universe. When Keenan watched that last episode (imaginatively titled “The Last One,”, by the way), he was merely disappointed at how the show ended, and he was not alone in that. It was Ada who dropped the mind bomb on him. While they were having sex.

Any other series created by Tom Fontana? Tommy’s dream. Anything else put out by MTM Enterprises? Tommy’s dream. Anything by Desilu/Paramount, including I Love Lucy, Mission: Impossible, and Star Trek? Tommy’s dream. Brand and Falsey, or Dick Wolf, or Joss Whedon? Check. Doctor Who? Red Dwarf? Battlestar Galactica (both of them)? The Fresh Prince of Bel Air? Any show with Detective John Munch in the cast? If the show has any connection to any show with a connection to St. Elsewhere, Tommy dreamt it. Even Fontana himself claims that nearly 90 percent of all TV shows, well over 300 and counting, took place in the mind of that autistic child, and he seems determined to bring the entire fictional universe into Tommy’s dream. And if Mr. Spock’s claim to be descended from Sherlock Holmes is correct, then Tommy must have dreamed the entire series of events that began with the landing of a certain meteor in Yorkshire when Holmes’ own ancestor was in the area. But if that’s true, then Keenan never actually lost his virginity to Willa Richter-Thomas five blocks from a certain hospital back in 1992, not long after he started classes at MIT...

Keenan watched a lot of television shows (and a lot of MTV as well) when he himself was an autistic child in the 1980s. He caught that last episode back in 1988. His family remember him crying over MTM kitten Mimsie’s death at the end of the credits. (Strangely enough, Mimsie herself died shortly before that episode aired, though by then she was already an elderly cat of twenty. The Mimsie you know is the adorable kitten she was in 1968.) What he himself remembers is the dream he had that night. He dreamed of Tommy. Tommy was looking at him from the other side of a mirror. It was a magic mirror that allowed one to see other realities. Keenan and Tommy both realized they were dreaming each other. Keenan never forgot this.

But what about Bob Hartley dreaming the entire run of Newhart? “Let’s think of it this way,” Keenan says. “Was Tommy dreaming Bob? Sure he was. But you can argue with equal plausibility that Bob was dreaming Tommy. And it’s possible, even likely, that they were dreaming each other. But remember that a story is a collective dream, so everything both Tommy and Bob ever dreamed was also dreamed by their creators, and by you.” Ada likes to point out that there may be an infinite regress involved: Bob and Buffy dreaming their entire series and all the shows they crossed over with, dreamt in turn by Tommy, who in turn (if you’ve read The Crying of Lot 49, where all this Yoyodyne stuff came from) being dreamt by Oedipa Maas (is Tommy her Tristero?), who was dreamt in turn... It is entirely possible that the last five minutes of St. Elsewhere are the only television show, ever, period. Everything else is a daydream.

Thing is, the end of Newhart was a joke that worked — at the expense of both Dallas and St. Elsewhere. Go figure.

Keenan always had an extremely overactive imagination. He published his first story when he himself was a strange child of eleven. 1988 was also the year he learned how to program a computer, learning BASIC on his beloved Amiga. Eventually he would combine his two interests when he created the story-creating programs that brought him his fame, culminating in his 2009 short story collection Robot Love Stories. For a period of about five years (roughly coinciding with his early thirties), he was a bestselling author, until the coup of 2012, in which he was blacklisted for what he calls political incorrectness. Until recently, he was working on a series of pulp novels—until the increasingly nightmarish stories he was dreaming started seeming too real. The increasingly clueless publishers stole the Civet franchise from him and sicced their increasingly inept hacks on it.

But can you prove his vision is not true? And are you dreaming Tommy dreaming, or is Tommy dreaming you?
“Science Fiction Is Dead, Long Live Science Fiction” an article by Keenan Sasser published in August 2012:
There are two kinds of literature: Literature, and Pulp. Literature is read by Cultured People. Pulp is read by Unwashed Barbarians. A special kind of pulp is Science Fiction, said to be pulp fiction with weak plot and characters written in impenetrable technospeak by absent-minded professors to be read by autistic teenage boys. Now, I’m not knocking autistic teenage boys, since I used to be one myself. But I’ve been told that science fiction is too complicated for lesser minds than mine, and yet also simplistic stuff involving spaceships, rayguns, and jetpacks. If both of these are true, and most people who aren’t geeks and/or “fen” believe it is, then the genre is being defined as a self-contradiction, and therefore science fiction does not exist.

Okay, you tell me, but look at the sci-fi section in the bookstores! They’ve never been so big and well stocked! My answer is, look more carefully and you’ll find that most of the new fiction in that section is urban fantasy. Vampires outnumber scientists ten to one, minimum. All of it is purest Pulp. Besides, Americans were never too fond of scientists anyway. They’re too smart. Being smart in America is like being gay or black; it’s a no-no.

Science fiction is also said to be boring because science itself is said to be boring. That’s exactly wrong, but you wouldn’t know it from the institutions. Nowhere is technocracy so oppressive than in the scientific institutions. My guess is that in America, science is not even primary; it’s considered just a way to generate theoretical principles for engineers to use for designing the superweapons that defend the supremacy of the corporations that make America great.

Which brings us to another roadblock: the publishers. Their corporate owners decide what gets published and promoted. The Establishment once decreed that science fiction be promoted in order to inspire boys to become engineers it could use to create the superweapons that would destroy Communism. But after Communism dropped dead, the Establishment started treating science like some occult knowledge that must be kept away from the general public lest it empower them; so it decreed that science fiction is only for geeks, then promoted big-city vampire lovers and detectives for the rubes.

Science fiction is dead — but only because the media cartel declared it dead. I say it’s comic-book dead, just like comics itself.
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Copyright © 2011 Dennis Jernberg. Some rights reserved.
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[Revision 1, 12/12/11. The first part originally written during NaNoWriMo 2010.]

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