Thursday, June 23, 2011

Could a Cyberdrome film be made in the wake of Avatar and Tron:Legacy?


When I finally went to see James Cameron's movie, "Avatar" back in Feb of 2010, I saw firsthand what many reviewers had been telling me since it opened. There were so many similarities between Cyberdrome and Avatar that realized that my chances of ever getting a film deal were nearly zero. Anyone reading my treatment would say, "been there, done that--by Cameron!"

Similarities include a protagonist in a wheelchair (who uses an avatar to escape his confinement and ends up wanting to stay in his new body), an interface room that is nearly identical in both design and function from what my brother and I created 10 years ago, and Pandora's inhabitants look like a cross between my Blue Sentinels and a cat-like creature I call a CeeAut. Other similarities include a aircraft called a Dragon, and a drop ship that is functionally identical to one of our aircraft. There are numerous others, but you get the idea...

Now, I'm not saying that James Cameron--or one of his CGI designers--ever read our book or even saw some of the many images we have had online during the past 12 years (at www.cyberdrome.org), but the existing similarities will kill a potential film deal unless I rewrite the whole thing. So, thanks Jim! Thanks a lot!

Then things got even worse when Tron: Legacy came out. Below are some central themes in Cyberdrome that were used in Tron:Legacy (warning major spoilers for both ahead!):

1) Hero goes into a virtual world to rescue his father
2) Father ultimately sacrifices himself to rescue his son
3) Both call their virtual space "The Grid." The original Tron mentioned the "game grid" a few times, but not much else. The new movie uses it repeatedly (in fact, the opening voice-over starts with "The Grid...") I felt this was such a problem that I renamed my book's virtual space "The Core" in the newest edition just to separate the two. My book came out 3 years before Tron:Legacy, but many people don't notice little things like copyright dates... ;)

Adding these to the items mentioned previously made me even more depressed. So, my question to you is this: could a Cyberdrome movie ever be made in the wake of these two major films? Below is what has NOT been "stolen" by Hollywood (yet):

1) Cyberdrome's Tron-like, virtual "Grid" space is just one small part of where the story takes place. Much of the story takes place in several earth-like worlds which have been "tweaked" in some way.
Some of the action sequences in Cyberdrome take place between the hero and large robotic spiders and other bug-like machines, while others involve more down-to-earth dangers like escaping from a burning building and allowing yourself to drown in order to save you and your partner (reminiscent of a scene in James Cameron's "the Abyss") 

2) Cyberdrome uses extrapolations of currently planned technology to realistically "trap" people inside a digital world (no fake lasers "digitizing" you). 

3) Finally, Cyberdrome explores real SF themes like downloading a copy of your memories into a digital likeness of yourself in order to "escape" death--but is that copy really you? How much of what you consider "you" is just a collection of memories? For instance, if a person looses all of those memories (like with Alzheimer's) is that person the same? And, even if you could copy yourself digitally someday, would you? Should you? These are themes central to Cyberdrome that I hope might someday make it to the big screen...

    Cyberdrome Deleted Scenes, Part 7 of 7

    Cyberdrome Deleted Scenes
    Part #7 - Aleks original encounter with Klaxxon

    Background

    In Chapter One, after Alek's encounter with Stacy, he meets an old ally named Klaxxon. In the original version, this meeting was much longer and takes place in virtual reality. I gave up this version because it made readers think this "primitive" version of VR was what Cyberdrome was all about, while in fact it was more of an homage to previous cyberpunk novels. I hope you enjoy this final deleted scene from Cyberdrome...

    Deleted Scene

    As the neural override ramped up to full power, sensory data from the headset computer quickly overrode the normal signals coming from his eyes and ears to his brain. As the digital signals became stronger than the biological versions, Stacy and the coffee shop receded from view, quickly shrinking to a tiny dot. Floating in the blackness that surrounded him, he felt the usual sense of vertigo, but his hand on the table back in the coffee shop steadied him. 

    He made a series of gestures with his virtual hands and a red wire frame room appeared all around him. This formatting cell helped give him the sense of balance he would need to build a virtual vehicle. 

    Moving his hands like a skilled magician, he caused a wire frame vehicle to appear in front of him. He continued making hand gestures, creating a firestorm effect across the surface of the vehicle as he brought into existence inner machinery and additional hull features. 

    When the formatting was complete, a silver, egg-shaped cruiser hovered in front of him. It was crudely rendered and had only a few surface details, but that was the best his interface headgear could produce. 

    He pointed at the vehicle and floated over to it. As he passed through the outer chassis and into the driver's seat, he selected a theme called "Information Superhighway" from a dashboard menu. Layers of floating data cities with freeways passing between them replaced the red gridded room around him. 

    Powering up the vehicle's main drive, he entered the city. Net space was busy, as usual. He sped along a crowded overpass between the Xavier Data Mining Company and Juan's Home Delivery Taco Stand and then merged with an expressway heading in the right direction. He felt something move on his leg, and realized that Stacy must have removed her hand back in the coffee shop. He looked down at his virtual leg where her hand had been, and hoped she would still be there when he returned. 

    As he called up a navigation routine, a circuitry pattern with colored blinking dots popped up on the virtual ship's dashboard. One of the dots was flashing red, signifying that it was heading in the general direction of his Cyberphage. It could be a sentry patrol, which the Phage could handle by itself. Then again, it could be something else. 

    "Is that you, Doyen?" a voice called out. 

    He was startled. Doyen was the title given to him by his fellow programmers long ago. It signified the most knowledgeable, or eldest member of a group. Since no one knew his age or real identity, he had always assumed that the title referred to his skills as a programmer. Either way, he had not heard the name used in years. Signing a message with his virtual hands, he heard his own voice reply. "This is Doyen. Who's in here?" 

    "Your fellow Plumber, Klaxon, here. Long time, no talk, good sir. You've been luxuriating in the Big Blue Room for too long." 

    Klaxon was a topnotch programmer he had met online several years back. A bit of a flake and a showoff, he remembered, but he knew how to write code. 

    "Klaxon. What brings you online, good man?" he signed, his voice mimicking Klaxon's trademark surfer lingo. "Seeking winnitude over yours truly?" 

    "Exactamundo, Doyen. Heard from the Big Grape that you were going after the WDB today. Glad to see you're still in the programmification game, my man. Though you are a poet among Plumbers, I didn't think you could pull this one off. Impressed, we are." 

    The red dot he was following on his dashboard turned orange, signaling that it was close enough for a long-range scan. He touched the dot with his virtual finger and a display appeared above it. It was a simple track and recovery program, less than a hundred megabytes in size. He tried to trace the program's root path, but it was blocked. He then tried a localized buffer search but detected no connection ports or transmission strings in the area. Misdirection was a rule all Plumbers lived by, but damn, Klaxon was one of the best. 

    What the hell is he doing here? Alek quickly plotted the trajectory of Klaxon's program and saw that it was on a direct course to his Cyberphage. 

    "You know the rules, Klaxon. Go be impressed somewhere else," he warned, all humor gone from his virtual voice. "This is not a spectator sport. I'll send you V-mail later and tell you how it went." 

    Klaxon's program suddenly doubled its speed, confirming Alek's suspicion that his former ally was not there to watch. "Don't touch it, Klax. My baby is armor-plated. She'll knock you into the next dimension." 

    "You've got the only working Cyberphage in existence, Doyen. I have a client who has already paid me serious mojo for your baby, and he needs it today. Just consider this a compliment, man. You've created a work of true elegance. Theft is the sincerest form of flattery, and all that." 

    "Klaxon, my program is far beyond elegance, it is perfection, and it will defend itself. Violently." 

    Klaxon didn't respond. The expressway ended and Alek had to drop out and continue manually. The Word Data Bank was physically located on a server in Brazil, which had some of the best defenses on the net. As he entered the outer perimeter, he had to dodge the moving sensor drones repeatedly. This required more three-dimension movement than his current theme would allow. 

    He quickly changed his interface to "Star Ship Frontier," and the world around him changed dramatically. He was now inside a small one-person space ship approaching a small planet that represented the World Data Bank. He pressed his ship to maximum speed and entered the upper atmosphere. 

    He approached the sensor web that surrounded the planet. The strands of the web moved in a random pattern and it took great skill to fly between them without hitting one. He checked his scanner again and plotted new trajectories. Klaxon's program was having better luck avoiding the web, which meant he had probably chosen a better interface format. He was about to call up his own format list when he saw a better idea. 

    A transport node was just entering the atmosphere off to his left, and it was moving in just the right direction. He made a hard left turn--barely missing a large sensor strand--then moved his ship right behind the huge comet-like transport and was instantly caught up in its wake. 

    Halfway though the web, the transport node abruptly changed course and he was forced to leave it behind. He rechecked his target--a few seconds closer to Klaxon, but still too far out of range to launch any offensive subroutines. Without the added speed of full neural interface, there was no way he could catch up with Klaxon in time.

    Time to try something radical, he thought as he slammed his ship into the nearest sensor strand. Alarms went off as the sensor web thickened and contracted, closing off all access to the planet, and forcing him to stop his ship. While he waited for the authorities, he rechecked his scanner. Klaxon had just made it into the World Data Bank's lower atmosphere before the web could shut him out. 

    He tried to relax. There was still probably nothing to worry about. His Cyberphage was well armed and could easily handle whatever Klaxon's little program threw at it. He switched back to the remote camera view he had been watching from the coffee shop. He wanted to see Klaxon slaughtered up close. 

    The Cyberphage appeared on the remote monitor. It looked surprisingly normal, standing on its eight pointed legs, drilling calmly into the slate-blue surface of the network firewall as if nothing had happened. 

    There was no sign of Klaxon. Alek was beginning to think that the sensor web had caught him after all, when the remote view went blank. He tried to reset the connection several times but nothing worked. A moment later, the remote came back up, but there was nothing to see. The Cyberphage was gone. 

    He spent several long minutes explaining to the Brazilian authorities that he was there conducting a test. After transmitting his authorization codes twice, security finally allowed him to proceed. 

    A minute later, his virtual ship reached the area where he had lost contact with the Cyberphage. He scanned the local landscape using full spectrum sweeps, looking for a clue as to what had happened. A short time later, he found a small communications node floating in a nearby data lake. He downloaded the node, and after scanning it for viruses and booby traps, opened it. It was a six-word message from Klaxon. "Nice to finally meet you, Alek." 

    Alek slammed his fist into the escape button on the ship's virtual dashboard. His view went blank for a moment, but then the dot in the distance came rushing back. The coffee shop and everything in it reappeared all around him. Everything except Stacy. 

    ###

    His vision was blurry and he heard a persistent high pitch tone. Sometimes his brain had difficulty adjusting to reality after a quick trip into cyberspace, even one as poorly rendered as the last one. His nose was working fine, however; Stacy's vanilla perfume still lingered in the air.

    As his vision cleared, he looked up and saw her halfway across the room, walking quickly towards the door. He realized that he had forgotten to ask for her number. He stood to run after her and fell forward, tumbling over his table and hitting the wooden floor hard. Ice cubes and cold coffee flew everywhere...