Saturday, 9 August 2014

Starassacre 767

There seems to be some confusion about when Starmageddon takes place.  It takes place far enough in the future that the Strategic Defense Initiative works – and it works like a charm – and close enough to when it was written that all other technology is exactly the same as the day KAL Flight 007 was shot down.  Same fighter jets, same airliners, same missiles, same radar, same beacons, same radios, same inflight “delicious breakfast.”  (Same East and West Germany.) Because Rohmer had paid for that research, for Massacre 007, and it was still fresh and tasty.  So Fall, 19200083. 

Brian, I know you’re inclined to chalk this up to Rohmer pulling another Patton’s Gap/Rommel & Patton, Separation/Separation II.  And selling the same thing twice with a new cover.  But I think it’s something deeper and prettier than that.

I think, in order to believe in the Strategic Defense Initiative, you had to set aside everything you knew about the nature of matter and time.  I think that’s what its fans loved about it.  The only thing between it working in theory and it working in practice was physics itself.  In hack screenplay terms this is known as “a buy.”  You have a place where your story starts and a place where you want it to end up, and you have a buy in the middle.  A little coincidence. An accident. An inheritance. A magic spell.  A friend at City Hall who owes you a favor.

The jail cell has an air duct, and the air duct is just big enough to crawl through.

How was SDI going to overcome everything we knew about science?  Top scientists were going to figure it out.

If we could knock down all of Russia’s ICBMs, what would stop them from using their bombers, cruise missiles and submarine-launched missiles?  Well, they just wouldn’t, that’s why.  Because they’d be so disheartened.

It’s a buy.

When Reagan said, “Here’s my strategy in the Cold War: We win, they lose,” it wasn’t bluster, really.  It was a script note.  Now figure out how we get there.

When does Starmageddon take place?  It takes place inside Ronald Reagan’s brain. It takes place now and in the future.  In a parallel universe where Reagan is president forever. 


  1. You're right, of course. Starmageddon takes place within Ronald Reagan's brain (made articulate by Peggy Noonan). To the reader who fails to recognize this the novel makes no sense.

    The Soviets are disheartened!

    The Cold War is over!

    Bring on the terrorists and their suitcase nukes!

    Though I maintain that airline breakfasts were better, much is the same in 2000 as it was when KAL 007 was shot down. The real world? Well, the bestselling album of 1983 was Thriller; in 2000 it was *NSYNC's No String's Attached.

    Advancement in Rohmer's world revolves around space shuttle propulsion, which takes up an inordinate amount of time in briefings. There are regressions: The President and General Secretary communicate through telex machines? What happened to their hotline? What happened to the extraordinary teleconferencing technology - in living colour - as depicted in Rohmer's earliest novels?

    Chris, you write that I see Rohmer pulling another Patton’s Gap/Rommel & Patton, Separation/Separation Two.

    I do. Consider this:

    At 18:26: 20 the Soviet pilot reported: "805. I have executed the launch."
    In one second the lights of the rockets, as burning propellants thrust the missiles ever supersonically faster toward the target, had become mere pinpoints in the distance. The rockets headed unerringly for the brilliant navigation lights and the red rotating beacons of the target.
    The fighter pilot knew this his heart-seeking missile, if functioning properly, would have "locked on" to one go the target's huge engines pouring out a river of intense heat into the frigid high-altitude air.

    Massacre 747, p. 12

    At 5:53 the Soviet pilot reported: "804. I have executed the launch."
    In one second the lights of the rockets, as burning propellants thrust the missiles ever faster toward the target, had become mere pinpoints in the distance. The rockets headed unerringly for the brilliant navigation lights and the red rotating beacons of the target.
    Pilot 804 knew this his heart-seeking missile, if functioning properly, would have locked onto one go the river of intense heat that the target's huge engines pouring out into the frigid high-altitude air.

    Starmageddon, p. 153

    I could cite other examples of self-plagiarism, but you know they're there. The college prof in me gives this one an 'F'. You may disagree. Let's not get bogged down debating grades - there are so many more interesting things to discuss…like the President off the United States.

    The man's a psychopath, right?

  2. Ha. Your book would be better than Rohmer's, because the president would turn out to be crazy.

    In the first couple of Rohmers we read, I kept thinking he was setting us up for exactly that sort of twist. I don't know, that the people behind the bankers and oilmen and international thing-buyers were sending them out to fail. Or they'd cut another deal behind their backs. Or someone on the team cut a deal, or was secretly working for the other side. Something. Anything.

    Now I just accept that everything moves in a straight line in Rohmer world. The good guys get a notion and pursue it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. On the last page the president/prime minister/Stalin vetoes the deal or he doesn't. The subplots don't merge, they just end.

    The commies try to take over the world but back down when they see the president means business.

    Stan: Are you in a professional position where you ever have to call someone out on plagerism?

  3. I'm connected enough to know about plagiarism; I've seen it accused and convicted at work. Unfortunately, this blog doesn't have enough authority to do anything about it - except call him out on it, which you guys have done quite well.

    I thought the first time we met President Blank - chapter two with MacGregor going over "things" with him - was a wonderful satire of how clueless Reagan supposedly was in his waning days in the White House.

    Then I realized it was - yet again - just for exposition.

    In a bar somewhere in the future:

    BRIAN: So I need to post on our blog - what's it called again?
    CHRIS: Reading Richard Rohmer - us and Stan read each of the books roughly in date order and comment on them.
    BRIAN: Right! And it's on the Internet.
    CHRIS: The world-wide web as it's also known - the thing that connects computers and computer systems around the world.
    BRIAN: That's it!

    I'll excise manly pats from this scene but reserve the right to add a tough but sexy woman to the scene when I recycle it for my next comment. Which I'll pretend is completely different, of course.

  4. Chris was wearing jodhpurs and a gleaming chrome helmet. The atmosphere in the bar was tense.

    1. Does that mean I get to wear Hugo Boss? Sweet!

    2. And Stan will be wearing a brown sweatshirt and grey cords. Dammit, Stan, we said it was a party.

    3. If I wear a beret, you'll swear I was Monty.

    4. Never say that squeaky-voiced, glory-grubbing coward's name in my war room again!

    5. What are you going to do, Chris, threaten us with your beautiful ivory-handled revolvers?

  5. I just remembered: One of the Dixie Chicks was booked on Maher decades ago, and I read an instant paperback biography of the band -- an astounding cut-and-paste job. There was nothing to say about them at the time. I think they'd recorded two albums. And the author hadn't spoken to them, or anyone they knew. It was a lot of quotes from magazine interviews and lists of awards. But the best part was that he kept coming back to how the Dixie Chicks weren't the first successful country trio: there were also the Mandrells. And then there was a chapter about the history of the Mandrells. And yes, I checked, the author had once written a book about the Mandrells.

    Brian, you know a lot more about publishing than I do -- the 23 blank pages Irwin has placed in Starmaggedon, those are for notes, right?

    1. Blank pages do add bulk - as does self-plagiarism. And let's not forget maps and diagrams. Did anyone else notice that they're better than ever? Not one looks like it was ripped from a phone book. What's more, there's a certain uniformity of style, owing I think to the fact that all were designed by Folio Graphics of Collingwood, Ontario. I've not been able to find out a thing about the design firm. But Collingwood… Why that's the home of the man himself.

  6. Stan, have you reached Starmageddon's pulse-pounding denouement?

  7. Give me this afternoon to get rid of the last 50 pages. It reads really fast - I got home from a party last night and read 60 pages in no time. Again, I am grateful you can fly through it.

    Why oh why must there always be a secret meeting between world leaders? This is Chris's theory of I LOVE LUCY: the comedy only works if you believe that the worst thing that can happen is if your wife or husband find out ____ (fill in the blank).