The original millennium bug...
I saw one hell of a crummy movie back in 1989
One day, back in the mid-1980s I was depressed and I went to the library. I think I was writing for NOW Comics at the time and it might have been when I was working on staff. I would have gone out to a bar or a movie, but my depression was usually always connected with being broke so I spent a lot of time at the library. I would split my time between reading and people watching.
I used to and still do read a lot of fiction, mystery and science fiction. I never too a liking to fantasy. I tried to read The Hobbit at least a dozen times. If it wasn’t for Peter Jackson I probably would have never found out what happened to Bilbo Baggypants.
I like my sci-fi old skool. I’m not sure if the cyber punk movement has started yet back then. Digging through the shelves of books that I’d grown to know so well I came across an author I’d never heard of before. His name was John Varley and the book I was holding was called Millennium.
I’m a sucker for a book or movie with a great concept, and Millennium had a dandy. In short, time travelers from a diseased future earth hop back in time to moments before big disasters, like the crash of an airliner, and they haul the people who are about to die to the future, where they can harvest them for spare parts. They then fill the seats of the doomed aircraft with crude clones whose only purpose is to become charred body parts. Neat idea, eh? An investigator for the airline notices some discrepancies with the crash wreckage, has a run in with some conspiracy nuts, and ultimately meets and falls in love with a troubleshooter who has come back in time from the future to smooth things over.
I read the book in one sitting, and then read it again enjoying the nuances. Varley isn’t the greatest scribe on the planet, but dang, I loved that book.
After things went seriously sour at NOW Comics I headed back east and hooked up with my old roommate, Tom Morgan. With the exception of some books for Byron Preiss, I couldn’t sell a thing. Tom came back from the 1988 San Diego Comic Con with a business card from a new publisher called New Comics Group. I wrote some stories for an anthology they were publishing called Asylum, and helped them develop a comic based on a fun (albeit short lived) animated series called The Bionic Six. My editor at New was Valarie Jones, one of the best editors and nicest people on the planet.
After a couple hundred telephone calls and hanging out during business trips Val made to New York, we were officially BFF (best friends forever, in case you don’t savvy Internet-speak). Things changed a lot for me when Val complained that she was going to be in Europe for an extended vacation and she didn’t have anyone at the New Comics Group office that could get the comics prepped and sent off to the printer. Prior to taking up writing for a living I had paid the rent as a graphic designer, plus I’d picked up a thing or two about getting books ready for print while doing time at NOW Comics, so I offered to help out. Val jumped at the chance.
Since I wasn’t exactly setting New York on fire, I figured I’d give California a spin, so I packed up everything I owned and Tom Morgan drove me to JFK. California was nothing like I’d expected. The New Comics Group offices were in a tiny town called San Mateo, located just south of San Francisco. A couple days after I arrived, Val and her boyfriend took off for Europe. With them gone, I officially didn’t know a soul in California. Val and her publishing partner shared a house with a bunch of people in a quasi commune situation. Nobody got paid but you had a roof over your head and one or two square meals a day.
With Val gone out of the country I was suddenly very lonely.
I didn’t have a car so I rode the bus to a sorry little mall a few miles away. Next to the sorry little mall was an even sorrier little movie theater, but my heart skipped a beat or two when I saw on the marquee that one of the movies playing was Millennium. Suddenly I wasn’t so lonely. Here was my old friend. Back in New York I’d half heard something about them doing a film adaptation, but in the rush of packing up and moving I’d totally forgotten.
Outside the sorry little theater I studied the movie poster and thought at first there had been some sort of mistake. The poster said that the movie starred former Charlie’s Angel angel Cheryl Ladd, and weird semi-country musician Kris Kristofferson.
That couldn’t be right. I was pretty sure I remembered all the major characters from the book and absolutely none of them could have possibly been played by Cheryl Ladd or Kris Kristofferson. No way-no how.
Still, there it was printed on real cardboard and in my face. Maybe I was remembering the book wrong. Whatever was going on, I bought a ticket to the next show. I spent a depressing hour walking around in a nearly deserted Sears store where everyone I made eye contact with seemed on the verge of suicide.
I made it back over to the theater a little early, but I wanted to get a good seat. I shouldn’t have hurried. I could have had any seat I wanted. I was the only person in the theater.
Two hours later I felt like I’d just walked away from a train wreck. I stumbled over to the bus stop shelter and tried to gather my senses about me. To call the movie I’d just witnessed ‘horrible’ would be giving it far too much credit. Whatever movie classification is five or six increments beneath ‘horrible’ would have been closer to the mark.
For a few fleeting moments I thought that perhaps the movie was supposed to be a comedy. Something like a Saturday Night Live skit. But, no. It was astounding how little emotion Kristofferson and Ladd managed to display. It was like they were wooden puppets.
This ordeal happened back in 1989 and to this day I don’t think someone could have made a worse movie if that was their intention from frame one.
Weeks later Valarie returned and live in California started to perk up. Those of you familiar with our history know that in the following years Val and I worked for First Comics in Chicago and Eclipse Comics back in California, and while all this was going on we made the jump from being BFF and roommates, to the happy couple we remain today. Just a few weeks ago we celebrated our fourteenth wedding anniversary.
The moral of this story? Well, there is none, except that Millennium sucked like a Dyson.