Authors: Edward Bryant,Harlan Ellison
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Science Fiction, #ark, #generation ship, #starlost, #enclosed universe
TO THE STARS—TO DIE!
Harlan Ellison created a bold concept for a television series. Winner of more sf awards than any living author, Ellison soon realized his “enclosed universe” concept was being ripped-off by inept TV producers.
But his original teleplay for the series won a Writers Guild award as the Most Outstanding Teleplay of the year. Now Harlan Ellison and Edward Bryant (Nebula award winning author) have joined forces to bring
to reality as it was intended.
Phoenix Without Ashes,
based on Ellison’s award-winning teleplay, Edward Bryant has created a story filled with wonder and adventure.
PHOENIX WITHOUT ASHES
HARLAN ELLISON AND EDWARD BRYANT
Other Books by Edward Bryant:
(All Coming soon from ReAnimus Press)
Among the Dead and Other Events Leading to the Apocalypse
Flirting With Death
The Baku: Tales of the Nuclear Age
© 2012, 1975 by Edward W. Bryant Jr. and Harlan Ellison. All rights reserved.
A NOVEL OF
PHOENIX WITHOUT ASHES
By Edward Bryant & Harlan Ellison
Adapted from the Award-Winning Script by Harlan Ellison
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Table of Contents
The authors wish to pay their respects to the long and honorable line of dreamers who have employed the “enclosed universe” theme as the basis for works of fantasy. Without their visions, this book would not have been, unless we’d predated their visions, in which case someone else would have written this book and they’d be paying homage to
as classic dreamers... but that’s another story. Thanks to Homer for his ship of Odysseus; Jonah and his whale; Melville and Ahab for
whale and the Pequod; Mark Twain for Huck and Jim’s raft; James Joyce for Leopold Bloom and his mind; Dante, Verne, Wells, Cyrano, Lucian and, earliest in sf—as best we can trace it—Don Wilcox; to Robert Heinlein for “Universe” and “Common Sense”; to Brian Aldiss, John Brunner, Edmund Cooper, Harry Harrison, J. T. McIntosh, Alexei Panshin, Frederik Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth, E. C. Tubb, William F. Temple, Poul Anderson, James Blish, Clifford Simak, and Kate Wilhelm. And to Katherine Anne Porter. If we’ve overlooked anyone, we’re bound to hear about it.
E.B. / H.E.
This one is, of course, for HARLAN ELLISON, as well as other victims of radiation virus, space senility, and the committee system.
That’s nonsense. His name doesn’t appear first on the byline because I’m awash with charity. I had the original dream, yeah, but this would be a script, not a novel, if it hadn’t been for his talent and patience and hard work and, most of all, his deadpan friendship. So this one, clearly, is for that Solar Star, ED BRYANT.
Life is not a spectacle or a feast;
it is a predicament.
Articles and Essays
SOMEHOW, I DON’T THINK WE’RE IN KANSAS, TOTO
by Harlan Ellison
Six months of my life were spent in creating a dream the shape and sound and color of which had never been seen on television. The dream was called
and between February and September of 1973 I watched it being steadily turned into a nightmare.
The late Charles Beaumont, a scenarist of unusual talents, who wrote many of the most memorable
said to me when I arrived in Hollywood in 1962, “Attaining success in Hollywood is like climbing a gigantic mountain of cow flop, in order to pluck one perfect rose from the summit. And you find when you’ve made that hideous climb... you’ve lost the sense of smell.”
In the hands of the inept, the untalented, the venal, and the corrupt,
became a veritable Mt. Everest of cow flop, and, though I climbed that mountain, somehow I never lost sight of the dream, never lost the sense of smell, and when it got so rank I could stand it no longer, I descended hand-over-hand from the northern massif, leaving behind $93,000, the corrupters, and the eviscerated remains of my dream. I’ll tell you about it.
February. Marty the agent called and said, “Go over to 20th and see Robert Kline.”
“Who’s Robert Kline?”
“West Coast head of taped syndicated shows. He’s putting together a package of mini-series, eight or ten segments per show. He wants to do a science fiction thing. He asked for you. It’ll be a co-op deal between 20th Century-Fox and the BBC. They’ll shoot it in London.”
London! “I’m on my way,” I said, the jet-wash of my departure deafening him across the phone connection.
I met Kline in the New Administration Building of 20th, and his first words were so filled with sugar I had the feeling if I listened to him for very long I’d wind up with diabetes: “I wanted the top sf writer in the world,” he said. Then he ran through an informed list of my honors in the field of science fiction. Let Asimov chew on
for a while, I thought, blushing prettily.
Then Kline advised me that what he was after was “a sort of
in space.” Visions of doing a novel-for-television in the mode of
splatted like overripe casaba melons; I got up and started to walk.
“Hold it, hold it!” Kline said. “What did
have in mind?” I sat down again.
Then I ran through half a dozen ideas for series that would be considered primitive ideas in the literary world of sf. Kline found each of them too complex. As a final toss at the assignment, I said, “Well, I’ve been toying with an idea for tape, rather than film; it could be done with enormous production values that would be financially impossible for a standard filmed series.”
“What is it?” he said.
And here’s what I said:
Three hundred years from now, the Earth is about to suffer a cataclysm that will destroy all possibility for life on the planet. Time is short. The greatest minds and the noblest philanthropists get together and cause to have constructed in orbit between the Moon and the Earth a giant ark, one thousand miles long, comprised of hundreds of self-contained biospheres. Into each of these little worlds is placed a segment of Earth’s population, its culture intact. Then the ark is sent off toward the stars—even as the Earth is destroyed—to seed the new worlds surrounding those stars with the remnants of humanity.
But one hundred years after the flight has begun, a mysterious “accident” (which would remain a mystery till the final segment of the show, hopefully four years later) kills the entire crew, seals the biosphere-worlds so they have no contact with one another... and the long voyage goes on with the people trapped, developing their societies without any outside influence. Five hundred years go by, and the travelers—the Starlost—forget the Earth. To them it is a myth, a vague legend, even as Atlantis is to us. They even forget they are adrift in space, forget they are in an interstellar vessel. Each community thinks it is “the world” and that the world is only fifty square miles, with a metal ceiling.
Until Devon, an outcast in a society rigidly patterned after the Amish communities of times past, discovers the secret, that they are onboard a space-going vessel. He learns the history of the Earth, learns of its destruction, and learns that when “the accident” happened, the astrogation gear of the ark was damaged and now the last seed of humankind is on a collision course with a star. Unless he can convince a sufficient number of biosphere worlds to band together in a communal attempt to learn how the ark works, to repair it and reprogram their flight, they will soon be incinerated in the furnace of that star toward which they’re heading.
It was, in short, a fable of our world today.
“Fresh! Original! New!” Kline chirruped. “There’s never been an idea like it before!” I didn’t have the heart to tell him the idea was first propounded in astronautical literature in the early 1920’s by the great Russian pioneer Tsiolkovsky, nor that the British physicist Bernal had done a book on the subject in 1929, nor that the idea had become
common coin in the genre of science fiction through stories by Heinlein, Harrison, Aldiss, Panshin, Simak, and many others. (Arthur C. Clarke’s Hugo and Nebula award-winning bestseller,
Rendezvous With Rama,
is the latest example of the basic idea.)
Kline suggested I dash home and write up the idea, which he would then merchandise. I pointed out to him that the Writers Guild frowns on speculative writing and that if he wanted the riches of my invention, he should lay on me what we call “holding money” to enable me to write a prospectus and to enable him to blue-sky it with the BBC.
The blood drained from his face at my suggestion of advance money, and he said he had to clear it with the BBC, but that if I wrote the prospectus he would guarantee me a free trip to London. I got up and started to walk.
“Hold it, hold it!” he said, and opened a desk drawer. He pulled out a cassette recorder and extended it. “Tell you what: why don’t you just tell it on a cassette, the same way you told it to me.” I stopped and looked. This was a new one on me. In almost thirteen years as a film and television writer, I’d seen some of the most circuitous Machiavellian dodges ever conceived by the mind of Western Man to get writers to write on the cuff. But never this.
I thought on it for a moment, rationalized that this wasn’t speculative writing, that at worst it was “speculative talking,” and since a writer is expected to pitch an idea verbally anyhow, it was just barely legitimate.
So I took the cassette home, backed my spiel with the music from
2001: A Space Odyssey,
outlined the barest bones of the series concept, and brought it back to Kline.
“Okay. Here it is,” I said, “but you can’t transcribe it. If you do, then it becomes spec writing and you have to pay me.” I was assured he wouldn’t put it on paper, and that he’d get back to me shortly. He was sure the BBC would go bananas for the idea.
No sooner was I out of his office than he had his secretary transcribe the seven-minute tape.
March. No word.
April. No word.
May. Suddenly there was a flurry of activity. Marty the agent called. “Kline sold the series. Go see him.”
“Series?” I said, appalled. “But that idea was only viable for eight segments.... A
“Go see him.”
So I went. Kline greeted me as if I were the only human capable of deciphering the Mayan Codex, and caroled that he had sold the series not only to forty-eight of the NBC independent affiliates, but that the Westinghouse outlets had bitten, and so had the entire Canadian television network CTV.