With age some ninety-seven years, to be precise - Farrier had acquired a chat show hosts approach to the world of the arts. He would not read a book if he had the relative convenience of an adapted movie and would avoid any movie so long as he could read what others had written of it in the broadsheets the were transmitted to the office visiboard every morning.
Since he was an intelligent and educated man there could be small doubt that he would not have formed similar observations, so he felt it was a labour-saving exercise in the main. Books took days, movies hours but a review could be consigned to memory in a matter of minutes. And that was frequently all the time he had to spare. It was his place to accommodate the masses, not to sneak amongst them. After all, one who traded in arable produce didnt spend his time in vegetarian restaurants.
Besides all those justifications, Daniel Farrier was a creative representative (an agent, in common parlance), so that any involvement with the arts was nothing more than obligatory. In much the same way prostitutes were not required to know the machinations of progenerative biology to ply their trade or an elected official the thoughts of the public, so Farrier needed only the scantest knowledge to survive in his oeuvre. What he did need to know he could pick apart from gossip, along with a great deal he might prefer not to know.
It was upon one of these routine professional forays into the world of celebrity that Farrier faced just such unwanted news. Up until that point, Whats Hot And Whos Shot had been one of his favourite shows not counting the re-runs of aging sit-coms and sci-fi shows on UK Old which would often prompt him to wonder if some of his clients were still alive; a thought that must have collaterally crossed their minds about him in the intervals between seaside rep and pantomime, the two maligned gigs that effectively provided an ersatz Benefits Agency for all hapless thespians. Those that could not get a voice-over on the latest VR game, that is.
The hostess of Whats Hot And Whos Shot was looking especially radiant that night, due largely to an upgrade in her healthy-glow rendering. Wondering how well it might suit her as a brunette, Farrier adjusted her hair colour on the remote not bad at all, he found, peering through a pair of platinum pince-nez that were, as all aids to bodily deficiency, an ostentatious gimmick. As was his custom, he also exchanged her default New York drawl for RP English.
There has been shock in the movie world today as George Lucas is delaying release of Episode IX until the next stage of human evolution because he believes human eyes in their present state may not do it justice. We go live to Skywalker County, New America for this word from the man himself.
Lucas had followed in the steps of Walt Disney in leaving his head to medical science, who had gratefully downloaded, enhanced and uplinked him to his current digital format unlike the bigoted Disney, he had at least left the part that did his thinking. What a tragedy to have died before the luxury of re-gen drugs.
Now the director was reduced to a proximate likeness fashioned from scanned news footage and motion-capture scans, his character and creativity, based on computer projections that extrapolated on a careful analysis of his past decisions and behaviour, interpolated with the visual restoration to create a fully-rounded virtual mogul. Exact to the point of pedantry, it had caused some minor glitches at first in early days the Lucas program had moved straight into sequel territory and, in so doing, Howard The Duck had seen a return, which was more than its financiers had seen but very soon his logic circuits were realigned and soon he was back at the helm of box-office spectaculars.
Only this time he had absolute creative control, able to edit the CGI sequences from the inside. And he was much younger now, but with an affected streak of iron-grey in his thick mop of hair to lend the necessary air of sobriety and wisdom. In effect, he had been re-mastered, mercifully without the THX drone but re-mastered nonetheless.
The problem is, he explained, ILM has been working to achieve a level of detail and actuality that the movie-going audience just wont be able to appreciate it. Weve invented software, broken new ground and really ripped open the envelope here, and its only now that I come to realise peoples eyes just arent up to scratch. Who knows, this problem might have been going on longer than I realised. It might explain some of the reviews.
To illustrate, the view cut from Lucas to exclusive footage from the latest blockbuster which had PROPERTY OF LUCASFILM superimposed over them in such a way that nothing could, in reality, be seen of it. Presumably in the supposition that such tactics might prove too scant and the audio excerpts too revealing, a digitised voice boomed constantly that what you were hearing was also the property of LucasFilm. As advertising went, reasoned Farrier, it was terribly effective, reminding him of the occasions in his early career when he had wondered what Jude Laws dick had looked like. Oh, that delightful, undisclosed mound!
The mood was spoiled abruptly as Lucas flashed back on-screen.
For a start, we figured that there werent enough colours available to us, we had to invent another fifty-seven just for Jar Jar Jr.s costumes alone. You come to realise you cant rely on the current spectrum. Its old hat, everyone has seen it by now. We wanted something new, something fresh. Then there was the geometric problem. Theres only so many shapes available, so we had to imagineer new ones. In the end we just threw out accepted geometric principles and made our own. And as for audio, the sound designers have worked their guts out, working in ultrasonics and some frequencies that again we had to devise because once again science had let us down badly. And boy, did those babies work some magic with the new frequencies. The neighbours dogs were going ape. Even John Williams is having to build new instruments, although Im still not convinced we shouldnt create a whole new John Williams.
Of course, Lucas went on, You dont go to those lengths just to have it ruined by the limitations of human biology.
We estimate you would need about eight eyes, all rotoscopic. I mean, some of the fine detail and rendering would look like David Lean under something as myopic as an electroscope. So, maybe, some kind of hominid-arachnid chimera with the ears of a bat, of course, and a bloodstream comprising high levels of psilocybin. That should be almost enough. Its gonna be a bitch if I have to invent a whole new species just so I dont get crappy notices.
The hostess voice cut in, a no-nonsense program-to-program tone in her voice: Well, if your judgement is correct, and thats a whole new other question, the only creatures likely to enjoy your movie will be bats, spiders and maybe the odd sparrow hawk?
Lucas gave it a facsimile show of thought, just for the viewers at home.
Yeah, but they would have to be telling each other the bits theyre not picking up on.
Such as the plot? Farrier grunted smugly.
No, I figure they could follow that okay, the great director admitted.
Farrier hated inter-active TV at moments like that.
He was just about to make himself a drink and light up some top-quality nicotine, for which he held only an expired licence, when he heard a name he had hoped to avoid for the rest of his unnatural longevity. Except, perhaps, in the occasional nightmares at his age, it was sadly the only reason to be found sweating and sticky in bed.
What did you just say? he snapped back at the TV.
The hostess gave a petulant sigh. I said that detectives in London State are re-opening the Gig Render case after fresh evidence has come to light of a feud that had been taking place between the movie star and his agent over the actors future. Render, who disappeared without trace over thirty years ago, will be best remembered
Farrier disagreed entirely. Render was best forgotten, and largely had been as his place in the entertainment industry had been supplanted in that fickle and timely way that was show-business policy. Left to the business, Farrier would be perfectly safe, but the Commandments Agency UK plcs internal affairs department had memories almost as long as the sentences they handed out.
Only last week he had seen on the current events infomercial, cheerfully sponsored by MicroSony, some street-rager had got sixty years social confinement for collapsing the skull of a fellow pedestrian who had repeatedly cut him up every time the felon had tried to get past him with the heavy shopping that had then become the murder weapon. It was even suggested the Agency would enforce random drugs testing in purchase-zones in time for the January sales as a response to the rise in impatience-based fatalities.
Sixty years! The poor chap would be middle-aged before he saw another sale sign. What then for Farriers little moment of madness? Ninety? He would rather be dead or American than face decades listening to nothing but his body spitefully replenishing itself year after year, although given the nature of his crime it would amount to the same thing at least the Americans had the decency to terminate your right to longevity.
Bloody George Lucas! What a luxury to have died before the tragedy of re-gen drugs.
He lit up the nicotine and tried in vain to nurture a few cancer cells before they were swamped in retro-virals and tumour-busters.
The smoke alarm went off almost immediately.
You appear to be smoking, it said. Please stop!
You can tell Spielberg he can suck my pixels, Farrier, Gig Render bawled, his synthesised voice causing the speakers in his combined hard-drive and carry-case to buzz as waspishly as his manner.
Farrier sat back in his chair, leaning as far from the onslaught as he dared. Atop his desk, Gig Render was perched, taking up much of the blotter. On-screen, the film star was more impressive, but in person he was something of a disappointment which gave him much in common with his organic peers. Reduced to a sleek, black suitcase of processors and intuitive chipsets, he was little more than a humble desktop computer with a foul mouth and a billion Hertz of attitude. Having disdain for the cinema and, in particular, for the eye-candy with which so much of its recent successes were decorated, Farrier had until now never seen Gig Render so animated.
Im not going to do that, Gig. We are still riding the wave of his last movie, making you the most bankable, sought-after star in the business. While we still owe him I think we should tread carefully.
The monitor screen, on which the perfectly-apportioned features of Render were displayed in all their artificial vainglory, flickered momentarily as if his tumult of rage were too much for the EUBloc Grid to serve. There was seething breath from the set-top audio system.
Its no secret that his software teams are already looking for the next big thing, Farrier, sure, and that ILM are looking to improve on my work. Now theyre telling me at Dreamworks that for the next movie Im getting half the definition and a quarter of the drive-space to work with as some fucking dinosaurs. Jesus, Im an actor not Lara Croft. I cant work under these conditions, and its up to you to put things right.
Farrier sighed inwardly. It had come to this. For all he was technologically advanced, Gig Render was as precious and petty as any prima donna before him, arguing screen-time and billing and pet chefs. There was little to be done while the star was blazing with discontentment, except sit it out and then negotiate the ilk of trite and unjustifiable privelege that mattered most in the vacuity of showbusiness kudos.
Despite his routine unfamiliarity with progress, Daniel Farrier realised that every agent on the planet would at that time have paid to have someone killed so as to have Gig Render on their books. He was dimly aware also that his ambivalence towards the computer-generated movie icon probably galled his competitors moreso. If he had ever learned to value money over the distillation and maturation of hops and grape, then he would have been in a state of perpetual professional priapism, proudly striding like a behemoth among the world of the popular arts on a journey paved with the stepping-stones of lesser agents. In fact, he was experiencing a numbness of ennui that he should have been saddled with such success at an age where he could not richly enjoy its priveleges. He had Tommy Chrich to thank for that.
The advent of the pixellated actor had stalled numerously over the last decade, software limitations and unaffordable machine architectures placing the dream of a free-standing artificial performer tantalisingly out of reach. Too many had given up, been browbeaten into reaching for pizza, beer and a games contract instead, with the exception of Tommy Chrich. A homegrown genius, unsullied by ambition or thoughts of his own development house, his imagination not hijacked by the lazy aspirations of CEOs, Chrich simply worked with what there was and constructed what bridges he lacked. Farrier had met Chrich just at the point of Gig Renders initial testing and the young programmer had suggested that Farrier see the potential for his creation. The agent was unimpressed. He had worked with some of Hollywoods biggest draws, so the mention of yet another artificial personality did little to stir him from his listlessness. So Chrich saw the potential for him, arranging a trade show in Earls Court that brought wet-lipped directors and wet-penned financiers from all shores. Kindly, Chrich remained true to his apathetic mentor, relaying all queries and advances through Farriers Soho-Under-Dome office. The agent was reluctant to question this blind loyalty, but on the occasion that he had Chrich had informed him somewhat sweetly that Farrier was the only agent in London who had not tried to fuck him in one sense or another, a detail that the older man had trouble taking in. Who knew that finding another man unappealing could bring so many rewards?
Over the next eighteen months, the Gig Render phenomenon exploded into life. He was on the cover of Time, Newsweek and PC Answers. His matchless visage bestrode billboards, movie posters and countless desktop wallpapers. But it was in performance that Render truly outgunned his flesh-and-blood co-stars, or so Farrier had read.
What the advocates of Stanislavsky strived to achieve with months of pasta and puddings or closeting themselves with a personal trainer, the digital artiste could do to order. Gig Render was far more than a blank-faced marionette upon which the designs of any director could be plotted with a few hours reprogramming. He was entirely self-aware; although Farrier questioned whether Render was flawed in this respect, for it often seemed he was only ever aware of his self, as though the organic, static-formed beings that fawned over him were the lesser of the two.
Lon Chaney was forgotten, now that Tinsel Town had user-access to The Man Of A Googol Pixels. Now here was Farrier, richer even than he could be troubled with, getting routinely lambasted by Chrichs monster. He often wondered if Gig was perhaps how gentle Chrich, meek and mild, might have wished to be. Or had he used computer gimmickry to cast out his worst components into this bawling, preening creature of the software scripters Id, a technological voodoo hex on the showbusiness world. Doctor Jekyll And Mister Snide
Farrier bit a mental lip and made a conciliatory gesture to the glowering cam.
Despite being permanently operational, it was evident Render was only just warming up.
You see what those bastards at Variety said about me, by the way? I downloaded a copy this morning. Here, take a look. Gigs printer whirred angrily, the feed spitting the page out at Farrier who glanced at it without picking it up. He imagined the paper to be hot to the touch, as much from the heat in the actors words as from the thermal printing.
Ive seen it. Theyre entitled to their opinions, erroneous as we might find them.
Forget their opinions - you expect a grunt from a fucking pig. Its the biog Im talking about, you dickhead. They say Im Version 4.1 Im only 3.9, damn it.
You dont look a day over 3.5, Gig. Its a minor detail.
And how would you like it if they said you were a practising homosexual?
Id be flattered, dear-heart. Bjorn Borg gets more practise than I do these days.
Shut it, Farrier. You might be used to fucking with your wet-form clients but dont you try it with me. And this bullshit about me interacting with that paint-boxed slut from Whos Hot And Whos Shot?, you think thats cool too?
A little scandal never hurt. Its de riguere in our business.
Shes not even up to my specifications, you moron. They even got me quoted as saying we were, hold on, yeah, just chips that passed in the night. Thats bullshit. Now I want this kind of shit sorting or maybe I should be looking for better management. You getting this down? The light-reactive iris in his cam shrank beadily.
Thats not your decision to make, Gig. Tommy is happy with what weve achieved for you. I made you a star and he, well, he just made you
Im not a complete Culkin, you know. Any number of guys in Hollywood could do what he did. You think I dont know about your special arrangement with him? Those backroom butt-boys you cosy up to together. You keep him in asses, quite literally, and he leaves you to cream off me!
Talk to Tommy.
I did. In between fellatios he said hed leave it to you.
Well, there you are. So shall I tell Steven were okay for the sequel?
Render ranted on, regardless of the overtures of his agent or in spite of them.
They want to see beautiful people, Farrier, not the likes of Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. Not blemishes, not lines, not human frailties.
Not flesh, you mean. Farrier smirked. Playing the racist card was beneath
him, but like most things he found beneath him it was immensely satisfying.
Hey, its a fantasy medium. With a few courses of genetic re-growth anyone
can look like Gwyneth Paltrow these days even you. The question is, why would anyone want to see that on the big screen? They want what they cant be, just like always.
Synthespians, like you!?
Yeah. Why the hell not?
Render fell silent for a moment. The agent took the opportunity to light up a
cigar and practise his smoke rings, quietly amused by the angry rattle of his clients hard disk.
Without warning, the peace was broken by Render announcing tersely: Give me a minute. I got to make a few calls.
Farrier heard the unearthly clicking of Gigs private modem sinking its Bluetooth into the agents phone line. Who are you calling?
There was the sound of an open line and the trill of a number being dialled. A long number, Farrier realised. Thats a transatlantic call, Gig. What are you doing?
The actor remained silent, his screensaver flashing up to pile insult upon injury. Im Busy Youre Not! it read.
Farrier leapt from his chair and snatched the phone socket from the wall. The modem fell into a confused rattle of bleeps and almost instantly Gig Render was back on-screen. What the fuck!?
Farrier resumed his place behind the desk, tight-lipped and redder than was usual.
Have you had offers?
Plug that fucking phone back in now! The monitor fluttered wildly. God, I wish you had epilepsy, the speakers boomed.
I think youre being very unprofessional, Gig. Theres a certain courtesy to be observed here.
Yeah, okay, the film star responded. Ive had offers. Good ones. Big money. Twenty-four hour service. As many upgrades as I want. Even talk of me going ergonomic. Im pissed off living out of a fucking suitcase, Farrier. Im a movie star, not some asylum seeker.
The agent hesitated in his reply. He had dealt with the vanities and tantrums of some of the most demanding clients in the business and to Farrier they were all child stars under the Botox, but they could always be assuaged with a vigorous psychological massage. Yet something about Gig Render had always made him feel the star was so chipset in his ways that when the line was eventually drawn it would be high-definition. There were few available pleasures in Farriers canon to distract or persuade someone for whom they held no meaning. In the end, the agent had known he had nothing to offer Gig Render and that in time Render would see that too.
The gauntlet had been thrown. Farrier slid open a drawer in his desk and withdrew a gleaming hip-flask. It had been a gift from Oliver Reed who called it the pipette, and had remained all of a treasured keepsake, a hardy friend and filled with gin. He unscrewed it, smiling at the memory of Ollie playfully punching him over who had had the biggest manhood. Farrier, of course, won, having had one the size of a navvies arm in a Dutch seraglio and Ollie had said that wasnt what he had meant.
The cosy reverie was broken by the harsh bark of the technological terror.
Thats you answer to everything, isnt it?
Actually, I was thinking of Oliver Reed. I suspect youve never heard of him.
Of course, it was the chore of a nano-seconds MegaNet search for Gig Render to know just who Farrier was talking about.
Sure. Another pisshead, like you. Waste of talent, unlike you.
Farrier contemplated the cam and then the hip flask.
As a matter of fact, he wasted nothing.
Drank from the drip-tray too, did he? There was something all too malicious in the voice and the rasping laugh that followed it. Emotions, even simulated ones, were still new to the film star and it seemed he enjoyed them as much as he was addicted to the worst of them.
No, Gig. He was of a different class to you. He had natural talent, not a conglomeration of studied, empty mimicry.
The monitor flickered. The speakers buzzed.
Thats it, Farrier. Youre history.
Farrier smiled broadly, the flask in his hands growing comfortably warm just as the contents had brought to him on so many occasions before.
Perhaps youre right. Although if history teaches us anything it is that the public like their icons flawed. It gives them the humanity that you will always envy. Youre the very distillation of the manufactured star. Get yourself a flaw, check into a clinic, then go right back to square one. Give the people what they are.
The flask grew warm in the agents sweating palm.
Maybe you should be more like Ollie, he whispered darkly.
Call my carrier. Im leaving. Call him now, Farrier. Ill think about what youve said while Im having my screen polished by J-Lo.
No, Gig, Farrier said with resolve, rising from his chair. It seemed a terrible shame to do it, but he could always nip to The Cock And Piercing for a liquid lunch.
I think, the agent added firmly as he purposefully unscrewed the silver container, That its time we discussed your problem with drink
Farrier woke from the nightmare, perspiration running down his face and bedclothes clenched in a grip that could have milked a eunuch.
Still as vivid as ever, the memory had come to him as it always had. Except that on this occasion it was perhaps a little sharper, the colours of incandescent sparks and licking flames from Renders casing so bright he could still see them as he closed his eyes to wish it had all been a dream; the TV show, the renewed interest in the case, the smoking bans.
But no, it was all there in a new glory that made this re-mastering culture look like nothing less vivid than a fresh coat of greasepaint. There was no question in his mind. He was doomed. They would tease his guilt from him with their chemical tweezers, find the immersed remains of the film star, rusted and forgotten, where Farrier had immersed him so many years ago. New technologies might even resurrect him, access his memory and provide video footage taken from Renders P.O.V. to be played out on court-room visiscreens and scandal shows across the networks. It would be sought after on the MegaNet and shared by, oh Good God in Heaven, the general public!
Perhaps his dream to make it onto Whos Hot And Whos Shot? would finally be realised in one last act of professional shaming. He had never relished the idea of stardom, now it looked as though he was going to hit the limelight whatever his personal wishes.
Farrier lit up some more nicotine, telling the smoke alarm to go fuck itself long before it had time to intercede reprovingly.
Bloody technological advances! What good are you now?
It was then that he became dimly aware of something that any professional in the business would have given their right arm for, especially now that medical science could so easily give it back. It was nebulous and indistinct, but it was definitely there and forming fast.
An idea. Not an original idea, of course, but that was the delicious irony of it. It had come directly from Gig Renders own soundcard, bless his cotton dustsheet.
Of course, it needed cash, and lots of it, but even that had been provided by Render over the years. Perhaps he hadnt been all bad after all. Just mostly awful.
It took him a minute or so to find the right number to call, but soon he was whispering his demands into the roam-fone trying to sound as sane as he possibly could.
Excuse me, but were looking for Daniel Farrier, the agent
Farrier looked askance at the two investigators at his door, trying to look as sweet and innocent as he didnt feel.
Is he still on the go?
You havent seen him for some time then?
Youre very perceptive. I think he used to rent this apartment before me. Is this something to do with the Gig Render thing?
The officials tried not to look as though they were peering over Farriers shoulder. Im afraid it is, the senior of the two, in both looks and rank, replied. You have information that could help us?
No, not really. I knew Daniel Farrier for a time he represented me, you see, right at the start of my career but I never met Gig. Daniel always told me that old Box-Boy probably couldnt take the whole celebrity thing and ran a disk format.
Thats show-business for you, Detective some people just burn-out.
Farrier smiled angelically.
Well, were sorry to have disturbed you like this, Miss Paltrow.
Thats okay, Detective. You have a job to do. And if you should ever find
Farrier pouted, nearly a century of homosexuality finally paying off. He leant
forward conspiratorially, ensuring they had a spectacular view of his brand new cleavage.
Nothing, he said. Just have a drink on him, of course