On the subject of Robots and Abraham Lincoln…

No time for a real update this week, so you will once again have to make do with some mildly hackish sci-fi crap. The Atom blog is on break for the month but will return, in case you were wondering what happened to them, and in the meantime I am busy trying to teach myself how to write screenplays. Anybody have any practice with that? Or recommendations for decent online resources? As a side-note – why am I so obsessed with Abraham Lincoln cyborgs? Is this a diagnosed mental condition that I am unaware of? As further evidence, I not only present to you the story below, but also point to my concept art for The Adventures of Rocket-Punch Lincoln, and to the first character I ever made on City of Heroes, Lincoln 3000.

The Lincoln

The Lincoln’s exposed gears ground together harshly, their echo reverberating throughout the ruined cathedral. I felt Joshua tense in my arms. I put my hand gently over his mouth, and held him closer. The grinding reached a crescendo as the Lincoln dropped into a hunched run, came up to the first pew, and launched itself into the air. There was an impossibly long, quiet moment, as if all sound in the world were tensely holding its breath. I tightened my grip around the boy’s mouth and tried to make our bodies as small as possible. The Lincoln crashed into the benches like a cannon-strike, his massive bulk of steel and plastics sending a shockwave of destruction across the hall. I felt Josh attempt to cry out, and bit down on his ear to stop him. He caught himself, stifled the sound, and shivered silently. The rusty taste of blood filled my mouth.

“On this most esteemed occasion,” began the Lincoln, straightening up and mounting the pile of wreckage before him like a pulpit “we come together to participate in one of the oldest rites of nature: The hunt. Heedless to the greater needs of our noble and high-minded politics, we call upon our basic instincts of survival to govern us. Our fear becomes the only ruler whose edict we hear, our terror the only God whose commandments we obey. In this instanceanceanceance-“

The Lincoln’s normally deep, resonate speech began to screech, growing higher with each repetition of the syllable. Its head rotated slowly on the neck-joint, approaching inhuman angles.

“It’s caught in a rhetoric loop,” I told Josh, pushing him from beneath the low stone ledge we had shoved ourselves under, “go, go, go!”

Josh, his childish agility apparent, was up and bounding towards the door like a rabbit from a bolt-hole. He was through the entrance and out, disappearing over the distant wreckage before the echo of my words was even dead upon the air. I struggled, my leg still mostly useless from the devastating kick I’d taken from the Lincoln just moments earlier. I pulled myself to a low crouch and, ducking behind the cross, tried to pull myself to a standing position.

“…anceance we are as pure as the creator can make us. Intelligence becomes need, and need becomes the essence of ourselves.” The Lincoln snapped abruptly from its trance. It struck one foot up at the pinnacle of the wooden mound and kicked the stone head of John the Baptist through the far wall.

The Lincoln straightened its stovepipe hat upon its head and smoothed the burned and torn remnants of its suit. The gears my rocket blast had exposed on its right shoulder shuddered, and gnashed futilely. The arm was dead, and part of the torso lay open. If I could spear it through the core and rupture the boiler, its engine would die and I would be safe. The Lincoln tilted its head quizzically, raising its good arm as if to silence the protests of a crowd.

“No, my fellow countrymen, it is not our place to figure the reason of these actions. For all feats of man must strive to satisfy the basic tenets of freedom. You must strive to free yourselves from unjust rule, no matter the cost! And is life not an unjust rule? Do you not rush to obey hunger, when its ravenous call sounds within you? Do you not lust for carnal pleasures, oppressed by your want for procreation?”

I made my breaths shallow, focused the pain away from myself. I willed myself straight, and tried to find my calm. If it kept up at this booming tirade, more Lincolns might come. We had heard there were fewer in the South, Josh and I, but there was little way to be sure. I would have to silence its demonic “Speech on the Freedom of the Grave,” before it really got going. The Lincolns had a tendency to work themselves into a furor on this particular diatribe, and the last thing I wanted was the Lincoln rampaging about in an enclosed space like a whirling dervish.

“WHAT FREEDOM IS NOT OFFERED BY THE LETTING OF BLOOD? WHAT PRINCIPLES GO UNSATISFIED BY RELEASE FROM THE DUTY BOUND OBLIGATION OF LIFE?” The Lincoln’s pitch rose theatrically.

It gestured passionately to an imaginary crowd while surveying the room, attempting to frighten me out of my hiding place. The Lincoln turned to address the entrance and stopped. It saw the little boy, standing slack-jawed in the doorway.

Josh. My god, why would he come back?

The Lincoln had its back turned to me, but I could picture that smile: That toothy, ear to ear grin that spoke of a certain sheepishness.

“…and who more deserving of this freedom, than the children?” The Lincoln spread its working arm wide, one half of a welcoming hug, and began making its way down the rubble towards the boy.
I straightened my leg, edged out from behind the cross, and got hold of a particularly nasty spike of shrapnel. I would have one shot at this, and I had to get him before he came too close to Josh. The steam from its punctured boiler could melt him down to the bone if I contacted at the wrong angle.

“The future of our children can be assured in only one way,” The Lincoln would be beaming a huge, Cheshire smile about now, attempting to lure Josh in range for one of its deadly kicks, “and that is by establishing them firmly in the realm of the beyond with all the haste we can muster.”

Josh’s eyes flickered almost imperceptibly as he saw me run up. Remembering his training, he tucked into a ball and rolled back just as I struck.

The clang of steel rang out pure and high, like the tones of a bell.

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13 Responses to On the subject of Robots and Abraham Lincoln…

  1. JD says:

    Hahaha. The lincolns are oppressors of human freedom, in a way? How ironic. This is fantastic. You should have a regular sci-fi snippet night, every week.

  2. tojo2000 says:

    The earlier Nuclear-Powered Steam Lincolns were most vulnerable when eliminating waste. During extraction of the depleted “Lincoln Logs” from the posterior access shaft, a well-placed charge could permanently damage the exhaust chute, causing it to overheat.

    (That’s a long way to go for a poop joke, but what the hell.)

  3. Brett says:

    That’s right Robert we all know you’ve been far to busy playing Prince of Persia to entertain us!

    By the way, how is it? I’ve gotten mixed reviews and am not sure if I want to drop the cash on something ultimately disappointing. I’m low on the ducats as of late.

  4. Robert says:

    Brett,

    Hey, I still take weekends off. All the other writing I do is actually paid for, whereas I have to pay for the privilege to write here, so it’s the first to be sacrificed if need be. There will always be weekly updates here – but I won’t sacrifice my personal life to it. Anyway, the new PoP is a rental. It probably should be for you too…

    JD,

    Sci-fi snippet weeks are called “lazy weeks,” and you will get them whenever I suck too hard to get an actual post up. (read: semi-often.)

    Tojo,

    It was worth it. You do not often get to combine presidential history with robots and poop. You take your opportunities where you can get them.

  5. Huw Bowen says:

    Hi Robert – for screenplays, the best book EVAR is “Story” by Robert McKee. It’s big and fat and wordy though, so you might prefer one of Syd Field’s excellent books. As far as format goes, use something like Final Draft and it’ll handle the formatting for you in the accepted Hollywood style. Good luck!

  6. Robert says:

    Huw,

    Thanks, dude! Those were awesome suggestions and I’ll get on ’em harder than I get on your mom after four wine coolers and half a Vicadin.

    …what? Even if you’re being sincere, helpful and generally radical like Huw here – I’m still an overall dickhead. Don’t try to change me.

  7. Krevin Spriess says:

    Lincoln 3000! That almost makes me want to play City of Heroes. Damn that is cool man. I’d make the same character.

    Actually, I wrote a science fiction story with Abrahim Lincoln as well. Though it isn’t the real Lincoln, he just calls himself that.

    It’s fairly long but if anyone wants to read it, the story is over here http://www.silverthought.com/spiess04.html

  8. Robert says:

    I wonder why Lincoln is so tied to Science Fiction. Seriously, Philip K. Dick used him several times, I’ve used him, you’ve used him – he’s in the zeitgeist as a borderline supernatural character. I think it’s the hat. I think it came from the future.

  9. Chuck says:

    not to mention the cheesy magician stereotype hat. obviously wishing to copy a the one true master of the black arts… Linkoln.

  10. Snocket says:

    Hey Robert, I’m a new reader. I think I’ve found my new favorite website, so keep up the great work.

    Anyway, I second Final Draft for writing screenplays, it takes formatting completely off your mind so you can focus on writing.

    But as for how to structure the writing, there’s really no right way to do it. I’d recommend you just read scripts from movies you admire. (here are some examples: [(http://tinyurl.com/cjul7r) and (http://tinyurl.com/3yyu3)%5D As you’ll see, those two are very very different, but they are both appropriate because they have the same feel as the films.

    Also keep in mind, the script that you pitch to a studio or a director is not going to be the same as the shooting script. So it’s a good guideline to write a script that’s as enjoyable to read as possible, and to write a separate draft with all the technical details later (like camera angle and stuff).

  11. Robert says:

    Thanks Snocket, I’ll keep that one in mind. I’m putting off the research for screenplays for a while – deciding to the sane thing and just finish the book for now.

  12. Cole says:

    Wow, I’m really late to comment, but just wanted to note that “Story” and Robert McKee is exactly what Charlie Kaufman made fun of in Adaptation. I read it too and should probably reread it, bit I remember the list on the back cover of movies written by former McKee students and not liking a one of them. Still, not bad to learn structure.

    Oh yeah, and I’ve never sold a screenplay.

    Incidentally, if you get a hold of Lincoln’s paw you can make three wishes, but they’ll all be granted ironically.

  13. J Rylez says:

    I once heard that if you go onto a stage and say “Bloody Lincoln” three times there’s a flash of smoke and your family ends up dead. So he’s pretty much a natural badass.

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