And then I sit down at the computer...
So the dream was really interesting, because it was set after VR and fast enough servers means most people interact by Avatars. You can set your house Av to be famous actors, if you can afford the image rights. But the era of famous actors was way back in my youth, because after a while the studios realised how to generate novel appearances and emotes from the bank they already had, and AI personalities rule the vids now. But you know what happens to old actors? Conventions. (And Big Finish Audio.) So those of us that still care, really really care. Even in an era of telepresence, we want to go stand in a queue to smile nervously and blurt half our carefully prepared statements. And some of us will even pay extra for a meet and greet where we stare at famous people from much closer to. Yes, even famous people from twenty years ago. Twenty years is nothing, I've stood in line for actors from before I was born, and it was awesome.
So I was pottering around the house with my house AI on, the Av set to the Commander, being gently encouraging and asking the important 'have you taken your meds yet' question at the prescribed intervals. So when the Commander asks me if I'm ready for the con this weekend I just chat back and say I'm so not ready, I'm not even sure what the theme is. And he gets this wounded voice on and says 'I'm standing right here.' So I spin round and he is, twenty years older than last we saw him, all silver and smokier voiced. And my eyes go O.O and I stutter, like, the parties! I can't remember, what should I pack for the parties? And he grins at me and says he doesn't know but he's sure we'll have a great time. And winks, and fades away.
I kind of glare at my house AV and he's all *hands up* 'Message! Just a message. With a tiny interactive.' So then I breathe again, having not offended my idol, and drag my suitcase out and start the ritual dithering phase.
So I get to the con, I unpack, and I get all ready for the meet and greet. But when I get down there almost everyone is clustered around this... empty? Table? So I hold my phone up, because I still have a tiny little screen phone, and through that I can see the star. Which, like, seems... sad? Like, did he cancel? Or did nobody else notice?
But then there's one guy sitting at the side of the room nursing a lemonade, and he has a smartphone too, and he's alternating looking at it and looking across at the crowd, but not looking through it. He doesn't need to see the Commander. He has a mirror at home...
So I go over to him and smile and wave :-)
And he sees my phone and his answering grin gets like halfway and freezes, urk, caught.
"Handheld, huh? So that..." Waves vaguely at his smokier screen ready self.
"Kind of doesn't work, yeah. Sorry?"
"No, no, I'm sorry, I should really be... I meant to get more dressed up, but none of the suits still..." Waves down at himself, kind of more sofa ready.
"No, it's cool, you're great, canIsithere, pleasecanI?" Pause, breathe, try not to squee too hard.
So he waves at the chair next to me and there's a long and probably awkward pause while I bask and he supervises his Av. But then it gets on to one of the long stories, you know, the ones you've heard on stage a dozen times and they just get better, so he has a couple minutes free. And he talks to me :-)
"Sooo... you... have a handheld?"
"I'm a fan of the classics."
He nods and says "I guess we all are, here."
The poor dude looks so awkward though I decide he kind of needs the real answer.
"I can't VR. Too much visual clutter. And I kind of, sometimes, hallucinate. So, you know. The artificial sort..."
"... don't help. Sure, sure." He waves his phone. "I, uh... I just always preferred reacting to what we were doing. You know? I mean, the FX were cool, but if they could do the green screen thing back in the day, that seemed like, you know, the classic thing. Like theatre."
The adoring crowd laugh, on queue, story done, so he lined up the next prompt. Then he looked back at me, tried to grin, kind of failed when he saw me checking through my screen.
"But they're all here to meet their hero..." He shrugged.
"Who is still looking good."
"You think so?"
"I did the ageing myself."
I laughed, so he got pouty.
"No, really. I always did my own makeup. Thought it was, you know, a fallback career, if the acting didn't work out, but, since you kind of need actors..."
"Sure, no, the Av looks great, but I meant... Like, ageing we always do ourselves. Makeup usually takes it off again."
"But the Commander Av gets server time for promotional events. That was in my original contract. So I just skinned it a little."
"Cool. But, you know we're here to, you know, meet you?"
"Yeah. The man behind the curtain." He chose prompts again. "Twenty years of telling the same stories the same ways, I think the Commander has got this."
I kind of half nod, and try and figure how to tell him.
"So you know... sometimes meeting you guys saved my life."
He blinks and actually looked at me for a few seconds.
"Yeah. So. One time, I was at a convention, and someone asked the actors what their most embarrassing moment was. Asked all of them, all day."
He was nodding along, and rolled his eyes at that part, but I kept going.
"So, like, the inside of my head, it is not quiet in there. It's, like, hey! You know that thing you did in high school? Let's remember that thing! Vividly! Right now! Which is, like, the worst, right?"
"But up there on stage, every time, they were doing the same thing. They were sitting there all squirming with argh because remember that one thing you said that one time? That was the worst! And yet, they were telling us, and then it seemed... I don't know. Like, there were about twelve hundred of us there..."
"Back in the day, right? The show was on air and we couldn't even livestream yet so..."
"So twelve hundred people all paid a hundred pounds to come and meet these people, and they're, like ...human. They're saying the worst thing at the worst time and they're so sure that guy is going to remember it forever but they're telling it anyway, and we want to hear it. Because they screw up like me. They're like me. And that kind of means ... I'm like them, kind of. I mean they're the stars and I'm the audience but we're pretty much mostly people. And, like, that's... that's why I come to these."
"To hear how I screw up." He nods and grins the grin of the often knocked.
"No, no, not like that, just..."
"I know, I'm kidding, I..." am not kidding but am aware how much the tickets cost.
"I just... I've been to so many of these things, and I have heard from... the guys who can't read their scripts, they're dyslexic, but as long as their co star could help them read through a couple times they've got it down. Or the deaf guy, who nobody at work knows is deaf, cause who can hear through alien head makeup anyway? Or this one guy, he was up there for an hour telling us his scars."
"Yeah! Or, I don't know, there were probably other questions, I just remember he started with the facial scarring and worked down, and I'm not sure he got to all of them. So it's like, these are people. And some of these are people taking a bunch of painkillers..."
"... the stunts, yeah..." Sooooo nodding.
"... and that's because they made these shows, these... dreams we've all been dreaming together ever since. I mean, sure, we dream on them as heroes..."
He waved his phone vaguely at the crowd, then realised they'd gone quiet and slightly puzzled and quickly renewed the prompts queue. "You love your heroes."
"But we know, we know how much goes into making them."
"Blood, sweat, and tears. Yeah. And then at the end of the day, they're so much more than me..."
"But it takes so much more. I've met actors, and their stunt doubles..."
"They bring their stunt guy to conventions?"
"One guy, he's had the same stunt guy the whole of his career. They're a team. Like twenty years of watching them jump off things on TV."
"Nice. And you want that guy..."
"We got his signature. And the, what, the photo double? The back of his head looks just like... they're for, like, second unit, or those time travel flashback whatsits..."
"And then there's makeup..." Gesturing at him, and he nodded like taking a bow. "And of course there's writers. I have met sooooo many writers. And none of you are as cool as the Commander..."
"... because the Commander is all of you. Like, squared. A gestalt entity."
"And you know..."
"And we're still here, to see you. I mean, this is the coolest. I'm talking to... oh my god I'm actually talking..."
"Breathe, you've got this."
"Okay, okay, but... Really. This. This is the cool stuff. Because god knows I can't be the Commander, or, like, an Ensign, I'm not that. But I am... I am the smallest part of the dream of him. Like, the dream we make."
"And that makes... standing in line, in the rain, forty years after that actor left the show, just so he can use my sonic screwdriver... or, like, this, now... that's what makes it... important."
"Because you still dream of this." And this time he doesn't wave his phone.
I nod, a lot. "And that gets us through. Because it's not just, you know, the grey days. There's so much more. And we make it more. You..."
"Not just me."
"You made so much of it more. So, you know, we..." Gesturing at the crowd, who are once again shifting in that slightly disenchanted way. "We're here for you."
I shrug. And have used up my year's allotment of words. And probably would have stuttered most of them, god knows, except this is the Commander and I've spent more time talking to him than to anyone anyway.
But he's nodding now, and when he looks down at his phone, he shifts across a couple of menus before getting to what he wants.
I hold up my phone to watch, and see the Commander Av flicker, a weird grainy TV flicker that hasn't happened to an actual TV since before any of us were born, seguing neatly into the show's beam up FX. And everyone looks around kind of wildly, because, you know, there's always this one moment where you wonder if it's Galaxy Quest time. And they see him, starting to stand up next to me, phone in one hand and walking stick in the other.
And the applause...
Oh, I'm all blinky of happy cry, that was just a really good.
And after that of course he has such a crowd, I kind of fade back, I got my moment.
Now he gets his.
So that was a pretty great dream. (And, okay, less eloquent at the time, and there was a whole sequence of climbing ladders like Donkey Kong to get into the hotel that I didn't feel added to the mood). But then it seemed like, well, he would know all that. I mean, you'd hope the actors know. But sometimes it's easiest to write ourselves out of our own story, like to see how everyone else does it so smoothly, and we're just paddling here. So I don't know.
But I do know that even after the CGI gets so good it can replace the actors, that won't be the important part. It'll still be about people. Dreaming together.
xposted from Dreamwidth here. comments. Reply there