(the following is true, the names have been changed to protect the guilty)
Once upon a time I opened my email to discover the following:
FROM: Michael Zoolan
TO: Tim Curran
SUBJECT: Hive movie rights?
My name is Michael Zoolan and I am currently a producer with
Universal's Focus/Rogue group and was formerly with Miramax's
Dimension Films. I am very interested in acquiring the rights to
your novel Hive. Are they available? May I call you concerning this?
Michael Zoolan, Focus/Rogue
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited. Maybe more than excited. After reading this I was in a whirlwind state of disbelief. Something like this couldn't be happening. Not to me. I live in a small Midwestern town. I am not connected. I know no one in the business. Things like this happen to Brian Keene and Jack Ketchum who are both connected like fuseboxes, but not to me. I have the proverbial black cloud following me, pissing all over me every time I think I might get a break on something. In fact, my luck is such shit that I dare not even hope for the best in any situation, whether that's hooking up with a mass market publisher or getting through the drive-through at McDonald's with less than a fifteen minute wait.
But I was excited.
This was my big break. The one every bottom-feeder in the small press dreams about (and believe me, we ALL dream of it). Here it was, landed safely in my lap. I wanted to jump for joy. I wanted to get down on my knees and pray for a successful outcome. Better yet, given my history, I wanted to cover my head before the shit started flying and my big break fell to pieces.
Calmly then, I emailed Zoolan back. Gave him my number. Told him when I'd be home.
At four the next day, just as he promised, he called. We talked. He had a slight New York accent--Brooklyn? The Bronx? I didn't know--and that to me meant he was from the big time. Not like the people I knew and grew up with from Shithole, Michigan and Crooked Snatch, Wisconsin. He was a New Yorker! A player!
"Glad to hear the rights for Hive are available," he told me. "The book was recommended to me. I read it and, you know, it was even better than I thought it would be. Really damn good."
I beamed. Maybe I wasn't a bum after all.
"It says on the back cover that it's a sequel to H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness."
"It is and it isn't," I told my new important friend. "It's really inspired by rather a sequel to. I just basically took some of Lovecraft's central themes, reimagined them with a heavy horror/science fiction slant as opposed to fantasy and tied it all in with a lot of the stuff going on down in Antarctica. The discovery of warm water lakes beneath the glaciers, NASA's involvement in drilling down to them using technology they want to use on the ice-caps of Mars and Europa, Jupiter's moon."
"Yeah. I like that bit. Cutting edge," Zoolan said. "Tell you the truth, I've never read any Lovecraft. I tried to once but the writing was a little stiff for me."
"I'm already seeing this movie in my mind, Tim. Your subterranean prehistoric alien city, the sunken alien city under the glacier...man, the CGI is going to unbelievable." He paused. "You see, Tim, Universal owns the rights to The Thing, and I've been given the task of coming up with a sequel or a Thing-like project. I see Hive as that project. You don't mind me calling Hive Thing-like, do you?"
"Not at all."
"Great. See, we've been trying to launch a sequel to The Thing for years and without much success, I'm afraid. We had a dozen treatments written, a few different scripts...all not so good. Just between you and me, I think the guy who did the last script never even saw The Thing."
"You've see the The Thing, haven't you?"
"Only about ten times."
"Just out of curiosity...what would you do if you had to write a sequel to it? No pressure. Just wondering."
That was easy. I'd dreamed of writing a sequel for years. I'd dreamed that somebody would green light me to writing novels based on The Thing the way it had been done with Alien. "First, I'd go back to Campbell's original story. There's lots of good stuff in there. Secondly, to tie in with the movie, I'd probably do a prequel based at that Norwegian camp. All that great stuff about cutting the alien out of the ice, the spread of contamination. I'd have the crew paranoid and starving. They'd eat the dogs. The dogs would be infected by the alien."
"That's a good idea," Zoolan said. "I'm going to write that down. See, I knew if I thought outside the box, hooked up with somebody outside of this damn city, a fresh mind, I'd get something."
I felt something begin to fall inside me. "Hope that doesn't mean no Hive, the movie?"
"Of course not. We're doing Hive. But we'll keep that other idea of yours in mind down the road. Now I'll talk to my partners about your book, but between you and me, it's already a done deal. I know what they like and they're going to like Hive."
There's the gist of our conversation. I'm leaving out a few things, but you get the idea. I had reason to be excited. This was going to happen.
Zoolan said it usually took about a week to ten days to throw something like this together. He'd call me back with an offer soon as possible.
Goddamn! How incredible was this? I work in a fucking factory doing a shit nothing job, writing in my spare time, busting my ass on the laptop every day and now....VINDICATION. Here it was for me: my chance. My big break. The payoff for years and years of hard work. The possibilities were endless! I might sell other books to the movies! I'd have a real agent! I might get to write screenplays or novelizations at the very least! Big publishers would be knocking at my door!
Then came the waiting.
Day by day by day.
The next two weeks were endless.
I started to get very nervous. Why the hell wasn't Zoolan calling? I waited another week. I was chain-smoking, my fingernails were nubs, I checked my email like every fifteen minutes. I'd wake up at five in the morning and check it again.
I started to sense the approach of my personal black cloud. I could hear the ball drop in the distance and envision my great new career going to shit.
I called Zoolan.
He wasn't in.
I called him again three days later.
He wasn't in.
Finally, I got through to him. He was not so jubilant nor animated. "Well, Tim, these things take awhile, you know. Just give me some time. I'll be in touch." Click.
Every time I called, one of Zoolan's lackeys told me he was not in. Then came the day when I got a newbie lackey who apparently did not know about Tim Curran, how when he called, you said the man wasn't in.
"I'd like to speak with Michael Zoolan," I said.
"Certainly," said he. "May I ask who's calling?"
"Tim Curran," said I.
"Tim Curran. Okay. Just one moment." There was a pause and I knew what was coming. My name had been pronounced aloud in the office and all the other lackeys and dick-suckers were jumping up and down, drawing their fingers across their throats, trying to signal the newbie.
"Mr. Curran?" said the newbie. "I'm sorry, Mr. Zoolan has just stepped out. I'll tell him you called."
So ended my dreams. Zoolan built me up, made me feel like I was really something, then yanked the rug right out from under me, left me sitting there, dazed and confused, on my ass. I was so depressed I did not write for over a week. But it was a good lesson: beware strangers bearing gifts for if said strangers are Hollywood players, welcome to the weasel pen.
But be warned: weasels may slink about and crawl through the slime on their bellies, but they also BITE.