Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Halloween short story: The Burn Out

Here's a somber tale for Halloween: a teenage girl idolizes the leader of a boy band and her dedication leads directly to his eventual downfall.

Or does she save him?  I guess it depends on your point of view.

This is a science fiction story, so it's a rare tale that combines my longstanding love of cyberpunk with a much deeper love of rock music. There are two common narratives of the rock star. The first one is the more common rapid rise to fame, followed by the plunge into drugs, decadence and irrelevance, and concluded, often forty years later, by the ex-star climbing out of his deep hole and issuing some woozy statement along the lines of, "I'm all right! I was here the whole time. Wow, that was fun, until it wasn't."

The second most observed narrative is the rock star who rides a rocket to incandescent fame, quickly gets in over his head, and then dies at 27. The "27 Club" trope started in the early seventies, with the deaths of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison - and latterly Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse - and is still popular enough that only this morning the BBC aired a little piece on the short lives of rock stars. But this is a science fiction story - and even in real life, we can still watch Tupac, or Michael Jackson - at least, we can watch their holograms.

The Burn Out by Lyle Hopwood

May 15 2015

I tried to win over my brother, who knows about computers and stuff. I could learn a lot from him. I did my best today but I was wearing my t-shirt with Pitlochry's logo, all glitter and pink. The t-shirt said "Lolita" in a lavender flowery font that matched the sweetheart ribbon I was wearing on my wrist like all the girls do. And, of course, he hated the whole idea of the band.

"'Lolita'," Noah said, raising an eyebrow, "that must be the new song from Pitlochry, right?" He didn't sound won over yet.

I nodded. "Have you seen the video yet? Hughie is so cool in it."

Noah waved his arms, meaning no way, so I grabbed him and half-dragged him into my room. I tapped the mouse to wake my computer up, opened the 'favorites' folder and selected the first bookmark. A blank screen opened up and a progress bar showed the video buffering. After about three seconds I blurted, "I hate waiting for them to load!"

"You don't know how to download them to disk?"

"They're protected."

"Well, not so much. I'll show you how to do it."

I told him to shut up. "It's starting to play."

He watched politely. He didn't like Hugh Noone (Pitlochry's singer/guitarist, if you don't know). His friends had told him Hugh was a druggie. The video opened with a shot of Hugh sitting on the red tile roof of a giant dolls' house full of CGI puppets, chopping power chords from a broom-shaped guitar.

"That singer has a nose like a ski jump. If I looked like that I'd stay well away from the cameras. What is he singing about? 'Napalm and Nabokov'?"

I nodded.

He stared at the screen. "Dad is going to kill you," he said. "Can't you have a crush on one of the floppy-haired boy bands instead of this greasy freak?"

I punched him on the arm. The dolls inside of the silver and pink house danced while Hugh lounged in his all-black peacoat.

"Isn't he hot?" I said. "One day I'm going to marry Hugh Noone."

Read the rest here

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