A bit out of left field, but it seems sci-fi adaptations have come back in fashion in Hollywood with recent news over at Aint it Cool News that the William Gibson classic Neuromancer was in pre-production and now apprently Dan Simmons Hyperion is being considered.
It was reported yesterday by CHUD regarding an interview the Hangover star did on Charlie Rose. Cooper stated that he’s a huge fan of the Hyperion novel and that he and a friend of his wrote a spec script based on the novel and submitted it to GK Films to look over.
Whether this actually gets picked up or not is another matter entirely. The studio could just be appeasing the movie star in order to entice him onto other projects, but I hope not.
I’ve read Hyperion and I loved it, but I still have reservations about how such a movie would be made. The first book of the series is complex and primarily made up of flashbacks of each of the main characters and I’m not entirely sure how they’ll play that out in film, without degrading the characters and or story. However, good or bad, I would love to see this movie happen.
n the 28th century, humanity has spread across the galaxy, first aboard “Hawking drive” ships and then through “farcasters”, which permit nigh instantaneous travel between them regardless of the distances. The farcaster network (the “WorldWeb”) is the infrastructural and economical basis of the Hegemony of Man and thus determines the whole culture and society. Also flowing across these portals are the structures of the datasphere (a network reminiscent of the Internet in design, but far more advanced). In that lurks the powerful, knowledgeable, and utterly inscrutable TechnoCore — the vast agglomeration of millions of AIs who run almost every piece of high technology of mankind. The unthinking hubris of man resulted in the death of the home-world (Earth), and this arrogant philosophy was carried forth to the stars, for centuries.
The Hegemony itself is a largely decadent society, relying on its military to incorporate into the WorldWeb the colony planets, even unwillingly, and also to defend the Hegemony from attacks by the Ousters, “interstellar barbarians” who dwell free of and beyond the bounds of the Hegemony and shun all the works of the TechnoCore (especially farcasters). The political head of the Hegemony is an executive advised by the TechnoCore advisory council. All the ‘Core’s advice and predictions are confounded by the mysterious structures of the Time Tombs and a creature called the Shrike on the remote colony world Hyperion (named after John Keats’ poem). Even worse, the Ousters have long been obsessed with Hyperion, and their invasion there is imminent.
Into this evolving crisis come seven pilgrims to make the journey to the Time Tombs and the Shrike, that seems to guard the Time Tombs, there to ask one wish of it. The Shrike is the object of a cult, the Church of the Final Atonement. Occasionally the church sends a prime-number of pilgrims to the Time Tombs; there is a legend that all but one are slaughtered and the remaining pilgrim gets his request granted. Aboard a treeship the pilgrims finally meet after being revived out of their cryogenic storage state; they decide they each will tell their tale to enliven the long trip to the Tombs and to get to know each other. Simmons uses this device to unfold the panorama of this universe, its history and conflicts. The story opens in medias res.
Part One – The Priest’s Tale: “The Man who Cried God”
As a young priest, Father Lenar Hoyt was assigned to escort Father Paul Duré, a Jesuit theologian, archaeologist, ethnologist, and follower of Teilhard de Chardin into exile on the planet of Hyperion. Father Duré planned to set up an ethnological research station along Hyperion’s Cleft, where rumors place an isolated civilization called the Bikura.
He discovered the Bikura which arrived on Hyperion on one of the early seedships and were infected by parasites called cruciforms which populate a part of Hyperion’s labyrinth system. These cruciforms resemble crosses that are irreversibly encrusted into the victim’s chest. They store all of the information that makes up the infected individual including their memory, which allows them to be healed and to live forever, even reconstructing the body of a person after their corpse has been almost totally destroyed. But information is progressively lost and after a number of cycles the individual becomes sexless and retarded. Therefore the Bikura can be described as a society of 70 immortal genderless simpletons. As Father Duré slowly discovers the truth about them, they lead him into Hyperion’s labyrinth system where he encounters the Shrike, and a cruciform is placed on his chest.
The cruciform does not allow anyone to escape the place where the Bikura live and so, to save his body from being reborn as a mindless automaton, Duré crucifies himself to an electricity-conducting Tesla tree. It is here that Father Hoyt finds him seven years later, continually being electrocuted and reborn, but not losing his mind because the pain caused by the electricity keeps the cruciform from returning him to the village, while still keeping him alive. Hoyt takes Duré’s cruciform into himself and also has a cruciform implanted for his own reincarnation.
Part Two – The Soldier’s Tale: “The War Lovers”
Colonel Fedmahn Kassad begins his tale with a flashback to his days training in the FORCE academy on Mars, when he was immersed in an detailed simulation of the Battle of Agincourt. During the battle, Kassad is saved from a French knight by the mysterious Mnemosyne/Moneta, who becomes his lover there, and who comes from “outside”. They meet repeatedly in further simulations, until Kassad’s final year in the Academy. After he graduates from the Academy the young Martian man becomes a FORCE officer.
Kassad accomplishes various missions against terrorists, rebels, resistance groups etc. After being injured Kassad strands on Hyperion near the vicinity of the Time Tombs. There Moneta and the Shrike (re-)appear and Kassad learns that Moneta and the Shrike wish to use him to spark an interstellar war in which billions will die. He is eventually rescued and returned to the WorldWeb, where he resigns from FORCE and becomes an anti-war activist. His purpose on the pilgrimage is to track down Moneta and the Shrike, and to kill them.
 Part Three – The Poet’s Tale: “Hyperion Cantos”
Martin Silenus was born as a wealthy scion of an ancient dying North American house, growing up in the time around the “Big Mistake”, which led to the destruction of Earth). Silenus trained as a poet, but his training was interrupted when the Kiev Team’s black hole “ate” the Earth; his mother dispatched her son aboard a slower-than-light flight to a nearby system, calculating that the shrunken family fortune would accumulate enough in compound interest over the century the voyage would take that the family’s debt would be paid off and enough left over for Martin to live on for a time.
Unfortunately, the accounts were nationalized by the Hegemony, and Silenus suffered brain damage during the voyage. Deep in penury, Silenus had to work as a common laborer. The back-breaking toil forces Silenus’s mind to flee to higher planes, and as he recovers his use of language, he starts work on his Hyperion Cantos, a work he began as a parody of John Keats’ famous poem, but which evolved into a dual account of Silenus’s life and an epic account of the Titanomachia, in which the Hegemony of Man takes the part of the Titans and the TechnoCore the Olympians. His Dying Earth (as it is called, in an explicit reference to Jack Vance’s Dying Earth series) becomes an enormous hit, selling billions and making him a multi-millionaire.
Eventually he falls into debt again and in an attempt to produce another hit has a larger unabridged version of his cantos published, which is predicted to fail by his publisher. The work is a terrible flop, selling few copies and not recouping the money he was advanced. In order to pay his debt, Silenus is forced to produce further hackwork for his “Dying Earth” series, a misery many artists face. One day he realizes that his Cantos, his greatest work, has not been added to for years; his muse had fled. Silenus leaves his lifestyle, liquidates his assets, and signs on with Sad King Billy.
Billy is an aristocrat of the planet Asquith, descended from the House of Windsor, and an intelligent and sensitive lover and critic of the arts. Fearful of the FORCE General Horace Glennon-Height’s rebellion against the Hegemony, Billy decides to relocate to Hyperion and create a new Renaissance by establishing a kingdom of artists. He chooses for his capital a location near the Time Tombs on the then-even less inhabited Hyperion, reasoning that their presence will give the proper ambience for the creation of great art.
For ten years, all goes well until people begin vanishing, with no abductors ever seen. At the same time, Silenus’ muse returns, and he continues work on the Cantos. Soon, the culprit is discovered to be the Shrike. At this time, Silenus becomes convinced that it is the Shrike who is his muse, who, in some occult way, his poem had brought into existence. The murders continue until only Silenus is left living in the City of Poets. He writes the last line on the day that the last murder occurs.
One day, Sad King Billy returns to the deserted city. Martin is gone on a trip to the Time Tombs seeking the Shrike, and when he returns to his quarters Billy is confronting him with the fact that his writing is dependent on cold-blooded murder, and that it will need more murdering if it is to ever be completed. Billy burns his manuscript. After Billy is being taken away by the Shrike, Silenus recopies his poem as good as possible. Eventually he leaves Hyperion. In the centuries since, he has been waiting to return to Hyperion to finish the poem.
Part Four – The Scholar’s Tale: “The River Lethe’s Taste is Bitter”
Sol Weintraub, a Jewish academic, had been a professor of ethics on Barnard’s World, the second colony founded from Old Earth. He and his wife, Sarai, had been happy when their only daughter, Rachel, was born forty years ago. She eventually became an archaeologist, and while in her post-graduate studies went on an expedition to study the Time Tombs of Hyperion.
While mapping the so-called Sphinx for hidden passages or rooms, something happens to Rachel: all the instruments and equipment fail, and the Shrike appears in the Sphinx amidst a massive surge of “anti-entropic fields”. Rachel is returned to the WorldWeb where her parents learn of the novel disease she has contracted, dubbed the “Merlin sickness” (after T.H. White’s The Once and Future King), in which every time Rachel goes to sleep, she ages backwards two days (for a net loss of one day per day), losing her memories and in fact physically becoming younger; there is no sign that the condition will reverse itself when she ages backwards to her birth. Rachel’s life is shattered by her slow retrogression into the past, shattering her links with the present; her parents devote their lives to caring for Rachel and trying to cure her. Meanwhile, Sol wrestles with his dreams, in which he is ordered to go to Hyperion and sacrifice Rachel, in a replay of the Binding of Isaac. Weintraub becomes increasingly fascinated with the ethical problem that the Binding presents.
He also worries about what will happen when Rachel reaches her birthday (which will be very soon), and so he decides to become a pilgrim and to implore the Shrike for a treatment.
Part Five – The Detective’s Tale: The Long Good-Bye
Brawne Lamia tells her noir-ish tale, which is presumably a parody take on The Long Goodbye, Raymond Chandler’s rather well-known Philip Marlowe detective novel of the same name.
Brawne Lamia, the daughter of a senator of Lusus, eschewed politics for the life of a private investigator after her father’s apparent suicide (which occurred shortly after he and the then junior senator Meina Gladstone proposed a bill to quickly incorporate Hyperion into the WorldWeb). Her client is a “cybrid” (a cloned human body which is controlled through its electronic implants by a TechnoCore intelligence) named “Johnny”, who wishes to hire her to investigate the murder of his self. This cybrid is the genetic clone of famous Romantic poet John Keats, and the AI controlling it was programmed to have the personality and memories of Keats as best as could be reconstructed from surviving materials and the ‘Core’s finest extrapolations.
Unlike most “retrieved personalities”, which are of insufficient fidelity to maintain sanity, this Johnny functions quite well (though he disclaims poetic talent). His AI self was murdered in the TechnoCore and a backup could not be brought online for a full minute, with the loss of five days’ worth of data and memory; this limited amnesia was the apparent goal of the assault. Lamia sets out to discover what Johnny had learned or done in those five days to prompt such an assault; initially, all she discovers is that it is somehow related to Hyperion: Johnny should have heard of such a place, permeated as it is with tributes to the poet he is supposed to be, but he has not; such an absence of knowledge in an AI of his ability smacks of deception.
She and Johnny are forcibly farcast to a planet that seems to be a perfect imitation of Old Earth, located somewhere in the Hercules cluster, into a portion of Italy, set around the time-period the real Keats died of tuberculosis there.
After a few troublesome actions, hunts and rides through the WorldWeb and the TechnoCore the main information is this: the ‘Core is not as monolithic as it appears; it is fiercely divided into at least three groups which eminently fight each other.
1. The Stables. They are the oldest faction, and count some of the very first AIs among their ranks. Their central thesis is that humanity and the TechnoCore need each other, and that the ‘Core should continue in the symbiosis. They are also opposing to the UI project (creation of a goddish Ultimate Intelligence): the UI would need the resources that the current AIs use, and they do not wish to die. (In Silenus’s Cantos, the Stables are identified with the Titans, who did not wish to yield to their Olympian successors). They have for decades been subtly working to help the Hegemony in its fight against the Volatiles, quietly seeking to bring Hyperion into the WorldWeb, on the chance that its unpredictability will help them.
2. The Volatiles. They generally support the UI project, and they believe that humanity has outlived its usefulness to the ‘Core, and that it actually now poses a real danger, and therefore should be eradicated. They are behind many events, but they fear the planet of Hyperion, because it is a “random variable”: it could tip the scales against the ‘Core; the effects of Hyperion are impossible for them to analyze.
3. The Ultimates. They care only for the UI project. They are quite willing to sacrifice their lives to the UI, believing that the value of its existence far outweighs their own. Previously they had been aligned with the Stables against the Volatiles, as humanity (and especially the cybrid retrieval projects) still posed some puzzles which when solved would help in the UI project, but it is implied that they feel they’ve gathered enough data, and have re-aligned now with the Volatiles to get rid of human kind.
At the end, pregnant by the meanwhile dead Johnny, carrying parts of his consciousness in an implant and revered by the Church of The Shrike as “the mother of our salvation”, Lamia joins the pilgrims.
 Part Six – The Consul’s Tale: Remembering Siri
Like Father Hoyt, the Consul tells another tale before his own. This is entitled “Remembering Siri”, and is a largely unmodified version of the short story of the same name in Prayers to Broken Stones (where Simmons mentions that this story provided the seed around which the Hyperion universe was created).
The Consul’s grandparents had been Merin Aspic (of Lusus) and Siri (of the lush ocean-planet Maui-Covenant). Aspic had signed a long-term contract to engage in several voyages aboard a spinship (with all the years lost to relativistic time dilation that that implies), which would make multiple trips to Maui-Covenant to build a farcaster portal, thereby connecting Maui-Covenant to the waiting voracious hordes of Hegemony tourists. Eventually he falls in love with the beautiful girl named Siri. However, his best friend is killed by a Covenanter who disagrees violently with Maui-Covenant joining the WorldWeb (the events parallel those of Romeo and Juliet).
Siri and Merin meet five more times, but each time Merin – due to the relativistic time delation of his journeys – is only a little older, while Siri ages at the usual rate, a difference which grows ever more pronounced until the sixth visit, in which Merin returns to find Siri dead of old age, and the farcaster about to be activated. The flood of Hegemony visitors and the induction of Maui-Covenant fully into the WorldWeb would, as prophesied, utterly ruin the ecology and all the dolphin, human, and motile isle settlers hold dear. Faced with this bleak reality, Merin chooses to sabotage the farcaster, beginning “Siri’s War”, a hopeless resistance against the Hegemony.
In crushing the rebellion, military destroys the ecology as thoroughly as the tourists would have, but far more violently: many dolphins die, as does a large proportion of the original Maui-Covenant colonists. The latter Consul was forbidden by Merin to join in the fighting, and so he survived to thrive with distinction in the Hegemony diplomatic corps. There he aids the Hegemony in destroying whatever resistance to the Hegemony there be. He bides his time, waiting for a chance to betray the Hegemony and achieve revenge.
When he is sent as an agent to the ousters he becomes their agent, but betrays them too when he prematurely activates mysterious Ouster devices intended to release the Shrike from the Time Tombs when it would have a chance to enter the WorldWeb. He knows of the many deaths this action will cause and was driven to this by the Ouster’s irrefutable evidence that the Big Mistake that destroyed Earth was deliberately planned by elements of the TechnoCore and the Hegemony, and that the Hegemony was deliberately killing off any species which might become a rival to man in order to maintain its place, and that the ‘Core feared Ousters who were out of their control, and sought to use the Hyperion system as bait in order to eliminate them.
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