One millionth the budget of Spiderman 3. One thousand times the smarts.


A couple of weeks back I told you about Infest Wisely, the seven-part “low-fi sci-fi” independent film put together by Jim Munroe and his motley accomplices; Dave Nickle blogged his thoughts following the premiere. Since that night (standing-room only, by the way) they’ve been podcasting one episode a week. I’ve kept quiet about that until now, not because I didn’t like the show but because I like it enough to want everyone to check it out; and this week, with the “Early Adopter” episode, I figure it’s safe to send you over.

You see, while Infest Wisely was filmed in seven episodes, they’re not really stand-alone episodes. Characters recur and intertwine throughout the overall story. Sometimes you’ve got no idea how a given episode ties in to the overall arc, until someone or something from a previous installment makes an appearance and ties another link in the braid. It’s really quite elegant— but it also means that if you downloaded the first chapter when it first came out you’d be confronted with two characters saying strange things in dark alleyways and under overpasses in the dead of night, filmed in ambient light with muddy sound. When it was all over you would have no idea where the story was going, and you might not come back a week later to follow up. And that would be a shame, because the story does go somewhere.

It goes into public urinals, for example, where hapless men get “milked” by women who pounce from the stalls and deliver guerilla hand-jobs as a means of acquiring semen for identity-theft purposes (genetic ID has become the norm in this day-after-tomorrow tale). It goes into your mouth, with sticks of gum that deliver nanites that turn your eyes into cameras and cats into sentient tool-users who speak in effete British accents (today’s jpeg is a scan of one of the treats they handed out to the audience on opening night). It touches on the mind-controlling powers of certain parasites (there’s a consistent eco/bio vibe running through the whole story, which is a nice change from the usual inorganic nanotech). It even goes into the Wright-Ramsey Building at the University of Toronto, where I’ve been known to hang out. I recognise the lockers.

The point is, this experiment has smarts far in excess of its miniscule budget— and now that three episodes are up, you can watch a bunch of ’em in one go to get a sense of how it all comes together. And I think you should do that.

At the very least, it’ll help wash the taste of Silver Surfer trailers out of your mouth.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Thursday June 07 2007at 10:06 am , filed under fellow liars . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

11 Responses to “One millionth the budget of Spiderman 3. One thousand times the smarts.”

  1. The guerilla hand-jobs part is …

    Wouldn’t it be much, much easier to just wrench a hair off of someone’s head with a pair of tweezers or scrape/punch off a bit of skin while passing by?

    Even simpler would be paying off hotel housekeepers to individually ziplock-bag guests’ stray hairs (from the bed/sheets or the shower/tub drain).

  2. The problem with hair is that it’s all protein; you can’t get DNA from it unless at least part of the living root comes along for the ride, which is no sure thing.

    The problem I had with milking is that jism is haploid, whereas presumably the genetic ID markers used by the society are going to be diploid. There are ways of correcting for that (I’m betting you could infer the diploid genotype from a sufficiently mixed sample of haploid genes), but that would be computationally intensive, and a pain, and if you’re going to waylay someone in a public restroom anyway, why not just stab them with a hypo or a biopsy dart and make off with a bit of blood instead?

    So granted, milking doesn’t parse rigorously, but there’s something metaphorically true about that scene. There’s a kind of skiffy “truthiness” to it; it feels right, even if it isn’t. The street does find its own uses for things; life will find a way. (And now, having invoked both Gibson and Crichton, I’m pretty much invulnerable from any direction…)

  3. The drive-by hand-jobs would be easy meat (hey, it’s porn fantasy for reals, there’s plenty of men who wouldn’t struggle … particularly if (s)he was hot :) ) but only for a narrow window of time. Once the news spreads, they’d have to do drive-by phlebotomy or something.

  4. Even one millionth the budget of Spider-Man 3 is still several times the GDP of many third world countries. I exaggerate, but in all seriousness Spider-Man 3 just goes to show the rest of the world how America’s priorities are a joke.

    I plan on checking out this particular work ASAP, but in the meantime, I try to take any possible situation where it’s at least slightly above the level of the non sequiter to comment on my infuriation with SM3.

  5. Hey Peter.

    They might have hired actors, it would have helped some. Nor am I in love with the editing. High marks for the concept though.

    Nice to see you still at it Peter, there was a time there when I stopped reading the crawl then because I thought you were done with it all. Nice to see I was wrong. Can’t wait for your next book.

  6. Brenda said…

    They might have hired actors, it would have helped some.

    Not with a $950 budget, they couldn’t. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the quality of the acting, except for a cheesy model-city-trashing scene which was achingly bad. But I don’t think that ep has gone up yet.

    Nor am I in love with the editing. High marks for the concept though.

    Me, I had a real problem with the lighting. At least in the first couple of installments. But yeah, I’m not reccing this for production values; I’m not even reccing it for plausible science (although the science could have been brought up to scratch if they’d retained, oh, I don’t know, the services of a local scientist-turned-science-fiction-writer?). I’m just saying it’s way smarter than the average Hollywood lobofest.

    Nice to see you still at it Peter, there was a time there when I stopped reading the crawl then because I thought you were done with it all. Nice to see I was wrong. Can’t wait for your next book.

    You’re gonna have to. I haven’t started it yet. Although I do have this bit about a lizard that can’t be genetically ID’d because someone its DNA is infested with nucleotide codings for Shakespeare sonnets…

  7. Peter,

    the thing about sperm is that it would be very hard to produce without premission of the person (unless you were milked or someone stole a condom)

    although it is haploid, each sperm is a different haploid combination of your diploid genome… so all of your DNA could be varified from it.

    -jordan

  8. my biggest criticism of the film is that it was never clearly explained what was happening to people who were infested… the cat explained that it was too hard to take over a human brain, but then the activist dude and the corporate salesman were both taken over… it also wasn’t explained if the cats themselves were intelligent or if the nanites were just using the cat to talk.

    anyone know?

    -jordan

  9. Jordan said…

    the thing about sperm is that it would be very hard to produce without premission of the person (unless you were milked or someone stole a condom)

    Well, that was the premise; hot women lurking in toilet stalls, leaping out and giving hand jobs to unsuspecting men at urinals. I mean, come on— would you turn that down?

    although it is haploid, each sperm is a different haploid combination of your diploid genome… so all of your DNA could be varified from it.

    Oh, that’s right. Good point.

    my biggest criticism of the film is that it was never clearly explained what was happening to people who were infested… the cat explained that it was too hard to take over a human brain, but then the activist dude and the corporate salesman were both taken over… it also wasn’t explained if the cats themselves were intelligent or if the nanites were just using the cat to talk.

    I’m not sure, but I think those points were left deliberately ambiguous, a la “weird shit is happening all over the world, and we’re only catching glimpses of it here and there, and we’re just a ragtag fugitive gang on bicycles so we can’t really be expected to put it all together. But yeah, the show was a long longer on attitude than on explanation.

  10. I can see what you are saying about it being intentionally left ambigous. Better than a lot of sci-fi which feels it has a need to explain everything to technical details.

    I have the suspicious that the “ninites” are an alegory for corporations (fits with the rest of jim’s work) and i feel like we are just as ambigously set in the world of corporate takeovers, control of people, constructed things acting like people, etc we really don’t get all of how it’s working.

    -jordan

  11. […] first read about this project in a couple of posts on the blog of science fiction author Peter […]