Outer Confines

Space suit in the desert

Rob Nield, editor of Re:Move wants to film a short story by Iain M. Banks. That would be the same Iain Banks who helpfully uses his middle initial, M, to signal if he is writing very popular science fiction stuff, and who removes it when he is writing very popular ‘mainstream’ stuff. I hence conclude that the ‘M’ does not mean ‘mainstream’. As for what ‘mainstream’ means, I am not sure. I can only suppose it means ‘not science fiction’, given Banks’ extraordinary output over the years. So, from my earlier use of the ‘M’, you can already tell that Rob wants to film a science fiction story. In Doha. But, before you doubt the viability of such a project, let me point out that the story needs no CGI whatsoever, features no aliens, and is about a man walking around a desert. Hence Doha is a very good place to film it. There is no shortage of desert locations around Doha. Rather the contrary. However, there are two major obstacles to overcome before he can even think of filming the story:

  1. Iain Banks does not write screenplays; and
  2. So far, nobody has asked for permission to adapt his story.

Nevertheless, I read the story, which is called Descendant and can be found in a collection called The State of the Art. And I liked it a lot. There is something very appealing about reading and writing stories that involve a very limited cast of characters. It really concentrates the attention. So, liking the story, getting excited, and wanting to encourage Rob to film it, I just went ahead and adapted the story into a screenplay, without really waiting to be asked. Or waiting for permission.

Now, those of you who are vaguely aware of the principles of copyright might have deduced that my adapting an Iain M. Banks short story, and then sharing the adaptation with you, is not exactly lawful. I admit that I have used substantial parts of Banks’ story. If sued, I may have to pay substantial damages based on the substantial readership of this website. Possibly upwards of £2.50. But on the other hand, I did make some very radical changes to the story. Very radical. For example, a totally different ending, a quite different beginning, and a reasonably different middle. Other changes include quoting chunks of William Shakespeare. Happily, the Bard has long been in his grave, so there is no need to worry about infringing his copyright. And yet more changes included such things as adding lots of nudity. After all, nudity works much better in film than in print, though Rob might need to be careful about how he films any nude scenes. Liberal use of sunscreen should counter the sun’s attentions, whilst screening the horizon for illiberal police should counter deportations. And I even changed the title. So, after all those changes, I doubt anyone would have noticed the screenplay was based on an Iain M. Banks short story, if I had not admitted it first. That combination of story dilution and absurd honesty must count for something. Furthermore, I am hopeful that Banks’ reputation as an anarchist-socialist-utopian (and thoroughly nice chap) means I only take a minimal risk in sharing this with you, even though, when I refer to you, you might potentially be the entire human race. You are probably not the entire human race, but you never know. Though, on the other hand, you might know, because if you all read the screenplay, you might very well discuss it with each other. But if you are the entire human race, would you all please purchase a copy of Iain M. Banks’ The State of the Art, and then let me know your address, so I might refer to your purchase in mitigation of my unlawful behaviour. Also, let me know what you think of this draft screenplay. After all, getting your opinion is the reason why I take these crazy risks in the first place.

So, if you want to spoil your enjoyment when you watch Rob’s film, and when you read Iain M. Banks’ book, and when you watch the Hollywood-made and authorized adaptation of the story featuring Mark Wahlberg in the Gobi Desert, here is a screenplay called Outer Confines. Enjoy.

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