Down With Power Audiobook!

Number 887, August 28, 2016

Far from being “the Land of the Free and Home
of the Brave,” most of America is actually the
Land of the Serfs and the Home of the Meek.

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The Lone Writer Theory
by J. Kent Hastings

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Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

I listened to the unabridged audiobook edition of Stephen King's novel 11.22.63, after being favorably impressed by the first episode of Hulu's eight-part miniseries. The story is of a time-traveling teacher from 2011 interacting with the JFK assassination. The miniseries starts from 2016. Both effectively portray the shocking differences between the 21st Century and circa 1960, including music, dancing and food of the time as well as the inevitable social commentary about colored restrooms and sexism.

The miniseries has a strong cast led by James Franco and Sarah Gadon.

Neither work has a villain from New England with the initials R.F., but the novel has other King touches, such as little poor kids playing around Lee Harvey Oswald's slummy apartment, a recently disappearing kid-killing clown in a small town and the time-traveling English teacher protagonist preemptively shooting a man placing flowers at his parents’ grave site who would otherwise murder his own children and wife with a sledgehammer on Halloween in 1960, except for the surviving son he only hit on the head.

The resulting brain injury leaves the boy to become an addled old janitor taunted by school kids decades later, a sincere “Lennie” character (a King staple—a school play of Of Mice And Men is even featured in the novel). The janitor reading his adult education assignment about the original bloody incident inspires the teacher to intervene as a test of the time bubble (found by a diner owner played by Chris Cooper) in an early go round with “the obdurate past.” Several cycles back and forth through time are compressed into one attempt to change history in the miniseries. Some characters and events are different from the novel.

Stephen King is certainly not the Lone Writer working characters central to the Kennedy assassination into fiction. The earliest writer to take a shot at it from the Grassy Knoll, appeared in a Samuel Edward Konkin III publication as well as other libertarian and anarchist counter-cultural publications, and Discordian works associated with the likes of Robert Anton Wilson. I’m referring, of course, to Kerry Wendell Thornley’s 1962 manuscript of The Idle Warriors.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about Mr. Thornley:

“In February 1962, Thornley completed The Idle Warriors, which has the historical distinction of being the only book written about Lee Harvey Oswald before Kennedy's assassination in 1963. Due to the serendipitous nature of Thornley's choice of literary subject matter, he was called to testify before the Warren Commission in Washington, D.C. on May 18, 1964. The Commission subpoenaed a copy of the manuscript and stored it in the National Archives, and the book remained unpublished until 1991. In 1965, Thornley published another book titled Oswald, generally defending the "Oswald-as-lone-assassin" conclusion of the Warren Commission, which met with dismal sales. In his later years, Thornley became convinced that Oswald had in truth been a CIA asset whose purpose was to ferret out suspected Communist sympathizers serving in the Corps.”

This year, the Dallas Morning News reviewed the miniseries 11.22.63, much of it set in their backyard, and mentioned another libertarian anarchist writer published by Samuel Edward Konkin III (along with Robert Anton Wilson)—J. Neil Schulman, a writer who also has articles appearing in the pages of Mondo Cult magazine.

The complete Dallas Morning News review may be found HERE, and here is an excerpt from it:

“It's been said that 11.22.63, both the Stephen King best-seller and its eight-hour made-for-Hulu counterpart premiering Monday, play like the longest episode of The Twilight Zone ever made. Only because, well, that's just what it is.”

“Thirty years ago come March, CBS, which briefly revived Rod Serling's most famous creation, aired the J. Neil Schulman-penned episode "Profile in Silver," in which a history professor time-travels 200 years into the past and eventually lands in Dealey Plaza on Nov. 22, 1963, where he stops the killing of John F. Kennedy—only to discover his actions could lead to the end of the planet.

Which is more or less the same plot of 11.22.63 ….”

“Profile In Silver” also had a strong cast, with Lane Smith as Professor Fitzgerald, the “field historian” and Andrew Robinson as JFK. The effects were good for 1986 television.

still from tv show
Andrew Robinson as JFK in J. Neil Schulman's "Profile In Silver".

Both stories feature killer tornadoes as an immediate response by “a past that doesn’t want to be fucked with.” Coincidence or Conspiracy?

Another early entrant with the Kennedy assassination in science fiction is the novel A Time To Remember by Stanley Shapiro, published four months after “Profile In Silver” aired on CBS, and the basis for the 1990 movie Running Against Time.

“History professor David Rhodes never has got over the death of his older brother, 1966 in Vietnam. When he hears the rumor that a famous professor is working on a time machine, he immediately contacts him and persuades him to allow him to travel back in time and correct history. If he could save President Kennedy's life, Vietnam war might never have happened!”

A plot summary on IMDB, written by Tom Zoerner.

From J. Neil Schulman’s Profile In Silver and Other Screenwritings, a book with Neil’s scripts and accounts of how they were produced (and changed) or sometimes not produced at all, comes this history of JFK in fiction:

Profile in Silver was controversial, inasmuch as nobody at that time had ever used the JFK assassination as a plot element in a TV show, or portrayed President Kennedy and his family in a fictional context. All previous portrayals of John F. Kennedy had stayed extremely close to real life, from PT-109 to The Missiles of October.”

“How things have changed now! Oliver Stone’s JFK portrayed the assassination from the point of view of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, who believed in a conspiracy. Quantum Leap put us inside the body of Lee Harvey Oswald and the series lead character, Sam Beckett, changes history by preventing Jackie Kennedy from being assassinated also. The X-Files has the Cigarette Smoking Man assassinating JFK from an underground sewer and setting up Oswald as a patsy. And NBC’s new series Dark Skies has JFK assassinated because he’s been told the truth behind the UFO landing at Roswell. I sometimes wonder whether any of these projects could have made it past industry executives if “Profile in Silver” hadn’t been on CBS prime- time first.”

book cover

How likely is it that Stephen King saw “Profile In Silver”?

The reach of the show according to Schulman:

“The hour containing “Profile in Silver” was the only one which they ran three times in prime time, before the show went into syndication, where it has run another dozen or so times in a half-hour edition … the power of television is such that even a single episode of a series show that never got more than mediocre ratings after the first week or so has been seen by so many millions of people that it’s probably the only thing of mine that most people have ever seen.”

What did King see and when did he see it? The Truth Is Out… (sorry, that’s copyrighted). If “The Dealey Lama” (Thornley) wasn’t certain, then it’s anyone’s guess.

First published in Mondo Cult Online Magazine, publisher Brad Linaweaver, editor Jessie Lilley, Reprinted by kind permission of the magazine.

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