Tim Kring created Heroes, the show that blew our minds for one season, then tried our patience for three more. And now his long-awaited book project Shift is coming out. Here are five reasons you should watch the book trailer.
1) It's our glimpse at the future of book pitches. Famously, Kring and his co-author Dale Peck sold the book without having written any of it, which is still somewhat unusual in fiction publishing. They had just 25 pages of material finished, which presumably included a rough outline as well as sample pages. Kring's television credits probably helped to sell the book, but apparently the deciding factor was the promo video that Kring and Peck put together for the as-yet-nonexistent book. The video was only available on a password-protected website, and it was so slick it won over publishing pros, resulting in a $3 million advance. We have no way of knowing if this new book trailer is the same as the video that made the sale, but it's probably at least somewhat similar. So it's worth watching to see just how jazzy a book video has to be to spur such a hot bidding war.
2) It's the first thing Tim Kring has done since Heroes. And it's fascinating to see how his obsessions — with conspiracy theories, superpowers, and rewriting history — are going in a new direction. (Although he sold the book in 2008, so really he was writing this at the same time as the last couple seasons of the show.) Here's a brief synopsis:
Shift is the story of Chandler Forrestal, a man whose life is changed forever when he is unwittingly dragged into a CIA mind-control experiment. After being given a massive dose of LSD, Chandler develops a frightening array of mental powers. With his one-in-a-billion brain chemistry, Chandler's heightened perception uncovers a plot to assassinate president Kennedy. Chased across the globe by the dark powers of world government, will Chandler be able to harness the "shift" and rewrite history?
3) It's a fascinatingly unlikely collaboration. Kring's co-writer is Dale Peck, Lambda Literary Award winner and literary enfant terrible. (On the book cover, Kring's name is giant and Peck's is tiny, so that the cover seems to be saying that Tim Kring is "the creator of Heroes and Dale Peck." Which would be quite an accomplishment on Kring's part.) Peck is mostly known as a literary author and columnist for Out Magazine, although he's also written a couple of children's novels. And he caused a stir several years ago, when he set out to trash some of the era's most famous literary writers, including Rick Moody and Jonathan Franzen. The essays for The New Republic, collected in a book called Hatchet Jobs, caused an uproar, with literary journal N+1 singling him out for opprobrium. Even though Peck's name is so tiny compared to Kring's, I have a feeling Peck did most of the writing, since Kring had a television show to try and save.
4) It's one of the silliest things we've seen in ages. The book's tagline is, "Did LSD kill JFK?" And the video keeps juxtaposing those two three-letter acronyms over and over, while a voice intones about America's enemies, and we get newsreel footage of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, Jr., zipping past and occasionally turning negative just for added spookiness. And blacked out documents with ominous buzzwords popping out. No cliche is left untouched — and that's before we get to Fidel Castro's exploding cigar! Castro is naked, for some reason. And the words "Shame Injury Death." (Presumably, those are the three possible outcomes of an exploding cigar.) A voice drones about an artist and a prostitute, as if dredging secrets from deep in the bowels of the collective unconscious, and ominous circles start eating bits of a world map. Scary, scary circles. It turns out Watergate, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Iran-Contra scandal and the invention of the World Wide Web are tied in with this LSD-fueled conspiracy too, and "the prostitute is at the center of it all." (Will someone in the book tell us that we must save the prostitute, to save the world? Is the Monica Lewinsky scandal part of this decades-long bad Acid trip too?) It's all too thrilling.
5) It will help prepare you for the insanity to come. There's an excerpt from the book up at Random House's site, and it looks like a pretty fun gonzo thriller, at first glance. Here's a particularly awesome passage:
"Fuck your mother," Bayo gasped against the foot on his throat. His snarl didn't really come off, given that his upper lip looked like a slug that'd been ground beneath someone's heel - which, in fact, it had.
Melchior brought the glowing tip of his cigar to Bayo's right nipple. "My mother, being long dead, has a snatch that's too dried up for my taste." Flesh sizzled; smoke tickled his nostrils; Bayo's throat convulsed beneath the foot on his Adam's apple but all that came out was a strangled gurgle. When Melchior took the cigar away, Bayo's nipple looked like a volcanic crater. A dozen more black and red coronas were scattered across his chest, although it would have taken a particularly rarefied eye to notice that they occupied the same relative positions as the major Hawaiian volcanoes. Geography had been one of the Wiz's first lessons to his protégé, along with the importance of keeping yourself amused.
Volcanic nipples — they wouldn't have let Kring get away with that on television.