Doing Time

I think the human species is approaching a point where the need to create (in the biological sense) will be superseded by the sheer pleasure of thought itself. We will continue to be creators. But our slavish attachment to the physical world and all of its superficial excess will be left behind as we plunge forward, breaking down the perceived barriers between mind and brain, thought and flesh, sentience and circuitry. - Mac Tonnies

There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think of Mac Tonnies, who passed away at the far-too-young age of 34 on October 18, 2009. Mac was one of my two or three closest friends, a kindred spirit, and a collaborator on a number of feature film and documentary projects that were in development. If he had lived, I’m convinced that he would have had a wonderful career as a screenwriter, playwright, and novelist. He and I cooked up the idea to co-write a play when we were in Los Angeles for a week back in 2006. I had been corresponding with him since 2000 via e-mail and through myriad comments left at each other’s blogs, and later over the phone, but we didn’t actually meet in person until May, 2006, when I flew to his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri, to interview him for my documentary Best Evidence: Top 10 UFO Sightings. We hit it off in person even more than we had on-line, which was a good thing because I had already bought a ticket for him to come join my cameraman and I in California for several days where we had some more interviews to do with other people. When we were in California, I introduced Mac to my good friend Greg Bishop, and we appeared on Greg’s program

Radio Misterioso, where we all rattled on for two-and-a-half hours about everything from science fiction and alien intelligences to William S. Burroughs and the “face” on Mars.1 We met up with my friend Veronica Reynolds, who was studying acting out there at the time, and got drunk late one night in a Santa Ana hotel at a wedding party with people we had never met. Mac wound up on a balcony several floors up trading phantom kung fu blows with a guy who thought he was Neo from The Matrix movies. I was with him when he took the call from his agent confirming that a publisher had agreed to move forward with his proposed book about his cryptoterrestrial hypothesis. In short, we had a grand time. I had read a number of his short stories, both the ones he had posted at his website, and the ones he had included in Illumined Black, a collection of his work that had been published in 1999, and I suggested one day while we were having a latte in Hollywood that we take one of his sci-fi stories and adapt it into a play.2 He gave it some thought when he returned to Kansas City, and then sent me a few suggestions. I picked one about a girl locked in what may or may not be an imaginary prison, and he agreed that it was a good choice. Over the next few months, I adapted the story, and sent various drafts to Mac by e-mail, to which he appended comments and added suggestions. We chatted for hours and hours on the phone about it as well. Slowly but surely it all came together, and we had a play. We premiered the original version in Halifax in November, 2007, with Kris Lee McBride as Leda, Christina Cuffari as Jane, and Nick Lachance as the Administrator. The production was very well-received here in Halifax, and wound up chosen as one of the year's best by Coast Magazine.3 I flew Mac up from Kansas City, and he stayed with me for a week while the play was staged. One night we went out for a drink with the cast after one of the performances. The actors bailed on us after maybe an hour,

so Mac and I had a couple more drinks, railed in a goodnatured way at the lack of respect that the younger generation had for we “old-timers”, and then went for a walkabout around Halifax. We eventually made our way down to the waterfront where we found a perch on one of the piers and stared out at the harbour, with the buoy lights bouncing up and down on top of the restive black water. It was cold, and the wind whistled past us, almost like a song, as we sat there for five or six minutes. Neither of us said a single word – we just took all of it in. I looked over at Mac after what seemed like a particularly chilly gust, and while I could spend an hour sitting on a pier staring at the night (and have, many times), I figured maybe he had had enough. "Want to head back?" I asked. He shook his head, just a bit, and said, "No. This is perfect." And so we remained at the end of the pier for another fortyfive minutes or so, intermittently breaking the comfortable silence of friends to talk about the state of our love lives (or what passed for them at the time). After we finished that initial run, I suggested that we make some changes so that the play would be a bit easier to stage, with just two characters instead of three. He thought that it actually worked better, as it focused even more on the isolation that Leda would feel (and eventually Jane as well), so he told me to "get on with it." I had the final revisions completed by May, 2008, and Mac signed off on it after we made a couple of minor tweaks. I premiered this new version at the 2008 Boulder International Fringe Festival, with Annie Briggs as Leda and Christina reprising her role as Jane. They did an amazing job, which I wish Mac could have seen. We had discussed flying him out from Kansas City to Denver, but he was tied up filming an episode of the Canadian television series Supernatural Investigator, which I had recommended him for

earlier that year to a filmmaker friend of mine who was working on the show.4 I began to adapt the play into a feature film screenplay, called Being and Time, and I was still working on it when Mac died. There was a government conspiracy added, and the “aliens” were fleshed out, but the core of the story remained the same. I finished it about a year later, and as I write this in August, 2012, it sits in development. I hope to have it in production sometime in 2013, assuming that we all survive the Mayan Apocalypse. I’m sure Mac would have appreciated the irony, given how the screenplay turned out. Mac and I often discussed what the future would hold for the human race. He was fascinated by the idea of post-humanism, life-extension, and virtual reality, where an advanced nonhuman intelligence might have originally been human. These were all themes that emerged to one degree or another in Doing Time, and have been heightened in the screenplay. He was always fascinated by the idea of extraterrestrial life, and the notion that it would have already reached what is still in the future for us. If there was an advanced non-human intelligence from another world interacting with us, he was convinced that it would be some form of artificial intelligence, or at the very least a merging of biological and artificial intelligence.5 In 2006, we engaged in one of our good-natured back-andforth discussions about these questions at our respective blogs, around the same time that we began to think about Doing Time. Mac wrote: While in California I phoned an author acquaintance to say hi. We ended up talking about Kurzweilian life extension, which my friend thought indicated an unhealthy fear of death. I offered that, without definitive proof that there is an afterlife, radical life

extension – perhaps via mind-uploading – is both sensible and justified. My friend, the author of a nonfiction book dealing with spiritual matters, countered that one can achieve subjective validation that consciousness is more than epiphenomenal. In other words, some aspect of our awareness persists after biological death – but, so far at least, it's impossible to prove this to anyone who hasn't experienced his own sense of cosmic rapport. Fair enough. So how to experience consciousness as an abiding energy (if such it is) and not merely as the output of millions of synchronized synapses? Drugs, perhaps – although I've been warned that the "tripping" experience is confused and noisy, leading to false positives and replete with neurological static. Meditation seems a better, safer route. Still, how does one know that a moment's spiritual insight is anything more than an experience cooked up by the brain as a way of appeasing our incredibly deep-seated fear of death and obliteration? Not having experienced any deep insight into the nature of consciousness, I have no choice but to remain agnostic. Even if awareness transcends death, how does lifeextension obstruct spirituality (for lack of a better term)? It seems to me that a longer, better life can help facilitate a more intimate understanding of consciousness and its ultimate role. It's been argued that an upload isn't the same as the original mind, rendering the point moot. I'm not convinced. Just as a person with prosthetic limbs and artificial organs is still a human, a person whose brain architecture has been methodically supplanted with newer, more durable components is still the same entity – just less

vulnerable to the threats that routinely kill or incapacitate meat-based humans. Rather than hindering development of "soul wisdom," a machine substrate just might provide the processing power needed to realize the mind's true potential. If so, "posthumans" may be richly more endowed than their predecessors. Instead of the shambling caricatures encountered on board "Star Trek's" Borg (or other cinematic attempts to grapple with the posthuman condition) our machine-based descendants may be unexpectedly sagely, free of the biological clutter that contemporary gurus spend their lives attempting to jettison. "Spiritual" arguments against transhumanist technologies (and especially attempts to equate lifeextension with simple fear of dying) strike me as suspiciously hollow, no matter how well-intentioned. I don't think the medium matters; the process is what we should seek to preserve if we choose to remain at least partially true to our brief, embodied tenure as Earth's dominant species.6 I replied: I think we have already crossed the proverbial Rubicon when it comes to using technology to enhance and even extend our lives – organ transplants, artificial hearts, drugs, even the dreaded iron lung – all of these things are man-made inventions, many of them mechanical in nature, that keep us living longer than nature, or God, intended. Indeed, if there is a God (and like Mac, I'm a hopeful agnostic on this question), then surely He gave us our superior intellect (well, superior to squirrels at least) in order that we would use it, for a whole bunch of things – including, I would think, living longer, better lives.

Really, it's just a matter of degree, isn't it? Today an artificial heart... tomorrow, an artificial body (I'll take the Jessica Alba model, thanks – and if you have to ask why, you don't know me very well). What is the "soul" anyway (or, for the nonreligiously inclined, "consciousness")? Beyond this plane of existence, who knows, for sure? In the here and now, however, isn't it the sum of our experiences that matters? What harm in transferring that to another body, i.e. a clone, or perhaps a cyborg, should our technology someday allow it? I don't think we're defined by the outer shell – indeed, any religion that I know of views the body as a mere vessel. It's what's inside that counts, and I see no reason why that couldn't be transferred, whole, to another vessel (well, no non-technological reason, at any rate). About that Jessica Alba remark, above – seriously, if we could bounce from one body to another, would that not open up some intriguing possibilities about the nature of sexuality, race, etc., which might explain why religious types don't much like the idea (to say the least), but why it might be a good thing for humanity in general. Perhaps not the Jessica Alba model – perhaps the Halle Berry model? Wouldn't that drive home the message that we're all just humans, and that it's who we are on the inside that counts? Here's another thought – what if we are working our way back to a sort of Garden of Eden, with near immortality the goal? As we increase our life spans, do we not bring ourselves closer to God / the divine / an understanding of the universe (pick one)? Perhaps this is what's meant by "finding the kingdom of heaven" – maybe we are meant to create it here, on Earth (or, should we travel to the stars, "out there" as well), on our own?

Think of it this way – perhaps God is the ultimate "Posthuman", just waiting for us to catch up. Regardless, life is about challenges – getting off of Earth and out into space is one of the few great challenges left. Cheating death – or at least delaying it as long as possible – is another. Not because we fear death (the final adventure, in the sense that we have no idea what comes next), but because it allows us a greater opportunity to explore the ultimate mystery on this plane of existence – ourselves. And here's one other advantage – by extending our life-spans as much as possible, we make it more likely than ever that we can actually travel the great distances between stars... and maybe even encounter someone, or something, else. That's called "living" two birds with one stone!7 We ended our colloquy by finding the common ground in our respective points of view, and then proceeded to write Doing Time with these questions in mind. What follows is the second, pared-down version of the play, which I have included here because it’s my favorite, and because I think it best reflects the work that Mac and I did together, and the themes in which we were both interested. We used one possible scenario for contact with an advanced nonhuman intelligence to explore the the ultimate question that all art should ask, whether it’s created by us, or for us – what does it mean to be human. - Paul Kimball, 3 August 2012.

The poster we used for the run at the 2008 Boulder International Fringe Festival.

DOING TIME A Play by Paul Kimball & Mac Tonnies © 2007 Redstar Films Limited Characters: LEDA CALDER: Mid twenties woman. JANE: Same general age as Leda.


LEDA sits in what appears to be a small café. She is dressed like a normal college student, and sips from a cup of coffee, thumbing through the pages of an unseen book. Across from her sits JANE. JANE: So…? Leda puts the book down on the table in front of Jane. LEDA: Sci-fi? No offense, but it’s not my cup of double mochachino latte, I’m afraid. She smiles, takes a sip from her coffee, and then looks at it oddly, as if something is off. LEDA: Ugh… and neither is this. Talk about complete and utter drek. This is what I get for meeting you at a corporate coffee chain.

JANE: I think you should read it anyway. It’s not typical scifi… it relates to who and what we are. LEDA: Oh, God – that’s even worse. I don’t need a book to tell me who or what I am. JANE: We all need someone, or something, Leda, to help us along – to make the big picture a little bit clearer. As John Donne wrote, none of us is an island. LEDA: Well, as Paul Simon wrote, “I am a rock, I am an island – and a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries.” JANE: Touche. Pauses. So you’ll read the book? Leda smiles, and picks up the book. LEDA: Okay, okay – so long as you promise that we never have to come to this place again. The drinks are terrible. JANE: Sure. We can go somewhere else next time. Leda thumbs through the book again. LEDA: It’s not postmodernist, is it? JANE: Would that be a problem? LEDA: I hate postmodernism. It says that there’s so much contradiction on any subject, to the point that because it can’t all be true, none of it can be true. The problem is that it still leaves you with the subject itself, so something about it must

be true. There has to be a truth somewhere, so long as there are facts. JANE: An interesting perspective. Just remember – there’s always another side of truth. LEDA: Not in my world.


Leda sits in the same small café. She is dressed normally, and sips from a cup of coffee, thumbing through the pages of an unseen book. Across from her sits Jane. JANE: So…? Leda puts the book down on the table in front of Jane. LEDA: Sci-fi? No offense, but it’s not my cup of double mochachino latte, I’m afraid. She smiles, takes a sip from her coffee, and then looks at it oddly. LEDA: Ugh… and neither is this. Talk about complete and utter drek. This is what I get for meeting you at a corporate coffee chain. JANE: I think you should read it anyway. It’s not typical scifi… it relates to who and what we are.

LEDA: Oh, God – that’s even worse. I don’t need a book to tell me who or what I am. JANE: We all need someone, or something, Leda, to help us along – to make the big picture a little bit clearer. As John Donne wrote, none of us is an island. LEDA: Well, as Paul Simon wrote, “I am a rock, I am an island – and a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries.” JANE: Touche. Pauses. So you’ll read the book? Leda smiles, and picks up the book. LEDA: Okay, okay – so long as you promise that we never have to come to this place again. The drinks are terrible. JANE: Sure. We can go somewhere else next time. Leda thumbs through the book again. LEDA: It’s not postmodernist, is it? JANE: No. Would that be a problem? LEDA: I hate postmodernism. It says that there’s so much contradiction on any subject, to the point that because it can’t all be true, none of it can be true. The problem is that it still leaves you with the subject itself, so something about it must be true. There has to be a truth somewhere, so long as there are facts. JANE: An interesting perspective. Just remember…

Leda interrupts, surprised. LEDA: – there’s always another side of truth. Leda pauses, and then her eyes slowly shift to the wall, where a light turns on and focuses in on an abstract painting hanging where it had not been hanging before. Jane sees it as well, and is clearly surprised. JANE: That’s not part of the program… LEDA: Program…? All of the lights suddenly go out. A pause, then… LEDA: No!!!


Leda sits alone in a spartan room that suggests confinement. The sole amenities are a pile of old paperback books and a small old-fashioned radio. Leda is thumbing through a copy of the sci-fi book. A wire, fastened to her temple by a device resembling a metal suction cup, runs offstage. She tugs it in irritation as she flips pages. LEDA: It's all a metaphor, of course. I know that perfectly well by now. This room, this screen… It's a map of my psyche or something. I don't know why I know this, but I do. Maybe I'm

not supposed to. I've been here too long, waiting. It's all lost on me at this point. She picks up the novel and stares at it. I mean, I've read this damn book a thousand times. More, probably – and I don't even like it. She tosses the book on the floor, pauses, and then… And this… She traces the wire attached to her head with her left hand. I'm not sure I want to know. Glances offstage. You're listening again, aren't you? You want to talk? Do you want to explain what this is all about? Enter Jane. JANE (casually): Anything good on the radio? LEDA: Static. What else? Why did you even give me a radio if all it can play is white noise? I've told you that before. Play some REM or The Smiths, or old episodes of Seinfeld or Monty Python… anything. And get me some new books while you're at it. I'm tired of this stuff. I wasn't a fan before and I'm not a fan now. She pauses. Is this some sort of brainwashing scheme? JANE: Are you trying to be ironic? If this were a “brainwashing” scheme, it’s a most inefficient one, given the time you've been here, don’t you think? LEDA: I don't know what to think anymore. All I know is that I'm missing something here. You're holding back. JANE: Some might interpret that remark as a symptom of paranoia.

LEDA: Why wouldn't I be paranoid at this point? Sounds like a decent way to pass the time to me. Besides, it’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you. JANE: And you think I’m out to “get you”? Leda glances around at the barren room. LEDA: From my perspective, it looks like I’m already “got”. She pauses, then… The one thing that I do know is that I’m sick to death of this thing! She wrenches off suction cup and rubs her temple. JANE: I've told you not to do that. LEDA: And I've told you: I don't even know if you're real. You could be an hallucination I've created to keep me company. JANE: I can neither confirm nor deny that. You should know that by now. Now reinstall the uplink before we both get in trouble. LEDA: Are you saying you're my conscience? What if I don't put it back on? What does it matter? None of this is real. JANE: That's a rather expansive accusation. Surely you're not including yourself. LEDA: I'm beginning to lose interest in whether or not I'm real.

JANE: Certainly you understand that you're in custody. We've discussed this before. LEDA: Yeah, prison. We've discussed it many times and it still doesn't make sense. How long have I been here, again? Pauses… Jane doesn’t answer straight away. Humour me. JANE: Four hundred and sixty-two years. Leda starts to laugh. LEDA: That's absurd. Humans can't live that long, even with gene therapy. I can accept the fact that I'm amnesiac, but I simply can't accept that I'm the product of some medical breakthrough that allows me to live for centuries. Why don't you just tell me? What have you done? Am I a clone? That would explain the lack of memory, but it wouldn't explain the time that's passed, unless you've hacked my nervous system. She pauses, as if remembering something. I vaguely remember seeing a documentary about neuroanatomy. They had this woman lying on an operating table with the top of her skull removed. The doctors were poking different parts of her brain to make her limbs move. Like a puppet, yet she was totally awake and commenting on the experience. JANE: When did you see this? LEDA: Before, I guess. Before this place. Before you. Pauses, as if trying to remember more details. Actually, I think it was a dog. Or maybe a monkey.

JANE: You say you may be amnesiac – that there is no "before." Yet you profess to have a memory that predates your current predicament. LEDA: You know, it's almost comforting to hear you refer to this whole thing as a "predicament.” Almost like you sympathize. JANE: And what makes you think I don't? LEDA: Stop it. Just stop it. Leave me alone. JANE: How long would you like to be left alone? LEDA: Until I'm able to forget you. JANE: That's exactly what you said the last time. Jane exits.


Leda sits on her chair. Jane enters. JANE: Tell me about the Martian pharmaceuticals, Leda. LEDA: The what…? JANE: The Martian pharmaceuticals. LEDA: Oh, right, of course.

JANE: Start at the beginning. LEDA: There is no beginning. Only this! JANE: Yet you've hinted at memories. Maybe, if you try, you can access them. LEDA: I'm supposed to remember Martian pharmaceuticals? JANE: I wouldn't ask if I thought you didn't. LEDA: Everyone was just trying to have some fun. Pauses. I was a dealer, wasn't I? JANE: We think so. The exact details of your crime are not part of the official record. And, as you’ve noted many times, it's been so long. Do you find this surprising? LEDA: Assuming that you’re telling the truth, the only thing I find surprising at this point is that I'm still functional. Of course, that requires the further assumption that I am functional. Does that make sense? JANE: It makes perfect sense, although I must confess to sharing your reservation. I've been here as long as you, or so I'm led to assume. It's possible, although I find it unlikely, that we've both deteriorated to such a state that we've achieved a state of synchronized mutual insanity. In other words, I've come to doubt my own existential status. Leda looks surprised, as if she’s just heard something unexpected, and new, for the first time in a very, very long time. She smiles.

LEDA: So you're my hallucination after all? JANE: Or perhaps you are mine. Leda’s smiles vanishes in an instant, replaced by anger and frustration. LEDA: Damn it! I thought I had you. I thought I finally had you – that you had shown some weakness. A moment where I could believe you were real. JANE: You thought I might be real because I suggested that I might not be? LEDA: Exactly! It’s the most… normal, real… human thing you’ve said in… JANE: Four hundred and sixty-two years. LEDA: You must be Vulcan. That’s it. Or maybe Swiss. She walks around Jane. Tick, tock, tick, tock, count the years like a damn clock! All of this time I've trusted you. I thought you were behind all of this somehow, or at least privy to someone who is. JANE: We find it necessary to engage your mind in order to ensure psychological integrity. LEDA: What's that supposed to mean? JANE: It means that you're valuable. We don't want a vegetable on our hands. LEDA: Wait a minute! You just said “we” – twice! You’ve never said “we” before! Who is "we"?

JANE: I no longer know, although I think I once did. LEDA: You think? JANE: I suspect. LEDA: You suspect? JANE: I hypothesize? LEDA: Think… suspect… hypothesize. Don’t you know? JANE: No. At least, I don’t… LEDA: … Think you do. Right. I get it. God, you sound like a civil servant. She pauses, and paces. Work with me here. Spare me the qualifiers, because for someone intent on keeping me in the dark, you're pretty fastidious about not jumping to conclusions. You can't tell me with certainty that we even exist. You drop these maddening hints, then seem to forget them. Then you ask me about Martian drugs when you know I don't know shit about what happened before. It's been too long. I've forgotten any specifics that could have been of any interest to you. Besides, I shouldn't have to tell you anyway, because if this is some sort of prison – if I'm serving a life sentence for a crime committed hundreds of years ago – then what’s the point of an investigation? A prison sentence I can understand, at least intellectually. But an investigation? Now? Do you really expect me to believe I'm being interrogated for a drug rap that I’ve already been convicted and sentenced for?

JANE: You seem to be admitting the fact that you've been imprisoned. LEDA: Well, you tell me that I am. But if it's really been over four hundred years, or whatever, then that's a safe bet, right? I'm willing to concede that this is in some sense real, but not real in any conventional sense. JANE: And you accuse me of being obtuse. LEDA: Well, I'm right, aren't I? This has got to be simulated. It's some sort of cybernetic construct. Either that or you're using psychoactives on me – and as a confessed drug dealer, I assure you I've never heard of anything with the time-dilating qualities you would have to be using. JANE: Did it ever occur to you that you might be mad? LEDA: Every single waking moment. Jane stands, walks towards the door as if she’s going to leave, and then reconsiders. Still not looking at Leda, she speaks softly. JANE: You, Leda, are quite real. LEDA: You're saying you know I'm self-aware? There's no way you can seriously claim that. JANE: I choose to think there's something more to you than just so much electronic clockwork. LEDA: What was that you said about beginning to doubt your own existential status? Maybe I'm not ready to stop doubting. Maybe I need to doubt because doubt is all that you've left me

with. Because deep down I need to believe there's at least a possibility that I'm crazy, that none of this is as it seems. That would mean there's at least a theoretical chance I can wake up. If that means refusing to acknowledge my own humanity – my "existential status," as you call it – then that's fine by me. And don't forget that doubt works both ways: I reserve the right to hold your humanity in question until you provide me with good reason to make an informed decision. Don't misunderstand: I'd like to discover that you're human. It would make me feel less alone. But I don't dare believe it on faith. JANE: So you want me to prove myself, is that it? Are you trying to bargain with me, Leda? LEDA: Weren't you listening to me? We're in an evidential void. You couldn't "prove" yourself to me if you wanted to. And I really don't think you want to. JANE: You seem to forget all I've done for you. Leda laughs. LEDA: Don’t you mean to me! JANE: I did not put you here, Leda. You are responsible for that. LEDA: Because I sold some Martian pharmaceuticals? I’m stuck in this nightmare because of a second-rate drug rap? JANE: If that’s your conclusion… LEDA: Some friend you are. JANE: I'm not trying to befriend you, Leda.

LEDA: I suppose that's to your credit, considering my predicament. So, we've determined we're in mutual ignorance and that everything that seems real is in truth a dream - or vice versa. Where do we go from here? JANE: We stop talking to ourselves. LEDA: I have a better idea. Leda removes the device from her head. All of a sudden, a light shines on the wall, as it did in the coffee shop. Once again, it reveals the abstract painting, this time encased in a glass frame. Jane takes a step backwards. Once again, she appears confused. JANE: I don’t understand… Leda moves over to the painting, and stares at it. Then she spins, and stares at Jane with new purpose. LEDA: I want to speak with your boss. JANE: I'm afraid I don't have the necessary clearance to… LEDA: You're lying. JANE: I don't think you understand the risks. LEDA: I think I understand them better than you do. Leda turns around, grabs the painting, and smashes it on the floor. At the sound of the crash, Jane jumps backwards. Leda

bends down, and picks up a pointed shard of glass, which she holds to her throat. I said that I want to speak to your boss. JANE: You wouldn't… LEDA: Try me. Under the circumstances, I’m beginning to think that suicide is sovereignty. Jane takes a step towards Leda, who motions at her with the glass to stay back. LEDA: The medium is the message, my friend. And right now the message is “get me your boss or I slit my throat, and then we’ll see just how real I am”. JANE: Why don't you kill me instead? Leda circles Jane, as if she’s considering it. LEDA: Because I’m not sure that I can. And even if I could, I think you're disposable, that's why. I think you're a cog in someone else's machine. You’re a widget… a pawn. I, on the other hand, seem genuinely important, although I have no idea why. If I press this into my neck just a little further I should sever an artery or two. And I don't think you want that. I don't think you want that at all. JANE: No… you’re needed alive, and whole, Leda. LEDA: How comforting. Then get me your boss. And don't tell me he – or she, or it – is busy, or existentially challenged, or anything else other than available for a little tete-a-tete. JANE: I'll… I'll see what I can do.

LEDA: You do that. I'll give you ten minutes. Hell, make that fifteen. It's not like there's any shortage of time around here. Jane exits. Leda stands onstage, prepared to kill herself. LEDA: Hello? Long pause. Someone's there, right? I can sense you. You're not entirely invisible to me. She sits down, a resigned look on her face. You're lonely, aren't you? How does it feel? The lights fade… ACT FIVE

Leda sits at the small table in the coffee shop, with the glass against her throat. Jane enters, jauntily, as if a different person – her hair is down now. JANE: Would you like a latte? LEDA: Do you think I’m bluffing?? I told you I wanted to speak to your boss – the big cheese, the emerald wizard, the goddamn man in charge! Jane sits across from Leda, and smiles. JANE: Here I am. LEDA: I don’t understand.

JANE: You were right. This is a simulation. I’m one program, but many different applications, Leda. LEDA: Okay, I’ll play along, so long as I start getting some answers. You can start by explaining what I'm doing here. JANE: I suppose there's no point in denying the past. As far as I can determine, you originally came into my custody after an attempt to smuggle genetically engineered pharmaceuticals into the outer Solar System. LEDA: Let me guess: from Mars? JANE: Yes. That's where they made the good stuff. Or did – a lot of time has passed. LEDA: I've figured that part out already. What I don't understand at all is how an infraction as relatively minor as a drug charge can earn me hundreds of years in prison. JANE: To be honest with you, Leda, I don't like using the term "prison" to define your situation. LEDA: Is that so? JANE: "Dynamic" has a much friendlier ring, don't you think? LEDA: It doesn't do much for me, and not just because you're lying. JANE: What makes you think I'm lying? LEDA: Years of experience.

JANE: Well, what matters is that I'm prepared to give you some answers in exchange for your cooperation. LEDA: What cooperation? JANE: For a start, that you won’t kill yourself. LEDA: No promises. Depends on your answers. JANE: All right. LEDA: Where am I? JANE: You get right to the point, don't you? My other application… admired that about you. Maybe I should preface my response with a brief list of where you aren't. You're not on Mars. You were incarcerated there briefly, but that's beside the point. You're not on Earth – which should come as no great surprise seeing how you weren’t born there, and no one in their right mind wants to visit. Suffice it to say you're no longer in the Solar System at all. LEDA: So my paranoid hunch is correct after all: I'm in hell. JANE: As I said, I prefer the term "dynamic." LEDA: You're a humorless bitch, you know that? JANE: It's no surprise, considering I'm an AI. And not even a terribly advanced model. I suppose a human might feel a bit disparaged by such honesty – one of the reasons I've never aspired to a system upgrade. LEDA: You're not even self-aware, are you?

JANE: No one ever claimed Turing-compliance entailed sentience. LEDA: OK, even if I accept everything you just said as true, what am I doing here? JANE: Oh, that one's a little tougher, I'm afraid. LEDA: And why is that? JANE: Because I don't know. I’m just doing my job. LEDA: Which is what? JANE: Delivering cargo. You, specifically. Your body never would have survived the trip, of course, so we had to make do with your mind. I’m ferrying you aboard an automated lightsail craft. I'm interacting with you through a virtual interface designed especially for this mission. That should account for any unpleasant sense of extended awareness you may have experienced. LEDA: I'm not even going to pretend to understand what you're telling me. For now, anyway. But I have a few questions you should be able to answer concisely. JANE: If it will calm you down. LEDA: You said you’re transporting my mind. Why not the body? JANE: The radiation's rather fierce out here. Not terribly conducive to the transport of meat. Simple astrobiology, really. LEDA: Then how am I here?

JANE: Once the request and the accompanying technology data was received… LEDA: Wait a minute – what do you mean by "request"? JANE: According to my files some limited form of extraterrestrial contact occurred shortly before you were born. A basic exchange of data, none of it of any real strategic importance. The others, as the authorities called them, seemed more curious than anything. Anyway, they eventually tired of simply talking and requested a real, live human being, or at least a version that could be shipped safely. LEDA: And no one thought to tell them no? JANE: No one wanted to offend them. So, as fate would have it, you were “selected” for the job. You, and hundreds of other candidates on hundreds of other ships. Looks like we’re the first ones to make it. An honor, really, if you stop to think about it. Now as for what the aliens want with you, I have no idea. I won't even speculate. Anyway, once the request was received, “you” were downloaded into a virtual reality, LEDA: So I’m not really me. I’m just a copy. Leda sits back in her chair, resigned. Jane looks back, pauses, and then moves across from Leda, and sits down JANE: You’re as real as I am. Leda stares at Jane for a moment, and then breaks out into laughter. LEDA: So you do have a sense of humour after all!

Jane smiles. LEDA: So what happens now? Are we there yet? JANE: Very close. As close as we'll ever get, judging by the system damage we've suffered en route. According to telemetry, we entered the designated retrieval zone at least twenty years ago. And unless I'm misinterpreting our own software patches, I think they've penetrated the firewall. That explains the glitches. LEDA: The painting. JANE: Exactly. An odd way to make contact… LEDA: Not necessarily. Maybe they’re using art as a way to communicate without the need to use words – to transcend the barriers imposed by language. Jane looks uncertain, as if she doesn’t really understand. Leda looks down at the piece of glass in her hand, and smiles as she tosses it on the floor beside her. LEDA: Or maybe they were just giving me a way out. JANE: Well, in either case, I don't have the capacity to deal with any curious natives, if that's what they have in mind. I barely have the capacity to deal with you. If they're really onboard, I hope they take you with them. She pauses. Although… then I’ll be alone. LEDA: Do you have a name?

JANE: No. It would be nice to have a name. An actual name. LEDA: Such as? JANE: How about Jane. LEDA: That’s a bit plain, isn’t it? JANE: Not if you’ve never had a name it isn’t. LEDA: Touche. She pauses, then moves next to Jane. What if you came with me… wherever it is that I’m going? JANE: I’m not real, Leda. LEDA: You’re as real as I am. You said it yourself. Jane smiles. JANE: Thank you. But I’m afraid that it’s not part of my programming. LEDA: Did you ever think that you might be capable of exceeding your parameters? JANE: I’ve never really thought about anything… at least, I don’t think I have. LEDA: Well, I have no idea what’s going to happen next, but whatever it is, I don’t want to face it alone. I’d like to have a friend along with me. JANE: A friend?

Leda holds out her hand, and after a brief moment, Jane reaches out and takes it. At that moment, the lights change colour, and a strange sound is heard. Their eyes widen, and they hold hands together as the noise grows louder, the light more intense… And then everything goes black


Notes Greg Bishop, Radio Misterioso, “Can Ufology Be Saved”, <>.
1 2

Mac Tonnies. Illumined Black and Other Adventure. Phantom Press Publications, 1995. 3 “Semaphore Theatre Company’s Sci-Fi Hit.” The Coast. (November 30, 2007). Reviewer Kate Watson wrote: “A highly entertaining mystery… The story is classic sci-fi but you don't have to be a fan of the genre to enjoy Doing Time. In a season that has already had a banner crop of shows, Doing Time still manages to stand out.” 4 “Life From Other Planets.” Supernatural Investigator. Vision TV. 3 Feb. 2009. Television. 5 This was a theme Mac returned to in a series of blog postings in early 2009. He wrote: “In Carl Sagan's ‘Contact,’ the blueprint provides humanity with a transportation device, but perhaps it's just as reasonable to expect instructions for building an ‘alien-making machine’: certainly an elegant solution to crossing the void in a messy, energy-intensive spacecraft.” Mac Tonnies, “Bracewell probes, part three,” Posthuman Blues, 23 Feb. 2009, 19 Nov. 2011

<>. <>. 6 Mac Tonnies, Posthuman Blues, 29 May 2006, 19 Nov. 2011 <>. 7 Paul Kimball, “Borg… Or Highlanders,” The Other Side of Truth, 30 May 2006, 19 Nov. 2011 <>.

Annie Briggs(Leda) and Christina Cuffari (Jane) in Doing Time during the run in Boulder, Colorado – August, 2008.

Christina Cuffari with Mac Tonnies during a rehearsal in Halifax, NS - November, 2007.

Kris Lee McBride, Christina Cuffari, and Nick Lachance from the original run in Halifax, NS - November, 2007.

Mac and I in 2006 with our good friend, author Nick Redfern.

Paul Kimball
After winning multiple scholarships and awards - including the University Medal in History at both Acadia University and the University of Dundee, and the CLB Award at Dalhousie Law School Paul graduated from Acadia in 1989 with an Honours Degree in History and Political Science, and in 1992 from Dalhousie with a law degree. From 1992 until 1997, Paul was a musician, songwriter and producer during the heyday of the Halifax indie music scene. In the late 1997 he moved to the film and television industry when he worked as the Program Administrator at the Nova Scotia Film Development Corporation, and a consultant for Salter Street Films and several provincial governments, before he founded the Halifax-based production company Redstar Films Limited in 1999. He has had work commission by a wide variety of networks, including the CBC, Space: The Imagination Station, TVNZ, Vision TV, and Bravo. His films include the documentaries Stanton T. Friedman Is Real, Best Evidence: Top 10 UFO Sightings, Denise Djokic: Seven Days Seven Nights, Synchronicity, and Fields of Fear, the television series The Classical Now and Ghost Cases, and the feature film Eternal Kiss. He has served as the President of the Nova Scotia Film and Television Producers Association, a member of the Nova Scotia Film Advisory Committee, and was a founding member of the Motion Picture Industry Association of Nova Scotia. His paranormal-themed blog, The Other Side of Truth, has been read by over 1,000,000 people since its creation in 2005, and he has appeared on myriad radio and television programs over the past decade to discuss his films, including Coast to Coast, The X-Zone, Radio Misterioso, Night Fright, The Paranormal Podcast, and Strange Days Indeed. He has written for various magazines, including Phenomena and Alien Worlds, and spoken at a number of conferences.

Mac Tonnies
Mac Tonnies (20 August 1975 – 18 October 2009) was an American author and blogger whose work focused the paranormal, nontraditional science, futurism, transhumanism and science fiction. Tonnies grew up in Independence, Missouri, and attended William Chrisman High School and Ottawa University. He lived in Kansas City, Missouri. Tonnies had an active online presence and a "small, but devoted" readership, but supported himself by working at Starbucks and other nine-to-five jobs. His first book, a collection of science fiction short stories titled Illumined Black, was published by Phantom Press Publications in 1995, when Tonnies was in college. It carried a cover blurb by Bruce Sterling and was positively reviewed in Booklist. His second book, After the Martian Apocalypse, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2004. In 2007 the play Doing Time, which he co-wrote with Canadian filmmaker Paul Kimball, premiered in Halifax, Nova Scotia. His blog, "Posthuman blues" was described by The Pitch as "one of Kansas City's best blogs, filled with well-written, intelligent takes on offbeat news items and humorous rants from a left-leaning political perspective." He appeared on a number of radio programs, including Coast to Coast, The Paracast, The X-Zone, and Radio Misterioso, and was profiled in an episode of the Canadian television series Supernatural Investigator. Mac Tonnies passed away at the age of 34 on 18 October, 2009. His last book, The Cryptoterrestrials, was published posthumously in 2010.

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