Many years ago, Ben Hudson and myself developed an idea for a cyberpunk TV series called Johnny Clockwork. Taking its cues from Max Headroom and William Gibson, Johnny Clockwork told the story of a disabled teenage detective who solves crimes without ever leaving his room, utilising an amazing array of computer technology and the occasional help of his ‘leg-woman’ Leyland. Although we kicked around a million ideas, no script was ever written. But looking through some old files, I came across an opening narration for Johnny Clockwork, which I’m publishing here for the very first time. I think you’ll find some of it disturbingly prophetic. Welcome to the world of Johnny Clockwork. The future is NOW!
“March 2035, Central America is destroyed in a devastating nuclear assault launched by an affronted consortium of Anti-American Middle Eastern countries… or, at least, that’s what would have happened, if the CIA hadn’t impeached the increasingly unstable President, ousting him from power and replacing him with the altogether more liberal and diplomatic Senator David Wyatt.
“Now, Wyatt is a real nice guy. Everybody likes him. He’s kind to children, old people and small furry animals. Not just that, but he willingly backs down on his predecessors belligerent foreign policy and manages to open up the trade routes once again.
“But, every silver lining has a cloud, so they say, and for all his broad gestures of wisdom and generosity, President Wyatt had two unpresidential flaws. One: he liked to dress up as a girl on weekends. And two: he was a member of the board of directors for ZimmerWolf International Marketing, a multi-national corporation with far-reaching corporate intentions.
“Now, ZimmerWolf was started way back in the 1980s by a pair of Germans; Gert Zimmer and Erich Wolf, as a company dedicated to the manufacture of sports shoes. ZimmerWolf trainers were huge. Everyone who was anyone had to have at least one pair, which made the company one of the biggest manufacturing concerns in the world in no time at all. By 1997, they had relocated to the USA and started to spread their wings.
“Fifty-five years later, Hans Zimmer and Erich Wolf are long dead (although the latter does have his head cryogenically frozen in the Smithsonian Institute) but ZimmerWolf International Marketing goes from strength to strength. Sure, they still make shoes, but a bigger part of what they do these days is computing.
But, ‘hold it’, you’re saying. ‘What does this have to do with President Wyatt and his place in American history?’ Well, it’s a sensible question, and one that I’m now ready to answer. You see, if you’re the President, you’re not supposed to have outside business interests that might prejudice your presidential integrity. Only Wyatt’s predecessor had been such an insane, corrupt sociopath, and folks were so delighted to be rid of the mad bastard, that the new President was cut a lot of slack. He was able to get away with a whole lot of stuff that, by rights, he shouldn’t have been. So OK, he signed various defence contracts, civil policing and housing over to assorted offspring of ZimmerWolf, but at least he wasn’t dragging America into a new war every five minutes, right?
“This is the here and now of it. New York city in 2041. The ultimate consumer society. Technology has an average useful lifespan of two years, before something new is ushered in and it becomes obsolete. Nothing is recycled. ZimmerWolf owns everything; the cops, the houses and the stores. In a recent survey, 78% of all Americans worked for a Zimmer-Wolf subsidiary. There are 4400 channels on TV, all showing the same crap, and no more than 30 metres between any two CCTV cameras on the streets. You can watch that on TV too.
“That’s the loop. And this is me – outside the loop. You won’t find me on any computer record or Internet database. As far as ZimmerWolf is concerned, I’m a ghost. A spectre. I do not exist.
“My name is Johnny.”
© Paul Ferry and Ben Hudson 2019