4,000 words; weekly, 1-hour format
Loving over the wires! Join our group of cool Gen-X kids as they cruise the
data superhighway in search of adventure and romance! Every week, netsurf along
with roommates ALICE and XENIA and laugh at the antics of their wild assortment
of friends. Melrose Place meets cyberculture! Max Headroom
mellows out by the sea!
The setting is Santa Cruz, California, college town, retirement community,
surfer-hippie/nature-mystic hangout, bedroom community for Silicon Valley, and
not so coincidentally, the setting for the cult horror film, The Lost
Boys. Our heroines live in a second-story unit of a pink stucco fourplex 10
blocks from the sea. They call their place Ossian's Cave. It's modestly
furnished, except for the 35-inch Mitsubishi TV, where the gang gathers
religiously every week to watch Beverly Hills 90210. In tribute, they
call their own small cyber-ecosystem "beverly_hills.com."
Part of each show is split-screen: the audience sees the girls lounging in
their ergonomically correct chairs as they type on the computer screen. The
online format allows ample venues for guest stars, much as on Hotel or
The Love Boat: different characters met online can be brought on for
F2F encounters. What's more, computer and communications hotshots are dying to
go mainstream, so would be eager to play walk-on roles - for example, JOHN
MALONE might be persuaded to appear in an episode in which our heroines are
having trouble with their cable! He would appear as the concerned,
quality-conscious CEO that he undoubtedly wants to project to mainstream
Two of three episodically recurring characters (VICTORIA, BOBBY) communicate
with our lead characters by e-mail at the beginning and end of each episode.
Both BOBBY and VICTORIA are out of town most of the time (BOBBY lives in LA,
VICTORIA is a traveling salesperson), so there are ample opportunities for
location cameos, say, showing BOBBY going online from the deck of a beach house
in Malibu, tableside at a celebrity-chef restaurant, or VICTORIA communicating
from the slopes at Alta, the United Airlines Red Carpet Club lounge in Seattle,
or the Knowledge Systems Lab at Stanford.
These logins and logouts can be topical jokes, as in a Johnny Carson monologue,
insider computer quips ("Q: What is the information superhighway? A: It's just
like the Internet, except it's more expensive and there's a commercial break
every 10 minutes," or "How many Newtons does it take to change a light bulb?
Foux! There to eat lemons, axe gravy soup!") or merely slice-of-life vignettes
that help foster the relationships between our characters and develop the
audience's investment in them.
The segue to each commercial would be a 15- to 30-second Cyberpunk
Moment, which could be a jump-cut, for example, to VICTORIA hiking down
the steep path to Lake Tahoe's pristine, pastoral Emerald Bay, only to arrive
at a pay phone emblazoned with an MCI decal; BOBBY driving in his rehabbed 1966
Mustang convertible, glancing up at a record store marquee that lists
"Software/Videos/Laser Discs;" RIMBAUD flipping out his PDA to write down the
phone number of a woman he's obviously just picked up; or an item torn from a
newspaper announcing Pizza Hut's new Net address. Cyberpunk Moments can
also be brief dystopian glimpses: a newspaper headline about the death of a
species, a press release for a product too awful or silly or wasteful to exist,
anything that concerned Gen-X kids might care about.
Viewers would be invited at the end of every show to send in their own logins
and logouts or Cyberpunk Moments. Materials would be considered only if
they are recieved through the show's e-mail address.
ALICE: A tall, strawberry-blonde, all-American beauty who escaped from her Iowa
farm upbringing into the thrills of Big City living and computer high jinks!
Works as a Mac systems analyst for a breast-cancer research center. ALICE got a
gymnastics scholarship to Stanford, where, because of a growth spurt, she
became too tall to compete. From a Mennonite family, she has a tremendous
fascination with her Russian ancestors and all things Russian. And growing up
as a religious minority, she has great sympathy for the underdog. She first got
into computers through a work-study job cataloging dissident materials newly
available (because of the fall of the Soviet Union) to the West. Her great love
is a former Sovietologist now in residence at the Hoover Institute; they parted
XENIA: Her roommate, from a broken family. A rebel girl who traveled far and
wide as a teenager and has somewhat settled down. XENIA is exotic-looking
rather than beautiful, and dresses with theatrical flair and thrift-shop
aplomb. She freelances in desktop publishing. XENIA came from a dying New
England mill town, where her divorced, lapsed-Catholic parents drank too much.
XENIA got into desktop publishing when helping put out a magazine for the local
women's bookstore. Typical of XENIA's pluck, she worked a full-time shift at a
local oatmeal-cookie factory in college to pay for a trip to Prague. XENIA took
her name from Exene, the '70s punk singer; her real name is Mary-Josephine,
reflecting her French-Portuguese-Polish ancestry. She met ALICE at a Surfrider
Foundation event. XENIA is also an NRA-certified firearms instructor and has
survivalist friends. XENIA is the Mork to ALICE's Mindy.
Their Two Best Friends:
RIMBAUD: A tall, lean, dark, hacker/cracker/slacker cyberpunk crown prince who
wears leather jackets and has unrelenting seductive powers over women owing in
no small part to his Lord Byron aura. Disappears for months at a time to
backpack in Ladakh; makes his money doing security consulting for business
computer systems. RIMBAUD's real name is Martin Rimbaud Poole; his parents gave
him the middle name because he was conceived on a trip to Paris when they were
seeking the site of Le Bateau Ivre. RIMBAUD makes the local, smoke-free
espresso joint, Caf/ Pugiliste, his informal situation room, hanging out for
hours on end with his macchiatos, PowerBook, and Skytel pager. RIMBAUD has an
ill-tempered corgi named PIXIE, of whom no one dares make fun. PIXIE rides in
the sidecar of RIMBAUD's BSA 450. RIMBAUD grew up in Westport, Connecticut, and
maintains he went to Brown only because of its semiotics program - though he
spent more time on the computer science department's ray-tracer programs than
reading Luce Irigaray. RIMBAUD is a Fonz for the '90s.
XENIA and RIMBAUD had a brief fling before the show starts: the first time he
stood her up on a Saturday night, she cut it off. (She's been around.) RIMBAUD
still insists that he was called away on an urgent computer-security break-in:
they still bicker about it, years later.
HOWARD: Their geeky friend. The one the roommates call when their computers
crash. Shy, sweet, spacey, with no fashion sense whatsoever, he works for a
software start-up so secret and exclusive it won't even say what it's about.
HOWARD has a secret online identity, the LAIRD OF MORDOR, who is the most
dazzling, elusive warlord ever to stalk the realms of MUDs and MOOs. The LAIRD
OF MORDOR is the only computer avatar who has consistently bested RIMBAUD, yet
RIMBAUD has no idea that the self-effacing nerd his pals ALICE and XENIA hang
out with is his archrival and better. No one in HOWARD's large family has any
idea how he ended up such a computer genius, breaking into NORAD before he hit
puberty. HOWARD grew up in rural Pennsylvania and attended the same small
four-year college where his parents met. Never thinking to cross state lines,
he ended up at Carnegie Mellon for graduate school, from which he was recruited
by the Media Lab, Xerox PARC, Interval Research, Microsoft Advanced Technology
Group, Bell Labs, and SRI International. Instead, he chose to work for
Universal Galactic, the software company so cool no one knows what it does.
Regular Minor Characters:
ROSE: Their other nerd friend. Moon-faced, pudgy, sweet, ROSE has been smart
enough in her snooping through cyberspace to suspect that HOWARD may indeed be
the LAIRD OF MORDOR. She's noticed that she never sees them at the same time
and place on the Net and that they share similar ways with aliases and HTML
programming styles. However, she has a crush on HOWARD, and is not sure how to
confront him with her suspicions. ROSE helps maintain the Net node at the local
university, and hints at interests in goddess worship and consensual S/M.
CLAUDE: Their kindly landlord, the grandfather figure to the group. Though
CLAUDE worked in crypto during World War II (and will never talk about his
exploits), he has had little contact with technology since. He is in awe of his
"girls," as he calls them, and their genius with computers, but on some level,
he doesn't understand all that ALICE and XENIA can do at their turbo
workstations. CLAUDE has retired to this West Coast town after a career on Wall
Street, leaving just as the quants were taking over. CLAUDE is a stand-in for
the audience's confusion about but appreciative awe for cutting-edge
technology. He is the girls' straight man: he often remarks on their
ever-increasing phone lines, their need to have their machines on a circuit
separate from the refrigerator, and the strange magazines they receive
(Mondo 2000, Fringeware Review, Wired, Future Sex, Yellow Silk, Anything
That Moves, and the Loompanics
JEREMY: A burned-out Vietnam vet who lives next door. He works as a landscape
architect because it is a peaceful occupation and causes no harm to other
sentient beings. Because of his experience in the war with electronic
surveillance, smart bombs, and other nasty technologies he won't talk about, he
is skeptical of the girls' activities and believes no good can come of it.
Nonetheless, JEREMY has the loyalty and ferocity of a German shepherd.
PEGGY: Lives in the basement apartment with her baby and husband, a technician
laid off from the defense-aerospace industry. We never see CURT, because he has
taken to driving long-haul routes for a non-union toxic-waste company. PEGGY
wants to befriend the girls at the girl-talk level, tries to set them up with
CURT's buddies, and offers to give them a discount at a nail salon her cousin
operates - not realizing that long nails are death for Computer Gurlz. Peggy is
self-deprecating, feels at once sheepish and defensive that she is home with
her infant, yet is frightened of moving out of her world. PEGGY has been known
to ask our girls why it is that if they work in an industry where the men so
outnumber the women, they are not married off yet.
Episodically Recurring Characters:
BOBBY: HOWARD's college roommate. He ended up at Edinburg College because he
was desperate to get away from his overbearing Staten Island Jewish parents and
get closer to cows. (Because he was a smart boy who spent a bit too much time
in video arcades, Edinburg was the only suitable place he could get a
scholarship.) After college, BOBBY moved to San Francisco and came out of the
closet. After being kicked out of an Act Up direct-action meeting because he
couldn't stop cracking jokes, he retreated into himself; within three months,
he came up with an idea for a computer game based on his career as a bicycle
messenger (Street Bomba, with extra points for attending Critical Mass
rallies and cutting off BMWs making illegal left turns) that netted him
hundreds of thousands of dollars. BOBBY later moved to LA, where he is now vice
president of A&R for the US affiliate of a Japanese electronics firm. BOBBY
misses his simpler days of cruising the Castro and grooving on voluntary
poverty and outrageous non-assimilationist gay politics. He's torn between
vocally trying to sell gays to middle America ("Gay guys and their Weber
barbecues!") and thinking he should stay where he is to keep acquiring the
money to quietly support friends dying of AIDS. Worse luck for him, BOBBY is so
damned successful at developing multimedia-content ideas that sell (his own or
others), he can't leave Hollywood. So, he flies up to visit his pals at least
once a month. Think of BOBBY as our man from Silliwood, an updated version of
the Billy Crystal character from Soap.
VICTORIA: Regional sales manager for Xerox high-end imaging products.
Originally from North Carolina, she is a striking, green-eyed woman of mixed
Cherokee-French-Gullah ancestry who reeks of a proper upbringing. VICTORIA
attended the University of Rochester, majoring in special ed for the
hearing-impaired - her beloved younger brother was born deaf. In Rochester,
though, she was recruited by Xerox's minority management-training program.
VICTORIA and ALICE met at a Brazilian Capoeira ethno-aerobics class, and
discovered a common love of pesto pizza. Before the series began, VICTORIA and
ALICE were roommates; VICTORIA moved out to live with ARNELL, a graduate
student in social work she met at a Buppie ski weekend. Alas, ARNELL later took
a job he couldn't refuse: head of counseling at an Idaho ranch for inner-city
kids routed away from juvie and into wholesome country living. The job lets
ARNELL be nearer to his daughter LISHA, who lives with her mother in Montana.
ARNELL and VICTORIA still make occasional efforts to cope with their own
personal two-body problem. VICTORIA is aghast at outrageous XENIA, her
replacement in the household, who can't help twitting the ladylike VICTORIA.
ANA: A Southern California-born Japanese-American textile designer who has
worked with traditional and natural materials and techniques years before such
things became fashionable. She is annoyed at how automation is affecting her
business, for while ANA's customers (/lite hotels and Manhattan interior design
firms) are mad for the work of this sole proprietor, they increasingly cannot
understand why her studio's products are, say, not distributable on disk. ANA
and XENIA met rummaging through the remnant bins at Britex Fabrics, where XENIA
was searching for materials for an opera cloak to wear to the 30th birthday
party of one of her Goth friends. ANA is a woman of effortless and distinctive
chic à la Adelle Lutz, and is idolized by
ALICE gets e-mail from her high-school basketball player ex-boyfriend
STANLEY, from whom she hasn't heard in 20 years! The same day, XENIA gets
e-mail from her college girlfriend, SYDNEY, whom she met at a Take Back the
Night march in Northampton, Massachusetts. What do our girls do?
XENIA is caught reading alt.child.torture. How embarrassing!
ALICE and XENIA end up in a MOO with both RIMBAUD and the LAIRD OF
MORDOR. The girls try to come to the rescue of their friend RIMBAUD, but the
LAIRD outwits them all.
ALICE is ticked off because she can't configure her new Pentium, and
she's in a panic because she's been invited to participate in an élite,
real-time conference deconstructing teledildonics -- and it starts in 15
minutes! Fortunately HOWARD's available to help, but ALICE doesn't want her
seemingly uncool buddy hanging around once the e-gabbing begins. How can she
get him to leave without hurting his feelings?
RIMBAUD falls in love with a command-line cowgirl, a hired gun brought
in on a secure fiber-bypass project where he's billing major bucks. NANCY is
from the backwoods, where her first computer was an overlooked Kaypro from a
shipment of orphaned machines sent to rural schools. With little access to
parts and expertise, NANCY has become a total, can-do genius. RIMBAUD thinks he
can impress this down-home pistol of a programmer with his GUIs and shell
scripts, but NANCY decides he is a puffball poseur and falls instead for a
phone-line repairman who lost his job in a downsizing and whom she met teaching
an ATM training workshop for workers made redundant by Signaling System 7. She
is smitten with this man who is really good with hardware and knows how to work
with his hands.
RIMBAUD asks ANA out on a date. Things are going great until he offers
to demo Aldus Freehand for her!
HOWARD falls for JEANINE, an airy ethno-musicologist brought in to do
human-factors consulting at Universal Galactic. Despite the attention she pays
him, she blows him off when her contract is up. HOWARD seeks consolation in
loyal ROSE, who is, of course, a much better match for him. But HOWARD sees her
merely as one of the boys. ROSE, meanwhile, is dismayed to discover that the
luthier HOWARD was so enamored of didn't even know how to send a fax!
Attack of the Flesh-Eating Andromeda-Strain Trojan Horse Worm Viruses!
HOWARD accidentally releases diseased intelligent agents into the Net. Showing
up unexpectedly at the girls' apartment with two pizzas and three six-packs of
Jolt, he orders them to turn off their computers with nervous urgency. But it's
too late: the agents get out of control and into his friends' computers!
ALICE gets into a flame war with OLIVER STONE on America Online!
VICTORIA and ALICE are online. The news is that ARNELL's daughter LISHA
has created striking but disturbing images using Photostyler on her school's
Mac IIcx and mailed them to VICTORIA via Prodigy. VICTORIA is torn between
showing the images to ARNELL, or respecting LISHA's privacy and keeping them to
herself. Moral quandary! ALICE tells XENIA about it, and XENIA suggests
printing the images at a local service bureau and showing them to a gallery
owner she knows. VICTORIA is horrified, and they argue; both women say they
have LISHA's best interests at heart.
A Russian genius software programmer whom ALICE meets on the Internet
wants to come stay with the girls! And on the weekend he is due to arrive,
XENIA's mother, who still thinks of Russians as Godless Commie Bastards, is
planning to pay a visit!
Techno-celebrity ESTHER DYSON visits the girls because of their shared
interest in software - and kooky Russian programmers!
RIMBAUD is interviewed by Scottish babe ALISON for a joint ITV/Discovery
Channel documentary on RBOCs in Hollywood, called "From LATAs to
Lattes." ALISON is thrilled with RIMBAUD's insider knowledge of multimedia
convergence on the infobahn, and it looks like she's in love!
Oops! XENIA's Modern Primitives dist list and Object-Oriented Primitives
dist list accidentally get linked on her hard disk. A hilarious mix-up ensues!
Uh-oh! Federal agents pay a visit to our girls because of erroneous tips
about XENIA's expertise with guns and love of paint-ball war games! JEREMY,
recognizing a narc car when he sees one, comes to the girls' rescue - but not
before RIMBAUD scrambles the signals coming into the feds' cell phones and all
the data on their laptops! PIXIE gets into the act with some serious barking,
scratching, and nipping, and it takes some doing to unscramble the confusion.
On a trip north to attend a Digital Queers benefit, BOBBY meets a hunky
guy, BRIAN, who writes optimizing compilers for SGI and collects Star Trek
slash memorabilia. But the affair is nipped in the bud when BOBBY finds out
that the hunk is obsessed with a Howard the Duck game that he plays endlessly
on his beloved Packard Bell! What's more, BRIAN has a redwood burl coffee table
and likes Billy Joel!
XENIA decides to help her Adult Children of Alcoholics home meeting
compile a phone tree, but runs into problems when her database program won't
override the last-name field she needs to leave blank! What to do? HOWARD could
help, but he just doesn't understand why XENIA won't ask her friends what their
last names are! Harks back to earlier episodes: the time when HOWARD asked
XENIA what the bottle of Zoloft left out on the kitchen counter was for, or
when he asked her why her skinny friend SANDY wouldn't stop throwing up!
When ALICE and XENIA team up to try to make a simulation game about
AIDS, CLAUDE uses his Wall Street contacts to introduce the girls to venture
capitalists! Guest appearances by true-life VCs ROGER McNAMEE (a real
cutie-pie!) and DAN LYNCH; Dan asks both girls to join him in the hot tub at
his Los Altos Hills estate! This is a two-part episode. In the second
installment, real-life CEO JEFF BRAUN of Maxis is brought on board to evaluate
the girls' project. He compliments them on their work, and promises to check
back in a year when they've either worked out the bugs or turned them into
PEGGY gives ROSE a beauty makeover, the better to ensnare HOWARD! So
just what does today's girl nerd do to entrance the guy nerd of our dreams? You
may be surprised!
XENIA traps HOWARD into helping her set up a Web server distributing
Discordian resources, but the scheme backfires when they inadvertently link its
home page to a PeaceNet server!
ERIK ESTRADA makes a guest appearance as an information superhighway
patrolman who tries to recruit HOWARD to join the force. HOWARD is torn, but
Electric Frontier Foundation co-founder MITCH KAPOR, in a cameo login, reminds
HOWARD of his cypherpunk roots and deep-seated belief that information wants to
Former comp lit major ALICE decides to write a novel called The Bridges
and Routers of Madison County, about a handsome Certified NetWare Engineer from
Iowa named Mark who travels to Minsk as part of a technology-transfer program.
There, he meets Franka, a former tractor plant manager being trained in Western
computer technology; when their eyes meet over a jabbering node, they know it's
true love. Mark returns to his system integrator's business in Madison County,
and Franka tries to keep the flame alive by sending e-mail about her problems
bridging Token-Rings over Russian dial-up lines and trying to tunnel IPX
packets through IP routers. ALICE can't make up her mind if the lovers should
be reunited or remain forever torn apart by duty!
Season Finale. ANA is asked to stage a fashion show benefiting
earthquake retrofitting required for the San Francisco Presidio's
military-to-civilian conversion. (Think Andy Hardy movies....) JEREMY
contributes tapes of traditional Hmong music he smuggled out of Laos in 1969,
which XENIA samples and overdubs with traditional women's bawdy harvest songs
from medieval Latvia. ALICE trips through the Net to find archival photographs
of as many earthquake-stricken buildings as she can (good visual use of World
Wide Web and Mosaic possible here), to be blown up and appropriated,
collage-style, as backdrops. To enhance the overall sonic environment, CLAUDE
calls on some of his former OSS buddies to contribute oral histories of secret
wars they have known. HOWARD wires up the models with electronic sensors that
create virtual-reality projections on the walls as they strut down the runway.
BOBBY calls on his friends in Hollywood to come up with actress-models (great
walk-ons possible here!) for the show. ROSE designs C++ party-favor giveaway
software that throws customized runes for each attendee. PEGGY acts as the
stage manager and dresser, and VICTORIA will wear the smashing bridal gown that
concludes the program. The episode ends with a sudden power