Stars My Destination (Preliminary Script Treatment)
by Alfred Bester
Synopsis by Claude Needham & E.J. Gold
Set in the future. Jaunting has become commonplace -- the ability to teleport from one known position to another memorized position. This has dramatically changed the dwelling patterns, security patterns, and class structure of humanity on planet Earth. As the story opens, the absolute upper limit for a jaunte is 1000 miles and jaunting through space is not possible, but rocket travel throughout the solar system is commonplace, financed through ruthless economic exploitation.
At the moment the Outer and Inner planets and moons are at war, and the Outer Worlds seem to have the upper hand.
Gully Foyle is our main protagonist. There are several parallel plots with strong characters, and four female characters play key roles in the development of the Gully Foyle storyline.
The book opens with Gully Foyle surviving by wits, stamina and sheer stubborn will-to-live. We find him at the outset somehow aboard the crippled spaceship "Nomad". He has spent one hundred and seventy days living in a coffin-sized tool room, the only airtight space left on the damaged ship; his days are punctuated only by quick forays into the main part of the wrecked freighter spacecraft to collect a bit of food and air.
Gulliver Foyle, Mechanic's Mate 3rd Class, thirty years old, big boned, and tough -- "too easy for trouble, too slow for fun, too empty for friendship, too lazy for love. A lethargic, dumb untrained ox of a man -- sluggish and indifferent." A man of physical strength and intellectual potential stunted by lack of ambition. Energiese at minimum. The stereotype Common Man. Some unexpected shock might possibly awaken him, but Psych Tech Division cannot find the key. Not recommended for promotion. Has reached a dead end. Gully Foyle spends his days waiting and hoping for rescue.
Then a ship comes, the Vorga. At first he is convinced it is only hallucination. He fires the rescue flares. The approaching ships slows in response to his flare, then speeds along its course sunward -- leaving him to die. This is the single galvanizing event of his life. Now he has a reason to live, a reason to learn, a reason to not be lazy, a reason to do and be anything -- he is going to extract his revenge on the captain and crew of the Vorga.
He fixes the ship in rather ingenious ways, and somehow limps sunward toward the inner planets which include Earth. He is now headed toward a rendezvous with a destiny of revenge that is now etched into the fabric of space and time, and he will not be denied his revenge. All the potential intelligence that has lain dormant under a cap of brute stupidity is now moving in an inevitable course of vengeance.
The wrecked ship ever so slowly takes Gully Foyle into the asteroid belt, where he is picked up by the Scientific Race -- the descendants of a research team that had been lost and abandoned in the shattered sub-planetary masses between Mars and Jupiter. They are the only remaining humanoid savages of the 24th century.
Gully is given a wife, Moira, the first of many to come, as genetic distribution is vital in this isolated colony of savages. More importantly for the flow of the novel, he is given a full quite horrible facial tattoo. We never see the tattoo in full description. It is compared to a Maori facial design. Most of what we know of the tattoo comes from the reaction of others. With only one exception (much later in the book) everyone reacts with complete and utter disgust, horror, revulsion and/or terror at his facial mask. Basically the facial mask is an exact representation of the brutish feral core of his being bent on revenge of the coarsest kind. His bestial drive for revenge is comparable to the raw energy of a supernova turned-in upon itself.
Gully Foyle finds a serviceable weekender space yacht that has been patched into the woven steel fabric of the Scientific Race's floating tent city -- made from ships and mining junk collected over the decades from the asteroid belt. With zero regard for the lives and safety of the savages who rescued him, Foyle blasts off, ripping the little weekender cruise space vessel from the side of the station, leaving a wrecked encampment behind him, after telling Moira to warn everyone to run into safety, just after he slugs her and throws her from the ship and blasts off, leaving a giant hole in the side of the space colony.
Moira is the first and last woman who will play an important part in Gully Foyle's adventure. She is intelligent, quick and compliant. She is played like the Tahitian native women in Mutiny on the Bounty. In fact, put that whole Tahitian village into space, give them ritualized slang and behavior powerfully degenerated from scientific heritage, and you have the "Scientific Race" in a nutshell.
Next we find Gully Foyle living in a hospital undergoing jaunte rehabilitation under the tutelage of Robin Wednesbury. She is a good teacher and good-hearted tall, lovely woman of African descent, brilliant and cultivated, but handicapped by the fact that she is a "telesend", a one-way telepath who can send but not receive; on a good day, with extreme concentration, she is sometimes able to selectively send to an individual; on bad days with low concentration or under stress she might send to everyone within telesend distance. In a world in which every telepath was documented and scheduled for employment at least 10 years into the future, she is totally ignored and not even registered. There is in Bester's World zero value for a telesend but there is very high regard for extraction of secrets and intent from a social, political or business target. However useless to the exploitation of business and political secrets her talent may have been, it was ideal for teaching, and teach she did; she directed classes in "Remedial Jaunting" for medically-challenged patients.
Jaunting can be interrupted by a specific form of concussion, drugs that disrupt concentration and confusion, in the same way that a patient might need physical rehabilitation to walk after surgery or an accident, but in the case of jaunting it made the difference between being a real person and being a sub-human to be exploited in the grossest fashion. Non-jaunters had little life in this new culture, in which it was considered the height of cool for an aristocrat to walk from a room rather than jaunte; a non-jaunter was considered unemployable except for the bacteria mines.
Gully Foyle does not actually need jaunte rehabilitation. He is malingering as a place to be while he investigates where the ship Vorga and her crew may be.When Robin discovers his malingering she threatens to expose him. He in turn threatens to have her turned over to the military police as a alien-belligerant because she was caught planetside with her sister and mother left on Callisto when the war started. He uses threats of death at the hands of the military interrogators to keep her quiet, and rapes her in response to her sudden revulsion at his face and soul.
We now transition to the next scene; the Presteign household, a massive economic power run by the family potentate Presteign of Presteign. They are looking for the wrecked space ship Nomad because it was carrying a cargo of 20 million credits of platinum and 20 pounds of PyrE. The PyrE is a psychokenetically induced thermonuclear explosive of the highest order. Twenty pounds might turn the earth into a droplet of molten slag and make the sun go nova. They want it back so they can win the war with the Outer Planets, and Presteign knows he could hold it for ransom from the military and make an even larger fortune and have more power for himself.
A new ship is being christened in the Presteign commercial fleet. Coincidentally, Foyle is there, attempting to blow up the Vorga which is also docked in the same space field. He doe not succeed and is captured; he is questioned by the best interrogation money can buy, but he does not crack. The hatred and burning desire for revenge is so deep that under drugs and torture he reveals nothing but his desire to find Vorga. Since telepaths are booked solid and they don't want the telepaths to get wind of the PyrE's existence, they decide to put Gully into Gouffre Martel -- the deepest darkest hole of a prison on the planet. They expect this to break him.
Gouffre Martel is dark and twisted to prevent jaunting. One must know the exact location to which one is to jaunte. In the depths of the dark maze which is Gouffre Martel, one can't calculate destination points, hence one can't jaunte. Those that get desperate and try to jaunte without knowing where they are, do what is called a "blue jaunte". The result of a blue jaunte is an explosion as the jaunter materializes in the solid stone into which the caverns of Gouffre Martel are carved. No one has ever escaped from Gouffre Martel.
It is here in the depths of Gouffre Martel that Foyle encounters the third strong female protagonist in the story, Jizbella McQueen. She is hot-tempered, independent, intelligent, and she is serving five years of "cure" in Gouffre Martel for larceny. She is a strong independent woman in a culture where women are relegated to the worst forms of paternal, fraternal, and husband protection. Women are kept as social sexual and service creatures, like pets, but not Jiz. She is strong and she is in total revolt against 24th century society.
Time served in Gouffre Martel is in total isolation, a completely enforced solitary confinement, but they found what is called a "whisper lane". In the caverns the accidents of rock can make passages where a whisper can be carried for thousands of yards. They find such a lane and proceeded to become friends and plot an escape. Jiz began the process of educating Gully. Up until this point in the book his language was course gutter speak. Now he learns a bit of other language so that on the Outside, Gully can have a greater chance for his revenge. But this momentary human relationship is like a friendship between a fox and hen. It will last only until the fox is hungry.
Foyle's plans for eventual escape are destroyed when he is interviewed by Dagenham, an agent for Presteign. The military, the corporations, the war alliances all of these agencies are so caught up in their own intrigues that they can't recognize the simplicity of Foyle's revenge motivation. They each see him as a spy, working for the other side. They are Machiavelan to the max, and he is equally vengeful and obsessive. During the interview, more information is divulged to Foyle then they intend; they let slip the fact that aboard ship were 20 million credits and something even more important, so important and so secret that they can't hire a telepath to extract it from him; he fights his way out, locates Jiz, and they both escape into the night; they make love, and become partners.
Next we Jiz getting Gully a face job. Tattoos are non-existent in the 24th century, a remnant of savagery and stone age civilization. Jiz doesn't want his face surgically replaced entirely, so they opt for tattoo removal using oxidizing acids. The operation is extremely painful. At first Jiz withholds the extra 1000 credits necessary for the anaesthetic. Here we get a hint of the toll that Gully's brutish face and nature are having on Jiz. She loves him, and yet she wants to punish him for his brutality. We are given a description of the interesting operating-theatre. It seems the doctor is a collector of natural medical freaks; your imagination can run wild as to the variety of human-based specima he houses in his "zoo."
Partway through the operation, Jiz gives in, and pays the extra thousand credits for the anaesthetic. Just as the operation is completed, the corporate militia attack, killing a compatriot of Jiz, and forcing the two to flee. Gully steals the keys to a Saturn Weekender from the dead body of Jiz's old friend and they proceed to collect the 20 million credits in platinum from the wrecked Nomad.
At this point the Love/Hate nature of Jiz's feelings for Gully comes to a head. She continues to work with him "for the duration" of the collection of the platinum from the wrecked Nomad; 20 million credits is in the 24th century equivalent to 20 billion dollars in today's economy.
During the trip from Earth to the wreck of the Nomad, Jiz makes Gully mad, thrusts a mirror in his face, showing him the tattoo marks emblazoned in red across it, and informs Gully of a characteristic that will underscore his actions throughout the rest of the story: "You said you wished you could carry me in your pocket to stick pins in you when you lose control. You've got your face....You can't ever lose control, Gully. You'll never be able to drink too much, eat too much, love too much, hate too much...You'll have to hold yourself in an iron grip." Gully had a brilliant reddish "stigmata" burned so deep into his facial muscle that, without removing his face down to the bone and replacing it with another, he was stuck with his "little reminding factor."
While Gully and Jiz are going about the business of grabbing the safe and trying to open it, the corporate ships from Presteign arrive. Under the threat of attack they rip the safe from the wall of the Nomad and blast it toward the cargo bay of the Weekender like "catching a baseball in your cap." The safe jams in the hatchway making it impossible for Jiz to board the ship. Not willing to give up his chance at revenge for anything, Gully blasts off leaving Jiz to face the forces from Presteign. End of this segment of the serialized Galaxy SF novel.
A year has passed. The war has gained momentum and has grown rapidly from a distant romantic affair somewhere very far away to an ever-present poisoning effect on every aspect of life on Earth. Spy scares, draft-jaunting and labor jaunting became critical problems. The hysterical have become informers and lynch mobs. An ominous foreboding paralyzes every home, in which people are "turtled". All of this is enlivened only by the advent of "The Four Mile Circus"
"The Four Mile Circus" is the nickname for the grotesque entourage of Geoffrey Fourmyle of Ceres. Geoffrey is the classic "nouveau riche" of all time -- brash, enormously wealthy, with a talent for squandering outlandish sums of money on everything possibly amusing to break his utter boredom. He maintains an entourage of circus-like proportions -- dancers, troubadours, cooks, maintenance teams, engineers, actors, musicians, artists, flakes, bakers and fakirs. In addition to all of the usual frivolity, Geoffrey maintains a traveling library of the first order, a college, an on-staff team of inventors and a whole research and development team, all for the single-minded purpose of carrying out his revenge, for "Geoffrey Fourmyle" is, in fact, Gully Foyle.
In order to break into society, Gully rescues, kidnaps, and convinces Robin Wednesbury that it will be to their mutual benefit for her to use her telesend capabilities to stuff into his brain the correct polite conversation for moving within society, for Gully has determined that to uncover the next lead in his quest for revenge, he must move in High Society, and he knows that he cannot learn quickly enough to fake his way through it, so he plans to be the ventriloquist dummy to Robin.
Gully now has an inexhaustible supply of money. He is also holding the secret to the location of the solar system's most formidable explosive substance. He has been transformed by surgeons of the Mars Commando Brigade into the solar system's most formidable fighting machine, an operation normally reserved for the Best of the Best military special services; they have rewired every nerve plexus. Microscopic transistors and transformers are buried in muscle and bone. A miniature platinum outlet connects his web of fighting equipment to a powerpack. He has control switches embedded in his teeth to help control his emotions, to control his time sense and his body's response-time and strength. He is able to speed up time to the degree that he can waltz around foes as if they are statues. In addition, Gully has one huge Achilles heel; if he becomes excited in any way -- anger, sexual tension, fear...anything -- his blood will cause the scars of his removed facial tattoo to become visible, thus giving away who he is, and destroying any hope for revenge against the Vorga. His scientists have calculated statistically that he has just three months before his charade is discovered and he is found out, so he must work quickly within this time-limit which, by the way, was one suggestion from Horace Gold, the editor of Galaxy SF magazine, within which this serialized novel first appeared.
Robin works with Gully partially as prisoner, partially as co-conspirator -- she is trying to find her sister and mother -- partially as a social tutor, and unbeknownst to Gully, as an unwitting and unwilling admirer. There is something within Gully, not charm, not grace, not respect, not anything that we can put our finger on, that wins women over to him despite themselves and his basic raw rage. These are not women looking for rough-trade, or a walk on the wildside. It is not their will to self-destruction. There is something else that brings them to love him. Unfortunately he is such an absolute brute in his unwavering quest for vengeance that he throws them all aside without ever noticing that they cared about him. Everything that Gully does is calculated toward a single purpose and, as far as we can tell, he will walk over and destroy anyone in order to get his revenge. It is only his reflection in the women around him that give any hint that he might have a redeeming quality and each of them despise him in addition to anything softer they may feel. Ultimately they will all betray him and contribute to his resurrection...
It is in the next section of the serialized novel that Gully uses his wits, money and special body augmentation to travel from one adventure to the next, from one planet to the next, following his leads like a dime-novel detective does; by grit and heavy-handed savagery.
Because of a a profound post-hypnotic implant, his leads give up secrets and then die by heart-stoppage. Gully performs open-heart surgery on one crew member of the Vorga, who looks down at his chest gaping open, his heart pumping on top of the side table. Gully questions him about who was responsible for ordering his being left to rot in space; he is told that the only one who might know is the captain of the Vorga, who is now a member of the Skoptsy Colony. The Skoptsy have had all their sensory input cut away; they live totally within their own heads with no input from the outside world, so Gully steals a telepath to get at this last clue.
Meanwhile Gully has fallen in love with Olivia Presteign, the other-sighted daughter of his arch-nemisis, Presteign of Prestein. Olivia can see in the infrared and microwave, but not the visible spectrum, which means she is not able to jaunte. Being jaunte-challenged in this world of the future is the absolute worst disability. It is when Gully asks Robin to help him win Olivia's heart that we see through the deep wound this causes that she -- who has been raped and mistreated most by Gully in his revenge quest -- has come to love him also. Meanwhile, Gully is visited at key pivotal plot-points by a mysterious Burning Man, who flickers in and out of existence like a candle flame, blazing upon each moment of significant history for Gully.
Using the telepath, a pathetic little 70 year old baby, to get at the Skoptsy captain of the Vorga, Gully finds out that the villain who decided to leave him to rot in space is the current love of his life, Olivia Presteign. The Presteign family are evidently all cursed by a common thirst for blood and pirateering. Olivia in a secret venture to quench this thirst on the vile side of her nature, has been running refugees from the outer planets to Earth, except that she takes their money, then dumps them out of the ship naked into space to blow up from their own internal pressure, which is precisely what she was busy doing with Robin's sister and mother when they came across the Vorga.
Here Gully is hit by two strong shocks. The charming and beautiful Olivia Prestein turns out to be the monster upon whom he has been seeking revenge, and he now understands that even had he been picked up, he would have been scuttled into space to explode, blue and naked. He was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. In one blinding moment of revelation, the Light at the End of his Tunnel has been ripped away. Gully Foyle is now a character ready for destruction in a pool of self-pity, or someone who is finally ready for a major transformation as risen dough is ready to be baked into a loaf of bread.
It is in this state that Gully goes to an attorney to negotiate the terms of his surrender to the authorities. He wants to give himself up. He wants to be purged. He wants to be punished for what he has done and made clean again. But...his attorney has been transformed into a fighting machine to kidnap Gully for the Outer Planets. They have been tracking him for years, waiting for a chance to grab him for two reasons; they want the PyrE explosive, and they want to cut the secret of space-jaunting from him; so far, he is the only human who has achieved jaunting in space.
It turns out that the Nomad was wrecked by raiders from the Outer Planets. They grabbed Gully, the lone survivor, and put him adrift in space in his space suit with a transponder signaling for help, a space-suited lure for any would-be rescue ship, the idea being to jump and destroy any rescuing ship. Gully was poisoned bait who spelled doom to anyone that stopped to help; a live, wriggling worm on a deadly hook.
In order to make their little trap work, the bad guys had to take Gully 600,000 miles closer to the sun, into the standard shipping lanes, otherwise no one would have seen him and attempted a rescue. Well, Gully surprised his captors by space-jaunting back to the Nomad -- the first human to jaunte through the voidness of space. This the Outer Planets wanted to know how...with this secret, they could win the war and totally control the Solar System.
So not only was Gully's rescue ill-fated by luck; had he been rescued, it would have been the ruin of anyone making the attempt. At this point, all his possible anger at others for not stopping to help him suddenly drains away. He is knocked out, drugged and dragged to St. Peter's Old Cathedral -- the most recent home of the Four Mile Circus, where the attorney/secret agent expects to find the PyrE before leaving with his captured prize to the Outer Planets.
Presteign has at this point decided to explode the bits and pieces of PryE left around by Gully during his research team's efforts to uncover its secrets in an attempt to locate the other 18 pounds of PyrE that remain hidden. This explosion of dust particles is sufficient to devastate St. Peters and -- you guessed it -- to ignite Gully like a candle flame.
It has been Gully Foyle jaunting throughout time that caused the Burning Man sightings throughout the story; in the explosion, Gully's senses are all mixed up, but he receives telepathic instructions from Robin during a future appearance of the burning man that tells him to climb from the wreckage of St. Peters to safety, which he does, just in time.
When his senses uncross in the Star Chamber of Castle Presteign, Gully is left with the task of sorting out what he will do with the PyrE, the location of which is known only by himself. The war effort wants it. Presteign wants it -- maybe for Earth, maybe for the Outer Planets, the highest bidder. It is a malfunctioning robot that helps Gully sort out his intentions. He decides to give the secret of PyrE to the entire world. He distributes enough bars of the substance around the planet on a jaunting run, so that either the military is forced to divulge to the public what they have, so they will turn it in or risk accidental explosion of the whole planet. This forces the arrogant aristocracy to bring the people in on the secret that threatens their very existence. A rather democratic move reminiscent of the optimistic egalitarian 1950s, during which this serialized novel, later published in book form, was written by an equally optimistic and egalatarian Alfred Bester.
Gully does his best to break himself from his past and then jauntes to the Scientific Colony to Moira and the Scientific Peoples. Here he enters into a cocoon-like womb of delirium -- a vision quest from which he may exit a transformed man.