Sixteen-year-old Lex Bartleby has sucker-punched her last classmate. Fed up with her punkish, wild behavior, her parents ship her off to upstate New York to live with her Uncle Mort for the summer, hoping that a few months of dirty farm work will whip her back into shape. But Uncle Mort’s true occupation is much dirtier than that of shoveling manure.
He’s a Grim Reaper. And he’s going to teach her the family business.
Lex quickly assimilates into the peculiar world of Croak, a town populated entirely by reapers who deliver souls from this life to the next. Along with her infuriating yet intriguing partner Driggs and a rockstar crew of fellow Grim apprentices, Lex is soon zapping her Targets like a natural born Killer.
Yet her innate ability morphs into an unchecked desire for justice—or is it vengeance?—whenever she’s forced to Kill a murder victim, craving to stop the attackers before they can strike again. So when people start to die—that is, people who aren’t supposed to be dying, people who have committed grievous crimes against the innocent—Lex’s curiosity is piqued. Her obsession grows as the bodies pile up, and a troubling question begins to swirl through her mind: if she succeeds in tracking down the murderer, will she stop the carnage—or will she ditch Croak and join in?
The list of scars my students have sustained at the hand of your daughter grows longer each week. Poor Logan Hochspring’s arm will forever carry an imprint of her dental records!“
"You bit him?” Lex’s father said.
“He called me a wannabe vampire. What was I supposed to do?”
“Oh, I don’t know–maybe not bite him?
Any Croak readers? No? My friends are having me read the trilogy, and I’ve got some voices for the characters (WIP)
Lexington: Ellen Page
Mort: John DiMaggio
Driggs: Kieran Culkin
Ferbus: Todd Haberkorn
Concord: Mary Elizabeth Winstead?
Zara: maybe Elisha Dushku?
Elysia: Chelan Simmons
Pandora: Betty White lol
So…yeah, most I just thought of, but I can really see Mort with DiMaggio’s voice
There comes a time in every young girl’s life when she is instructed by a complete stranger to scale a tall ladder for dinner atop a roof, and in almost every case the best thing to do is refuse and run home to call the asylum from which the stranger escaped. But after a day of ending people’s lives and slicing through space and time with a magical switchblade, Lex figured another heaping dose of absurdity couldn’t hurt.
Seriously?“ she said with a glance of skepticism. Driggs and this nerdlinger? "You guys are best friends?”
Ferbus looked up briefly to give her a smug look. “We prefer the term heterosexual life mates.
WASTE OF SPACE by Gina Damico is unlike any book you’ve ever read. It involves: an intern whistleblower, a government conspiracy, reality TV, NASA, and the 10 teenagers at the center of it all. Told in epistolary format—that means records, documents, journal entries, phone and video transcripts, and more—the book follows each angle of the story as the reader, and the teenagers, get closer and closer to the truth about what really happened behind the scenes of the viral hit TV show Waste of Space...and why the government tried to cover up the truth.
You can read the first few chapters of WASTE OF SPACE below!
Los Angeles, CA
National Center for Missing
& Exploited Children
Charles B. Wang International
699 Prince St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
May 7, 2017
To Who It Might Concern:
As per your request, enclosed
are all relevant transcripts of recorded meetings, phone calls, email
correspondence, raw video footage, edited-for-broadcast video footage, and
confessional interviews used in the production (from development up until the glitch)
of the reality television show Waste of
Space. We apologize for the admittedly substandard quality of the
transcripts; since you insisted on a rushed—some would say
unreasonable—deadline, the task to type them up fell to an untrained intern who
seems to have inserted personal commentary and conjecture in certain places. A
more objective compilation is forthcoming.
We hope these documents will
help you guys with your investigation, though we would be remiss if we did not
insist yet again that we officially disavow any responsibility for the incident
currently under investigation. Waivers were signed. Parents were informed, or
so we thought.
This isn’t on us.
CEO, DV8 Productions
Untrained intern here.
Shortly after my boss wrote the above letter, he instructed
me to go down to the post office and mail it, along with the thick packet of
documents that accompanied it. On the way, I was to ask his personal courier,
Boris, to deliver to the office enough recreational drugs to “stop the heart of
an elephant,” as the DV8 team was “super stressed.” Then it was suggested that,
in honor of the people who were giving our company so much trouble, I stop by
an Edible Arrangements store to buy a symbolic bouquet of “fruits with sticks
up their asses.”
I did none of those things. The packet was not mailed. Fruit
was not purchased, sarcastically or otherwise. I spoke to Boris, but about a
different matter altogether. Drugs were acquired—but only for me, and only in
the form of caffeine. The decision to become a whistleblower is not an easy
one, and faced with the daunting task of tearing into that packet of documents
and learning things I could not unlearn, I needed a pot of freshly brewed
The account that follows is my attempt to ascertain what
really happened in January and February of the year 2017—not what was reported
in the news, not what was claimed afterward in the statements from all parties
involved. The evidence I will present is composed of the files found in the
aforementioned packet, plus several additional records unearthed over the
course of my investigation (some of which were obtained through measures that
were not, I admit, strictly legal). All documents are presented in their
original states and are labeled with as much information as I could ascertain.
The full body of evidence calls to mind a jigsaw puzzle at a
yard sale—some pieces are missing, some are bent out of shape, and some don’t
make sense unless one can see the full picture. The truth may be out there, but
I doubt anyone will ever be able to irrefutably prove what it is. All I can
hope for is that my version is the closest.
Full disclaimer: Because I personally knew and/or met most of
the witnesses, and as I was watching and listening from behind the scenes
throughout many of the events described herein, it’s inevitable that some of my
own judgments and criticisms will leak into this report. But I’ll do my best to
keep my perspective to a minimum and to interpret the events in an unbiased
manner. To that end, I will refrain from telling this story from my point of
view, as it is not meant to be a tell-all. From this point forth I’ll let the
evidence speak for itself.
I am not the story here. I, like each of you, was only a
When I accepted an
internship at DV8, I knew it wasn’t going to lead to a Pulitzer. The network
isn’t what you’d call “prestigious” or “groundbreaking” or “staffed by literate
individuals,” but the road to a degree in journalism is fraught with despair,
douchebags, and dead ends, and I was aware of and prepared for that. In today’s
competitive job market (especially in an allegedly dying profession), I was
ecstatic to land any internship at all. I vowed to throw myself into the inane,
unending errands. I’d cheerfully fire off meaningless tweets, retweets, and
“impactful hashtags.” I’d withstand indignities and humiliations galore, and
after all that, I’d be on my way with six full credits and nary a look back at
the eight months of hell I’d had to endure, all in the name of my education.
But then came Waste of
And a different type of education presented itself.
July 11, 2017
The year is 2017.
Things aren’t looking good for the future of space
exploration. Things aren’t looking good for the state of reality programming,
either. It is at this intersection of earnestness and stupidity that the idea
for Waste of Space is born.
Naturally, it involves teenagers.
And so it comes to pass that in the midst of a rare Los
Angeles thunderstorm, a dozen shadowy figures meet in the small hours of the
morning at a secret and nefarious location: the Denny’s off Wilshire Boulevard.
They take up two tables, eight urns of coffee, and five carafes of orange
juice. The astrophysicists wittily order Moons Over My Hammy. The television
executives order nothing.
The following meeting ensues.
Item: Transcript of audio
Date: January 2, 2017
[Note: Due to the difficulty in identifying multiple voices, most
speakers have been labeled with their organizations rather than as individuals;
this format will be employed in several instances throughout this report.]
DV8: You’re okay with
us recording this, right?
NASAW: We don’t know
what “this” is yet.
Waiter:[off-mike] Who ordered extra hash
[thirty seconds of
unintelligible chatter, rustling, sound of plates being placed on table and
DV8: All right. Now
that you’ve got your breakfasts—
NASAW: Aren’t you
going to eat?
DV8: We don’t have
time to eat.
NASAW: Not even a
DV8: Especially not a
bagel, Paleo doesn’t—forget it. Back to the matter at hand: our proposal.
[sound of a throat
clearing, then a chair scraping across the floor as Chazz Young, CEO of DV8,
stands up to address the group]
Chazz: Ladies and
gentlemen of science, I hate to break it to you, but astrophysics isn’t cool
anymore. Sure, people embrace technology when it allows them to post photos of epic
bacon-wrapped food items, but drag them into a planetarium and you’ll end up
with desperate scratch marks on the walls. Funds have been cut, the man on the
moon is several decades in the rearview mirror, and the youth of America
continue to respond to the vast and impossibly boundless possibilities of outer
space with an emphatic yawn.
NASAW: What about Cosmic Crusades? Cosmic Crusades is cool.
Chazz: Science fiction
is cool. Science is not.
Chazz: Example: two
different panels at Comic Con, one with the cast of a space movie franchise and
one with genuine astronauts. Which do you think will be better attended?
Likewise, we admit, people have grown bored with the repetitive nature of reality
television. They can watch only so many bar fighters, spurned lovers, table
flippers, bug eaters, bad singers, and cat hoarders before it all seems like
stuff they’ve already seen before. The world is clamoring for something new!
Otherwise they’ll have to turn off their devices and go read a book, and we
simply can’t have that.
NASAW: Books aren’t
Chazz: Books are the
Chazz: So. You need to drum up interest in the
space program, and we need more eyes
on more screens. Luckily, we’ve come up with a solution that we feel will be
mutually beneficial to both of us.
NASAW: And that is?
Chazz: We want to take
a bunch of teenagers and shoot them into space.
Chazz: And put it on
Chazz: Why not?
NASAW: Aside from
reasons that should be apparent to anyone with a functioning brain stem, it’s a
logistical nightmare. They’d need to undergo months of training and health
assessments. You’d need a ship big enough to accommodate a cast, crew,
Chazz: Oh, we’ll be
faking it. The whole thing will be shot on a soundstage. You really think TheReal
Housewives of Atlantis was filmed at the bottom of the ocean? Please. Those
women were so full of silicone they would have floated straight to the surface.
NASAW: But we thought
this would be a purely educational endeavor. Didn’t you say you were from PBS?
Chazz: Yes! We lied.
We’re from DV8.
NASAW: DV .º.º. 8?
Chazz: It’s a cable
television network with several blocks of programming across multiple
platforms, including streaming services, our own website, and every social
media outlet there is. We’d like to cram all of them full of this.
[sound of coffee urns
shakily hitting the rims of coffee mugs]
Chazz: Which is why we
need you! Our first choice was obviously NASA, but they not so politely
declined. So the low-rent version of NASA it is!
NASAW: I beg your
pardon. We are the National Association for the Study of Astronomy and
Weightlessness. We are not some piddling little administration—
Chazz: Which is exactly why we’d like you to be
consultants. We’ll take care of the casting, the production, everything on that
end. You, meanwhile, design a convincing space plane—
Chazz: —you tell us
what all the rumbles and beeps and boops are supposed to sound like, and we’ll
bring in the best special effects team money can buy.
NASAW: But won’t this
seem like one big joke? With all due respect to your special effects, not even
the major Hollywood movies can get it a hundred percent right. It’s going to
Chazz: People believe
what they want to believe. Remember America’s
Next Top Murderer? Viewers thought that victims were actually being picked off by a serial killer. The network had to
start airing a disclaimer before each episode,saying, “No one’s really dying,
NASAW: Are you
Chazz: Well, I’m
NASAW: I’m sorry, I’m
having a hard time wrapping my head around this. It just doesn’t seem
necessary. We’ve got a bunch of new initiatives in the works—
Chazz: Snore. Yawn. Coma. Let’s be real. Space
is passé, and everyone knows it. But you still need a new generation to carry
on that galaxy research gobbledygook, or your life’s work will be nothing more
than a sham, right? [hearty laughter]
So let’s get them excited. Let’s take a bunch of young, gullible, energetic,
absurdly good-looking teenagers, stuff them into a space plane—
Chazz: —give them some
bullshit training, and tell them they’ll be the first ones ever to set foot on
NASAW: You can’t set
foot on Jupiter. Jupiter is a gas giant.
Chazz: You’re a gas giant! [sound of high-fiving] That’s what they’ll say. That’s what the
kids will say. Comedy gold like that.
Chazz: Point is,
this’ll get the youth of America high on space again. Audiences will watch
those beautiful idiots floating out there in zero G and want to be just like them. They’ll buy space suits.
They’ll buy that astronaut ice cream that tastes and looks and feels like
Styrofoam. The merchandising possibilities alone are astronomical. Pun
intended! [sound of more high-fives]
NASAW: Now, you listen
here. I’ve raised teenagers, and if there’s one thing I can tell you about
them, it’s that they do nothing but talk. All day long. On the phone, on the
computer, to themselves. How do you expect to get a group of high schoolers in
on a secret like this and not blab thirty seconds later about how lame and fake
Chazz: Easy. We tell
them it’s real.
NASAW: You want to
trick a group of kids into thinking that they’re actually being launched into space?
NASAW: You want them
to think that they’re actually being
torn away from their friends and family for months, undertaking a dangerous
mission from which they actually
might not return?
Chazz: Yes. Drama.
NASAW: But isn’t that
Chazz: “Cruel” is such
a subjective word .º.º.
NASAW: Not in this
case! The entire proposition is morally questionable! I’m sorry, but we—we
can’t sign on to do something like this.
Chazz: Fine. Continue
your recruiting efforts in the same way you have been. How’s that going for
Chazz: Envision with
us, for a moment: Plucky kids. Touching backstories. Plaintive piano music.
They first set foot in the space plane. Their eyes light up. Our intrepit
NASAW: The word you’re
attempting to use is “intrepid.”
Chazz: Pretty sure
it’s intrepit. Anyway, the mission commences. Lifelong friendships are formed.
Bitter fights erupt. Maybe a slap or two. A slap in zero gravity—that’s never
been done before! [sound of a pen
scribbling in a notebook] Every eye in America will tune in to check on
their new cosmic sweethearts. We’ll edit it down to a half hour each week, plus
a live segment tacked on at the end of the show so the cast can wave to their
furiously jealous friends in real time. We’ll air it online, too. Live stream,
24/7. Shove it into viewers’ faces until they can’t help but get swept up into
it. And before you know it, their impressionable young minds will be putty in
your hands. They’ll sign up in droves to join the Cosmic Crusades!
NASAW: That is a
fictional movie featuring fictional space heroes.
Chazz: All the more
reason to bolster their ranks! Point is, once this show airs, you’ll have an
entire generation of walking, talking, floating space zombies begging to be a
part of it, ready to do your bidding.
[sound of chairs scraping]
Chazz: We’ll give you
some privacy to discuss.
NASAW #1: Has it
really come to this?
NASAW #2: The worst
part is, they’re right. We’ve tried so hard, reached out as much as we can, but
we still haven’t connected with the voice of today’s youth. These .º.º. people, horrible as they are, do have the kids’ attention.
NASAW #3: It pisses me
off! Sitting here across from these plastic, vapid nincompoops, having to
listen to this claptrap. We’re scientists, for Galileo’s sake! People should be
looking to us as golden gods of
knowledge, worshiping us for our big
brains and thick glasses! Why can’t anyone see that?
NASAW #4: I don’t
know. But something has to be done. Something drastic.
Chazz: All right,
time’s up. What do you say, nerds?
NASAW:[dejected] When do we get started?
Chazz: Casting begins
Despite the assumed
glamour of it all, the logistics of organizing a nationwide audition are
tedious, daunting, and involve more screaming fits than one might think.
Hundreds of phone calls, emails, contracts, and location deposits go into the
organization of the Waste of Space
Star Search (pun intended!), and within one breakneck week, all necessary
casting and administrative personnel are marshaled and five lucky shopping
malls across America are chosen as casting locations.
Thousands of teenagers show up. Each is photographed, given
an applicant number, and paraded before a panel of network representatives.
Those deemed attractive enough are admitted through to the interview phase,
where casting directors interrogate them on the spot.
Not a single interview is recorded. DV8’s casting procedures
are unconventional at best and impulsive at worst; this is by design, as will
be described in the pages ahead. But this particular lack of content may be for
the best. Many applicants are desperate, depressed, lonely, and/or starving for
attention, the sorts of kids for whom the opportunity to be shot into space
would be an improvement in their lives rather than a calamity. The fact that
their audition interviews will never see the light of day will be, for many of
the applicants in the years to come, a blessing in disguise.
Besides, the evidence that’s left is, in some ways, far more
The following is a small
compendium of documents featuring the applicants hat are eventually chosen as
cast members on Waste of Space. Not
all final cast members are represented in this selection, and not all documents
are particularly relevant to the troubles that befall the show, but they are
provided here to offer a bit of insight into the curious mindsets of those who
would endeavor to audition for this particular reality program in the first
Date: December 18, 2016
Dear Mr. Evans,
You probably don’t remember me, but we met last month at the “Leaders
of Tomorrow” luncheon. I’m the one who lost out on the scholarship. No hard
feelings, though! For the chair of the MIT Aerospace Engineering program to
take note of my academic achievements and flight simulation skills and even go
so far as to label me a “future astronaut”—that was reward enough. I am humbled
and honored to have met you, and your vote of confidence means more to me than
you can ever know.
Thank you again for your consideration. I hope our paths cross
again one day—in space!
Item: Transcript of audio recording
Source: Chazz’s cell phone
Date Recorded: January 12, 2017
Hey Uncle Turd,
It’s me again. I know you think you can keep blowing me off, but
guess what? Circumstances have changed. I think you’ll want to pay attention to
me this time.
But first, let’s talk about how you declined to cast me last
summer in Pantsing with the Stars—an
egregious oversight, I think it’s now clear. I wept for the unwatchable drivel
that you doomed yourself to produce without my tour de force personality in the
mix. I can only assume that your foul, idiotic casting directors were felled by
the brain-altering effects of a chlamydia outbreak. How else to explain their
insistence on my absence? My appeal is boundless. My charisma is unmatched. My
pores are impeccable.
And my middle finger is extended in their direction.
But you’ve got a chance to make it up to me. I heard about your
new show. I want in.
And this time, I think you want me in too. Would be a shame if
that video of you and Mom were to end up in Dad’s inbox.
Tell me when and where I should show up. Peace OUT.
Item: Post on Cosmic Crusades
Posted: January 6, 2017
[excerpt from page 3 of 5]
.º.º. and if you freeze the frame at exactly eighty-three minutes
and thirty-seven seconds, you can see that the gamma-ray missile that Fekawa
Gooe sets up is NOT in fact aimed at the Intragalactic Senate, in fact it’s
cocked at an angle of 52.6 degrees, which would in fact point it directly at
Lord Balway Galway, WHO, if you’ll RECALL, stated during the Transnebula Peace
Talks that his home planet of Gavinjia was sure to escape the conflict
unscathed, so OBVIOUSLY the bombing mission was intended as a wake-up call to
prove him wrong and send a TELEKINETIC message that .º.º.
Item: Online video
Posted: January 8, 2017
[IMAGE: hands strumming a
mandolin while words are spoken over the tuneless chords]
looking up at the sky /
and a thought floats by /
what if the galaxy /
is just a strawberry /
and all the stars we see /
are only flecks of seeds /
that get stuck in your teeth /
and increase carbon emissions /
and line the pockets of corporate America
Item: Social media account
[collection of more than
2,000 photos, half of which are unprintable because they are blurry, the other
half of which are unprintable because they feature underage nudity]
Informative as these
documents are, there are two cast members in particular who warrant closer
attention. They will emerge as the most crucial players in this chronicle for a
variety of reasons, not the least of which is that they personally provide a
substantial volume of information about what occurs during production—both of
them by way of personal video diary entries, also known in reality television
parlance as “confessionals.” A small window into their pre-shooting mental
states is provided in the following two documents.
(It’s also worth pointing out that both cast members choose
to express themselves in the form of dispatches to their parents—symbolically
in one case, and literally in the other. This is nothing more than a
coincidence, but as their body of work will come to show, the bond between children
and their absent parents is a complicated one, to put it mildly.)
The first is a clip from Nico’s personal GoPro video camera.
Nico rarely captures himself in the frame of these videos; rather, he uses his
words as a soundtrack for the often mundane images he is recording, which are
mostly of wherever he happens to be at the time.
Item: Transcript of video recording
Source: Nico’s camera
Battery charge: 100%
Date: January 14, 2017
[IMAGE: Nondescript room.
From the angle of the camera, it seems that Nico is seated at a large table at
Nico:[voiceover] Hi Mom. Hi Dad.
I did something stupid.
[The camera pans downward
under the table, now pointing at his feet. They are rested on a skateboard,
which he rolls back and forth.]
I don’t know why I did it. I don’t know how I did it. A lot of systems had to come together to make it
happen. My legs had to push me here, my mouth had to say things, my eyes had to
make contact with other eyes, my brain had to formulate thoughts, my hamster-size
soul had to blow up to ten times its size and pretend to be a lion. And I can
honestly say I don’t know how all those things worked in tandem to do what I
I auditioned for a reality show.
Saying it out loud makes me feel like throwing up.
[Nico gets up from the
chair. Camera pans to window and holds steady on people walking down the
sidewalk—a couple, then a woman pushing a stroller, then two men smoking
It was like .º.º. like I couldn’t help myself. I’d heard that they
were holding auditions at the Queens Center mall, so I told Diego that I was
going there to see a movie with some friends—which he didn’t buy, by the way.
“What’s wrong with movie theaters in the Bronx? Since when do you have friends
in Queens? Why ride the subway for an hour for no reason? Are you out of your
All fair questions. Especially that last one.
But it was the weekend, and I pointed out that I can do whatever
I want with my free time, and he washed his hands of me like he always does, so
I went. Just to watch. Just to film the people in line. Figured they’d be an
interesting crowd. When I got there, I saw the DV8 banner hanging across the
entrance, and I thought, obviously I would never audition, obviously that is
something for the otherninety-nine percent of the teenage population to
embarrass themselves with, but when I
went inside .º.º. I got in line.
Okay, in my defense:
You know how rough I’ve had it.
You know how miserable I’ve been.
(I know you don’t really
know. But let’s pretend that you actually watch these videos. That for the past
couple of years I have not been pouring the contents of my heart into a digital
cache that I’d rather chuck under the B train than let anyone see. Let us
pretend that the phrase “pathetic delusion” does not figure into any of this.
Because the thought of college feels like a five-ton block of
concrete pressing on my back, and the thought of getting a job instead feels
like the floor is rushing up to squish me against the ceiling. Like I’m trapped
in a dungeon in a video game, with all these moving contraptions of torture
trying to flatten me into a splat of pixels. Like no matter what I do, the
future is going to crush me.
I wish you were still here. Diego’s all right, but legal
guardian-slash-older brother is not the same as parent. And I don’t know why I
thought that this show was the answer, but it was something different, a
change, an honest-to-God decision in
a haze of fuzzy, unknowable .º.º.)
[Camera pans away from
window and focuses on a pair of vending machines in the corner of the room.]
Anyway. Back to the mall.
The line was so long, it wrapped all the way past the escalators
and ended near Macy’s. I thought, obviously
I’m not going to give them my name, obviously
I’m not going to forge Diego’s signature on the waiver, obviously I’m not going
to stand in that ridiculous line—
But the line moved fast, and before I could change my mind, my
name was called. They brought me into a vacant store where they had set up
screens to make little cubicles, like the kind they use in blood drives. There
was a cameraman and an interviewer, a woman with a blouse that was cut so low I
could see her bra.
(Sorry for that detail, Mom, but I couldn’t not notice. It was staring me in the face, and I’m a healthy
(Dad, it was bright turquoise with little rhinestones. You get
what I’m saying.)
She asked me all sorts of awful questions, and I answered them.
Told her my age, where I’m from, that I’m into skateboarding and shooting
videos. To be honest, I don’t remember most of what I said, because it all went
by so fast, and she kept nodding, so I kept talking—and also, you know, the
bra. All I remember is that her face lit up like Yankee Stadium when I told her
you were dead, and after that, it all felt like a done deal. That’s when the
dread started, the feeling that this might actually happen. Like I’d stepped
into a pool of sticky tar and it wasn’t going to let me go.
I mean that literally. They wouldn’t let me go.
They brought me into this break room, told me to wait, and closed
[Camera pans to door
handle. Hand reaches out to jiggle it.]
They ducked their heads in about fifteen minutes ago and said
that it shouldn’t be much longer, they’ll be reaching a decision soon.
Shit. Shit shit.
I mean, even if I do get cast, it’s not like I have no choice in
the matter, right?
Obviously I can say no.
Obviously I’m not going to do it.
The final pre-taping
document is another video, this time featuring cast member Titania. She is in a
public restroom, aiming her phone camera at the mirror. She looks straight into
Item: Transcript of video recording
Source: Titania’s cell phone
Date: January 15, 2017
Titania: Remember Trackleton’s Guide to the Big Outdoors?
Cute little picture book that you bought for three ninety-nine at
the ranger’s station. The pages were held together with a plastic coil. It had
maps of Washington’s hiking regions. And it followed Trackleton, that charming,
bearded outdoorsman, as he went on adventures.
His catchphrase was “Keep moving. Keep exploring.” Advice so good
it became our family motto.
You read it every time we went camping, which added up to a lot
of readings over the years. We used to snuggle into our sleeping bags, and you
would read it aloud to us by the lantern light, as little black specks of bugs
giving a shadow puppet performance against the walls of our tent.
We loved that book. Patrick liked the colorful maps. Nathan liked
to chew on the coil. Lily made up songs to go along with the words—remember how
you used to tell her to sing quietly so the rest of us could still hear you
read? As if that girl would ever stop singing.
[Her smile fades.]
I’ve been thinking a lot about that book lately. About
Trackleton’s cheery optimism and can-do attitude. I hadn’t for years, not since
it slipped out of Dad’s pack during the hike through the Columbia River Gorge.
But after our last trip—the trip—it
all came rushing back to me. I can’t get it out of my head. And I finally
It had only two rules: Keep moving. Keep exploring. Hard and
fast, with no room for error. Don’t overthink them, don’t second-guess them,
and everything will work out.
But life isn’t like that at all. Keep moving, and maybe you’ll
succeed. Or not. Keep exploring, and maybe you’ll be happy. Or not. Do both,
and they could lead to the best possible outcome.
Or do both, and they could ruin everything.
Keep moving, keep exploring.
I’d always thought it was good advice. The best advice.
But I’m not so sure anymore.
The applicants are
impressive enough to warrant this response from Chazz Young, the CEO of DV8,
delivered via an all-staff conference call.
Item: Transcript of audio recording
Source: Chazz’s cell phoneDate:
January 16, 2017
Chazz Young: Hey guys!
So I’d like to bring the entire DV8 family up to speed on our new
project. As mentioned at the companywide meeting last week, this project is
going to be groundbreaking. It’s going to break, like, every ground that’s been
put there since television started.
So over the past week we’ve been holding casting sessions in
cities around the country, and—hang on a sec, before I go any further, we all
need to give up some mad, mad props
to the publicity department. Thanks to your commercials, press releases, and
social media efforts, over ten thousand
kids came out to audition! That’s a lot of hormones to shoot into orbit!
So as usual, we’re implementing the classic smash-and-grab
casting technique our network has become famous for. Any of you out there who
are new to the DV8 family, allow me to elaborate on our patented selection
process. Back when we were a tiny fledgling network that didn’t know any
better, we dragged out the audition process for weeks. We left no stones
unturned, no cell phones untapped. We were thoroughly exhaustive in our
attempts to pinpoint what potential castmates might do to one another.
But let us recall the season four finale of Alaskan Sex Igloo. We had thought, based on Saffron’s tendency to
fly off the handle and start stabbing things, that she would break one of the
icicles off the ceiling and use it to stab Khaleesi. We spent all season leading
up to it, right? With foreboding music? And tasteful close-ups of the icicles?
And Saffron’s confessional, where she talked about “getting her stab on”? It’s why we cast her. But for all of our efforts, look what happened—she and
Khaleesi hugged and cried and shared a snow cone. With Jared.
Jared was the one who was supposed to be so lonely and ignored that he left the
safety of the igloo to seek the loving embrace of a grizzly bear!
But the bears never came. And no one got stabbed.
From that point forward, we decided to take a more hands-off
approach. Now, rather than have the whittled-down pool of applicants come in
for a final round of casting, we simply go with our gut reactions and finalize
the cast based on their original, uncut interviews. In fact, we whisk them
directly out of the auditions as soon as their parents or guardians sign the
waiver! (Reminder to all employees: any questions from the press that contain
the word “kidnapping” should be forwarded straight to the PR department.) And
so we are proud to announce that we have already chosen the final ten cast
members—only one week after auditions!
We’ve still applied the standard network reality casting
percentages: fifty percent male, fifty percent female; sixty percent white,
thirty percent ethnic, ten percent undetermined; balanced dispersal of ages
from fourteen to eighteen; plus the four Golden Tokens: gay, foreigner,
disabled, and orphan. And as per usual, we’ll be throwing all sorts of plot
bombs and crazy situations at the poor bastards—with the new added twist of a live segment at the end of each
Of course, we’ll still leave some things up to chance. Fifteen
percent of the editing will be done on the fly, based solely on the
relationships and developments that we’ll be monitoring closely over the course
of each week. Who knows how it’ll unfold? Who knows where it’ll lead? Who knows
what those hyperactive, questionably sane caricatures will throw at us?
I do: Drama.
A brief word about Chazz
Young, CEO of DV8, walking innuendo, and overall trash barge of a human being.
The word that pops up most often when people attempt to
describe Chazz is “exceedingly.” He is exceedingly tanned. His teeth are
exceedingly white. He is exceedingly self-centered, as evidenced by his
initiative to move the human resources department to the basement of DV8
headquarters so his twin puggles could have their own corner office. He is
exceedingly arrogant, treating everyone involved in his television
productions—cast members, crew, staff, and, yes, interns—as insignificant
specks who exist solely to make his star shine more brightly. And he is
exceedingly cocky, given the fact that he unilaterally declared himself to be
the best candidate for on-air talent. Plenty of talented hosts have presented
themselves to DV8 over the years, and although a lucky few manage to grab a
sliver of airtime now and then, it’s Chazz’s vinyl face that you’re most likely
to see whenever you tune in. Especially when it comes to something as
high-profile as Waste of Space.
Which calls to mind another of Chazz’s qualities: he is
exceedingly lazy. He thought that Waste
of Space was going to be a home run no matter what, and that all he had to
do was plug in the numbers to a tried-and-true formula that hadn’t failed him
yet. But when someone as oblivious as Chazz Young stops seeing people as human
beings, he might also stop noticing other details. Smaller details.
Item: Transcript of audio recording
Source: Chazz’s cell phone
Date: January 9, 2017
Chazz: You nerds
there? Ready to get this conference call party started?
NASAW: We’re here.
Chazz: Great. So let’s—[doorbell rings in background]
oh, hang on a sec, everyone. Rock climbing wall delivery.
NASAW: You have your own rock climbing wall?
Chazz:Two rock climbing walls. LA’s an earthquake
town, it’s important to always have a backup—listen, just talk amongst
yourselves for a few minutes. I’ll be right back.
NASAW #1: I can’t believe
we agreed to this. [sound of papers
sifting] These people are certifiable.
NASAW #2: And
NASAW #3: Don’t forget
NASAW #4:[sighing] Well, there’s nothing we can
do about it now. We signed the papers. We’re in this whether we like it or not.
NASAW #2: But look at
these emails! They are hurling money
at this thing. We’ve been trying to get this sort of funding from the
government for years and received nothing—because apparently the money’s all
wrapped up in television! I called to double-check the budget because I figured
it couldn’t possibly be correct, but it is.
The girl on the phone offered to throw in an extra million just because I asked
how her day was going!
NASAW #4: How do they
have so much money? They’re a television network!
NASAW #2: Two words:
Chazz Young. I did some research on this guy. Got rich off his daddy’s trust
fund, then used it to buy a struggling sports channel. He did an extensive
overhaul, switched all its programming to trashy reality television, bumped up
its online presence, and installed his own in-house production company to
develop his own projects.
NASAW #4: What does
NASAW #2: It means
that whenever a ridiculous idea pops into Chazz Young’s mind, he has the
unlimited budget and power to make it into a show, air it on television, and
spread it all over the internet, just like that.
NASAW #3: Let me see
those figures. [sound of coffee being
spit across the table] Jesus Christ! We could buy a brand-new shuttle for
that kind of money! Plus fuel!
NASAW #4: I say we
round up the lot of these dolts and send them
NASAW #2: And I quote:
“We will spare no expense on the visuals. None whatsoever.” They’re teaming up
with a company called ImmerseFX—it makes video games or virtual reality or
theme park rides, I don’t know what the heck it is—to handle the special
effects. Which we’re supposed to keep quiet about, by the way, since they’re
trying to pass this thing off as real.
NASAW #4:Psfff. Good luck.
NASAW #2: They’ve
reserved the largest soundstage in the New Mexico desert, and they’re handing
it over to us, keys and all. “Build a space plane inside!” they said. “Bounce
it up and down! Make as much noise as you want!” The effects people will be out
here for a few days to build the thing based on our designs—then after that,
it’s up to us. All for the purpose of torturing these poor kids with ridiculous
pre-written plot points—
NASAW #3: Pre-written?
I thought this was a reality show.
NASAW #2: Ha! Reality,
my ass. The only thing that’s real is the team of video editors they’ve got on
call, ready to craft it into whatever they need it to be while we get to sit
around with our thumbs up our posteriors, shaking a tin can with of a bunch of
spoiled little fame whores sealed inside.
NASAW #4: But there’s
a host onboard with them, right? Some form of adult supervision?
NASAW #2: Nope! [slightly hysterical laughter] The
network people aren’t even going to be on set! They said they’d, quote, “rather
be shot into the sun than spend three months in that shithole of a desert,” so
they’ll be monitoring everything via live feeds, safe and cool in their
air-conditioned offices in Los Angeles, and sending us their instructions.
Instructions that, I might add, would be hilarious if they weren’t so
NASAW #4:[papers sifting] “Week number one:
Asteroid Attack. Will require impacts against the walls of the space plane.
Week number two: Spinning Out of Control. Will require a rotating video
animation to be displayed in the space plane’s window.”
NASAW #2: And there’ll
be more where that came from! The cameras onboard the ship will record six
hours at a time, upload the video files to the main server we’ll have on-site,
then automatically wipe the memory cards and begin recording again. It’s a
process that can sustain itself indefinitely without any manual upkeep, which
frees up even more time for them to dream up even more foolishness. And then
there’s the list—the twenty-three-point list!—of consultants who are only a
phone call away should we wish to contact them. Industrial Light and Magic,
Pixar, a charter helicopter company, the Jim Henson workshop—
NASAW #3: Are you
kidding me? Puppets? Do they want aliens?
NASAW #2: They might!
They might want aliens!
NASAW #1: Enough. [sound of a coffee mug pounding the table]
There is a clear path through all this.
NASAW #2: Yeah, right
through to the unemployment office. Better get in line.
NASAW #1: You’re
looking at this from the wrong angle. What we have here, ladies and gentlemen,
is an opportunity. A golden opportunity.
NASAW #2: What are you
[sound of coffee being
NASAW #1: We make
NASAW #1: We make
NASAW #1: And then
we make history.
WASTE OF SPACE is available on 7/11, but if you liked this teaser, pre-order it today by clicking the links below!
are you done with reading a young adult book that springs a love triangle upon you and you HATE IT SO MUCH (i might be a little more passionate about my hatred than is healthy…) and you just wish you could find good books that incorporate romance without love triangles??? your wish is my command :-) to make it easier for you, i’ve organized the list by genre under the cut (and yes i realize there are more books than this but i’m lazy and it’s hard to find these bc honestly i think love triangles are like the annoying fad)
* all books with series are followed by the number of books in the series in parenthesis and are listed by the name of the first book, which is guaranteed love triangle free. i tried my best to only pick series where the entirety is free of love triangles, but i may have slipped up and made a mistake here and there
** this list was, sadly, hard to put together :-(
*** i am extremely apologetic for the lack of science fiction books. blame authors