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Today's Story by Stuart Hopen

I guess love is like everything else in the world. It doesn't matter if it is true, just so long as it works.

Serialization Sunday – The Flick: Chapter 27

Every Sunday, Fiction365 presents a new chapter in a previously unpublished novel.  Our first novel, the taut thriller City of Human Remainscan be found in full here

Our second novel, Hoodoo, tells a story of visionaries, heretics and lunatics in Utah, centered on a 12-year-old girl who believes that God wants her to have an affair with her guidance counselor, can be found in full here.

Our current novel, The Flick, is the correspondence between a legendary porn star of the 90′s and the girl who got away – and kept going.  Read previous chapters here.

Letter XXVII

November 28, 1990

Dear Phoenix,

Maybe we should hold onto our secrets.  Hold them close to the breast.  Not that I’m not eaten up with curiosity.  I’m just trying to estimate the price tag on your revelations.  And the value.  No matter what you say, I will have to wonder whether it is true.  And even if it is true, and even if I do believe what you reveal, what good will it do now?  What are you trying to do?  Inflate my regrets?

There is another factor at play that is hard to describe.  A sense of auspiciousness surrounds our Flick.  It is gaining a buzz just from the half finished screenplay.  Offers have been pouring in.  Financial support for a cut of the action.  I’ve been turning potential investors away.  Who needs outsiders?  Looking over my shoulder.  Their only concern, the bottom line.  It means a loss of control.  Fortunately, Curtis Ensor left me more than enough money to hit the production values I’m looking for.  Without resort to bankrolled cretins.

A synergistic rush of random events creates an aura of a great cultural event in the making.  A Birth of a Nation of Porn.  Out on the street, I have everyone believing my own hype.  Including me.  It gives me a pump of energy.  A sudden, inexplicable interest has been percolating in the tabloids about a certain mysterious woman from my past rumored to have broken my heart.  A shadowy lost love responsible for what the pop-psychologists call my Don Juanism.  Who could she be?  A number of my ex-lovers have rushed forward to claim the honor.  Old girlfriends and one night stands.  Brokering their illusions for pocket change.  My denials only add interest to the matter.  Who could she be?

The hype.

The buzz.

The pump.

You as writer.

Swan as star.


The first time I saw Swan outside the context of a product, she and Iream Insider had gotten into a luminosity contest at one of those private parties.  Outshining all the other heavenly bodies.  Giving off an intensity.  Gravity churned between them as their orbits grew tighter.  To the world, she was strictly married to a Wall Street lawyer.  Still is as a matter of fact– or rather, as a matter of technical detail.  Not for much longer.

Now you may wonder why a woman like Swan would trade the runways of Paris for the back alleys of Porn.  Love is one reason.  Not an entirely awful one.  A gambler by nature.  Risk seduces her.  The size of it.  Still furious at the loss of income that followed a string of lurid gossip exposes on her private affairs, which happened around about the time she slid past the 30 year mark, she would do it for spite and shock value.  That she would even think about such a career move shows she’s got a self-destructive drive equal to the task of playing you.

From Swan’s jaded personal perspective, my industry is no less squalid than hers.  Given the artistic freedom I have promised, the quality of the product, and her love for the leading man, she says it would feel less like hooking than anything she’s done for money in the past fourteen years.  Including marriage.

I’m taking a vacation from performing.  My first in two years.  Sitting in the bedroom of a hotel in the Cayman Islands, I total my losses for the past week.  You would not believe what they charge for a view of an empty beach.  Half of what the tabloids would pay for a shot of Swan and I completing our tans. I guess it is worth it.  With only two months under our belts, it is too soon to comment on how long she can keep this up.  We’ve talked about fidelity.  A major change of lifestyle for both of us.  Maybe it is a sign of the times.

We’ve even talked about marriage.  Possibly even… dare I say it… little cygnets.

If such a hypothetical marriage were to take place, it would be after The Flick is finished.  Timing is everything.  We would want the maximum publicity spin.

Swan’s involvement will complicate production.  Astrally projected problems in equal measure to her stellar gravity.  On the set, I will have to deal with the most prime of prima donnas.  You wanted romantic verisimilitude.  In return, I lose directorial control over my most important player.  Tat for tit.

I could probably stand to watch– and even direct– Iream Insider explicitly fucking my woman.  I’ve been in this business long enough.  I’m enough of a pro.  There are mitigating factors here.

1. Friendship.

2. Activities that have taken place in the past, repeatedly.

3. The clear lack of doubt as to who the lady prefers.

I’m a pro.  There are survival skills you pick up on the set.  Or the business destroys you.

I could do it.

But I can’t tell Swan I could do it.

So… for the two Jay/Phoenix sex scenes, the sex will have to be simulated.  Normally, simulation is an absolute taboo.  I work in the Cinema of Truth.  If it isn’t true, the audience will know right away.  They’re fucking carnivore junkies.  They want their Meat Shots.  They want a lay.  Not a lie.  It has to be true to work.  But surprisingly, simulation may work to a quirky commercial advantage here for this one film.

We showcase Swan.  The early scenes with Jay will be teasers.  The payoff will come at the end.  A Die and Phoenix climax.

My scene with Grace on the beach poses a similar problem, but it will be easier to work around.  At the moment Eerie Canal leads over all other contenders for the part of Grace.   We can simulate the beach scene for the Flick, then splice in Meat Shots from an old beach scene Eerie and I did way back when.

Even so, Swan and I will have to deal with watching each other roll around in the arms of an ex.  But that won’t bother Swan because it’s like the problems real movie stars have.

I know what you’re thinking.  How much I’ve changed.  What happened to the jealous rages that trashed our apartment more than once?  Is this the same person?  Who can watch his maybe wife to be in flagrante delicti?  Funny, isn’t it?  There’s lots of drives you learn to control when you’re in this business.

But here’s the truth, Phoenix.  I haven’t changed.  I am still full of jealous rages.  Only for you.  I haven’t let go of you enough, I suppose.  I can’t bear the thought of your being with anyone but me.

I love Swan, I think.  It is hard to tell.  Swan has been hiding behind you.  Right now, she is asleep.  Her hair combed over one eye.  Three gold cigarette butts lie stinking in the ashtray.  An empty bottle of Dulcet Lyre has blue lipstick stains on the opening.

Maybe this is love.

There is something familiar going on here.

Swan claims she is throwing herself into the part.  She found your old letters shoved in a broken shoe box full of baseball cards, mementoes of all sorts, perfumed and otherwise.  She has been reading them aloud.  With no formal skills as a thespian, she’s resorting to the method.  Or so she says.  You’re becoming a fixation for her.  A habit.  A heroine.  I think it is a true bi-sexual’s response to her only rival.  More and more, I have a growing sense that I owe this affair to you.

Swan eyeballs your pictures.  Especially the recent nudes.  She agrees with you.  They’re tasteful, she says.  But you wouldn’t like the way she said it.

One night I encouraged her impersonation.  She had on a red wig, and an old pair of panties you left behind.

“I have a fantasy,” I said to her.  “I want you to play along.  It is something I long to do with Phoenix, but I will never get the chance.”

“What all is involved?”

“You have to be Phoenix.  Not just Swan pretending to be Phoenix, but Phoenix herself.”

“Will it be fun?”

“You are her, now.”

“Okay, I am her.”

“Light up a cigarette.”

She did.

“Have a drink.”

She did.

“You are really Phoenix, now.  Look me in the eye.”

She did.

“Phoenix, let me tell you who I am fucking…”

Swan doesn’t bring out possessiveness, fury and rage the way you do.  Is that a sign of less than love?  I don’t know.

Swan doesn’t inspire the visions either, the creativity.  No, to the extent I’m on a roll right now, pumped up with inspiration, it all flows from having you back in my life.  Even the little you’ve allowed.  I wish things had worked out differently between us.  I wish there were some way we could mend our rifts.  It’s not possible.  I am not going to try anymore.  I give up.  Let’s finish our screenplay.  As you once said to me, “Let’s get it out of our systems and proceed with our lives.”

I’m sorry to deprive your mean streak of the pleasure of turning me down.  If you should happen to think of some other way I can give you pleasure, let me know.  I’ll do my best.

Would I marry to recruit a star?  I would, you know.  If it were the right star.  I guess love is like everything else in the world.  It doesn’t matter if it is true, just so long as it works.

I’ve always been a whore for art.

You want money?  My marriage will fill your pockets.




Stuart Hopen’s writing has been published by various comic book companies, including D.C., Marvel, Eclipse, Amazing, and Fantagraphics. His science fiction novel, Warp Angel, originally published by Tor Books, will soon be reissued by the Misenchanted Press in a newly revised edition.  Cannibals, a series of six interrelated novellas, will be available online in 2014.   


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