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Justin M. Stoddard


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The Fermata Fold
September 10, 2004 — 9:00 pm

Fans of the Twilight Zone may remember the September 27, 1985 episode entitled “A Little Peace and Quiet“. (Incidentally, this was my all time favorite episode, more here).

The premise of the show was really quite simple. A stressed out woman finds an amulet while digging in her garden one morning. She soon discovers that when she exclaims the words “Shut up!”, time comes to a halt, affecting everyone and everything except her. She uses this new found power for various reasons; to avoid door to door petitioners, to escape the long lines at the grocery store, to find a bit of tranquility from her devil spawn children, and finally to stop nuclear Armageddon. The M. Night Shyamalanesque twist at the end (obligatory for nearly every Twilight Zone episode), is that she cannot start time up again, lest she be instantly incinerated.

I suppose if one could stop time forever (is forever a concept when time is stopped?) one could conceivably get rid of all those nuclear warheads raining down upon the world. Admittedly, I haven’t figured out how one would do this, even though I’ve thought about it from time to time since 1985.

But, I digress. Having such a power would probably be wonderful indeed. I honestly cannot think of very many drawbacks. Of course, my conception of how I might use this power has changed a bit since my adolescent mind first thought on it. Ah, what a 14 year old could learn with such an ability!

But, honestly, wouldn’t such an ability be the ultimate super power? Something even the fictitious Superman would envy? Think about it. If one were inclined to do good, one could conceivably put a huge monkey wrench in every large scale injustice in the world. Genocide in Darfur? How would the government troops fair if they suddenly found themselves disarmed and naked in the middle of say, a herd of Elephants or a Pride of Lions? DEA agents are raiding a medical marijuana farm? Not if the agents were suddenly relocated to the Arctic Circle. Cop about to give you a ticket for not wearing your seatbelt? Not if his police car vanished into thin air. Well, you get my drift.

Needless to say, the subject has always fascinated me a bit. (By the way, what would happen if you died while you were in one of those periods of suspended time? Say you fell off a cliff or crashed your car. Would time be stopped forever? Would it start back up by default?). That’s why I was absolutely delighted when I picked up Nicholson Baker’s book The Fermata last month. The book deals with this very issue. Baker even has a name for it; the fold.

I’m only 25 pages into it so far, but the parallels are astounding. Did Baker receive inspiration from said Twilight Zone episode, or has this idea been floating around for some time?

Incidentally, John Walkenbach (of j-walkblog fame) has reported on his Nicholson Baker fan page that The Fermata is being adapted into a screenplay by Neil Gaiman, author of the incredibly fantastic “American Gods“.

Holy Cow, but do I love the hell out of America!

— Justin M. StoddardComments (0)

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