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The Chorus Is Warming Up

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Industry | June 23, 2010 |

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Industry | June 23, 2010 |

Shane Carruth made the brilliant mind fuck of a time travel movie Primer for $7,000 back in 2004 and has not done anything since. Well, he probably did something, unless he simply traveled forward in time from 2004 and skipped the intervening six years, but if that’s not the case, his actions have been too mundane to cross the vaunted threshold of IMDB inclusion. In any case, he has a new movie called A Topiary gearing up, about which next to nothing is known.

We’ve got a tweet (twit? twat? I feel older than I am, but that word roils my newfangledy crochetyness) from Rian Johnson, director of Brick, saying “Shane is alive and well and has a mind-blowing sci-fi script. Let’s all pray to the movie-gods that he gets it made soon.”

We’ve also got a website ( for the movie which only features a picture of the text that we used as the header image up top (“Over and over you have been promised adventure but have not found it”), along with the cryptic alternate text “The choir is warming up.”

IO9 was able to confirm with Carruth that the website is his, but that he is still looking for funding for the film:

“The website for now is just a place mark as financing has yet to be completed. I’m cautiously optimistic that this can happen soon and couldn’t be happier with the filmmakers that have committed to the project so far.”

And now, we’ve got the website The Playlist claiming to have a copy of the script. They’ve leaked this description of the plot:

“The main story, … revolves around ten boys aged seven to eleven living in a small rural town … The boys are in possession of a mysterious black box called a “Maker,” which in turn creates mysterious white discs called “funnels.” The group of kids are at once puzzled and fascinated by the nature of the box, and eventually manipulate the discs into other peculiarly named artifacts (petals, arcs, fronds, etc.). Their creations and constructions lead up to their manufacturing of seemingly sentient quasi-mechanical beings dubbed “Choruses.” Almost as if ‘Topiary’ were an abstract arthouse take on Pokémon, you can imagine the competition and troubles the beings create amongst the children.”

If your heart just sunk at that description of a unholy cross between Pokemon and Gremlins, then take heart, so did Carruth’s! IO9 talked to Carruth and had this to say:

“We checked with Carruth, who says it’s technically accurate, but not a particularly flattering or appealing description of his storyline. “I know I don’t really care to see the story described there, but I would enjoy A Topiary a great deal,” says Carruth.”

So, in summary, we know more than we did before, but since we don’t know which parts of it we don’t know, we might effectively know less.

My take on that description is that the macguffin might be a cornucopia machine, a device capable of assembling anything if given the right instructions. Want a book? A ball? A gun? A nuke? The pieces to build another cornucopia machine? Smart enough nano-assemblers just need the raw material to assemble anything. Think of a printer capable of printing out another version of itself. The idea has been explored in a lot of written science fiction, in that the invention of a cornucopia machine combined with the invention of cheap clean energy like fusion power would essentially mean the end of any civilization as we know it. What happens to economics, society, philosophy, politics, if all material goods are essentially free? I don’t recall it ever being a topic broached in either film or television, so that would be a nifty subject for the director of Primer to tackle. Or it could just be the Pokemon thing.

(source: The Play List)

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Steven Lloyd Wilson is the sci-fi and history editor. You can email him here or follow him on Twitter.