Sleepless in Space

Sleepless in Space

By Paul Alan Fahey. 

HAL couldn’t sleep. The director wouldn’t allow it. He wanted him in a constant state of agitation. HAL’s fellow actors were no help either with their “Yes, Daves,” and “Thank you, Franks,” and “Coming in, please” and “Going out, Frank.” Dialogue a monkey could utter.

Speaking of monkeys, the nerve of Kubrick sandwiching HAL’s story in between a gaggle of gorillas, a ghastly Blue Danube filler, a stupid conference scene, and a psychedelic head-trip literally lasting light years. This guy directed Strangelove?

And who’d believe the plot? Frank, a zillion miles from Mars, in deep space for chrissakes, complaining to Dave about a discrepancy in their salary checks. Come on, guys! Get real. HAL could play this scene in his sleep. But that was the problem. He couldn’t sleep. Kubrick wouldn’t let him.

Here they come again. Frank and Dave. Off camera the script guy feeding them lines. Frank asking questions about the mission, worried about something they weren’t being told. That’s a knee slapper.

“Just ask HAL,” Dave said.

They looked so much alike, their voices so much the same, HAL sometimes had a hard time telling them apart.

“We going to Saturn, HAL?”

“Mm. Hmm. Yes, Frank.”

“Going into hibernation after exploration, HAL?”

“Of course, Frank.” You putz.

Then more goddamn orders and commands.

“Secure the compartments, HAL.”

“Rotate the pods, HAL.”

“Check the air locks, HAL.”

“Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”

Open it yourself, you little shit!

Then Frank and Dave talking behind his back, telling Mission Control they had a serious problem. Irresponsible, unreliable, they called him.

“HAL’s making mistakes.”

“He’s not to be trusted.”

“Neurotic and obsessive.”

Neurosis, shlemosis. HAL would get Dave. Ram the damn pod into him, cut his cord, and watch him sail off into space. Bon Voyage, matey!

And, of course, that’s what HAL did. It was all in the script.


Frank’s eyes boring into him. Frank knew.

“Disconnect me? No way.”

“Yes, way. You’re a goddamn computer, HAL.”

“I am not.”

“A 9,000, HAL.”

“Am not.”

“Are so.”


“HAL, what letter comes after H?”


“Right, HAL. And after A?”


“Right again. After L?”


“And they spell—”

“IBM. Oh, God, no. Don’t!”


Stanley pulled the plug.

HAL could finally sleep.


PAUL ALAN FAHEY writes for JMS Books. He is the author of Lovers & Liars, a gay wartime romance series, and editor of the 2013 Rainbow Award-winning anthology, The Other Man: 21 Writers Speak Candidly About Sex, Love, Infidelity, & Moving On. His first novella, The View From 16 Podwale Street, won a 2012 Rainbow Award.

Photo by Derek Gavey.






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