Under the Skin

I watched this slow-burning, surreal sci-fi movie a few days ago, and it’s still rattling around in my head. Especially the soundtrack.

Scarlet Johansson plays some kind of alien in human form who seduces men, leading them to their death. This sounds horribly cliche’d and uninteresting, and the plot as it is could have gone wrong in so many irritating or overdone ways ( see Species). What it did instead was blow my expectations to pieces.

If you enjoy having to think about what is happening in a movie, and piece together the story from subtle clues; if you enjoy being unsure of what happens next( imagine that!), unsure of what exactly it is you just saw, and unsure of what you are feeling and why; if you enjoy sci fi that doesn’t treat you like a child, then you might just love this movie as much as I did.

This is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time. It was good looking, smart, creepy, sometimes disturbing, sometimes thrilling, and never disappointing.

Being able to put Scarlet Johansson naked on screen and have me barely even notice because I’m so unnerved and intensely interested in what is going on in the story is a feat that not many movies could achieve.

Also, the music will be stuck in your head for days.

I miss these kinds of thoughtful movies, especially of the sci-fi variety. A lot of it is about the ambiance, and the buildup. There are no explosions or sharp spaceships or chase scenes or witty one-liners or people being punched in the face without being bruised–but the slow realism that surrounds the weird aspects make them all the more unsettling.

Anyway, I loved it, and I recommend it to any adult with an attention span. It does have some graphic nudity, so maybe you should also be the kind of adult who wont define an entire movie by the few seconds where a penis was on screen.

Otherwise, watch it!

Away

I haven’t posted in a while. Hello! I’m still alive, and still sort of a writer. I just haven’t been putting my thoughts to blog very often.

In my search for something to have an opinion about, I went to the good ol’ Wikipedia Random Article button. And though I didn’t find much inspiration, I did learn of the city of Paulista, Brazil, which I had not known of before.

Not that this says anything about Paulista. The vast majority of cities on Earth are one’s I’ve not heard of, and will probably never hear of by the time I die. Even ones in America, maybe even some in Washington state, where I live!

Well anyway, when I was having these thoughts it led me to thinking about how the world is getting smaller. I mean, yeah, we all know that is true, but it put it in perspective a bit for me.

It wasn’t so long ago that the rest of the world apart from where you lived was a mysterious, exotic unknown. Now, with the click of a button I suddenly know that Paulista, Brazil has a population of 303,404 people and is the birthplace of a footballer called Rivaldo and that Maria Farinha beach features quiet and shallow waters through which at low tide it is possible to see the reefs. With a few more clicks I can see pictures of that beach taken from space.

Brazil doesn’t seem so far away, now, does it?

To take it further, I could even keep on clicking and learn all about Rivaldo, even plenty of things not related to his football skills.

How long will it be until each and every person on Earth, famous or not, has their life story on a web page that can be found with a simple search for their name? It’s already true for many of us, famous or not. This shrinks our world as well, because now the stranger from a far off land with a mystifying culture becomes just another guy with a kind mother and a car that breaks down and a dog that poops on the rug. He could be my next door neighbor.

As we continue to get closer to each other and our knowledge of each other rises, I hope we’ll get better at working  and living together, both on a global scale and individually.

And if someone can find out what I had for breakfast by googling my name, I hope that makes them feel like we’re neighbors, too.

 

 

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, by Claire North

I just finished reading this, and though it was very clever, and a fresh idea and extremely well written with beautiful prose, identifiable characters and vivid emotions and exciting action, it was also incredibly irritating.

It is another iteration of the timeless story of the villain trying to accomplish something, and the hero trying to stop it. This may sound trivial to you–of course it should be that way, it is the villain’s job to do, and the hero’s job to impede–it is so ingrained in fiction that it’s hard to imagine any other formula. But I’m sick of it. I’m sick of rooting against the character trying to accomplish something, and cheering for the character trying to keep the status quo. It was even more irritating in the case of this book because the story was so good, so engaging, so interesting and exciting up till the turning point when I realized that I would never get to see what cool thing was locked inside the box, because the hero was out to stop the villain from discovering it.

Why are stories always framed this way? Let’s make up a plot. An explorer has heard rumors of a cave which contains the secrets of life, and he sets off to find it and unlock it’s mysteries. Sounds fun and exciting, right? Sure, until you realize that the explorer is the villain, and the hero has to stop him from making the discovery in order to save the world, or the king, or for reasons of morality or whatever. It doesn’t matter. I don’t care if the world is destroyed by the discovery being made, because the world is fictional, and my curiosity as a reader is very real.

Is it just convenience? Is it easier to have the hero trying to stop something than trying to do something? Or is there something in the majority of people that cries out for ‘the normal’ and fights against change of any kind. Is this resistance to change so strong that even when we escape into fantasy worlds of adventure and discovery–in writing them or reading them–our deep-seated opposition to change automatically places anyone trying to bring it along in the place of the villain?

Whatever it is, it bothers me, and has bothered me for a long time, and when I saw it coming I put down this otherwise brilliant book with a sigh and almost didn’t pick it up again. I wonder if I’m the only one with such a reaction to this trope. I wonder if there are plenty of stories that break it which I have somehow overlooked.

Anyway, despite my irritation this is still one of the better books I’ve read in a long time. I have been saying that about a lot of books lately, I know, but I’ve been on a streak of really good ones. I highly recommend it and would be surprised if it didn’t win some awards.

Also, If anyone would like to leave examples in the comments of stories where the hero is trying to accomplish something, and the villain is trying to stop him, I’d like to hear them!

Repossession

I’m in this month’s issue of Fireside Magazine with my story Repossession! I sold it nearly two years ago and now it’s finally out! Click here

You won’t be able to read it without a subscription (which is affordable and worth it for the quality they put out) but click anyway to see the awesome artwork by Hugo nominated artist Galen Dara.

Very excited about this one, and I hope you all enjoy it :)

The Martian: A Novel, by Andy Weir

An action packed thriller about one man trapped on Mars. I couldn’t put this one down. Mark Watney is part of an expedition to Mars that goes terribly wrong, forcing his crew-mates to leave him behind for dead. What follows is his desperate struggle to stay alive as long as possible until help can arrive.

The science all seemed very realistic and believable to me, though I’m no scientist. The solutions the character comes up with to each problem thrown at him (and they come one after the other), was like he was some MacGyver-like action hero with in depth knowledge of physics and chemistry. And it is great fun.

We don’t have far to go before this book could become a true story, though, and I wonder how the accuracy will hold up.

However realistic it turns out to be, this book has a great combo of page turning thriller and interesting science that makes it a three thumbs up from me. I liked it so much I added it to the reading list for the Nebulas this year.

Check it out!