Wednesday, April 27, 2016


The reason I haven't posted in a few weeks is that I and my family are dealing with a perfect storm of serious issues. I am here, and I plan to stay here, but I'm not sure how much posting I'll be able to do until certain things are resolved. I appreciate any kind thoughts and prayers you care to send my way.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Does this get your motor running?

Last week I blogged about the fact that Oscar Isaac had been cast in the upcoming movie adaptation of Annihilation. He'll be playing the biologist's (Natalie Portman) husband - a secondary character in the book who should have lots more screen time in the movie. You see, the book is told from the biologist's point of view during the twelfth expedition, as she tries to find out what happened to her husband during the eleventh expedition. Eventually she discovers his journal and learns the truth by reading it, but you just know that in the movie we'll see his story play out live. And trust me, it's going to be very exciting.

But while we're waiting for the movie to start production, what about a little more background on what happened when the eleventh expedition returned from Area X? The passages I'm going to quote will give you some small spoilers, but since they're all within the first 40 pages of the book, it shouldn't matter much. So if you want to read about virile young men being turned into zoned-out zombies - and the biologist's attempt to have sex with one of those zombies - read on. And for maximum effect, imagine Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac in these two roles.

The first quote begins after the biologist has explained how the returnees just showed up, at various and in various places, with no clear idea how they got back from Area X. The second quote explains how her husband returned, and how she handled his bizarre reappearance.

Estrangement, in all of its many forms, was nothing new for these missions. I understood this from having been given an opportunity along with the others to view videotape of the reentry interviews with the members of the eleventh expedition. Once those individuals had been identified as having returned to their former lives, they were quarantined and questioned about their experiences. Reasonably enough, in most cases family members had called the authorities, finding their loved one’s return uncanny or frightening. Any papers found on these returnees had been confiscated by our superiors for examination and study. This information, too, we were allowed to see.

The interviews were fairly short, and in them all eight expedition members told the same story. They had experienced no unusual phenomenon while in Area X, taken no unusual readings, and reported no unusual internal conflicts. But after a period of time, each one of them had had the intense desire to return home and had set out to do so. None of them could explain how they had managed to come back across the border, or why they had gone straight home instead of first reporting to their superiors. One by one they had simply abandoned the expedition, left their journals behind, and drifted home. Somehow.

Throughout these interviews, their expressions were friendly and their gazes direct. If their words seemed a little flat, then this went with the kind of general calm, the almost dreamlike demeanor each had returned with - even the compact, wiry man who had served as that expedition’s military expert, a person who’d had a mercurial and energetic personality. In terms of their affect, I could not tell any of the eight apart. I had the sense that they now saw the world through a kind of veil, that they spoke to their interviewers from across a vast distance in time and space.

In case you couldn't guess, the "compact, wiry man" with the "mercurial and energetic personality" was the biologist's husband. Now, skipping ahead just a little, let's see what happened when he returned.

One night, about a year after he had headed for the border, as I lay alone in bed, I heard someone in the kitchen. Armed with a baseball bat, I left the bedroom and turned on all the lights in the house. I found my husband next to the refrigerator, still dressed in his expedition clothes, drinking milk until it flowed down his chin and neck. Eating leftovers furiously.

I was speechless. I could only stare at him as if he were a mirage and if I moved or said anything he would dissipate into nothing, or less than nothing.

We sat in the living room, him on the sofa and me in a chair opposite. I needed some distance from this sudden apparition. He did not remember how he had left Area X, did not remember the journey home at all. He had only the vaguest recollection of the expedition itself. There was an odd calm about him, punctured only by moments of remote panic when, in asking him what had happened, he recognized that his amnesia was unnatural. Gone from him, too, seemed to be any memory of how our marriage had begun to disintegrate well before our arguments over his leaving for Area X. He contained within him now the very distance he had in so many subtle and not so subtle ways accused me of in the past.

After a time, I couldn’t take it any longer. I took off his clothes, made him shower, then led him into the bedroom and made love to him with me on top. I was trying to reclaim remnants of the man I remembered, the one who, so unlike me, was outgoing and impetuous and always wanted to be of use. The man who had been a passionate recreational sailor, and for two weeks out of the year went with friends to the coast to go boating. I could find none of that in him now.

The whole time he was inside me he looked up at my face with an expression that told me he did remember me but only through a kind of fog. It helped for a while, though. It made him more real, allowed me to pretend.

But only for a while. I only had him in my life again for about twenty-four hours. They came for him the next evening, and once I went through the long, drawn-out process of receiving security clearance, I visited him in the observation facility right up until the end. That antiseptic place where they tested him and tried without success to break through both his calm and his amnesia. He would greet me like an old friend - an anchor of sorts, to make sense of his existence - but not like a lover. I confess I went because I had hopes that there remained some spark of the man I’d once known. But I never really found it. Even the day I was told he had been diagnosed with inoperable, systemic cancer, my husband stared at me with a slightly puzzled expression on his face.

He died six months later. During all that time, I could never get beyond the mask, could never find the man I had known inside of him. Not through my personal interactions with him, not through eventually watching the interviews with him and the other members of the expedition, all of whom died of cancer as well.

Whatever had happened in Area X, he had not come back. Not really.

Friday, April 1, 2016

One point to ponder and another to excite you

I'd planned to write about one thing this week, but then I heard some news that gave me a second subject to talk about; and since the two happen to be tangentially related, I'm giving you both.

First, let's talk about a little movie coming out soon, which you might have heard about: X-Men: Age of Apocalypse. The most recent trailer and promotional images include several shots of Apocalypse's eyes turning white when he uses his powers. Now, if you've followed the X-Men comics for a while, you know that several mutants have white eyes - either permanently white, or just white when they use their powers (Storm seems to go both ways. Hah....Sorry.)

Now, I grew up reading DC comics instead of Marvel, and (as I've said many times) watching Superfriends and other Saturday morning cartoons that used white eyes to show that a person was under someone else's power rather than to show the person had special powers of their own. Then there's that drool-inducing scene in Big Trouble in Little China that I'm sure pushes all our buttons. With all that in my history, I'm much more inclined to connect white eyes with MC than with power.

But it's not that simple. Think about white-eyed zombies, again mindless and will-less; but then contrast them with video game characters whose eyes turn white when they use magic. The fact is that in fantasy and SF, white eyes can have one of two contradictory meanings. My guess is that the "white eyes=power" meme is newer and probably started with Marvel Comics, but that's just a guess; and figuring out the origin of the idea is less interesting than figuring out why someone came up with it. I like to imagine that he/she/they were already MC and/or white-eye fetishists who just couldn't get enough, so they decided to tack a second meaning onto the look just so they could include it in more comics. Maybe that's how it happened, and maybe it isn't. All I know is that I get almost as turned on by white eyes that symbolize power as I do by white eyes that symbolize MC.

And now on to my second, related topic, the one that I hope will excite you as much as it excites me - and I am very excited indeed. You probably know who Oscar Isaac is now that he's played Poe Dameron in The Force Awakens, and of course that's him in the top photo playing Apocalypse. He also starred in Ex Machina, which I raved about back in January and which - stay with me here, because this is important  - was written and directed by Alex Garland. Garland is a genius and Oscar Isaac is this generation's Pacino, only with a geeky SF bent. And the two of them together are going to be working on the movie adaptation of Annihilation, a book I blogged about several times last year because it's the start of a trilogy that leans heavily on hypnosis and MC. The actual star of the movie is another highbrow actor-geek, Natalie Portman, but I'll wait until the next paragraph to tell you who Oscar Isaac is playing because it's a small spoiler and I want to give you a chance to back out if you want to stay spoiler-free. But I'll try not to say anything that you wouldn't see in the movie trailers, so I'd personally recommend you keep reading. This is going to be hot.

Okay, still with me? Natalie Portman is playing the biologist (None of the characters in this book have names), and she's one of four women who've been sent into what might possibly be alien-occupied territory in the Florida swamps called Area X. I wrote more about the setup in my previous posts, so I'll let you follow the link above if you need the details. But here's something I didn't tell you before. We find out somewhere near the middle of Annihilation that the biologist had a husband who was on the expedition prior to hers. He came back, but only sort of, and finding out what happened to him is one of her chief reasons for going there. You see, before hubby went into Area X, he was a brilliant, vibrant, and probably very sexy man. But the person who came back from Area X was just a shell: reminiscent of the man the biologist loved, but flattened and confused and just...not all there.

Well, Oscar Isaac is playing the biologist's husband, and Oscar is a brilliant, vibrant, sexy man. Seeing him go through that transformation will be simultaneously horrifying and hot as fuck. I'm going to be even more sexually confused about him than I am right now, and I have a ginormous straight crush on the guy (How could I not? Just look at him!). Watching him get turned into a zombie is going to throw me into system overload. Even now, I'm getting dizzy thinking about it.

So there you have it: Oscar Isaac and Natalie Portman in a SF/fantasy/horror movie with a strong MC element, written and directed by Alex Garland. It just doesn't get any better than this...until you add in Jennifer Jason Leigh as the psychologist! I'd never have thought of her for that role, but whoever did think of her was a genius. She's going to knock it out of the park. They all are. I can't wait for this movie to come out.