March 23, 2009

Knowing Review

I’m going to be back blogging again. I have a book coming out soon and want to express some things about where the book came from – beyond what I’m writing for the Self-Publishing Review, which is somewhat limited in scope, though interesting.

I saw ‘Knowing’ last night, took myself. When I first heard about it I was worried that it basically scooped my novel. And there are some very interesting similarities (probably some spoiler warnings in here). My novel’s about a writer who starts dreaming things that turn out to be true, including an insane President’s plan for the apocalypse. “Knowing” is about an astrophysicist who learns about coming disasters, including the apocalypse. In one point during “Knowing,” the lead character contacts a woman to make sense of what’s happening and shows her his college I.D. to appear legitimate. In my novel, the writer does the same, showing a woman a card saying he’s a writing professor. Minor, but interesting. Mostly the similarities have to do with how the movie ends (SPOILER) – it climaxes with a UFO landing, same as my novel. Perhaps I shouldn’t’ be spoiling my own novel, but anyway. Generally, I don’t feel I’ve been scooped because the mood of my novel is so different, and there’s the whole matter of the insane President, which is nowhere to be found in “Knowing.”

The movie had a profound effect on me – yes, even a pulp science fiction movie, not just because of the similarities with what I’d written (a novel started six years ago when my daughter was just born), but because these outlandish ideas about the end of the world are hardly outlandish anymore. One of the more disgusting and disturbing things Steven Spielberg said about “War of the Worlds” was that he was trying to exploit people’s fears about 9-11. In “War of the Worlds” there’s a plane crash, but it’s off camera, the crash is implied. This movie shows the plane crash in vivid detail and it’s one of the more awful things put onto celluloid. Later there’s a subway crash in which people rise from the subway tunnel covered in gray ash. In this movie 9-11 is everywhere and I don’t believe that’s particularly healthy; it may even be damaging.

The reason I started my novel about The End was because I was in downtown New York during 9-11 and saw the planes hit in real time. Broke me open in a serious way – including devout paranoia, which began seeming less like paranoia the deeper we got into the Bush Administration. But 9-11 happened, plane crashes happen, people have died this way, and putting that into a science fiction thriller seems irresponsible. Images are a lot more affecting than words. I can write: The plane crashed into the ground. People fled the wreckage screaming, on fire....But watch that in a movie? A totally different experience.

Jean Luc Godard said the worst thing about “Schindler’s List” (again Spielberg) is that it recreated Auschwitz. There’s no such thing as “just a movie” as all of the actors are drumming up horrible parts of their lives to convey fear and despair, and it’s recreating the worst moment in human history. The plane crash in “Knowing” doesn’t accomplish a lot except to make you sickened and fearful, and I’m not sure that’s very useful.

That said, I think “Knowing” is an important development in movies because the aliens in this movie are benevolent – which is something that is sorely missing from pop culture. Very bored with marauding aliens. If an advanced race of Ufonauts wanted us dead, we would be. So it’s a good development in the depiction of aliens in the mainstream, as well as exploring our place in the universe - really, I think, the most important issues going. Much of the other stuff seems like a distraction.

But all told my novel comes from a very different place. It’s not a book that fetishizes fear, even if it’s about the end of the world. I’ve written how much I dislike The Road, as well, which does the same. And the reason I’m self-publishing without even dealing with the agenting process is because overserious fearmongering is what sells now. I just generally don’t care about the crazy overseriousness that passes for drama: Lost, Battlestar Galactica, Dark Knight – totally unwatchable, might be the most incoherent popular movie ever made. It’s a Batman movie, get over it.

Anyway. My novel’s about how humanity might be able to save our own hide and not rely on being swept up by benevolent beings from the universe (though I’ve entertained the idea that this is the only way out), it’s about the evolution of human consciousness, a totally different type of apocalypse than this movie. I think “Knowing”’s an important movie – I really do. It says a lot about how we see ourselves and our future – both enormously tragic, but still hopeful, which is probably pretty close to how things are going to unfold.

So, yes, I’ve got a lot to say about where this novel came from. Here’s a preliminary cover for the novel – probably not going to end up being a white cover, but I like what she’s done - Cathi @ Book Cover Express. Didn’t want a glossy science fiction style cover. Cool thing is I wrote Anomalist Books to get permission for the image, which comes from Jacques Vallee’s Confrontations. The image is “Classification of anomalies related to UFOs.” Jacques Vallee gave me permission, so long as I quote the source.



Original image:

5 comments:

Kristen said...

LOVE the cover.

Painter of Blue said...

Looking forward to reading this!

Darryl Sloan said...

Your new book sounds really interesting. LOVE the title. Do not like the cover art, I'm sad to say. To me, any good illustration has a singlular eye-catching thing that makes it stand out. This is just a fuzz of similar images, all equally clamouring for attention.

On another thought: everyone's heard of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. I wonder would it be an idea to express the images as hieroglyphs?

I prefer the black over the white. But red and black to do go well together, as red is a dark colour, and doesn't allow the title to stand out as much as in the white cover.

Just my 2 cents. :-)

Darryl Sloan said...

Sorry, meant to say "red and black do not go well together".

Henry said...

Hmmn, I like the image - I've actually had it in my pocket since the novel was first conceived - when I was researching obsessively about UFOs and the like. Had a rudimentary cover designed almost like this one. So the image/cover was an inspiration for writing the book. Even if no one likes it, it's a fair representation of my vision for the book.

Also, I kind of like how the pictures are like a modern version of ancient tablets. I looked at covers like this one.

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