The SFFaudio Podcast #466 – READALONG: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

March 26, 2018
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #466 – Jesse, Paul, and Marissa, talk about Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer.

Talked about on today’s show:
clones, doppelgangers, eidolons, 2014, the 2018 movie, gifting the book, Finch, City Of Saints And Madmen, new weirdness, The New Weird, The Weird, appreciating the book, appreciating the movie, understanding why people talk about the book and the movie the way they do, justifying their ratings, framing it wrong, the Wikipedia entry, The New Yorker, Area X as a hyperobject, Paul would know, big dumb object, Ringworld, Rama, going into it and experiencing it, the original and the interpretation, what?!!?, better experienced as audiobook, the cool thing about the audio version (it is ephemeral), you can’t skip or skim sex scenes, a dream like quality to the words, pronunciation, how things read on the page, The Man Who Japed, juveniles = Juvenal(s), fucking with the reader by changing the text in a kind of fungal growth, experimental, fairly successful, not easily digestible, the book is a manifestation of Area X itself, screwing with the readers’ heads, Alex Garland, seeing the movie first and then reading the book, Blade Runner: 2049, the theater experience, the painful trauma of childbirth, Sunshine, a science fiction movie that doesn’t care about science at all, Ex Machina, nuking the sun back into starting?, the metaphor for Sunshine, not a good idea for a movie, Solar Crisis (1990), Hard Sun, doing good things with bad ideas, not a perfect movie, interpretation, we can’t do that, narrator, from an internal point of view, a kind of version, inspired by, the book is all about words, no big piles of documents to read, The Man In the High Castle show, pointing to something without saying what it is, an art film for a mainstream audience, Andrei Tarkovsky, expectations, characters with names, outside of Area X, setting expectations, imagine its a different expedition, the tower the tunnel, Steen, what do you remember about it?, it’s “this kind of book”, no proper nouns in the whole book, signposts on your journey, taking down all the signposts, a sign there’s no signposts, an initial “S”, Ghostbird, Area 51, a word you use in place of a word, Operation Overlord, H-Hour, D-Day, designed to prevent you from knowing, in the mode, shift gears, losing your spot, so dreamlike, hypnotic, hypnosis, as a trope, hypnosis was huge in Science Fiction for decades, not a Science Fiction book, who likes this book, literary fiction, very lit-fic, horror elements, weird fiction, a reworking of The Willows, inspired by Algernon Blackwood’s The Willows, H.P. Lovecraft, Arthur Conan Doyle, Supernatural Horror In Literature, something more than secret murder and bloody bones, a certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer unknown forces, the assaults of chaos and the demons of unplumbed space, an attack on the fixed laws of nature, a wrinkle in reality, what’s it like to experience that, if you squint a little bit, a metaphor for the scientific process, scientists, AR-15 or M-16s, a nod back to the book, everybody has one, the same uniform, a military expedition but twisted in a certain sense, the second and third books, cancer as a motivation, the disintegrating marriage, having an affair, pathetic and sad, set a little bit into the future, any evidence that it is set into the future, everything in the book is completely without specificity, he went through it with a comb and took away information, the word Lovecraft loves to use “certain”, a great adjective, the pig creature is a bear in the movie, Vietnam War upside down and inside out, the biologist is in love with the swimming pool, the characters in the film are cannon fodder, the conversation in the boat, taking away the centrality of character, a framing story, Benedict Wong, the tie-up scene, her fingerprints are moving, a lift from The Thing (1982), paranoia and suspicion, really bullshit, they’re all on Xanax, passion about biology and ecosystems, we only see the Xanaxed version on the characters in the film, we don’t see what the love, sympathy isn’t enough, evoking place, the black pine forest, a derelict lighthouse, untroubled landscape, Florida or the Georgia coast, filmed in England, cool ideas, Southern Reach, SR, an institution, two things that don’t tell you what they are, the same time zone, a lack of specificity,

“After leaving Vienna, and long before you come to Budapest, the Danube enters a region of singular loneliness and desolation, where its waters spread away on all sides regardless of a main channel, and the country becomes a swamp for miles upon miles, covered by a vast sea of low willow-bushes. On the big maps this deserted area is painted in a fluffy blue, growing fainter in color as it leaves the banks, and across it may be seen in large straggling letters the word Sumpfe, meaning marshes.”

the crawler, the thing without the name, the Swede, the narrator’s name, as if he is in the room, utterly transformed, just that, I am not returning home,

“See,” he said quietly, “the victim that made our escape possible!”

And when I peered across his shoulder I saw that his stick rested on the body of a man. He turned it over. It was the corpse of a peasant, and the face was hidden in the sand. Clearly the man had been drowned, but a few hours before, and his body must have been swept down upon our island somewhere about the hour of the dawn—at the very time the fit had passed.

“We must give it a decent burial, you know.”

“I suppose so,” I replied. I shuddered a little in spite of myself, for there was something about the appearance of that poor drowned man that turned me cold.

The Swede glanced up sharply at me, an undecipherable expression on his face, and began clambering down the bank. I followed him more leisurely. The current, I noticed, had torn away much of the clothing from the body, so that the neck and part of the chest lay bare.

Halfway down the bank my companion suddenly stopped and held up his hand in warning; but either my foot slipped, or I had gained too much momentum to bring myself quickly to a halt, for I bumped into him and sent him forward with a sort of leap to save himself. We tumbled together on to the hard sand so that our feet splashed into the water. And, before anything could be done, we had collided a little heavily against the corpse.

The Swede uttered a sharp cry. And I sprang back as if I had been shot.

At the moment we touched the body there rose from its surface the loud sound of humming—the sound of several hummings—which passed with a vast commotion as of winged things in the air about us and disappeared upwards into the sky, growing fainter and fainter till they finally ceased in the distance. It was exactly as though we had disturbed some living yet invisible creatures at work.

My companion clutched me, and I think I clutched him, but before either of us had time properly to recover from the unexpected shock, we saw that a movement of the current was turning the corpse round so that it became released from the grip of the willow roots. A moment later it had turned completely over, the dead face uppermost, staring at the sky. It lay on the edge of the main stream. In another moment it would be swept away.

The Swede started to save it, shouting again something I did not catch about a “proper burial”—and then abruptly dropped upon his knees on the sand and covered his eyes with his hands. I was beside him in an instant.

I saw what he had seen.

For just as the body swung round to the current the face and the exposed chest turned full towards us, and showed plainly how the skin and flesh were indented with small hollows, beautifully formed, and exactly similar in shape and kind to the sand-funnels that we had found all over the island.

“Their mark!” I heard my companion mutter under his breath. “Their awful mark!”

And when I turned my eyes again from his ghastly face to the river, the current had done its work, and the body had been swept away into mid-stream and was already beyond our reach and almost out of sight, turning over and over on the waves like an otter.

all the evidence is gone, the explanation in the movie is as much The Colour Out Of Space as it is the novel Annihilation, 12 expeditions, the shimmer is gone, possibilities, the asteroid, something extraterrestrial struck the lighthouse, the “S” word, he’s not her husband, he’s the duplicate, the shimmer in the eyes, more subtle, the thing he’s doing, a comet, meteorite, dwarf planets and planets, Ceres, a meteorite vs. comet, the object is white, aiming at something, the earth is a giant egg and the comet is a sperm, a tunnel and tower, slipping into Eric Rabkin mode, designed to be seen in the unconsciousness (if not the consciousnesses), a tunnel and a tower, becoming a being, fungus all over the walls is white, cell division, an egg developing into a person, cancer, ovarian cancer, the all women cast!, what is it like to have a being growing inside of you that is a mutation of you, the childless relationship, off to fight in Pakistan again, reunited, the happy ending is a new beginning, isn’t pregnancy scary, the real immortality cells can have, cancer vs. a baby, kinds of immortality, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the film works at what it’s doing, the movie is a prism for the book, a very filmic version of the book, it couldn’t be an audio drama, very very very metaphorical, a comic book version, in the backgrounds, Alex Garland’s story, the words scrawled in the tower/tunnel,

“Where lies the strangling fruit that came from the hand of the sinner I shall bring forth the seeds of the dead to share with the worms that gather in the darkness and surround the world with the power of their lives while from the dimlit halls of other places forms that never were and never could be writhe for the impatience of the few who never saw what could have been. In the black water with the sun shining at midnight, those fruit shall come ripe and in the darkness of that which is golden shall split open to reveal the revelation of the fatal softness in the earth. The shadows of the abyss are like the petals of a monstrous flower that shall blossom within the skull and expand the mind beyond what any man can bear, but whether it decays under the earth or above on green fields, or out to sea or in the very air, all shall come to revelation, and to revel, in the knowledge of the strangling fruit—and the hand of the sinner shall rejoice, for there is no sin in shadow or in light that the seeds of the dead cannot forgive. And there shall be in the planting in the shadows a grace and a mercy from which shall blossom dark flowers, and their teeth shall devour and sustain and herald the passing of an age. That which dies shall still know life in death for all that decays is not forgotten and reanimated it shall walk the world in the bliss of not-knowing. And then there shall be a fire that knows the naming of you, and in the presence of the strangling fruit, its dark flame shall acquire every part of you that remains.”

dreamlike biblical word salad, going to that church, its just weird, negative reviews of the book, you’re never going to get an explanation, very meta, the narration is unreliable, or the universe is unreliable, she’s in a coma, none of this is happening, The Dreamquest Of Unknown Kadath, Providence, seeing sexuality in everything, Rapunzel is only a sex story, hair growth like plant growth, a retelling of the Garden of Eden, underneath a lot of stuff is sex, about the cosmic, makes Jesse sad, Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows, a big stream of white cats up to the Moon, a sex dream, once you start looking, what it makes us different from rocks, the formation of rocks, we can’t compare ourselves to electrons, not mammal sex, why that weird world salad sentence, a tunnel, spiraling, a helix, just words, words are magic in the same way that genes are magic, let’s write some words, what does it mean?, certain coding, creating and casting a spell, speech-writing, amino acids into creatures who build and use firetrucks, this is literally Marissa’s job, where the spell is breaking, a piece of tape, seeing the book as a text in reference to texts and weird fiction, the word “thing”, that’s why the word shows up in so many weird fiction stories, uncanny horror, between fantasy and science fiction, body horror, Re-Animator, coming back to life as parts, seeing those fruiting bodies on the dead corpses, let’s take some samples, guts fall out, the more Marissa learns about biology the more grossed out she gets, designed to, very very movie, intestines, fear, scary gross out scene, Aliens (1986), the perfect film movie for what it is, taking certain aspects of Alien and amps them up, Terminator 2 is a remake of Terminator, Hudson becomes the hero, switching over to science mode, horror mode, you’re allowed to switch around as much as you want, why so many love it and hate it, contamination story, pregnancy story, creeping dread, taking all that potential out, taking it as it is, watch the movies first, preferring the text, reading the subtitles, as a film the characters are Xanaxed humans, placing themselves in our reality, are you polishing your Pashtun?, grounding, the Southern Reach is a metaphor for the continual war on terror?, 17 years in, he should have made it a real art film, unrelatable, are we all 12 years old?, being talked down to, people on CNN, everything that isn’t set in the shimmer hurts the film, the environmental disaster, a military screw up, Stephen King (The Mist), angry at the movie, a slow creeping dread, so disappointing, the plants that look like people, the twinned dears with flower antlers, very excellent language, the hints about the journals, this is all in a journal, that’s the moment they knew the most, are they losing information, we start with more information, if you re-edited the film, we all lost time, this is the afterlife, this is dream state, if I was religious I would read everything that way, the pool, the pond, tower tunnel, how her husband was traumatized by something in childhood and it was a film, the shownotes for the Altered Carbon show, how memory works, how important childhood memory is for laying your personality down, what memories are even real, that was a different person, the crisis actor thing, misremembered, .005% error margin, interrupting an attempted murder, strangling and cover in blood, missing limbs, the screaming thing in the bushes, self-reinforcing, the spiral of words, in 10 or 20 years, Authority by Jeff VanderMeer, an agency in dysfunction, Kafkaesque, so mundane, The Castle, in second person, sudden jarring cries, dripping out, the, the movie poster’s tagline “fear what’s inside”, psychological head-space fear, flowers sprouting from her arms, the better parts of the film, filmic explanation, the anthropologist in the tunnel/tower, the psychologist, did she lie?, that’s a story, the story doesn’t make sense as a straight up story, hypnosis as used in Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, very science fictional, The Parasite by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, [Jesse has already done a show on it], a decent movie and an even more interesting book, Marissa wants Jesse to read the sequels, a marketing gimmick, readings for podcasts, revisiting as a concept, three big pieces of a puzzle, what’s wrong with the word “spoiler” is the word has the opposite meaning (for Jesse), knowing more makes Jesse more interested, the lady goes off in a boat (maybe), and leave her journal behind (maybe), it would be much better as a found footage movie shot on videotape, shaky-cam, The Ritual (2017), four guys go out for a hike in the woods, a psychological haunting that happens, not being able to act, the psychology works amazingly better, Norse mythology, a hike movie (!) Marissa’s in!, Swedish mountains, we’ve been completely destroyed, why is called Annihilation?, special pleading, “nihil” means nothing and “a” means not – annihilation is a nothing of a nothing, titles are important, the trigger word, The Slithering Shadow by Robert A. Howard, something to talk about over beers, having something to do is really important in a world with no meaning, Jesse has nothing in common with his students, the only thing we really share is the text, before and after class, having that ritual of three interesting things, Matchstick Men, there’s no heaven, try to get through it until the cancer comes, less Xanax more coffee, The Voice In The Night by William Hope Hodgson, a becalment, do you have any food, a ship covered in fungus, an island covered in fungus, eating the fungus, becoming the fungus, the pool body,

Posted by Jesse Willis

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