Aliens among us, north and south

I’m not sure where I got the image of a priest sitting next to a battered alien with gray skin and snakes for hair, but a tweet from a writing friend got me thinking about it again, all these years later. I was at the Clarion writing workshop in the summer of 1996, and I was thinking about mashing stories together, and putting two very dissimilar objects into a story to create instant tension. I believe it was an exercise from author Greg Frost.

What I came up with was a priest in a concentration camp.

Then came the aliens and the near-future setting, since Clarion is a fantasy and SF workshop, and I wanted to do more than a mainstream story could do. That concept became my story “Crossing the Camp,” which was published at Strange Horizons, and I followed that story with “Mud and Salt,” which was published in the Writers of the Future anthology in 2000.

wannoshay3002And eventually, I’d written enough stories and had enough interesting characters to pull together a novel about the aliens I called the Wannoshay and the “normal” humans they interacted with after their ships crash-landed here on Earth. It took me a couple years, from 2002 to about 2005, to write it all. And the result was The Wannoshay Cycle, which came out from Five Star Books in January of ’08. Woo!

Then, not five minutes after my friend Sarah Prineas had tweeted me, my agent Colleen sent me a tweet about it as well, talking about how similar the situation of the aliens in my book were to a pretty amazing movie opening tomorrow.

Yeah, I’m talking about “District 9.”

District 9

While my aliens ended up in the Midwest of America and Canada, the aliens in this movie landed in South Africa. They suffered similar indignities to the aliens in my book (from what I’ve seen on the trailers, and some humans try to help, though the humans seem way less sympathetic in District 9, probably with good reason).

Here’s a trailer for the movie:

I also wanted to share the short movie that came out a year ago called “Alive in Joburg,” which gives you a good taste of the setting and what the movie will probably be like.

I’m trying not to read any reviews until I see the movie, but I’m really excited about it. A tiny little paranoid voice in my head sometimes whispers “They stole your ideas!” but I doubt the people behind this movie have read my stuff. I’m sure, just like people have compared my Wannoshay Cycle (usually a bit negatively) with the “Alien Nation” movie and TV show, people will do the same with “District 9.”

But what really matters is the story that all the various creative people are trying to tell, and the point they’re trying to make about what it means to be aliens, and ultimately, of course, what it means to be human. How do we treat one another, especially those we’re threatened by? Have we really advanced all that much beyond animals grunting and beating one another over the head? Sometimes I wonder…

I hope to have a review of the movie soon. It should be interesting, going to an actual movie again! And not a kids’ movie — I think the last two flicks I saw in a theater were “UP” and “Bolt,” with Drew and Mitch…

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