The Man Who Fell To Earth

The first book I ever featured on this blog was Walter Tevis’s Mockingbird. An old friend passed on his copy to me, after we’d met up after a few years apart. At the time, I’d fallen out with fiction, and part of the reason I started this blog saw me pick through how I’d come to position myself against a brick wall. From the moment I picked it up, I found Mockingbird to be a compelling book, a homage to reading, as well as being fully-realised science fiction.

In many ways, receiving that book has turned out to be prescient for me, as now, nearly seven years after starting this blog, I find myself writing science fiction. I’m not quite sure how this came about. I’d always read science fiction, but I never thought I had the necessary ideas. The elastic nature of the genre appeals to me– SF can offer so many more possibilities than other modes of fiction– and I’ve never really slotted into one particular space. Also, moving to East London has played a part, as the area always seems to be on the edge of some sort of dystopia, and to paraphrase JG Ballard, around here science fiction feels only like a highly-realised mode of naturalism, particularly during the days of the virus.

Despite this, I’ve always resisted reading The Man Who Fell To Earth, for the rather lame reason that I never really liked the film. Something about Roeg’s scratchy vision, and Bowie wallowing in his coke-binged other-worldliness: it didn’t sit well with me, although I’d probably change that opinion, particularly since I’ve come to regard Bowie’s Low very highly. And certain elements of the book are really impressive, particularly the depiction of Thomas Jerome Newton’s struggles with Earth culture, although I feel it runs out of ideas at the end. I picked up a copy, as I’ve written my own alien-on-earth story. It’s a short piece, not really worthy of being considered alongside Tevis’s work, but one which I wanted to compare to The Man Who Fell To Earth, to avoid any obvious repetitions, as well as find some moments of resonance. In some ways, I’ve fallen to earth myself over the course of this blog, although I’ve landed on my back, and I like to think I’m still looking at the stars.

‘He began to feel what he sometimes felt before: a heavy lassitude, a world-weariness, a profound fatigue with this busy, busy destructive world and all its chittering noises. He felt as though he could give the whole thing up, that it was foolish, impossibly foolish to have started it, more than twenty years before. He look around him again, tiredly. What was he doing here — here on this other world, third from the sun, a hundred million miles from his home? He got up and turned the television set off, and then sat back deeply in this chair, still drinking the wine, feeling the alcohol now and not caring.’

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