In the shallow end of the pool

I am a shallow person.

Funny cat videos amuse me greatly.

I can go to one of those auto-correct sites that are comprised of largely fake text message conversations and find myself laughing loudly, even as I acknowledge the fakeness therein.

I can become impatient with stories that trade heavily in metaphor. I resist reading more Harlan Ellison. I want my stories served up straight, without riddles. I don’t mind thinking, but I don’t want to think hard.

I’m exaggerating a bit for effect here. I don’t really mind metaphors. I finally got around to watching the film adaption of Annihilation (I read the book in August of last year) and it is steeped in metaphors. Some are explained rather plainly, others are left to the audience to pull together. And I get why this movie was not a big hit–it demands too much of those watching it. People don’t want to actively think while sitting in a movie theater while holding a $10 bucket of popcorn between their legs. They want action, romance, comedy and whatever else to be doled out quickly, frequently, and without complication. Annihilation often makes you want to rewind to confirm if you are putting the pieces together correctly (this is awkward in a theater, as the projectionist and other audience members are likely to object to your whims).

In going back to a spoiler thread started on Broken Forum discussing the film, I enjoyed everyone’s guesses and theories on what happened, and appreciated even more what people thought everything meant. The video below was linked and it’s a terrific companion piece to the film, highlighting how the right question isn’t, “Did aliens do it?” but what do the events in the film say about the characters, how are they changed, what does it say about us, our world?

Let me return to how I am a shallow person.

I could never write a novel like Annihilation. I could never write a screenplay for a movie like Annihilation. Why? Because my skill with metaphor, my ability to tease out deeper meanings is limited. Was it my upbringing? Is my brain too small? Did my teachers go soft on me? Are cats just so naturally adorable that they short-circuit my intellect? I don’t know. But I do know that any number of stories I write that attempt to say something more profound than ACTION SCENE and BIG LAUGH tend to make me cringe when I re-read them.

I do better now than when I was young, though. There is some seriously overwrought stuff that I wrote in my teens (I mean, who doesn’t write seriously overwrought stuff in their teens? Unless you spent your teens in juvenile or otherwise not actually writing). As a (much) older adult, I can rein in the worst excesses, but my stories are still pretty straightforward:

  • Man swaps bodies with cat
  • Superheroes clumsily save the world from a world-destroying asteroid
  • Man vows to lose weight and is helped by a candy bar-eating magic gnome

Okay, that last one contains a bit of metaphor. But it ain’t subtle.

I guess in writing about my shallowness, there is the idea that is must somehow bother me. And in a little way it does, but I am only actively reminded about how it bothers me after seeing films like Annihilation, and analyses like the one above that explain all the clever, layered things that are presented. Then I feel dumb for not quite fully understanding them or worse, missing these clever things entirely.

I’m not going to make a New Year resolution to write deeper stories or go on a metaphorpalooza, mind you. Frankly, just doing more actual writing would be good enough for now.

And with that, I conclude this post. It’s a metaphor for being lazy, see? Or something.

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