If you’ve followed along with various bits of stories that have appeared in this blog, you know that, like many other scifi writers, I believe either out of necessity or curiosity, humanity will one day be a species existing on other space objects. The common thread in these three stories is the presence of oxygen or surface liquids in places that are not Earth. The implications of this are potentially huge.
We may be one step closer to finding life or being the life on these other solar system neighbors.
I’m still slowly making progress towards my NaNoWriMo goal of 50k words. I am currently at 4723 words. On a plus note, I’ve gotten two in-story groups to where they need to go for future story events.
I recently watched The Silence on Netflix, just trying to clear some shows and movies from my watch list. I immediately noted some of the similarities between this movie and the movie, A Quiet Place. Along with these similarities, I also noted various comparisons online implying Netflix had simply copied A Quiet Place with a mockbuster knockoff.
However, I also noted that The Silence opening credits had a reference to a novel, also titled The Silence, written by Tim Lebbon. I decided to do a little reading, do a little research, and decide for myself which was the original concept.
Movies and books always exist in a weird love-hate
relationship. A movie only has so long
to tell the story and must leave out some threads while reducing others to
focus on the ones that best help tell the story the director wants to tell.
This fact is compounded when a movie is based on a book that tells a specific
story that is similar in nature to another movie’s story.
This will bring to mind the inevitable comparisons that took
place between the movies Hancock and Ironman 2, despite Hancock coming out first, but Ironman
2 being based on an Ironman comic
book storyline that was published in 1979, Demon
in a Bottle. Comparisons between the
film Alien and the A.E. Vogt short
story “The Black Destroyer” also come to mind. And similar discussions are already taking
place with comparisons of Brigthburn
and Superman. In fact, even as I write these words, the
Netflix original movie, I Am Mother, is playing in the background and I’m
already noticing similarities between it and Tony DiTerlizzi’s The Search for WondLa.
Before I start any comparisons, let’s start with some important notes:
The Silence (novel) written by Tim Lebbon and published April 2015
A Quiet Place (movie) released April 6, 2018
The Silence (movie) released April 10, 2019
A quick outline of post-apocalyptic literature:
The Event = how the current world ends
The Journey = leaving home for better survival
Survival in the Wild = survivors vs the aftermath, the elements, the new world
Neo-Social Darwinism = strength, weapons, or numbers equals fittest for survival
The New Normal = survivors reaching the place that promises better survival and surviving beyond the initial survival story
A note on spoilers:
There is no way to do a comparison of this sort without including spoilers. There are elements between the two movies that require comparisons that will spoil the movies for some viewers. There are elements of difference between The Silence book and the movie that require comparisons that will spoil both for some readers and viewers.
To avoid Spoilers, please do not read beyond this line.
_____________________ Note: Spoilers beyond this point. You’ve been warned.. _____________________
In the case of these two stories, or three, depending on your opinion of movies based on books that modify the book story, there is a certain amount of inevitability of similarities that comes just from the nature of the story genres, post-apocalyptic (PA) literature and movies.
PA stories always begin with The Event that demonstrates how
the world ends. Sometimes, the event is
directly revealed at the outset.
Sometimes, the event is part of the tale itself. Other times, the event
is something that took place before the story begins. No matter how it is presented, The Event ends
our world while beginning the world of the story.
In the case of The
Silence, both book (SIN) and
movie (SIM), The Event begins the
story. A group is excavating a cave and
breeches an inner wall that separate the Vesps, the bird-sized reptilian
monsters, from our world. Chapter
lead-in notes and Ally’s internet reading imply the vesps are a product of a
separate evolutionary strain resulting from their underground separation from
our world. In the movie, the cave breech is shown as cold open lead-in of the
movie. In the book, the cave breech is
seen by two of the main characters the father Huw and the daughter Ally while
watching the Discovery channel.
In A Quiet Place (AQP), approximately 89 days prior to the
film’s opening scene, the event takes place when a meteor shower brings the
never-quite-named extraterrestrial monsters to our world. When we see them, they are approximately
human-sized and are somewhere between humanoid and animal in nature. The
creatures causing The Event are definitely significantly different in size, but
not capacity for lethality in the three stories.
After The Event, The Journey is the next part of the PA story.
This is where the main character(s) of the story flee their location at the
beginning of the story for the promise of a better chance for survival
This is probably where the biggest divergence begins between
the three stories. In AQP, it’s never
clear that “the journey” we see the family on at the beginning of the
movie is a true journey or anything more than a scavenging supply run.
The Journey from SIN
and SIM is much more in-line with the
traditional PA story journey. However, these journeys are still slightly and
significantly different. In SIN, the
family is fleeing London after determining the vesp speed of infestation will
bring them within range of the English Channel in a matter of days. And this is
after, a rather dramatic journey by Huw to return home from a project site. The
journey in SIN also involves a
longer, more prolonged series of journeys before they reach safety of the
initial house and then the safety of the north, which SIN never makes clear this secondary journey succeeds.
In SIM, they leave the same night as the broadcast of the cave event; and reach the initial house shortly after the incident with the SUV flip. The secondary journey still takes place, but this is more implied than demonstrated until the final scene of the movie showing Ally and her boyfriend having found each other in the north and hunting vesps in the wild.
Survival in the Wild is the part of a PA story that comes after the initial journey. This is where the survivors of the story must battle whatever exists in the aftermath of The Event, the environmental hazards that already (or new ones that result from The Event) existed, and the discovery that the world they knew truly is gone and a new world exists.
In both SIN and SIM, the stories demonstrate this as early
as the beginning of the journey. In both stories, the vesps are their own
aftermath. They attack at the slightest sound above a whisper and they
reproduce at an incredibly excelled rate. The environmental hazards are the
same as before, with the exception of normal sound being a life-threatening
hazard. The new normal is whispering, silence, and sign language as the
difference between life and death.
AQP‘s aftermath is
the extraterrestrial monsters now exist everywhere presumably. Reproduction
rates never mentioned or acknowledged. The only thing we know for sure about
the monsters is that like SIN and SIM, any noise above a whisper can be deadly
and whispering, silence, and sign language are the keys to survival. The
environmental hazards remain the same to the best of our knowledge since no
mention is made of additional results of the meteor crash. However, the AQP family lives on a corn farm, which of course, adds its own dimensions
of traditional horror story problems. With the AQP timeline and approach to the story, the viewer could almost
believe this is the world of SIN and SIM at a later date with the vesps now extinct
and the new monsters run amok.
The next part of PA stories, sometimes is part of The Journey,
sometimes is part of the Survival in the Wild, and sometimes part of The New Normal.
A form of Neo-Social Darwinism always takes place in PA stories as society
breaks down and might is right, weapons equal right to survive, and strength in
numbers rules the day.
The most significant part of AQP is the almost complete absence of this aspect of the PA story. The
closest we get to it is a scene where an old man whose wife has just died
screams out to attract the monsters to kill him in front of the father and son.
In SIN and SIM, however, Neo-Social Darwinism is a major subplot of the story. In both, there is an incident where a man uses a shotgun to attempt to carjack Huw’s vehicle. SIN has the man trying to save his own family after an accident, shooting his own wife, and then fleeing with the family’s minivan, causing Huw and his wife to need a new vehicle. SIM has a different outcome, friend of Huw’s family, Glenn, shoots the would-be carjacker, who is on his own, and the family flees with their own vehicle.
However, there is another example of Neo-Social Darwinism in
both stories that is far more significant. Certain religious types have
determined the vesp attacks to be God’s Judgment and in the local area of the
initial house Huw’s family occupies, they encounter the leader of one of these
groups which calls themselves The Hushed. Once the leader of The Hushed sees
that Ally knows sign language he tries to persuade Huw to have his family join
them. In SIN, they want Ally as a teacher of sign language. In SIM, they want
Ally for breeding purposes. In both versions, this involves an encounter on a
supply run, a confrontation at the house, an attempted murder of the family by the
cultists using cell phones to attract the vesps, the attempted kidnapping of
Ally, and the grandmother’s self-sacrifice to save Ally. In SIN, the leader gets away, while in SIM, we see HUW beat the leader to death
with the butt of the shotgun.
The New Normal is the aftermath of the successful PA story
journey. The characters reach the promised place of refuge and survival and
begin to live their lives as normal as possible once they’ve adjusted to this
AQP ignores this
part of PA stories as well. While the father has sacrificed himself to save his
kids, the family doesn’t depart the home and instead the screen goes black
after mom and daughter discover that the daughter holding her Cochlear implant
held in front of radio equipment generates enough feedback to distract the
monsters so mom can shoot them with a shotgun. Do they survive? We don’t know.
SIN also largely ignores this part, instead leaving us with the knowledge that the family has resumed their original trip intent and are bound for Scotland in an uncertain world. The author has left the question open for us to decide the fate of the would-be survivors.
SIM, however, demonstrates this boldly by showing a final
scene where Ally narrates over a scene of her firing an arrow into a vesp with
her boyfriend now with her also on the hunt. She discusses a battle of
evolutions, whether the humans or the vesps would evolve to the reality of the
new world first.
And, I think that’s where these three stories really differ.
AQP is a story of a family’s survival
and their ability to recover and carry on after the loss of a child in this
harsh new world. SIN and SIM are stories about evolution and
Darwinism. While SIM does get some
parts of the book’s message right, it does miss in a few areas. Of course, one of those misses could be
merely there to demonstrate misunderstanding of evolution and Darwin. However, SIM redeems itself with Ally’s closing
narration. SIN is a book about
evolution and the dangers of mucking around with nature.
But, returning to my initial goal for this post,
a comparison of the three. Obviously, the novel, The Silence, came first. Beyond that, it is difficult to believe
that the writers of A Quiet Place
came up with their ideas completely independently with no one having read Tim
Lebbon’s novel. Even with the changes made to the movie version of The Silence, there is enough of the
original story and concept there to conclude that The Silence movie adapts The
Silence novel and does not copy the movie A Quiet Place.
As mentioned in a previous blog post, Literary Darwinism was a literary theory that I encountered in my graduate English classes. Because my master’s focus was composition, most of my time was split between literature and composition and rhetoric classes. If you’re looking for an interesting approach to English classes, I highly recommend the route I took since, aside from the handful of required C&R classes, I had a lot of freedom with course selections. I mention my education background because, to the dismay of one of my C&R instructors, I found a lot of connections between many of the texts and discussions in the C&R classes and the literary darwinism interest I was pursing in the literature classes.
One of the areas of literary darwinism that’s been on my radar, even before I knew there was such a thing in literary theory, was the universality of storytelling. While Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, one of my literature classes introduced me to the academic writings of literary darwinist, Jonathan Gottschall, an English professor, who wrote in one of his key texts: “Humans are creatures of story, so story touches nearly every aspect of our lives (2).”
Around the same time, I was reading Gottschall’s words in a literature class, I was reading a text by Thomas Newkirk, a writing instructor, for one of my C&R classes. In that text, I found Newkirks’s words stating that: “We are biologically predisposed to process experience through the lens of antecedents and consequences (5).” By putting writing and story into a biological context, Newkirk, and separately the instructor of the C&R class, were reinforcing the theories I was reading for literary darwinism background.
In building a background understanding of literary darwinism, I encountered a text by Dan McAdams, an evolutionary psychologist, who observed that: “Human beings are storytellers by nature. … The story is a natural package for organizing many different kinds of information (4).” With this text and a number of cross referenced Steven Pinker texts, I began to see a deeper connection of literary darwinism as it relates to evolutionary psychology.
Between the literary darwinism source material, evolutionary psychology material, and evolutionary biology texts cross referenced to Edward O Wilson, I was prepared for another text by another literary darwinist, Brian Boyd, an English professor, who often writes and edits with Gottschall, referenced above, and Joseph Carroll, the professor I studied under at UMSL. Boyd’s text includes the statement that: “Evolution builds many specific learning tracks into the mind. … And we will interpret something as story if we can. Babies and adults alike cannot help seeing a sequence of moving dots in terms of animate causality (1).”
Another text from another C&R class, with the same dismayed C&R professor, written by George Lakoff, a linguist, and Mark Johnson, a philosophy professor, helped my refocus that cause and effect relationship of story. Lakoff and Johnson wrote: “The essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another. … human thought processes are largely metaphorical (3).” For me this is especially true, and exactly what I was doing in my own studies of C&R and literature, and literary darwinism.
Once we better understand the relationship between causality and storytelling, we can see stories and storytelling in the context that Gottschall placed it in when he wrote: “The problem structure reveals an major function of storytelling. It suggests that the human mind was shaped for story, so that it could be shaped by story (2).” [emphasis in original text].