Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Emily Ross

Emily Ross received a 2014 Massachusetts Cultural Council finalist award in fiction for her novel Half in Love with Death. Her fiction and nonfiction have been published in Boston Magazine, Menda City Review, and The Smoking Poet. She is an editor and contributor at Dead Darlings, a website dedicated to discussing the craft of novel writing. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and the University of Massachusetts Boston, and is a 2012 graduate of Grub Street’s Novel Incubator program.

Recently I asked Ross about what she was reading. Her reply:
I recently read the science fiction novel, The Man Who Fell to Earth, by Walter Tevis. I was a huge fan of the 1976 movie version. Directed by Nicolas Roeg, it featured David Bowie in his film debut, playing Thomas Jerome Newton, an alien who travels to Earth to save his dying planet. This movie has an unforgettable mythic quality, and I’ve always been curious to see if the book measured up – and it really did!

Newton is not your typical green-skinned, bug-eyed alien. Tall, slender, and frail, he easily disguises himself as a human, and only in the privacy of his own home does he remove the lenses concealing his golden, cat-like eyes.

On a desperate mission to find food and water for his war-ravaged planet, Newton comes to Earth with plans for technical inventions that ultimately turn him into a billionaire and the CEO of a giant corporation. But earthly success brings him no happiness. Lonely for the world he left behind, he meets Betty Jo, an alcoholic who introduces him to gin. An uneasy friendship develops into an unlikely love story as the well-meaning Betty Jo triggers Newton’s destructive descent into alcoholism and despair.

Any science fiction story runs the risk of becoming out-of-date, given the lightning speed of technological change. For example, Newton’s invention of self-developing, high-quality film might have seemed remarkable when the book was first published in 1963, but the rise of digital photography renders it mundane to us in 2015. This hardly matters, however, as the book raises the always timely questions about who we are and how technology changes us. Shy, feral Thomas Jerome Newton, who shares a last name with one of the most influential scientists of all time, is an alien who makes us think about what it means to be human.

Tevis is the author of other novels, including The Hustler and The Color of Money (both became great Paul Newman movies). Now that I have discovered this remarkable writer, I’m primed to read more of his work.
Visit the official Emily Ross website.

The Page 69 Test: Half In Love With Death.

--Marshal Zeringue