Back With My Aix

We drove back from Paris last night to our home in Aix-en-Provence. It’s an all-day drive, like L.A. to S.F. Because of the crud, I curled into a sniffling, sleepy pill bug in the passenger seat. When I wasn’t napping, I read almost all of the stories in Koji’s Dark Water collection. I read one story aloud to The Frenchman to help him on his drive. He loved the way Koji builds tension, but there were problems with the way some of the nautical terms were translated. The Frenchman knows a great deal about sailing, so it was distracting for him. Still, we both found Koji’s stories wonderfully creepy. Koji seems to prefer not spelling out the ending, which is nice, I think.

I managed to sleep last night a bit, and I feel a little better — well enough to write, anyway. And I’m all hopped up on French drugs. Woo! Like one of the main characters of The Fountain, I have one last chapter to write to finish Draft 1 of The New Book. (Let me tell you, that tiny coincidence was a bit unnerving.) And that’s another problem: what exactly to call The New Book. When it was a film script, it was OUT OF BODY. I’ve always hated that title. It invokes just about almost nothing. A title like The Dispossessed is, unfortunately, perfect. However, that title has been used by far finer works of fiction than mine. I was thinking of calling it The Bodyjacker or just Bodyjacker, but it sounds like a bad Ahnold-Crichtonesque action flick.

The full pitch to film producers (who generally liked it) was this: On the run from SWAT, killer Barnabas Crowe tries to hijack the SUV of good family man, Alex Segal. But after a deadly accident, Crowe winds up hijacking Alex’s body instead.

This is where the producer’s jaw always dropped. They’d ask, “Cool! How’d that happen?”

Well, like this: Crowe dies in the crash, but Alex does not. Alex is floating above his body as the EMTs try to resuscitate him. Just as they do, Crowe’s soul plunges into Alex’s unoccupied body in a last bid for survival. Connected to his possessed body by nothing more than his “silver cord,” Alex has three midnights to get his body back, and to stop Crowe before he destroys everything — and everyone — Alex loves.

And although Alex is by definition a “good” family man, we soon realize he’s got lots of issues: workaholic, judgmental, controlling, overly analytical, unreflective, and so forth. Not a bad person, per se, just not very present for his life and family. It’s not until he’s “between the worlds” that he faces a crisis of self as he watches Crowe take over his life on a single-minded quest for revenge against another criminal. Alex’s otherworldly help is the ghost of a dead British punk named Sebastian, who provides a lot of comic relief with his English wit. His worldly help is a police detective with flagging sanity who is recovering from an injury where he, too, was NDE.

In life, Crowe was a complete sociopath. But now that his soul is in Alex’s body, he starts to change in ways that fuck with reaching his goal. For this, I spent many hours interviewing my neighbor; she was completing her Ph.D. in Psychology, her thesis focussing on sociopathology. She was fairly convinced that sociopathology was a “hardware” issue: that the body and brain are fundamentally different in sociopaths from “normal” folk. Maybe the book is overreaching, but it explores lots of “hardware” and “software” issues, a well as how religion and spirituality play a role in it all. Everyone is looking for “God” — in an often humorous and sometime serious way, the book explores almost every notion by major religions on the concept, plus a few New Age ones. Yet Alex at last finds “God” in the absolute last place he ever thought to look.

The ending is what nearly optioned the script twice. (I refused the options. Too much work, not enough cash.)

Out of Body. Dispossessed. Bodyjacker. Whatever it’s destined to be called, in the immortal words of The Fountain’s Izzi: “Finish it.”

And today that is precisely what I’ll try to do.

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