I’m trying to gather my thoughts about The East, but I’m failing. I may try again in a day or two, but right now, all I can say is: this is what I want to be when I grow up.
No, not an eco-terrorist or a double agent. I want to write the kind of subtle, human genre stories Brit Marling so excels at. The Sound of My Voice and Another Earth (both of which Marling was involved in writing, and the latter of which she also directed) both take on science fictional themes with an intensely intimate, indie sensibility, and The East gives undercover intrigue the same treatment. What is so incredible about her work is that she takes genre subjects seriously, paring away all the overwrought trappings of bigger-budget genre films and telling speculative stories with an almost hyperrealist sensitivity and nuance. Because, as much as I love genre writing (be it SF or mystery or whatever else), and as much as I reject the distinction between “literature” and “genre writing,” the fact remains that genre stories that are about people instead of ideas is still relatively rare, in my experience. These are stories not just about neat concepts, or unique worlds, but about the human consequences of new technologies and outlandish events.
And that — that is exactly what I have been trying to do in my own writing. I don’t know how often I succeed, but it’s reassuring to know that it can be done, and done well.