Risingshadow has the honour of hosting a guest post by Tim Major. This guest post is part of The Snakeskins Blog Tour.
About Tim Major:
Tim Major has authored You Don’t Belong Here, Blighters and Carus & Mitch, the YA novel Machineries of Mercy, the short story collection And the House Lights Dim, and a non-fiction book about the silent crime film, Les Vampires. His shorts have appeared in Interzone, Not One of Us and numerous anthologies including Best of British SF 2017. He is co-editor of the British Fantasy Society’s journal, BFS Horizons.
Click here to visit his official website.
Caitlin Hext’s first shedding ceremony is imminent, but she’s far from prepared to produce a Snakeskin clone. When her Skin fails to turn to dust as expected, she must decide whether she wishes the newcomer alive or dead.
Worse still, it transpires that the Hext family may be of central importance to the survival of Charmers, a group of people with the inexplicable power to produce duplicates every seven years and, in the process, rejuvenate. In parallel with reporter Gerry Chafik and government aide Russell Handler, Caitlin must prevent the Great British Prosperity Party from establishing a corrupt new world order.
Snakeskins is an SF thriller examining the repercussions of rejuvenation and cloning on individuals’ sense of identity and on wider society, with the tone of classic John Wyndham stories and the multi-strand storytelling style of modern TV series such as Channel 4’s Humans.
Guest post by Tim Major: Top 10 Doubles in Film
My novel, Snakeskins, is about a small group of British people who have the ability to rejuvenate by shedding their skins every seven years. The main repercussion, though, is that their Snakeskins are sentient and continue to live for a few hours or days. Here are some of my favourite films that deal with doubles, many of which had a strong influence on the novel.
‘William Wilson’ (from Spirits of the Dead) (Louis Malle, 1968)
When William Wilson meets a boy at his boarding school who appears to be his exact double, the nature of the twin’s pursuit is oblique, appearing at odd moments and acting as an externalisation of William’s conscience. As you might expect, stabbing your conscience in the gut is likely to have pretty dire consequences. The filmed version of Edgar Allan Poe’s story, directed by Louis Malle and released as part of the Spirits of the Dead omnibus in 1968, is vivid in my mind, so that William and his twin will forever more be Alain Delon in my mind’s eye.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Rouben Mamoulian, 1931)
Less literal doubles here, but that only makes them all the more revealing about a single character. – Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is one of my all-time favourite stories, and I’ve riffed on it several times in my short stories and novels, but to say more about that would spoil more than one of them! Last year I watched a bunch of Jekyll and Hyde film adaptations in a short space of time – it’s one of the most regularly adapted stories ever, I suspect, as its publication was neatly timed to be ripe for adaptation during the early days of cinema – and by far the best is Rouben Mamoulian’s 1931 version, with a transformation sequence that genuinely made me gasp.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 1956)
These days, plenty of people rate the 1978 version directed by Philip Kaufman higher, but for me it’s Don Siegel’s 1956 version all the way. It’s quieter and less hysterical, and I think the theme resonates all the more for being filmed so soon after the end of the war, echoing cases of Capgras syndrome, a psychological condition that affected some soldiers, who returned home believing that their loved ones had been replaced by imposters identical in every way, but somehow wrong. It’s a subtle, powerful, terrifying concept.
Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
Hitchcock is happy to give away the twist about doubles without fully exploiting it for suspense, making Vertigo a deeply usual thriller. I often wonder if there’s a case to be made for seeing the story from Judy/Madeleine’s viewpoint, turning her from the object of Scottie’s obsession to a convoluted central character in her own right.
The Double Life of Véronique (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1991)
While Kieslowski’s film didn’t become a firm favourite of mine as I’d suspected it might, I love Irène Jacob’s central performances, and I think that the fact that Véronique’s and Weronika’s plotlines reflect one another but the characters never actually meet is fascinating.
The Double (Richard Ayoade, 2013)
This isn’t an entirely successful adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novella, and I get the sense that it’s unloved in general. However, it’s certainly brave in its mix of humour and utter bleakness, which recalls Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. Just thinking about it makes me want to see it again.
Adaptation (Spike Jonze, 2002)
Like The Double Life of Véronique, I’m interested in this film partly because of the aspects it doesn’t cover. While it’s clever and funny, I find the film maddening in its self-indulgence, just as I did Being John Malkovich and Synecdoche, New York, two of Charlie Kaufman’s other scripts that revolve around identity. (Whereas Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind makes me swoon every time and is a film I consider pretty much perfect.)
Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
I’d seen several Bergman films before I watched Persona, and liked all of them, and loved some. But nothing prepared me for the intensity of this film, from the opening sequence onwards, and the fluidity and confusion between Liv Ullmann’s and Bibi Andersson’s characters had a huge effect on me. I think that at least half of what I write has some trace of Persona in it, and I actively seek out other films with characters that bleed into one another (see also Performance, Queen of Earth, Black Swan, Celine and Julie Go Boating).
Moon (Duncan Jones, 2009)
Despite its lunar setting, this is a wonderfully down-to-earth treatment of doubles, and it’s also loveably low-budget and thoroughly deserved its word-of-mouth success status.
The Prestige (Christopher Nolan, 2006)
Another terrific adaptation of an excellent novel, and a story deeply concerned with doubles, both in terms of the illusions performed by Angier and Borden, and in terms of the mirroring of those characters themselves. Christopher Priest’s novels in general are a huge influence on me – particularly A Dream of Wessex, though others also revolve around doubles and permutations – and this was my first.