Going Mental

 

scott-hutchison

I’ve been putting off this month’s mailing list, mostly because May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I felt like I should address it, didn’t want to, and then learned that Scott Hutchison had committed suicide.

If you’re familiar with Birthday Suits, you probably realized I’ve been dealing with mental health issues for some time, specifically depression and anxiety, since I was 18. I’ve been on medication since then, and when an ex asked me why I wouldn’t consider going off my medications I said, because I like being alive.

Comedian Chris Gethard has pointed out that no one ever tells a cancer patient they should try stopping chemo, but mental health patients deal with this all the time. Depression may not seem as immediately life threatening, but it absolutely can be. People are sometimes shocked when they learn I was hospitalized for suicidal ideation several years ago. Maybe because I seem “normal.” Everyone I met in the hospital was “normal,” as normal as all of you. Considering that one out of five people experiences mental illness, and suicide is the third leading cause of death for individuals aged 10 to 24, mental illness is alarmingly normal, although never recognized as such. That’s why I wanted to write about Scott Hutchison.

On Thursday May 10th, Hutchison was found dead on the banks of the Firth of Forth after an apparent suicide. He was 36 years old, and the singer and guitarist for Frightened Rabbit. This news would’ve saddened me even if Frightened Rabbit weren’t one of my favorite bands, but what’s heartbreaking is that Scott Hutchison has written so many beautiful and eloquent songs about his own depression that have provided me enormous comfort. He was able to think through his mental health to create gorgeous music, but ultimately couldn’t think or create away his depression. No one can. He sent these tweets shortly before he went missing on Tuesday:

scott-hutchison-tweets

The details of Scott Hutchison’s diagnosis or the extent to which he wasmentally ill are beside the point. What matters is he would’ve benefitted from talking to someone, and for whatever reason felt unable to do so. Considering how many people are affected by mental illness, it’s devastating Hutchison couldn’t or wouldn’t get the help he needed. Talking about mental illness is never easy, but that’s why it’s so important. If you need help, there are numerous resources available. Never forget how much you matter, especially on the days when you think you don’t matter at all. If you think someone you know is in need of help, reach out to them. A simple text of “hey, how’s it going?” can often do wonders. If you can’t get a hold of that person, keep trying. Don’t let them go.

BUT NOT EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE. The few people who’ve finished reading the latest draft of The Mechanic have been very complimentary, even though the moment my mother finished it she called to make sure I was okay. (I should probably start thinking of it as a horror novel.) I’ve also made tentative steps on a new project, something I’ve been thinking about for a while but is easily the weirdest thing I’ve ever done. Fingers crossed.

I also have a new job! I know all of you were dying to cross that off your list of concerns. As of May 7th I am employed as a technical writer for a software company. I guess all of this is to say that I was intensely depressed for much of 2017, but I’m now in a good place. Getting help for mental illness doesn’t mean I no longer have bad days. It means I know what to do when the really bad days bite me in the ass.

Until next month,
Evan

Annihilation

For longer than I’ve called myself a writer, I’ve been overly preoccupied with the question “Which is better, the book or the movie?” For many years I thought books were always superior. This is largely because I’m a control freak, and books are movies I direct in my head. It’s jarring to see a story you’ve lovingly rendered in your mind subjected to the vision of someone else. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, because the film Annihilation was released last month, and it is arguably superior to the novel of the same name.

Annihilation succeeds by only using the book as a starting point on its way to becoming an entirely unique thing. Sort of like when you hear a cover of a favorite song, and you realize the cover is much better than the original. Part of me always knew that the question of “which is better” doesn’t matter, and I’m now certain that is true when the adaptation is done effectively.

Annihilation is a novel by Jeff VanderMeer, the first book in an excellent science-fiction trilogy. My interest in the film stemmed from my love for these books, but also as someone who wants to write bestselling books and see them adapted into excellent movies. What is so interesting about the Annihilation adaptation is that it honors the spirit and ideas of the books while telling a very different, equally compelling story. To achieve one of these in a film adaptation is rare enough, but Annihilation’s success at reaching both is remarkable.

Part of this film’s success as an adaptation might stem from the fact writer/director Alex Garland began working on it shortly after the trilogy’s first book was published. Apparently, he started writing the screenplay without realizing two later books were slated for publication. While the differences between the book and film are pretty radical, they always work in the film’s favor. Somehow, no matter how far the film diverged from the novel, it always felt part of the world those books had allowed me to inhabit. At the same time, it doesn’t make sense to compare Annihilation to its source material, because they are so different. This is a confusing contradiction, but it’s so exciting to see a book’s limits utterly surpassed in such a satisfying way. The movie accomplishes several things the book simply can’t, and remains self-contained. I’d be amazed if Garland decided to adapt the other two books in the trilogy.

So which should you choose, book or movie? Frankly, both. I don’t even think it matters whether you watch the movie before the book, which is something I never thought I’d say. However, while the book is scary and unnerving in a more cerebral sense, the movie is downright horrifying. It reminded me a lot of Alien, which is perhaps the best sci-fi horror film ever made. If that’s not your thing, I’d still recommend the book.

Questions of book vs. movie have been on my mind since I’m about halfway through editing The Mechanic. I’ve of course thought of who I’d want to direct the film adaptation (Jordan Peele), and had a few ideas for who will play the lead (Zoë Kravitz or Letitia Wright). Whether or not any of that comes to pass is beside the point, but it’s fun to think about.

Until next month,

Evan

Tuesday Funk — September 5, 2017

Chicago people!

I’m really excited to announce I’ll be participating in the next Tuesday Funk on September 5th. If you’re not already familiar, Tuesday Funk is a monthly reading series held at Hopleaf in Andersonville. I’ve been once before and had a blast, so I’m stoked to be one of the authors this time around.

If you plan on coming, try to arrive at the reading room around 7 to get a seat. If you can’t come due to geography or some other reason, the reading will be recorded and uploaded to YouTube, and I’ll be sure to share the link. Also, I’ll have paperback copies of Birthday Suits available for $5.

Lastly, if you’re not already a subscriber to my mailing list, if you sign up you’ll receive electronic copies of four of my short stories. Two of them have been previously published, one was the impetus for Birthday Suits, and I’m working on submitting the fourth for publication. Please sign up!