Thursday, October 24, 2019

Andrew Skinner's "Steel Frame"

Andrew Skinner grew up in South Africa’s coal-mining heartland, amidst orange dust and giant machinery. He now works as an archaeologist and anthropologist, interested in folklore, rain-making arts, and resistance; but the machines aren’t done with him yet.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of Steel Frame, his first novel:
Rook is the character through whom you see the events of Steel Frame, and despite the fact that she’d be the lead in a movie adaptation, someone else will have to cast her! I made a conscious decision to leave her anonymous – there are no glances of herself in reflective surfaces, no one else commenting on her appearance – and I’d like to preserve that here. You could probably infer a lot of what she looks like from the parts of her history you encounter in the story, but given how damaging her past is, she’s probably really difficult to look at. Foremost, though, I wanted her capabilities to be separate from her appearance, and to let her actions define who and what she was.

The other major characters are much easier! Hail and Salt are Rook’s squadmates. They’re other jockeys in the story – other frontier operators, piloting these giant machines.

For Hail, I’d cast somewhere between Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron; Blunt for her hard edges as the Angel of Verdun in Edge of Tomorrow (and maybe also because I enjoyed watching Tom Cruise be shot in the head over and over, who knows?), and Theron for that desert-dry harshness as Imperator Furiosa in Fury Road; Hail’s character is worn and calloused, but she’s survived things you can barely imagine. I want someone who’ll dig in heels, grind teeth, stand straight under the weight of monstrous things.

For Salt, I’m pretty set on Djimon Hounsou. The guy’s got immense gravity on screen, and a depth to his voice that’s almost a perfect match for Salt speaking in my head. The character’s quite important to me (and to Rook) so I’d like an actor who can make a show of strength to match, a sense of endless durability.

Director-wise, Ridley Scott pretty much directed the motion picture in my head. There’s a greasy bleakness to that extended Alien/Blade Runner universe that I was trying pretty hard to replicate, and a constant sense of Big Bad just out of sight that I can’t really get enough of. Runner up is Denis Villeneuve, for the grit in Sicario that you can nearly feel between your teeth, the sense of scale and time-depth in Arrival; I’d want Steel Frame, the Movie to leave you feeling covered in machine-oil, lost at sea.
Read more about Steel Frame; follow Andrew Skinner on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue