by Maureen F. McHugh
Publisher: Eos; (November 9, 1999)
A colonized world develops a unique identity and culture. Years later,
one of its citizens develops a unique identity as well, adapting to her
culture by taking on the identity of a man. Soon, she finds that her
gender-blurring actually appeals to her in ways beyond what her
situation demands of her.
I love Mission Child as much as McHugh’s more popular novel China
Mountain Zhang, which received the James Tiptree, Jr. Memorial Award,
the Lambda Literary Award, and the Locus Award for Best First Novel.
McHugh is a great writer who can involve readers in any scene,
regardless of how much or how little action that scene contains. The
language seems descriptive to an extreme, but she still manages to tie
those descriptions into the thoughts and feelings of the characters.
Before reading her work, I read reviews that included complaints about
her supposedly not focusing on plot. Readers can find countless
formulaic, plot-driven science fiction and fantasy novels, but they
won’t find many original and evocative writers of McHugh’s caliber.
McHugh’s other novels include Nekropolis
and Half the Day Is Night.
Author of the West Texas fiction collection The Acorn Stories and the science
fiction adventure Degranon.
Editor and co-author of The Acorn
Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer.
Directed by Dirk Shafter
Director Dirk Shafter offers a beautiful, glossy nightmare, with a
dazzling soundtrack and wild camera angles. When John, played with
perfect innocence and occasional disgust by Jonathan Wade-Drahos,
suffers a gay-bashing at the hands of the very police force he serves
on, he decides to move to L.A. and spend time with his gay cousin, Tad.
Driving down the streets of L.A. and seeing openly gay men holding
hands in public makes John smile. But then, when he arrives at Tad's
house, he receives his first glimpses of a party scene that can destroy
relationships and lives. Despite his attempts to the contrary, John soon
becomes caught up in the drug culture of Circuits-huge weekend parties
for gay men. Besides making an incredible amount of money for the
organizers, these events often provide a setting for drug trafficking,
often leading to unsafe sex. Considering that the events cater strictly
to gay men, all of that leads to the spread of HIV. As one character
out, the events sometimes promote themselves as fund-raisers for AIDS,
or as places where condoms and safe-sex messages make their way to the
gay male community.
John has two tender, stabilizing relationships: one with his former
girlfriend, and one with Tad's former boyfriend. Unfortunately, the
less healthy relationships threaten to destroy him. While focusing on
that plot, the movie also focuses on Tad's work as an amateur filmmaker
who wants to make a documentary that exposes the dangers of the circuit
scene. Even while filming interviews that show it at its worst,
Tad still sees the scene's appeals, and the surprisingly positive sides
of it. Will the two men survive their party world? I won't give that
away, but I will say that the movie raises valid questions about a real
scene with real allure and real dangers.
The acting needs more emotion at places, but Dirk Shafer does a great
job weaving his tale through the music and images that attract certain
gay men to the circuit.
One complaint about the DVD-a "play all" option always helps when
offering a long list of deleted scenes or other features; hitting the
remote every few seconds can get tiresome, even for people who usually
commit channel surfing. Repeated viewings of this movie shouldn't get
tiresome, though. Shafer offers a controversial depiction of a segment
of the gay male
community, one that will probably receive more recognition as we
examine the impact of the circuit scene on a group that already lost
way too many people to drugs and AIDS.