Thomas Wictor

The mirror is my harshest critic

The mirror is my harshest critic

In 2006 I corresponded with a famous writer about a Christian peace activist who went to Iraq to protest the war. He was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered by terrorists.

I told the writer that the dead man’s approach reminded me of the 1951 movie The Thing From Another World. If you’re not familiar with that film, it’s about a flying saucer that members of the U.S. Air Force find in the ice near an arctic research station. They accidentally destroy it with thermite, but they recover the body of the pilot.

Back at the research station, an airman is creeped out at the sight of the giant alien embedded in the block of ice, so he covers it with an electric blanket. The ice melts, and the alien emerges. It looks human but is actually a kind of plant. From the second it’s revived, all it does is kill, smash things, and roar wordlessly. It never speaks or stops wreaking havoc with its giant claws. It also drinks blood.

The head scientist at the research station is Dr. Arthur Carrington. Despite being an intelligent man who himself witnesses the utterly bestial behavior of the alien, Carrington insists that he can reach the thing and communicate with it. He’s absolutely convinced that the creature is misunderstood and can teach us humans a lot. No matter how many people the alien kills, Carrington’s idée fixe remains intact. He refuses to believe his own eyes.

Referencing Dr. Carrington’s indestructible denial in The Thing From Another World was a spur-of-the-moment thought. It hadn’t been percolating in my head, and I wasn’t dying to share my “insight” with anybody. I just mentioned it to this writer because of a column he’d published. He wrote me back and said it was a brilliant analogy. I thanked him.

A few days later, he wrote a column in which he excoriated those who refuse to accept the inhuman brutality of the Wahabbist terrorists who murdered tens of thousands in Iraq. He compared these deniers of savagery to Dr. Arthur Carrington in The Thing From Another World. Much of my message to him was reproduced word for word. He made no mention of my name or even that he got the idea from a reader.

I never complained. What would be the point? I was disappointed, not angry.

In my case the mirror is my harshest critic. I don’t do certain things because I have to live with myself. It’s not a question of whether or not I can get away with it. Mike Albee and Lura Dold got away with scamming me out of $40,000 by exploiting the suicides of my parents in 2013. Arianna Huffington is a serial plagiarist, but her reputation never suffered. I could get away with almost anything I wanted, really.

But what would that accomplish? Mike Albee and Lura Dold are swine. Have you seen Arianna Huffington lately? Like a chameleon, she can now look in two different directions at the same time.

I was going to say that she needs to sue the crap out of her cosmetic surgeon, but being able to look in two different directions at the same time would actually be pretty cool.

Maybe she also had her corpus callosum severed. Common side effects of a corpus callosotomy are the inability to engage in spontaneous speech and alien hand syndrome—one of your hands takes on a life of its own. That could be why we haven’t seen Arianna in public lately. She can’t speak without a teleprompter, and one of her hands keeps punching her in the face.

Even if I knew I wouldn’t develop alien hand syndrome, I still wouldn’t plagiarize, con, steal, or take advantage of the defenseless. That mirror keeps me in line. Yesterday I heard a woman on the radio say that we need to ban the word “shame” from our vocabulary.

Great idea. What we really need is an entire nation of Mike Albees, Lura Dolds, and Arianna Huffingtons.

The solution isn’t to ban the concept of shame. Too many people already have. Instead, make people ashamed to commit dishonest or criminal acts.

And if you want my opinion on the two remakes of The Thing From Another World, John Carpenter’s 1982 version is a masterpiece, the best work he ever did. The 2011 remake is absolutely rotten. They decided to concentrate entirely on gore instead of acting. What made Carpenter’s remake so incredible was the characters. Yes, the special effects were astonishing for the time, but the 2011 version shows what happens when actors phone in their performances.

You can see a short film about the 2011 remake’s special effects here. I’m not impressed. Stephen King said that slight distortions are much more horrific than complete deformity. I think that’s right. Look at this photo of me in 1981. If my legs had been proportional to the length of my torso, I’d be seven feet tall. Most people don’t notice how truncated my pins are until I point it out. Then they laugh or scream.

And when I was a baby, I had demonic black-and-red eyes.

But I’ve never plagiarized, except for a short story I wrote in the eleventh grade. It made me so ashamed that I still remember the line.

“His aircraft met the side of the carrier in a dull orange explosion that for him would span an eternity.”

I lifted the second half of the sentence from the novelization of Jaws II, I’m pretty sure. The A I got on the short story meant nothing because I’d cheated.

Sorry, Mr. Marshall. At least the rest of the story was original.

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