Lindsay Ellis Breaks Down Axiom’s End

We talked to brilliant video essayist Lindsay Ellis about her debut novel, Axiom's End.

Axiom's End Book Cover & Author Lindsay Ellis
Photo: St. Martin's Press/Sarah Winters

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Hugo-nominated video essayist Lindsay Ellis has published her first novel, Axiom’s End, a first contact adventure story set in an alternate history 2007. Billed as “Stranger Things meets Arrival” by the publisher and “the Arrival that fucks” by Ellis, Axiom’s End follows Cora Sabino, a young women who wants nothing to do with the alien contact cover-up her father, whistleblower Nils Ortega, has devoted his life to exposing. Of course, then one of the aliens comes to life and decides that Cora is the only human he will communicate with, Cora doesn’t have much of a choice.

Enter our Axiom’s End giveaway here!

Den of Geek had the chance to talk to Ellis about the creation of this speculative fiction world. Check out these choice excerpts, then watch the full interview in the video player below…

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On where the idea for Axiom’s end began…

It was definitely a character. I guess it was a combination of this throw away pitch I came up with in grad school, because you have to come up with these log lines for screenplays that never get written. And one of mine was like, “Julian Assange finds out about the aliens.” But really the story proper was just that I was always toying with this. I wanted to write a first contact thing and I vaguely knew I wanted it to be in a beating the beast vein. I joked that I feel like the inspiration, the real one was probably the same as Guillermo del Toro’s for The Shape of Water, which is this promotional still from Creature From the Black Lagoon. It’s a picture of the Gill-man and he’s leading lady in a swimsuit.

Creature From the Black Lagoon

I don’t think it’s meant to look a dancing pose. It’s a pretty famous picture. And I just remember scrolling on Tumblr one day and seeing it and just being like, “That’s it.” But it took me a while. And by a while, I mean five years to actually be willing to go there with it. Because at first I was very coy and chicken shit about it. Because the original drafts of this were very different, in terms of the core relationship.

On setting the novel in 2007…

I watched The Big Short 4,000 times while I was writing this version of it. Because the original version was a period piece of the nameless present. And then, after Trump got elected, it had to be a period piece. But I think, when you look at it, it just doesn’t make sense in this America because it relies on there being some level of political decorum left.

I think it’s going to be interesting like what this [2000s] nostalgia cycle looks like because I feel like we’re in this weird position where we can look at that decade and almost everyone in America agrees that it was just fundamentally unjust, and we were in the wrong and we did some war crimes. And most people who are our age are on the same page about that. And you don’t have that. Back in the ’90s, whenever we were having ’70s nostalgia, you could take the good with the bad. Like yeah, sure, Nixon happened, Watergate happened, but we also had bell bottoms and ABBA and The Brady Bunch. And now whenever you look at [the 2000s], it’s like… Well, I guess we had The Sopranos. I think part of the reason why this nostalgia cycle isn’t really picking up is because it’s a hard time to look back on fondly.

On working on the next books in the series…

In some ways, the second one was the one I wanted to write first because the second one, it’s funny in a weird way, was inspired by Transformers 2, the worst movie in arguably all of human history.

I remember, after the first one came out, the Transformers fandom was like, “Okay, well we can work with this.” Maybe very naively. It was like, “Maybe it will get better.” And then the WGA strike happens. And the second movie was just awful. But my feeling about the first movie was like, “This has a lot of interesting setup, particularly with regard to the first contact element.” And then in the second movie, humanity discovers like, “Oh, there are aliens here.” And it is just the stupidest, laziest, like thing … Michael Bay didn’t consider that an interesting premise to build his movie around, which is something that in first contact narratives I hadn’t really seen, which is, the revelation of an alien presence on earth, but life goes on. It’s not a revelation, Contact-style. They don’t show up, impart wisdom, and leave. It’s just like, “We have to live with this now. And what would the societal fallout of that look like?” So that was the one I had in my head first, which is the second book, which is called Truth of the Divine.

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Axiom’s End is now available to buy wherever books are sold. Find out more about the book here.