Ecology, Biology, Ethics & Civics, First Aid, Rescue Efforts
Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide; the third expedition in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition.
The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one another, and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.
They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything.
Writing Activity: World Building
Read the first few pages of Annihilation, paying particular attention to how Jeff VanderMeer is building the world of Area X.
Then create your own piece of writing that introduces readers to the world of a story you will create. Use sensory details and provide hints about the conflict you will introduce into your imagined world.
Exchange your writing with another student and share with one another: How does the piece make you feel as a reader? What images or details are especially strong? Did anything confuse you? What conflict does the story introduce?
Add images to the world-building writing assignment to create a short digital story.
Adobe Spark is one tool, web-based or downloaded as an app, for creating a digital story. Spark offers templates and a catalog of images, fonts, and backgrounds and projects can be downloaded and saved or shared via a link.
Find a reading group guide and discussion questions at FSG Originals.
Jeff VanderMeer is an award-winning novelist and editor. His fiction has been translated into twenty languages and has appeared in the Library of America’s American Fantastic Tales and multiple year’s best anthologies. He writes nonfiction for The Washington Post, The New York Times Book Review, the Los Angeles Times, and The Guardian, among others. He grew up in the Fiji Islands and now lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with his wife.