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Author's Commentary on "Roman and Xylos: Beginning"

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I’ve never written an opening scene for the Cosmic Partners stories before, an explanation of why they’ve been banished to Earth to live out all these lives. So, here it is—the Roman and Xylos version, anyway.

Roman is obviously the “dark” part of the traditional light/dark pairing in Cosmic Partners. Somehow Xylos stumbled onto Earth and was treated a bit roughly by its inhabitants—you know, the police pick up someone wandering around disoriented, it seems very suspicious. You don’t think, “Gosh, maybe they’re a powerful cosmic being whose partner will come seeking bloodthirsty revenge if I don’t handle them with kid gloves.” But that’s exactly what happens.

In this opener, we meet not just Xylos (James McAvoy) and Roman (Michael Fassbender), but also Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) and Jane (Mia Wasikowska), who are part of their family in the same way that Galena and Ruby were part of Magnus and Bay’s group. I don’t feel any need to formally define the relationships or how their society operates; obviously it’s not a problem to have romantic and sexual entanglements among the four of them.

Maybe this would be a good place to talk about their names. Traditionally, one Cosmic Partner has a nature-related name: Susannah (meaning “lily”), Bay, Cassia, Quince. Those were my precedents. Always this has been the “light” partner, but I maintain that isn’t required. In this case, I wanted MF’s character to be called Roman; it reminds me of his role in Centurion, which has inspired other stories.

So that meant JM’s name would be the nature-based one… which I also really wanted to start with an X, in honor of him playing Professor X in the X-Men First Class franchise, which inspired the pairing. It was quite difficult to find a nature name that started with X! I finally discovered “xylo,” which is a prefix (Greek) meaning “wood”—for example, a xylograph is a carving on wood, and the xylophone is so named because of the wooden bars that comprise it. I say this like of course everyone knows this, but it took a lot of research and digging. With a slight modification to Xylos, I decided I liked the name—I think it evokes both an ancient world (Greek origins) and something futuristic and sci-fi (the X).

Raven of course is named after her character in X-Men First Class, who is Charles’s sister and Erik’s lover at one point. I thought that was a nice link to both of them.

Jane is named after the character MW played in Jane Eyre, opposite MF’s Mr. Rochester. Actually I didn’t think they had much chemistry in the movie; but I really appreciated her still-waters-run-deep attitude, and I thought she would be a really good character to add, as a contrast to Raven who tends to be more impulsive and emotional.

In the handwritten version, the High Judge was named Jeziel—an exotic, unplaceable sort of name, perhaps vaguely Biblical. But when I typed it, I decided to leave him nameless, avoiding even that level of detail. I think it’s best to keep everything as vague as possible.

I think it’s kind of uncomfortable to realize that Roman has done something quite bad here. He could certainly join any contemporary terrorist who kills innocent people in a public place because he believes their “kind” has wronged him and are not worth compassion. I thought about amping up his rhetoric more; like when the High Judge asks how a specific child (now dead) provoked him, Roman might say, she provoked him merely by her presence—or argue that killing humans is like killing insects, and he can’t believe he’s being prosecuted for that.

I decided not to go there, though. I think his contempt is pretty obvious from what he was originally written to say—no need to make it darker. Also, I’m not sure how much he really believes that, anyway—someone like Magnus, I believe he finds humans beneath contempt. But Roman is more the type to get along with them okay, as long as they aren’t doing him any harm—but should that cease to be the case, he has no problem lashing out, losing control of his temper, harming humans indiscriminately.

I think that’s true to the character’s roots as Magneto—he was never a sociopath killing humans for the fun of it. He had a plan, with a larger purpose, and accepted that sacrifices would have to be made to see the plan through; or, in his younger days, like on the Cuban beach in the first movie, he’s lashing out because the humans have tried to attack him—all those missiles were aimed at the mutants on the beach, even though they had just saved the day, and Erik merely caught them and turned them around back to the ships that fired them. Even then, his rage was fueled by a childhood spent being oppressed and demonized by the larger human society for being different (Jewish).

So I don’t think Roman has any big philosophy about humans. I don’t even know what the relationship is between the Cosmic Partners society and Earth prior to this—humans obviously did not go into space/another dimension and kidnap Xylos from there, so Xylos must have been on Earth first, and ran afoul of them accidentally. Like, do these people vacation on Earth, jaunt over to Earth like they’re taking a walk in the city park over lunch? Maybe so, and perhaps that was fine with Roman, he had no problem with that. But then when Xylos is detained and (mildly) injured, his wrath blossoms out of all proportion—like an ant bites you on a picnic, so you not only squish that ant, you get the spray and destroy the entire colony. There’s a vindictiveness about it, which is especially troubling because Roman is so much more powerful than the humans are. (Why Xylos couldn’t get out of trouble himself, I don’t know; that’s never brought up as an option. Perhaps he went to Earth with his powers turned off, per protocol?)

So I think the problem is the indiscriminate, disproportionate response from Roman, who shouldn’t have felt that threatened in the first place—coupled, of course, with his lack of regret. The Cosmic Partners we see are all trapped on Earth, presumably all being punished for a similar infraction—they will go to any lengths, even unnecessary lengths, to protect or avenge their loved ones, and this all-consuming passion, well, it consumes everything, including innocent people. It’s often given a romantic spin in the stories, but at its root it’s very destructive.

I think the “I will stand for him” part is interesting. I don’t know what its purpose is. Maybe if it was something where “the public” broadly agreed with the accused’s arguments, that would influence the judges’ decision. In this case it’s only Roman’s family who will stand for him, and not even all of them—Jane, who is very principled in her own quiet way (recall how she would not pretend to be married to the already-married Mr. Rochester), will not lend her personal support to Roman’s actions. Of course Xylos and Raven aren’t saying they agree with what he did; they’re taking “support” to be more emotional and symbolic. Jane looks at it more intellectually, literally. But then, when the moment comes to serve out the punishment, Jane is right there with the others in wanting to join Roman—“she didn’t believe he was right but she would not be parted from him even so.”

And so the saga begins. Obviously time works differently here in this dimension. I had in mind that the destruction Roman caused was basically in modern, 21st-century America, but there’s not much specificity—the girl could have been in a “vehicle” like a wagon that he smashed. No matter, this doesn’t prevent them from moving through all sorts of time periods and, really, parallel universes—to go back to the English Civil War or American Civil War, to go forward into our future, even to be on other planets with alien life in a time and place where humans are also there, or in a place where other people have supernatural or sci-fi powers. And they could be, in different lives, a lad in an English village during World War II or a Jewish lad in Germany at the same time.