I have a confession to make. I have read Roadside Picnic (the 1972 sci-fi novel by Andrei and Boris Strugatsky about a future in which alien spaceships stopped briefly on Earth and forever altered the gravity/reality/environment of their touchdown zones, spawning a black market for alien detritus). I have also read Zona, Geoff Dyer’s excellent book about watching and rewatching Stalker, the 1979 sci-fi film by Andrei Tarkovsky loosely based on Roadside Picnic, its screenplay written by the Strugatsky brothers. But I have never actually seen Stalker.
Stalker is the story of a man who leads people into “The Zone,” a forbidden area in an unspecified country where, it’s claimed, your deepest wish will be realized. Consider it a parable for future exclusion zones like Chernobyl or Fukushima, or an allegory about human consciousness.