Posts Tagged ‘aliens’

Fun Scifi Tropes: Aliens (and Their Invasions)

Good morning, squiders! I hope your Thursday finds you well.

Today we’ll be looking at aliens. Aliens come in a number of different flavors. You have your friendly aliens like E.T. You have your invading aliens ala Independence Day. You have aliens who have their own cultures and beliefs and goals, which can be presented in a totally unfamiliar way (such as insectoid aliens from Ender’s Game or Starship Troopers) or as friendly, relate-able faces that showcase different aspects of humanity.

(Alien has stopped looking like a word.)

“Alien” is a word that has been used in English for hundreds of years. My Internet combing tells me that it came into usage in the 1300s as a word meaning a foreigner (a usage it still has, though perhaps less common) or an outsider. I’m getting mixed results on the word as meaning “someone from another planet.” One sources says 1920s. Another accredits it to John Wood Campbell in 1953 in Analog magazine. Who knows? Apparently not the Internet.

(On the other hand, the word “extraterrestrial,” which is perhaps more explicit in its definition, was first used in 1848, according to Merriam-Webster.)

But anyway.

Aliens have evolved throughout science fiction. Early science fiction, which often has adventurers exploring far-off-but-not-really locales such as the Moon or Mars, usually has extraterrestrial beings that are close to human beings (I’m looking at you, A Princess of Mars).

Indeed, a lot of science fiction tends toward fairly human aliens. We touched on this a few weeks ago, but part of this is because science fiction tends to be an exploration of humanity, and by representing different alien species as different aspects of humanity (::coughStarTrekcough::) you can explore humanity as a whole. Another reason is because if an alien has an aspect of humanity to them, it makes them more relate-able to a human audience. If a character is supposed to be sympathetic, they’ll often have a human element to them.

Alternately, inhuman aliens are often portrayed as “evil” or in opposition to humanity. This isn’t always true–writers often turn this trope on its head by focusing on the miscommunication between two species with little in common. But almost all of your “evil” alien species are inhuman in appearance or actions. Series with multiple alien species sometimes make this more apparent. If you watched Falling Skies a few years back, contrast the Espheni and the Skitters (the bad guys) versus the more human-sympathetic Volm. Or take Doctor Who, where the Time Lords are literally indistinguishable in appearance from humans, versus anything that decides to try and eat Earth at any particular moment. (See particularly: Daleks.)

What are you favorite aliens, Squiders? Favorite exploration of alien vs humanity themes? Likelihood of an ancient, powerful society seeding other planets with life and/or rescuing the dinosaurs so they can earn their sentience and eat us in the future?

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In Defense of Science Fiction: Aliens

Sure, aliens may not be as endangered in science fiction as time or interstellar travel, but they have their detractors as well.

The possibility of there being other intelligent life in the galaxy is typically defined by Drake’s Equation, but the problem is that there are several variables in the equation, very few of which  are known. (We don’t know how many stars have solar systems, and how many planets are in a habitable zone, etc.)

Drake’s Equation varies wildly based on what you use as inputs.

Even if we ignore Drake’s Equation, alien opponents point out that we’ve been trying for several decades to both contact and find signals from other civilizations, with no answer. They argue that it’s a fluke that life started on this planet, and that even, by some rare possibility, it managed to happen somewhere else, there’s no guarantee that that life would reach sentience in a time frame that would allow them to interact with us.

What does that mean? It means that even if a civilization reached a level of technology to allow for interstellar communication in a form that we could detect, if they did it a million years before or after we were looking, it would all be for naught.

So some people argue that aliens aren’t scientifically realistic. Where’s the fun in that?

The other argument you run into with aliens is what sort of lifeforms they’ll be. Early Star Trek, for example, explores all sorts of strange non-carbon based lifeforms. But some peope say that since all life here on Earth is carbon-based, that it’s unrealistic to think that life can come in bases.

(However, we recently discovered arsenic-based life here on Earth, so you should ignore those people.)

The argument for or against aliens can be compared to the argument for or against God. There’s not really any evidence one way or the other, so why go with the more depressing option? (Though, I suppose if you believe that most aliens are the invasion type, then not believing they exist is the better option.)

When in Doubt: Aliens

I make no claims towards being a rational person. Sure, I can fake it pretty well, but then I draw pictures of landsquid and stick them on the internet, so I’m pretty sure I’m fooling no one.

Much as I hate to sound like a meme, have you ever noticed how everything is better with aliens?

(I’m not just saying that because the Landsquid’s origins are a bit murky. There’s been rumors going around that he is, in reality, a Space Squid, but he denies it and I’ve yet to catch him glowing in the dark, as Space Squids are wont to do.)

TV obviously agrees with me. People mysteriously disappearing? Aliens. Massive conspiracy? Aliens. People mysteriously re-appearing? Probably also aliens. Also, they built the pyramids and carved things in caves and made (and sank) Atlantis. And they secretly run our government.

Okay, so maybe they’re a bit overdone, but can you think of any situation that cannot be improved with the addition of our extraterrestrial neighbors? Instead of voting someone off a reality TV show, let’s feed them to aliens. Or we can upgrade the boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love storyline to include boy and girl fight aliens bent on world domination. Even presidential debates could use a good alien. (Or, depending on your point-of-view, already have a couple.)

Anyway, they’re better than vampires.

What’s your reaction to unexpected!aliens, Squiders? Yay or nay? Overdone? Inquiring landsquid want to know.