Interstellar Aspirations

The head is fuzzy today because I didn’t sleep well last night.  Most of that seems due to strange dreams I had involving traveling, which is probably president as I have an upcoming trip.  Said fuzziness is making thought difficult, which means I almost didn’t start writing today’s post–


As a friend and I mentioned this morning, you can write, or you can talk about writing.  Of late I’ve been editing a novel, because my backlog is such that I need to get things out.  Here I am, then, getting things cleaned up when I find the time.

But there is other writing as well.  I do articles from time to time, and I was asked if I’d do something about aliens for a website.  I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a good alien builder, because in order to get it right, you gotta spend time getting everything right.  You gotta have a star, a world, an environment, and then see if your creature makes any sense.  It goes a little beyond the Star Wars/Star Trek ideal of, “Hey, it looks like a blue bug speaking Yiddish, which makes it an alien!”  Like anything else creative, it’s a lot of work.

I’ve sat on an idea for a month now, something I’ve wanted to turn into an article, but one thing or another has gotten in the way of developing those thoughts.  Maybe in the next few weeks I’ll find the time to write it all down and get it submitted, but for now I’ll work on other things–

Last night, however, I was on a Lensman kick.

The Lensman Series was one of the first great space operas, and though it might seem a little dated today–okay, it’s a lot dated–it’s still a great deal of fun.  A bit dry in many places, but when you read it you see the beginnings of what most people take for granted when it comes to titanic battles in space.  The Lensmen novels became famous for creating so many titanic weapons that the trope Lensmen Arms Race was created for those stories where owning a fortress the size of a small moon means you’re some kind of special loser, pal.

What I was really looking for was information on the aliens in the novels.  Because when E. E. Smith wrote these novels, it wasn’t just humans who wore the Lens that allowed them to do some pretty fantastic things, but there were a lot of aliens in on that Lens action as well.  And not one of them had an aversion to the color yellow . . .

It’s just that finding information on said aliens is a lot of work.  Because the Lensman series is “Golden Age Science Fiction,” the information available is limited, because it’s one of those relics of old school sci fi that aren’t read that much today.  So hunting down all the information I need to write an article is going to involve a lot of digging–

But I’ll get it done, because . . . aliens?

We Come For Your Water, Chuck

If you know this blog, you know I like my research.  Lets amend that:  I love my research.  I may not always love doing it, because it is work, but I love the end result.  Sometimes I even learn something in the process–and, as you grow older, you find you can learn anything new, you might as well stop using up all that oxygen you’re not putting to good use, and leave it for someone else who can.

I’m also into science fiction, and that means I’ve not only got a freaky mind, but that I’m often looking up things that aren’t things one would normally think about looking for.  Like calculators to figure out delta v, or how to find the proper ecosphere for a star of a particular stellar class, or even looking up information on the stellar bodies themselves.

So it was, with this sort of background, that someone asked opinions on their newly designed aliens.  Hey, I’m always game to check out things of that nature.  Checking them out, they’re mean, bad, vicious . . . they have a taste for human flesh–who doesn’t?–and their one weakness is . . . they don’t care for sunlight.

Maybe they came from a system next door to the one that was home to the aliens in Signs.  I mean, if the one thing that’s gonna kill your ass is water, forget Mars:  Earth is where you wanna hang!

But lets face it:  most aliens, as presented in the majority of invasion stories, are dumber than a box of rocks.  Now, we should know that’s not the fault of the aliens, but rather, the people who are pulling their strings–aka, the writer.  There usually is a reason for this, however:  if the aliens didn’t do dumb things, there’d be no invasion story.

I mean, I’d be loathed to want to do harm to either of V‘s lovely lizard ladies, but if ships from Sirius show up over every city on Earth, and then say they’re here for our water, I’m gonna be the first to light them up with nukes.  Why is that?  Because, if you can travel eight light years between systems, you can travel to your own Oort Cloud and mine cometary ice.  Or mine it from our Oort Cloud.  Or get it from Europa or Enceladus.  Anywhere save from a planet with a huge gravity well that’s going to cost you loads of reaction mass every time you want to come and go.

Then you have the aliens from Independence Day.  Their ships also show up over every city in the world–proving that a number of interstellar civilizations have read Childhood’s End–then proceed to blast the hell out of them all.  Why?  Because they want to take our natural resources!

Once again, if you can cross interstellar space, you can mine asteroids with a lot less hassle, and even less gravity, than you’ll find on Earth.  There’s no need to launch a ground invasion, and absolutely zero possibility you’ll run in to some smartass with an  Apple Macintosh PowerBook.  All the goods you’re looking for are floating around up there.  And if not there–Mars, bitches!

Skyline; Battle: Los Angeles; Signs; War of the Worlds . . . the aliens cross untold light years to get to our system, and then start in doing dumb shit, like landing and taking us on mano-a-mano, instead of doing what I’d do, which is nuke the place from orbit, ’cause it’s the only way to be sure.  Hell, when Cracked says your alien invasion plans are the suck, you know you’re doing it wrong.

Aliens, and their invasions, are only as good as the person guiding them.  This isn’t a case of, “Oh, my characters decided they wanted to stroll naked through Chicago, clawing everyone in sight!”; no, this is a case of, if you do something that dumb in a story, don’t be surprised if someone goes, “You mean, not a single street gang shot at them?”  You’re going to be playing to the lowest common denominator, squared, and it’s not gonna be your character’s fault.

Next time, I’ll show you why the Robot Apocalypse is bullshit.

Cause . . . damn.