27 April 2013


Locus Focus: Take Ninety!

Welcome to Outer Space Day: The Movie Edition!

Now that I think about it, I probably should've blended this Outer Space theme with May at the Movies, because all the space settings I know best came from the world of cinema rather than the world of books. While April had a strong opening with a Martian setting from a classic novel, the next two loci of a spaceship and a habitable asteroid kind of took the science out of Science Fiction. =P

Still, I don't think I did too shabbily. This strange collection of space settings still make the point that outer space is often a vehicle for dreams, for satire, and for allegory. Today we see that it is also a great vehicle for horror. So at last, to fulfill the promise that In Space, No One Can Hear You Blog, I present one of my favourite cinematic settings of all time.

"I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."

If you had to go on a long journey, to a remote area you've never seen before, where the only other people are a small colony of settlers, and when you got there, in the middle of a dark and stormy night, the power was off, the people were missing, and the buildings were showing signs of a huge shoot-out . . . well, it would be weird enough without that place also being somewhere in outer space. You know what I mean?

Until now, I never realised just how out of their element the colonial marines sent to LV-426 were. Yes, they work in space every day, and they've all "dropped" onto multiple planets and satellites in the past. But a ghost town is something new--and as unnerving in the SF genre as it would be in a Western. Of course, there's one really big difference between an abandoned city somewhere on terra and an abandoned city on a whole other planet, which is that the latter can involve aliens.

LV-426 may have become a hostile environment for humans, but it makes an ideal habitat for the xenomorphs which have taken over. Director James Cameron communicates this perfectly with the darkly-lit sets that sometimes seem to have more in common with insect tunnels than a manmade structure. Imagine a three-story house so completely infested with termites that it is more of their nest than a human family's home. Perhaps the only thing left to do for that house is "to nuke" the whole thing, too. And then to rebuild it.

The comparison falls flat there because the xenomorphs aren't termites; they're dragons. They're the red flags on the map of the universe telling us not to venture farther, except at our own risk. They're the forbidden fruit that bites back. The wise response would be to wield our own flaming swords (nuclear powered, natch) at the entrance to their world--partly to lock them in and partly to lock ourselves out. We can't conquer everything in the universe, and to imagine that we can is hubris. Sometimes it is best to cut our losses, go home, and make sure the dragon-claimed ghost towns are properly marked on our maps forever.

Question of the Week: Do you agree that "Don't even go there!" is sometimes the wisest advice in the universe?

Image Source: Aliens screen cap


love the girls said...

""Don't even go there!" is sometimes the wisest advice in the universe?"

Fortunately for us aliens never take that wise advice, and as a result are always landing on earth to entertain us.

Enbrethiliel said...


It makes one wonder what their own ancient myths are. Even our pagans had cautionary tales about letting some places remain unexplored. But thinking they must have an equivalent seems like another way of turning them into mere "humanoids"--which, you might have noticed, I've been trying not to do since the start of the month!

love the girls said...

Their myths would be like ours, because their natures are our nature and thus we can extrapolate.

Enbrethiliel writes : "But thinking they must have an equivalent seems like another way of turning them into mere "humanoids""

But they are human. St. Thomas writes that the specific difference of man is 'rational'. Thus no matter how they look, like bugs or whatever, they are fully human because only a rational creature could knowingly traverse space using machinery.

On the flip side, that nasty Alien thing that Ripley is always running into is an oversized insect like thing, which actually makes it far more frightening because it has no more capacity to reason or love than a spider does.

btw, I came over hear because I'm partway through reading Starship Trooper. Is that discussion over?

Enbrethiliel said...


What I like about blogging is how uncannily the next direction to take becomes clear as soon as I've gone as far as I could down one particular path. I've been thinking about non-humanoid aliens for the better part of the month, and taking for granted that non-humanoid means non-human. Now I have a new tack. Thank you. =)

PS -- We're not even halfway through the Starship Troopers discussion! It's just taking me forever to get the next post up. =(

Sheila said...

Human in a theological and philosophical sense, for sure, but considering different body composition, different brains, different environment, and different culture, I think it's still safe to assume that aliens would be extremely different from us. Heck, I think people from the southern US are weird because I'm from the north. And that's just peanuts compared to the differences between us and any rational animals who aren't homo sapiens.

"Don't even go there" is often very excellent advice. The more I read about colonialism, the more I think this advice should have been taken a heck of a lot more often. What is it that makes us insist on exploring and/or exploiting places where the people don't want us around?

Enbrethiliel said...


That's true, too. If they have a "Garden of Eden" equivalent, it will be as different from ours as the story of the Fall is from anything vaguely like it in the myths of Greece, Egypt, and Scandinavia.

I think that if a culture combines a wholesome thirst for adventure with certain political frameworks, then takes out the imagination and empathy necessary to see those frameworks from the point of view of an outsider, then it will end up displacing a lot of people. Not necessarily because it's a bad culture (There was a strong missionary element in Spanish colonialism, for example), but definitely because it sees other cultures in supporting roles and itself as the "main" culture. And that's even more dangerous to do on a wide scale as it is to do on the level of individuals.