Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Creating Alien Aliens, Part 11: Invading Aliens (Dos)

Five decades ago, I started my college career with the intent of becoming a marine biologist. I found out I had to get a BS in biology before I could even begin work on MARINE biology; especially because there WEREN'T any marine biology programs in Minnesota.

Along the way, the science fiction stories I'd been writing since I was 13 began to grow more believable. With my BS in biology and a fascination with genetics, I started to use more science in my fiction.

After reading hard SF for the past 50 years, and writing hard SF successfully for the past 20, I've started to dig deeper into what it takes to create realistic alien life forms. In the following series, I'll be sharing some of what I've learned. I've had some of those stories published, some not...I teach a class to GT young people every summer called ALIEN WORLDS. I've learned a lot preparing for that class for the past 25 years...so...I have the opportunity to share with you what I've learned thus far. Take what you can use, leave the rest. Let me know what YOU'VE learned. Without further ado...

What, exactly, constitutes an “invasion”?

Sometimes it’s obvious: D-Day, the Invasion of Normandy is obvious, at least on the surface.

Would anyone here consider COVID-19 an invasion of billions of sovereign Human Bodies?

How about the European occupation of the continent named after someone who “discovered” something that was already there and had populations with cultures and technologies and writing and education and art and medicine?

Did THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN invade a tiny Arizona town in a novel that debuted Michael Crichton’s real name for the first time?

If you’ve ever gotten cholecystitis, bacteremia, cholangitis, a urinary tract infection, traveler's diarrhea, had a child who had neonatal meningitis, or pneumonia was your body invaded by the Escherichia coli of another person?

Do you have mitochondria? Did they invade your proto-eukaryotic Human cells? (The answer appears to be “likely, yes” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondrion#Origin_and_evolution)

Who “gave you” your cold last time? Did they really “give it to you” or were you invaded by a virus that used them as a biological Higgins Boat?

What is “invasion” then?

Did the aliens in “Independence Day” actually invade Earth? No. They didn’t necessarily consider it an invasion. They needed resources; Earth couldn’t protect them (ie, we “didn’t exist”), so they arrived to take them. They followed the supposed dictum of Charles Darwin, or, the “survival of the fittest”. The term made famous in the fifth edition of On the Origin of Species by British naturalist Charles Darwin, which suggested that organisms best adjusted to their environment are the most successful in surviving and reproducing. Darwin borrowed the term from English sociologist and philosopher Herbert Spencer, who first used it in his 1864 book Principles of Biology. (Spencer came up with the phrase only after reading Darwin’s work.)”

In the old film, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” wasn’t an invasion at all – it was a space-borne intelligence that drifted through space in a spore until it found a planet. “The film's storyline concerns…alien plant spores [that] have fallen from space and grown into large seed pods, each one capable of producing a visually identical replacement copy of a human [that] assimilates the physical traits, memories, and personalities of each sleeping person placed near it [who] are devoid of all human emotion.” Is THIS an invasion?

It appears that an invasion is only an invasion if someone survives it and names it as such. Naming something is important – who names it, less so. Madeleine L’Engle had a character say in her book, A WIND IN THE DOOR, “I think your mythology would call them fallen angels. War and hate are their business, and one of their chief weapons is un-Naming - making people not know who they are. If someone knows who he is, really knows, then he doesn't need to hate. That's why we still need Namers…When everyone is really and truly Named, then the Echthroi will be vanquished.”

How do we define invasion, then? “an instance of invading a country or region with an armed force”; “an incursion by a large number of people or things into a place or sphere of activity”; “an unwelcome intrusion into another's domain”.

Science fiction writers usually look at “alien invasion” strictly from the Human side – which precedent was originated by HG Wells’ WAR OF THE WORLDS. But there aren’t many attempts to look at the invasion from the other side – what would motivate aliens to invade Earth.

By definition, though, aliens would have alien reasons for invading Earth. Maybe trying to take our water from us makes sense to THEM, even though the possibility of manufacturing water on their home world would be incredibly simple.

Not only that, what would the aliens think of the invasion? Would they object? Would they be fine with it – as the European/American sense of Manifest Destiny allowed them to be ask they took whatever they saw in the New World?

Objection or Manifest Destiny – are there any other ways aliens would respond?

To answer the question, I would have to create an alien from their DNA outward. Can I do that? I’m not sure. But, I’m willing to try.

How about you?

Footnote: Perhaps the most realistic aliens I’ve ever seen in a MOVIE, are the Heptapods in “Arrival”. They are incomprehensible at first; and even when the scientists DO get what they’re saying, their perception of time is incomprehensible. The entire movie is difficult – from learning to understand…well, as I was about to make a list of what the Humans in the movie understand about the Heptapods, I realized that we didn’t understand ANYTHING. They are entirely alien. If it weren’t for the main character, Louise Banks explaining everything, by the end of the movie, we STILL wouldn’t have any idea of what happened.

Did the Heptapods invade Earth? Hmmm...Study the movie, invert everything we learn and maybe we can create alien aliens…

Reading of Interest: https://slate.com/culture/2021/10/invasion-apple-tv-tomorrow-war-watchmen-aliens-racism.html, https://www.livescience.com/alien-discoveries-2021
Image: https://image.shutterstock.com/image-illustration/alien-human-600w-136457129.jpg

Guy Stewart is a husband supporting his wife who is a multi-year breast cancer survivor; a father, father-in-law, grandfather, foster father, friend, writer, and recently retired teacher and school counselor who maintains a writing blog by the name of POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS (https://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/) where he showcases his opinion and offers his writing up for comment. He has 72 stories, articles, reviews, and one musical script to his credit, and the list still includes one book! He also maintains GUY'S GOTTA TALK ABOUT BREAST CANCER & ALZHEIMER'S, where he shares his thoughts and translates research papers into everyday language. In his spare time, he herds cats and a rescued dog, helps keep a house, and loves to bike, walk, and camp. He thinks out loud in print at: https://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/


Joey C. said...

Great post...and what we see as an Alien Invasion could just be a higher lifeforms stopping by to take care of the pets (us).

~brb said...

Funny coincidence. I just watched a documentary on cephalopod intelligence in which the researcher drew the same conclusion: that Arrival was a great example of what it was like to try to understand octopi and squid. Their behaviors demonstrate obvious intelligence, and yet they remain nearly incomprehensible.

I suppose the conclusion is that if aliens were to come here, they would come here for their reasons, which might not be anything that makes anything resemlbing sense to us.

GuyStewart said...

Joey C.: Y'know, I NEVER thought of it that way! Just before I came here, I watched a stupid video meme where two dogs are fighting over a bowl of food...while the third one moves in and eats it while they're fighting...Hmmm...

brb: That's what I'm trying to do...which, when I pause a moment to think about it, is impossible...How can I "think" like an alien? Maybe imagining that I could think like an alien? Or I can imagine that I imagine thinking like an alien...


~brb said...

That's all any of us can do: try to imagine what it might be like to think like an alien.

Who knows? Perhaps aliens are already here, walking among us in humanoid form -- but we think they're mentally ill, so we don't bother with trying to understand them, we just medicate and institutionalize them.

GuyStewart said...

Hmmm...that's an intriguing thought...but I feel like it may already be a novel or a movie...(Besides FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON/CHARLY -- sort of. Sideways...)