So far on the blog I’ve written quite a bit about robots, but not so much about aliens, except when they featured in one of the books I’ve read on my list so far. Those would be The War of the Worlds, At the Mountains of Madness, The Space Trilogy, Red Planet, and The Martian Chronicles.
I wanted to dig into this sci-fi theme a bit and show it some love since it’s a staple of the genre.
Aliens come in many forms in science fiction. In the novels I’ve read so far, they’ve been Earth-invading monsters (War of the Worlds) as well as wise and sage beings not to be messed with (Red Planet). In pop culture, we’ve taken hold of the scary monsters version in such films as Alien, Independence Day, and The X-Files, but have also moved onto a more sympathetic view of them, for example in the film Arrival.
Of course, science fiction also offers humanoid aliens in Star Trek and other superhero movies.
Why are we so fascinated and afraid of aliens?
I think it’s partly to do with the fear of the unknown, which I’ve said before is a staple of good science fiction. That fear is what drives our imaginations wild when it comes to dreaming up scary alien beings.
But I also think it goes deeper (at least for me). I think it’s a matter of connection. We humans need connection to live. Connection to ourselves, to each other, to the planet. It’s the only way we can thrive. This is a fundamental need of ours. And I think it extends to a longing for aliens and a first contact.
The famous sci-fi author Arthur C. Clark once said:
“Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”
And indeed, if we are not alone, there’s always the risk that aliens have the power to destroy us. (Though what are the chances that they’ve developed so far past us as to be able to do that when we’ve all had the same amount of time to evolve? There’s probably an actual number for that that I just don’t know.) And if we are alone, well that’s existentially frightening all by itself, precisely because we crave connection.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know that somewhere out there another being is looking up at the same stars and constellations we are, wondering whether they are alone or not?
I get a little teary-eyed at the thought.
Wouldn’t it be great to know that in this vast Universe, we are not alone? It may be frightening, but, I think, it would be more comforting than anything else. It would tell us that this here lived experience is not unique to us, that there are others out there who could understand us, and validate our own existence.
Just a little food for thought.