Has any one notice in most peoples mind when you write a Scifi people instantly think that the Aliens should be evil. Even when the Alien is a cute little fluff ball before you know it it has big sharp teeth and is chasing people down. at least thats how it is with movies.
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For most movies, sci-fi is actually just a cover for horror/thriller. It's seriously aggravating to me, as I don't read/watch horror at *all* - and am very selective with thriller (Bourne series, OK, but that's about as far as I go.)
So yes, I'd say I've noticed the same trend where most aliens are depicted as evil or having mal-intent toward humans. I think it's writers projecting their fears on aliens, personally.
Yes, but I love to watch the Star Wars movies for the chance to examine often benevolent alien creatures. Talk about creative vision. And let's not forget E.T. How friendly can you get?
As for recent contributions to the alien menagerie, I must agree. Alien = unknown = scary. They provide writers with an easy way of exploring what we fear most, namely, a gruesome terrifying demise. Ick. As well as the triumph over that demise. Hurray!
As the market of friendly aliens seems to be less often explored by writers, might this be a worthy challenge for you in your own stories, Nicaria_Black?
my story with Noaque is about how humans think that all aliens are evil. But in it, what it is,is that humans fear that because there is another intellegent being in the galaxy it poses a threat. they have the need to destroy it becasue it's biffrent. ^_^ Noaque is an alien who is closly related to humans so the humans don't know she's an Alien and she can't remember anything.
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It's very human to be afraid of something we don't know. We certainly don't know the first thing about aliens, so they must be terrifying monsters.
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They really don't want the humans to be shown as evil.
They come to the planet and devastate the peaceful civilization of the tiny puff balls, killing them for pleasure and sport, and mainly because they are in the way. The forests are stripped out and turned into mulch, the ground sterilized. Once the planet is turned into a desert, devoid of all life on land, the conquerers put up some "public buildings" and some desert plants are brought in because the concerned environmentalists of the federation needed to save some plants being threatened by encroachment of civilization on another planet. Scrapings off the construction equipment used to clear the planet shows that there were several plants that would have solved some of the most serious diseases in the federation, but no one cares. The saving of the plants was more important. They later find they had spread to a dozen other planets already as house plants and are acting like a weed in every case, but at least they have the plants growing where they are safe.
No, In movies, the people are the ones we are to care for. It is easiest for us to feel for. Otherwise, you would have a dog or cat movie. One makes the aliens the evil ones that the people have to survive against, to challenge, to conquer.
I agree with KayTi that TV and movies have blurred the distinction between horror and SF. It's profoundly annoying because it puts people off the entire SF genre.
As others have said, we fear the unknown. Good SF explores that fear, while horror merely exploits it.
"Star Trek" was the earliest exception that I can remember, with an alien science officer and adventures which could involve friendly aliens -- though more often than not, they didn't: unfriendly aliens offered the possibility of exploring our own fears and prejudices, and aliens who mistakenly attacked us and then made friends allowed a celebration of the humanity and understanding of Roddenberry's idealistic Earthlings.
Aliens can also be a vehicle for exploring racial, nationalistic and religious prejudice and attracting a broad audience by not overtly criticizing (and offending) earthly groups. For example, "Gulliver's Travels" used alien races in a satirical illustration of the sham that characterizes much political debate, and Ursula K LeGuin often explores the interrelationships between races, religions and sexes in her thoughtful SF.
China Meiville's "Perdido Street Station" revels in aliens, some fascinating and beautiful, others thoroughly revolting -- not for their alienness, but their amoral destructiveness and inhumanity.
One other series of books that comes to mind that depicts friendly aliens on Earth would be Spider Robinson's CALLAHAN'S SALOON. For those of you that might not be familiar with this series; The saloon is a gathering place for aliens to come in and tell their troubles. Then the regulars (that are not all from Earth) figure someway to help them out. That's a very loose interpretation, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the series. Too bad such a place doesn't exist for real. It sounds like it'd be a pretty cool place to visit.
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I can't honestly say I've noticed this. Sometimes the aliens are evil. Sometimes they're good. I know when I watch I let the story tell me which way to feel about them. Certainly, there are a lot of alien attack movies out there, but that does make good Hollywood. But two of my favorite TV series are Babylon 5 and Roswell. In Roswell, the main alien characters are pretty much human. In Babylon 5, the aliens are pretty much like the United Nations.
There is a lot of alien horror out there, but quite honestly that stuff doesn't usually appeal to me so maybe I'm just not watching the same stuff you are.
I remember a long time ago when a young science fiction friend was shocked to discover that people from other countries were referred to as "aliens." She felt that that was very prejudiced and was quite disgusted.
What she didn't realize was that the term "alien" means the same as "foreign" and has been used to refer to all kinds of things that are considered "strange," including madness (psychologists were first called "alienists," I believe).
When you don't know the history of a word, you can make mistakes about what it means, and calling someone from another country an "alien" did not mean they were something nasty from another planet, as my young friend seemed to think. Though it could mean they were something nasty from another country.
I believe that the benevolence or malevolence of aliens in movies reflect societal changes or concerns.
Our first significant alien in movies was Ming the Merciless in 1936 with Flash Gordon. This was 3 years after Hitler had risen to power. However, on Mongo, Flash encounters many friendly aliens and forms an alliance with them, eventually defeating Ming for good in a 1940 sequel.
Superman was the next alien in 1948, after the end of WWII. Superman was an alien who had been raised by humans and had adopted the human ideals of truth, freedom and justice. Good times equals good alien.
In 1951, at the beginning of the Cold War, we meet Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still. Klaatu is basically a friendly alien, an advocate for humanity, who brings a warning against our destructive natures. He leaves us Gort, a robotic policeman of the Earth to make sure we don't take our violence to other worlds.
As the Cold War heated up (pun completely intended), McCarthyism instilled fears of subversive attacks as in The Thing from Another World (1951), Invaders from Mars (1953), It Came from Outer Space (1953), and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). These aliens could copy and replace you.
There were also fears of more overt attacks as reflected in War of the Worlds (1953). Along with this was the danger that America could inadvertantly start a war as in Earth Versus the Flying Saucers (1956), where friendly aliens attack because of US aggression. The same year Forbidden Planet only mentions an alien civilization that had destroyed itself due to science/technology without restraint.
As Communism continued to spread across the world, The Blob (1958), a gelatinous alien that continued to grow and grow, threatened to take over the world. The aliens were also trying to convert our children as in Village of the Damned (1960), The Damned (1961), and Children of the Damned (1963).
In 1967, at the dawn of the sexual revolution, some aliens became very friendly as in Barbarella (1967). At the same time, the Civil Rights movement was in full swing. The Planet of the Apes (1968) and its sequals addressed prejudism at many levels, even though they turn out not to be aliens (sorry I spoiled the ending).
In 1976, The Man Who Fell to Earth gave us an alien corrupted by earthly pleasures. It suggested that all the noble plans and high intentions of the past decade were wasted away in sex and drugs. This corruption had even touched the presidency.
By 1977, the Vietnam War was over, as well as our involvement in militarily defeating Communism. Close Encounters of the Third Kind gave us aliens that were a little scary, but we find out they were friendly after all.
The same year, we encounter a galaxy far, far away where "humans" live among aliens and everyone seems to be trying to get along, except for a nasty empire that obviously wants everyone to look and act the same way. Star Wars could be interpreted many ways, which may have added to its mystique and popularity. Is the Empire Nazi Germany, Communism, or American censorship? It was all things to all people. It's sequels presented a much more unified relationship between humans and aliens to defeat this empire.
By 1978, the US economy had taken its biggest dive since the Great Depression. The mood was uneasy and horror movies became the rage. Invasion of the Body Snatchers is remade with more horror overtones. Alien was the first slasher alien movie. It has all the markings of other horror movies of that era, including a single female survivor. In my personal view, it was superior to all the other slasher movies.
That same year Star Trek returned, this time to the big screen. It had become the most influential sci-fi TV series after ending its run in the late 60s. Its idealistic vision of the future had played well with that generation. Most aliens were good and worked alongside humans. Even many of the bad aliens had some good qualities. Now it renewed its mission in a another era of optimism. Superman and its sequals also got a reboot that year.
In 1982, a year of great economic improvement and optimism, we were introduced to the friendliest alien ever - E.T.. During this time several other friendly aliens popped up, such as in The Last Starfighter (1984), Starman (1984), Cocoon, Enemy Mine, Explorers, Flight of the Navigator (all 1985), and Batteries Not Included (1987).
By 1986 there was a great amount of confidence in American culture. Aliens reflected this confidence in presenting people that were scared but willing to fight back. Action surpassed horror as the film of choice, and here we get both. Predator (1987) and its sequel also reflects this change in attitude.
In 1988, Reagan was leaving, there was the suggestion of scandal, and the future was somewhat unknown. Alien Nation gave us friendly aliens and confronted the urban problems of racism and drug abuse. In 1989 The Abyss gave us more friendly aliens and confronted global problems, such as nuclear armament and evironmental issues. Star Trek IV had actually confronted these issues 3 years earlier with one half-alien on board.
In the early 90's aliens became bad again. This was a time of recession. Predator 2 (1990) and Alien 3 (1992) leaned more to the horror genre. Species (1995) caught the tail-end of this trend. As the economy improved, we began to display confidence again and kicked evil alien butt in Independence Day (1996) and laughed about doing it. We did it again in 1997 with Starship Troopers and got some political satire this time.
By 1995 the economy had improved greatly and we were beginning a period of vast economic growth. Movies like Men in Black (1997) and Galaxy Quest (1999) gave us friendly funny aliens. Mars Attacks (1996) and [i]The Fifth Element (1997) gave us unfriendly funny aliens.
There was scandal in the Whitehouse in 1998, and Dark City gave us more evil aliens and reflected the uncertainty of the time, but still with the ability to beat them and have an optimistic future.
By 2000, the dot-com bubble had burst and the economy was in a tailspin. Pitch Black resurrected alien horror. Signs (2002) was the first alien movie after 9/11. It focused on the fear that 9/11 had instilled in many. It suggested an alien invasion that had shut down the country and left people huddling in their homes.
By 2005, the Iraq War was going poorly and the economy seemed to be weakening. Remakes like War of the Worlds (2005), The Invasion (2007), and The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) all reflected fears of past generations.
Transformers (2007) was the first positive alien movie in several years. This was before the economy tanked.
The near future? There will be a second Transformers movie in 2009, as well as a new Star Trek movie. Both will probably have good and evil aliens; I bet both will be darker. Monsters vs. Aliens, which will probably have funny evil aliens, will come in April.
In 2010 I would expect darker more horror-related alien movies. However, there is a renewed sense of optimism surrounding the President-elect. This could make for more likeable, friendly, and funny aliens (like E.T.). I doubt there will be many action-oriented alien movies. I would expect there to be some big first encounter movie where mankind rises above previous limitations. I predict big ideas will be the hallmark of the next decade in Sci-fi. Depending on the economy and what happens with the President-elect, I would expect either evil alien horror (bad econony or other problems) or friendly funny aliens and big ideas (improving economy and optimisic presidency).
The dates in my above post were referenced from The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Leonard Maltin's 2008 Movie Guide. The analysis of historical relevancy was entirely my own.
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I have heard a lot of speculation that the reason STAR TREK was so popular was because it posited a hopeful future for humanity.
I cared about it because of Spock and because it told me that "even though you are different, you can still contribute and be appreciated," and that got me through adolescence. So STAR TREK's approach to its resident alien (who, being half-human and half-vulcan, didn't fit even in his alien world) was the message that worked for me, and, I think, huge percentages of STAR TREK fans.
Being told that it was okay to be different was crucial to this adolescent, and, I suspect, to thousands of others as well.
I had a great difficulty with uncontrolled anger as a child. I actually used the Vulcan philosophy of controlled emotion to control my own behavior from the time I was about ten years old. So Spock was also a role-model to me. This philosophy also shows up in Star Wars regarding the light and dark sides of the Force.
[This message has been edited by philocinemas (edited January 02, 2009).]
quote: I have heard a lot of speculation that the reason STAR TREK was so popular was because it posited a hopeful future for humanity.
I think that's true. It offered a hopeful vision of humanity during the Cold and Vietnam wars.
Alongside Nimoy's Vulcan, Lt. Uhura was one of the earliest major TV roles for a black woman.
To quote Startrek.com, "At the end of Star Trek's first season, Nichelle was thinking seriously of leaving the show, but a chance and moving meeting with Martin Luther King changed her mind. He told her she couldn't give up...she was a vital role model for young black women in America."
Star Trek was also first to do an interacial kiss either on TV or the movies. I'm telling my age, but I remember it quite well when that particular episode aired for the first time .
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Reading this got me thinking about a book I just read that was edited by bruce coville. It was a collection of alien stories and in the begining there he writes this essay about alien stories. I usually skip the essays in books, with a few exeptions, including this one. It was worth reading because he talked about how people saw aliens and how this was a good way to explore our emotions, and how any alien created by an author is really an expression of some facet of our humanity, that we can never really create trully alien characters. Really interesting. Anyway my point is that we see alot of fear exploration with aliens as has already been pointed out. I sometimes think that how we veiw aliens in stories shows how we look at the world. If aliens are bad, then anything different must be bad. If aliens are friendly then other must have promise. Maybe this is a way for us to say what we expect to find when we explore the unknown. However you decied to writhe the stories, I find it fasinating to see how people, in the context of the story being told, decide to view the possibilities, good and bad, from trying to get to know the unknown.
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I noticed while I reread most of my scifi books were the Alien was evil humans only talked about them and jumped to the conclusion that they wanted war and that the were to intelligent. if there was interaction the alien was pretty stupid going off of the instink of the hunt. them you have the good aliens there were evil aliens just like humans
I personally am starting to believe we came up with aliens because we are afraid that there is a more intelligent creature some were and we'd just be considered animals (Just a thought ^_^)
Nicaria_Black said: "I personally am starting to believe we came up with aliens because we are afraid that there is a more intelligent creature some were and we'd just be considered animals (Just a thought ^_^)"
Considering how technologically advanced cultures have historically treated cultures that are less advanced than them, I can too easily imagine that. I've course I'm using human behavior as a model for an alien mind, so it's very possible that there is no way to predict. I would hope that a race that has developed space travel and found our planet would not behave hostilely, but who knows.
It is a whole lot easier to express very taboo subjects when dealing with aliens. Just about anything that would raise a ruckus here, such as racism, sexism, genocide, etc, can be handled with limited criticism if you are dealing with aliens.
if one wants to explore the 1800s ideas of the world where mankind was the next best thing to god, and the whole world was theirs for the taking, then one can look at it from humans point of view when dealing with native aliens of a planet, or one can show it as aliens trying to act that way to us.
One could have where we defeated an alien empire and their leadership are now used as slaves in our society as punishment for their acts, or we were defeated and we are being used for slave labor. One could also show where one not allowed to congregate with the winner in either case, even though they now have their freedoms.
Of course, one can deal with fears, as the monster alien is out to eat you and your people, or, you could write it where we, found tasty, but intelligent aliens and they are running from us. I am not really into horror and don't have the temperament to write that kind of story.
One can explore a creature of a different design and see how their society would be different, or one can explore a whole range of emotions when people learn there is something a lot different than us.
For me, though, the use of aliens or other planets, allows me to do things in a story that is impossible if written in modern times, even as classical fantasy. There really is no limit once the imagination is available.
quote:One can explore a creature of a different design and see how their society would be different, or one can explore a whole range of emotions when people learn there is something a lot different than us.
How much difference will readers accept, though? When I read through Odal's Story (working title), I wonder if readers will argue that the aliens don't make sense, even after the basics of the alien culture are explained. Most of the aliens in popular sci-fi act like humans or another Earth animal; they either want to dominate or remain in their niche. Those that don't become victims to humans. If another model is presented, will readers reject the strangeness and thereby the story?
First off, you need a good story. Then you need a story where that strangeness is key to the story. With those, then one can make it work.
Of course, how it is presented makes a difference too. If the story is based on an outsider, then one handles the reaction to the strangeness. They are presenting the comparison.
If the story is based from the alien's point of view, with no outsider, then one would handle it like a fantasy story where the chant spells and mix potions to get things done. It is all strange to us, so you have to present the strangeness properly.
Consider how outlandish this is. There is a people who use two sticks to eat. They squeeze the two sticks together in one hand in such a way that they can pick up a single piece of cooked grain. How weird is that? Eating with sticks! They are known as chopsticks.
It is all about how you present the strangeness, that will make it really strange or a comfortable part of the story in a different location.
quote: How much difference will readers accept, though?
That's a good question. If the aliens are too difficult to understand, we won't bother trying--as you know, that's how racial prejudice and religious intolerance work.
OSC's "Speaker for the Dead" comes to mind as a really good example of how to handle alien cultures and keep the reader engaged. It's a particularly interesting example because even the human cultures are in a way alien: one's based on Spanish (or was it Portugese?) speaking Catholics.
Ursula K LeGuin explored alien cultures too, but they were so alien and her writing's so dense and philosophical, I often found it hard to stay engaged.
I think one technique for keeping us engaged through the alien-ness is to tell the story from the viewpoint of a human character who has an engaging problem to solve. That's one technique that OSC uses in "Speaker for the Dead" and you can see it again in two Analog stories in the Jan/Feb 2009 issue: Rajnar Vajra's "Doctor Alien" features a doctor who has to fix some alien patients for an alien client or suffer some ignominious penalties; and Dave Creek's "Zheng He and the Dragon" is a first contact story set in ancient, alien times and featuring a merchant pirate and, well, a dragon that speaks. In these two stories the doctor and the merchant pirate are humans, with their own agenda, and we stay with the story learning about the alien-ness through their himan eyes, to see what happens to them and, in the process, sympathizing with their bemusement at the alien behaviour--which makes an alien kind of sense at the end.
Star Trek: The Next Generation, in my opinion, did an excellent job of introducing alien cultures. One of my favorites was an episode called "Darmok", where a leader from a misunderstood alien race transports himself down to a planet with Picard. They do not understand each other's language, but through an ongoing battle with an invisible creature, they slowly come to understand each other. It touched on how finding common goals can bring people from very different (alien) cultures together.
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The lead characters of the Disney / Pixar movie "WALL-E" are just about as un-human as any character you care to name---yet, in what really matters, they still come across as human...
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Thanks, guys. I really appreciate examples. It seems a human perspective is needed when the aliens don't strive for human goals, which also simplifies writing.
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I was just going to bring up Wall-e...that movie is one of my favorites of 2008. It has tons of social commentary, yet manages to keep an optimistic outlook in a somewhat hopeless future. I think that is a very difficult achievement.
I think the reason I love writing science fiction so much is because we don't have to develop our ideas around reality, but rather, we develop realities around our ideas. The character of the aliens is an example of this.