Unalien aliens

Picking on aliens not alien enough is a common pastime among people with a bone to chew when it comes to science fiction. Certainly not the last, but the most recent (that I know of) is Neil deGrasse Tyson, who just like all the others think aliens have to lack faces, an even set of limbs, etc, to be alien enough to qualify as aliens.

My problem with this is most of the film or book alien aren’t there as true aliens. Anyone thinking that doesn’t understand the basic premise of science fiction. At all.

True, some aliens are there to be 1000% ALIEN. Alien (the film) itself is a point in case. The Crystalline Entity, of Star Trek fame, is another. But they are fairly few, and in most cases they are symbols of Evil, or at the very least the truly undecipherable. But the wast majority are humanoid, seductively similar to us. And the ‘seductively’ part is the important one. Because it is in the way the ALMOST like us actually differ, and how we handle this, that forms the backbone of many a science fiction story. And in this it isn’t a story about foreign planets and peoples, but about us – humanity – and how we handle change, and how we interact /or not/ with people different from ourselves. Science fiction in this sense is a looking glass or a mirror, reflecting our own behaviours and customs, forming an arena for inspection and criticism, for questioning certain behaviours and world-views.

In these stories the aliens has to be reasonably humanoid or the point of it all is lost, or at least buried deep enough for it not to get through to the majority of the readers/viewers.

In this light it is totally reasonable for the atevi (Foreigner/Cherryh) to be humanoid in general appearance, just like the mri (Faded Sun/Cherryh), or the ferengi or the klingon or the andorians (Star Trek) or the Na’vi (Avatar). Just to name a few.

Picking on unalien aliens is thus so far besides the point a gas giant can pass through the resulting void. If doing it makes you happy – please continue, but don’t expect to be taken seriously by anyone.


Mostly human

When analysing why I favour certain fictional characters over others I have come to realise an important factor is their struggle with what in a sciencefictional framework could be dubbed species identity.

It didn’t take me long to realise, some fifteen plus years ago, that it was the driving factor behind my liking of the Data character, on Star Trek TNG. Granted, he is not human at all, technically speaking, but it wasn’t hard to identify with his ongoing struggle to understand what is human – growing up, being grown up, even, is an ongoing battle against the oddness of the self as related to the rest of the society in which it exists and we are endlessly defining an redefining our selves against the cultural context that surrounds us.

Ultimately Data can’t win his battle, because so can’t we. The only reasonable way is to surrender, to embrace that which makes the self different, to use that difference as a strength. Because if we don’t we become identical and as diversity is part of what drives evolution and development the lack of diversity would also be the end of humanity as we know it.

To be mostly human is the most human trait of all.

Spammers – a rant

Every now and then a spam or three is caught in the filter. I find most of them incredibly… incredible. Do they think I’m a total moron?

Like this – someone with a screen name like “How To Make Loads of Cash In No Time” or “I Just Lost 30 Pounds” wants to leave a comment like “Interesting point, I’ve been pondering this issue too, thanks for posting” to a post which is a REVIEW!

So, OK – which point exactly did you think interesting? And what really is this issue you are talking about?

When the same comment is then left to yet another review, some days later, there’s no discussion – I know you’re a spammer.

Life would be so much more fun if you just spent your energies on something worthwhile, instead of pestering the rest of us.

Spammers reminds me of a guy I encountered at a party ages ago (18 or so years, actually, but it’s practically the same thing) who asked ever girl he met if they wanted to get laid, now, by him. Nine of out of ten hit him in the face, but the tenth took his offer.

Woe the stupidity of humankind.

Kind of.

My spider, on top of evolution

In my kitchen a window is set aside for fresh herbs. During winter most of them dies – it’s simply too cold and too dark for them, and they wilt to death. The sage usually survives. It’s sturdy. Since some months back a small spider lives in the sage plant. Of course this means I cannot use the sage, but it doesn’t matter. While I like the spice right now it’s more relevant as the habitat for another living thing.

I have not tried to classify the spider. It’s maybe 5 millimetres long, and in it’s usual position it’s maybe 2 millimetres across. It resembles a wilted leave, or a fragment of wilted grass. It’s so small and so unassuming – well camouflaged! – that I’ve had no luck getting it to show on a photograph.

This is part of why I keep it. I’m fascinated by nature and how evolution works to promote creatures like this. I have no idea how it survives. The kitchen is notoriously bereft of flies and other small insects that would be in it’s range, and I have trashed it’s net at times. But it keeps turning up, again and again and again. In a way it’s very human – resilient bordering on obnoxious.

A reminder of the superficiality of humans and human motives, maybe.