I used to really love this theme. I like monsters. Of all kinds. But now, I feel a weariness set in. A sequel to Independence Day is due in theaters come June, and Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End is at last making its way to television (the SyFy Channel, so don’t expect much).
Part of the problem may be simply that the best stories are already well behind us. What does ID do that War of the Worlds didn’t? I thought District 9 was interesting, and I’ve enjoyed all the John Wyndham books, which are essentially the same idea repeated. The Midwich Cuckoos has some fabulous scenes in in it—some of which were effectively translated to the two film versions of The Village of the Damned. Predator had a momentary cleverness. I’ll keep watching the movies and reading the stories.
But I can’t help but feel that all the executions I’m aware of somehow miss. The aliens always come to destroy us, or to save us from ourselves. I keep waiting for a new approach—some angle we haven’t thought of before.
Some years back, I attempted kind of a comedic approach, in an abandoned work called God Ate My Homework. The premise was that Earth and everything on it is really a kind of Science Fair Project developed by a bumbling adolescent alien slacker called Drewl. Discovering how out of control the “project” has become, this Creator visits Earth to try to “tune things up.”
Drewl is astonishingly naïve and self-centered (and more pathetic looking than actually hideous). So inept at looking out for Itself within its creation, it falls into the well-meaning clutches of a latter-day hippie style commune outside Asheville, North Carolina and discovers pot and the Grateful Dead. It’s later captured by a sinister promoter for Ripley’s Believe it Or Not Museum, and in hibernation, is put on display at Myrtle Beach—and the commune members have to rescue It. Drewl then bids a hasty farewell to Earth, resigned to doing poorly in the intergalactic “Science Fair.” Whatever.
As with the genre of the Fantastic Journey (all of the Voyage to the Moon tales, etc.) we never really get beyond allegorical versions of human history. It’s merely a question of how dark a view we take. When it comes down to it, we’re not able to truly imagine the Alien. The forms are always decidedly familiar.
What we need is some kind of planetary-culture ceremony of Renewal, which will refire our mythological imagination and give us a fresh spin on this enduring theme.