Wednesday, September 9, 2009

You have to dance with the Alien that brung you

If I had any readers, I'd be in a lot of trouble over this post.

I've grown tired of reading stories with all the "humanoid" alien races created in SF. I understand why they're all 6' tall and have fingers and vocal chords and think like humans - up to a point. It creates a connection for the reader and conflict for the author. We go to war with them, they land here to devour us, we travel light years to learn high tech living and warfare from them, become partners, enemies, mixed races, etc. etc. etc.

The problem is, none of this conforms with what science informs us every day about the construction of the universe and our fragile place in it. Humanoid Alien advocates (and that includes CETI participants) rely on one concept to buy into a universe is inhabited by creatures with brains in skulls on top of biped sketetal structures: the odds must be in their favor. "If only one in a million stars had planets, and only one in a million of those had Earthlike atmosphere, and only one in a million of those stustained life then there would still be..."

Ya, ya, ya. All well and good. The problem is, our understanding of the actual universe has gone beyond that. One in a million million is way too good for the odds. We live in an incredibly narrow 'goldilocks zone' (not too hot...not too cold) that defines how we can exist. So the one in a million gimmick is still way too large a number.

This doesn't mean I don't imagine there's life out there that thinks and survives. I just can't imagine it being anything like us. That's my connundrum. If I want to create a fictional reality set in a quantum universe, it forces me to create alien beings that can exits there and still be accessable to readers here on Earth.

I'm not saying I haven't enjoyed the ride with Alien, Independance Day, Dune, Foundation, Star Trek, Star Wars, Childhoods End, and a host of others. I've loved those stories. But for me, it's time to move into a different frame of reference when imagining alien life in the universe.

Arthur Clarke's 2001 Star Child, Alex Proyas' Dark City, and the Keanu Reeves rendition of Klaatu in the recent version of The Day The Earth Stood Still are on the right track.

Time to think outside of Schrodinger's box.

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