Looking out the window at the golf-ball sized golden orb spider which has anchored one end of its metre-wide web to the awning of my house, I can’t help but for a second consider just how mindboggling alien the creepy bastards are. For a second, it’s quite easy to picture myself as the heroic Viper Pilot, stranded inside an abandoned research station somewhere on one of the many poorly-surveyed worlds of the Third Imperium, low on supplies and unsure if the Giant Arcturan Webspinnner outside will ever decide there’s easier prey to be found elsewhere.
I grew up in rural Canada, where large spiders and cockroaches are non-entities, while in Australia one is assaulted by large, primal, predatory skeleton-wearing-on-the-outside badasses on a daily basis. Coupled with my superior hyper-reflexes (read: skittish), finding them alien comes easily.
Aside from the many near-death frights the invertebrates have given me, they have also given us some fine moments in science fiction:
Okay, so I’ve never actually seen Mothra in a film. But I have played her in Godzilla: Monster of Monsters on the NES.
With her first appearance in 1961, however, she is the grandmother of the entries on this list. She’s a psychic reincarnating moth, the figurehead for an Indonesian earth-worship cult and Japan’s greatest defender, besting Godzilla more often than any other giant piece of molded theatrical foam. Whatever she doesn’t stop, her larvae will. Ewww.
Listen to Mothra’s 1989 hit single “Lullaby”:
In two classic science fiction novels, ‘the bugs’ have made for perfect, unstoppable, inhuman antagonists.
In Robert Heinlein‘s golden-age Starship Troopers, the bugs are a perfect anvil for the Mobile Infantry to throw their troops at again and again. Heinlein’s book is a poignant exploration of politics (particularly meritocracy) and social responsibility. The film captured the ‘let’s go fight some insects in space!’ backdrop of the novel but none of the commentary, which is where Heinlein’s novels (before a stroke turned him into a dirty old man) always shone. He was never a master of dialog, but his novels always had a theme he was exploring and a clear vision to them, a substance not captured by the film.
In 1960, Starship Troopers won the Hugo Award; in 1997 Starship Troopers hit cinemas and tricked me with its pretty special effects and earth-shattering explosions, but eventually I came to and often now wake up crying.
In John Steakley’s Armor, a computer error leads to protagonist Felix being sent to the same planet again and again to fight the same endless horde of insectoid aliens. Similar only in that both novels contain soldiers in powered armor fighting buglike aliens, Armor focuses on the effects of warfare upon the individual rather than using the war as a platform for discussing other issues.
Dude invents teleporter. Dude accidentally teleports himself and a fly at the same time, and dude ends up degenerating into a half-man/half-fly monster as a result. By the end of the film, he’s vomiting on his own food to dissolve it before he can eat it. What’s not to like?
Oh, yes, it’s also a warning about messing with technology.
Alien & Aliens
- Colonial marines
- Aliens (thank you, HR Giger!)
- Sigourney Weaver in an exo-suit delivering a beatdown
Need I say more?
Doctor Octagon – Aliens (Sub Focus Remix) | download
The sandworms of Arrakis are the source of the fictional drug ‘spice’ in Frank Herbert‘s Dune. The larval form of the sandworm excrete the near-mystical substance, which when taken by humans has a variety of effects: it can extend your lifespan, let you see the future, enable you to fold space in upon itself or turn you into a ninja.
While I’ve only managed to get through the first book (and that’s enough for me, thanks) it is an influential and important work. The Dune series is a monstrous entity, the original series having six books, which have been added to with a zillion sequels and prequels written by Frank Herbert’s son, a film by David Lynch, a handful of video games and a couple of television miniseries.
From Wikipedia (this bit’s for Ian):
Dune inspired the Iron Maiden song “To Tame A Land.” However, when songwriter Steve Harris requested permission from the author to name the song “Dune,” his request was met with a stern refusal — backed up with a legal threat — which noted that “Herbert doesn’t like rock bands, particularly heavy rock bands, and especially rock bands like Iron Maiden.” The song was renamed “To Tame a Land” and released in 1983.
David Cronenberg’s second entry on this list (the first being The Fly) could only be very loosely coined science fiction. In fact, it isn’t, being more of a surrealist romp through substance abuse and handjobs delivered to alien typewriters (yes, I said ‘alien typewriters’ – as Nelson Muntz said after viewing Naked Lunch: “I can think of at least two things wrong with that title”). But if I had to see it, so do you. I can’t UNwatch it!
I admit it’s worth watching, but you may not be the same person afterwards. Mentioning this film, however, gives me a chance to drop a killer track. “Bug Powder Dust” is based entirely upon Naked Lunch, containing many references to the film. The Kruder & Dorfmeister remix is a downtempo classic.