“Bugs, Mr. Rico. Zillions of em!”
Just imagine it: it is a lovely sunny day when all of a sudden it goes dark as a cloud of alien bugs fills the sky descending down towards the earth. Or an army of insects erupt from the ground, spilling out from the crevices completely obscuring the earth beneath them. What do you do then? How do you deal with an enemy you cannot reason with. Is brute force the only way? And how is this not an amazing basic premise?
I know I know. I said plant invasion is the one we should be preparing for. But one of the tropes I most enjoy in scifi is that of the non-humanoid enemy. It makes them harder to communicate with and relate to, and can provide really interesting plot lines. As you can probably tell from the title of this post I think that bug style aliens are awesome. My two favorite examples of this are in Starship Troopers and Ender’s Game.
Neil DeGrasse Tyson has often criticized science fiction for having a lack of imagination when it comes to the presentation of aliens, in that we generally depict them all as basically humanoid. We give them faces with two eyes and a nose between the eyes and the mouth, and stand upright with similar torsos. But assuming aliens evolved on a separate world with separate environmental concerns, why would they evolve to look like us? (kudos to Star Trek The Original Series for including an awesome silicon-based life form though.)
So why do I like bugs so much? It isn’t just because I hate mosquitos and this is my way of seeking revenge. No it is because, as I briefly mentioned earlier, they provide a whole new set of issues. A completely different hierarchical structure – plus the issues in dealing with creatures with hive-minds, difficulties in communication – to the point that it is near impossible to discern motive, a big point in Ender’s Game, and movement away from a humanoid-centric view of the universe.
Now I realize that this is not the most sophisticated of analyses, but whatever. I think it puts the characters in interesting positions. What do you do when diplomacy is not an option? Is war the only option? And it total annihilation the only end game in an arms race? Also how does not being able to put a name and a personality on an enemy affect how the characters relate to the conflicts?
I would love for there to be more movies, tv shows, and stories in general that play with the idea of non-human enemies and how we rise to the occasion. What do you all think?
Bugs. Zillions of them. Now that is a terrifying thought.