Friday Five: 15 Aliens We Admire
Friday, July 29, 2011
If Friday Five has taught the Pornokitsch hamsters (us) anything, it's this: we really, really like monsters. We spent days agonzing about our morally ambiguous characters last week, but this time around we decided on a subject and had our lists written out within about half an hour.
And our subject? Aliens.
Our choices span universes. Be sure to land a few of your favorites in the comments.
I could use this to write about the five most likeable or amusing aliens, but then I'd just end up talking about the Doctor and Alf, and where's the fun in that? So here are my five favourite alien aliens:
Nicholas Fisk's books were weird. In Trillions, a shower of crystals land on a British seaside town, and they want... well, no one quite knows. They mimic what they see, but they're so truly alien that understanding them seems impossible. How cool is that? And all in a kids' book that can't have been more than 150 pages long.
Talking of cool, when I was around eleven and reading Trillions, I thought first contact with an alien race would be the greatest thing ever. Then I grew up and watched Alien. They look like they come from another planet, they move like they come from another planet, and they want to IMPLANT THEIR ACID-DRIPPING BABIES IN US! I rest my case.
Even in literature, humanoid aliens often feel a bit too human. The Ortheans of Mary Gentle's Golden Witchbreed had recognisable emotions and motivations, but a culture that was fully worked out and interestingly different – the product of an alien race that only differentiates into male and female at puberty. Clearly Ursula K Le Guin's brilliant The Left Hand of Darkness was an inspiration, but Orthe has always been the one that stuck in my mind.
If SF authors are to be believed, the universe is littered with the remnants of long-departed super-powerful civilisations. Andre Norton's Forerunners were the first example of this I ever read and they've remained my personal favourite of Those Who Came Before and Left Only Mysterious Ruins Behind.
Yes, I know Avatar was just Dances with Blue Skinny People, and the Na'vi are yet another example of alien noble savages, but I loved Pandora. The amazing spectacle of its alien ecosystem was what I dreamed of seeing when I was a girl reading Andrew Norton and Nicholas Fisk in her local library, and for that I'll forgive Avatar almost anything.
The early issues of the 1987 run of Silver Surfer (Steve Engelhart FTW) are some of my favourite comics. Surfer went from a geeky nuisance with a fat head to a proper superhero. Surfer got cosmic and battled real, proper galactic threats like the Elders of the Universe and the Celestials and Ego the Living Planet.
Erlik: Speaking of living planets, in possibly Robert Chambers' un-finest hour, he created Erlik, The Dark Star. In the eponymous book, it is never fully explained what, how or why Erlik is, but the fragments of description make him out to be an enormous sentient rock with eeeeeeevil radiation. I've always envisioned him looking a bit like the big blob of space evil from The Fifth Element.
Zeistians: Nothing irritates a Highlander fan like pretending Highlander 2: The Quickening is part of the canon. According to the horror that is this movie, the immortals are really exiles from the Planet Zeist. Connor MacLeod is a Zeister, as is his foe, the Evil General Katana. I'm not sure what the planetary conditions could have been to evolve a sentient race that can only be killed through decapitation, but, whatever. That's the way it is written, so it is obviously true.
Vashta Nerada: Microscopic library piranha. Definitely the best alien in all of Who, and something I wish I had - they could protect my books from spine-breakers and doodlers.
Jawas: At heart, I'm a classicist. They're adorable robed scavengers that make meeping noises. Brilliance across the board.
Coeurl, AE van Vogt: He's smart, he's hungry, he looks like a big cat, and he just wants to eat some people and go find a new planet. I first read Space Beagle when I was eight or nine, and Coeurl has always stuck with me. I think I took the wrong message away from the Coeurl episode, however, as I spent the rest of the book loathing the human characters. Because, y'know, they killed Coeurl.
The Colour out of Space, HP Lovecraft: Bar none, "The Colour out of Space" is my favorite Lovecraft story. I've read it a million times and it never fails to give me the heebie-jeebies. The enormous, tasteless plants! The trees that move on windless nights! The mutant animals! The creeping boundaries of the blasted heath! The dust. The colour is just about the best bad guy around. And it's still out there. Waiting.
The Thread, Anne McCaffrey. I've mentioned them before and I'll mention them again: they're seriously fucked up. The Thread are evil wormy spoor things that rain down on the planet from a nearby moon and eat everything - plants, animals and, of course, humans - unlucky enough to be caught in the deluge.
Chewbacca, Star Wars: He's enormous and shaggy and loyal and smart and very good at his job, and doesn't he look like he'd be nice to hug? (Yes. Yes he does.)
Ford Prefect, Douglas Adams: I always had a bit of a crush on Ford.