by C. M. Albrecht
I enjoy a sci-fi movie as much as the next guy. Only too often the sci-fi merges with complete fantasy. That’s okay too, in many instances, but my complaint is with what is supposed to be a sci-fi film based upon real (read: likely, as opposed to utterly fantastic) possibilities.
Example: I recently saw an alien-comes-to-earth movie. And he didn’t come in peace. Okay, but then the alien turns out to look something like a giant black lobster combined with someone’s drug-induced nightmare.
What’s wrong with that you may ask. Well, the thing is, an alien, to get here in a sophisticated vessel of some sort, must be pretty intelligent and capable. That’s where the problem comes in.
Dolphins are said to be extremely intelligent. Maybe they are, but can a dolphin ever chip out an arrow head, tie a rock on a stick and create a club? Of course not. If he can’t do that, there’s no way he could ever construct a spaceship. He has no hands. A giant black lobster might look very menacing, but with those big awkward pincers what can he do beyond scaring the daylights out of civilians who run into him. Well, he can kill them, but I’m talking about doing something constructive.
I realize that out in the universe anything is possible. There may well be intelligent lobsters running around. Maybe throughout the ages their claws have morphed into hands. But if they haven’t, I don’t think those lobsters will even be able to build a Yugo let alone an interstellar spacecraft.
I’ve given the matter some thought and have come to the conclusion that for any form of life to get anyplace, it must not only develop a certain amount of intelligence, but it also needs a means of using that intelligence. To me there are only two methods available (to life as we know it). One is to use mental power. That’s good in sci-fi, and legitimate, because it’s within the realm of possibility that at some future point in time, even humble man may be able to do this. The other method is to have a means of constructing things, putting things together. Hands is the obvious choice. I’ve seen people who can use their feet as adroitly as most of us use our hands. Tentacles may be adapted to this purpose. The elephant’s trunk is pretty handy, but clumsy when it comes to assembling computer chips in Asia.
So, while feet, tentacles and a prehensile nose all have possibilities, claws come in last on my scale. I seem to remember that John Campbell’s alien was a form of plant life that had become intelligent and adapted itself to movement so it wasn’t rooted in one spot. I imagine that’s quite possible. And the branches and twigs could doubtless be adapted to use as hands.
One of my favorite films is “Alien”. The idea of organic spacecraft had occurred to me many years earlier and I was pleased to see what could happen in such a situation. The actual alien was pretty awful, but at least he had something like hands that could do something, like seed and water the soil and grow a spaceship.
To wrap this up and get ready for dinner, I’d just like to ask writers to think about their alien monsters. They certainly don’t have to look like some form of human monster, (Hitler, Stalin, et al.), but I can’t see why nature even at its worst would create creatures with fanged mouths within fanged mouths within fanged mouths, even for a laugh.