Challenge 324 Response:
Invasion from Outer Space
by Graham Storrs
with Don Webb
I enjoyed the Challenge questions, and your essay “Space Aliens as Metaphor.” It started me wondering how we might classify the invasion of Iraq using the same metaphors. Certainly the technological superiority of the Coalition of the Willing over the Iraqis was no greater than that in many fictional alien invasions, and the motivations of the invaders no more obscure.
Copyright © 2009 by Graham Storrs
Thank you, Graham. One never knows where things may lead, and the Challenges are intended to open doors.
“Space Aliens as Metaphor” classifies alien-invasion fiction as depicting struggles with war, disease, and environmental cataclysm. In terms of war, fiction has shown both sides: the victors and the vanquished.
Orson Welles’ adaptation of H. G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds takes the viewpoint of the vanquished in reflecting fear of Axis aggression. Likewise, the TV series V might be an analogy of occupied Europe in WW2: the female aliens are beautiful starlets dressed in costumes suggestive of a fascist bordello. However, the series became an implicit political protest by airing during the Vietnam era. The aliens have no technology that the subjugated Earthlings can’t turn against them, and they finally abandon a pointless and costly invasion.
I foresee that the Iraq war will not generate “resistance” stories like V; rather “covert ops’” series like The Unit will predominate along with a literature of cynicism depicting — or even constituting — corruption, deception and manipulation: the novel The Da Vinci Code comes to mind.
A reaction against exploitation can be found in the TV series Lie To Me, and a TV documentary reports that vocabulary analysis has revealed a marked decrease in truth-telling verbal patterns in public pronouncements made “at the highest level” while the Iraq invasion was being “sold” to the public.
From an Iraqi perspective, then, the conflict can be seen as a kind of space-alien proxy war of inscrutable intent. As for the Coalition, Joe Haldeman’s soldier hero of The Forever War, William Mandella, sums it up at one point: “Invaders from outer space, that’s us” — or words to that effect.
“Skyball” is an alien-invasion story told from the point of view of the vanquished, and the aliens themselves are invisible, even absent; the means of conquest is at the center of the story. Since the skyballs themselves are fatally addictive and therefore a form of poison, I have to classify “Skyball” as a “disease” story.
The interest lies in the dilemma posed by the futility of both religion and science: religion rationalizes the addiction, while, ironically, science can only call for outside help: Professor Lyle’s machine sends the scientist’s equivalent of a prayer to heaven.