Keep Watching the Skies! (Or Not)

by Dr. Arlan Andrews, Sr.

Two weeks ago Paul Krugman, Nobel laureate economist, said that if the Earth experienced an alien invasion we would all pull together as in World War Two and take the right financial steps to counter the threat, thereby saving ourselves and rescuing us from our financial problems. (Overlooking, of course, the distinct possibility of our losing to an enemy even more inhuman than the Nazis.) And reminiscent of the 1950s “space brothers know best” movies, just last week some NASA scientists postulated that space aliens might come and exterminate the human race as “cosmic cockroaches” unless we took action against global warming. (Advanced aliens concerned about Earths melting ice caps might seem like a come-down, but who can tell with aliens?)

Looking to the Skies for Salvation

In times of trouble, human beings often turn to the sky for salvation. For ancient and medieval mankind, this usually meant prayers to God or gods. In the Twentieth Century, it often took the form of imaginative appeals for intervention by alien beings, creatures from other worlds who would come help us solve our problems, warn us against our transgressions, or even punish us for our potential sins. It seems now that in the Twenty-First Century, modern society is falling back into a similar mindset, with mainstream experts and scientists warning us of alien invasions.

On the verge of World War Two, as the Nazis and Imperial Japanese ravaged their neighborhoods on Planet Earth, uncertainties and fears gave rise to an interest in non-human aliens, most notably the controversial Orson Wells radio show, “War of the Worlds” on Halloween 1939, which thousands of listeners took to be a report of an actual invasion by Martians. At the same time, what is called “The Golden Age of Science Fiction” was in full swing, with authors such as Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein spinning tales of space creatures, rocket ships and the other staples of science fiction that are now iconic in all cultures around the world.

This turbulent and uncertain era culminated in the 1952 movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, which featured a galactic invader who came to warn us against atomic warfare, lest his benevolent advanced race chose to exterminate us all. At the same time, the horror movies “War of the Worlds”, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and “The Thing”, exemplified Cold War fears, with unfeeling aliens taking over our planet, or our bodies, or just feeding on us.

The More Things Change

It is fascinating now that in the Year 2011, we seem to be responding in the same way our grandparents did in the 1930s: Modern concerns of war, revolution, recession, global financial meltdown, unemployment and uncertainty about the future have generated a similar desire for help from the skies. Mainstream commentators, economists, entertainers and other experts have fallen back on the intervention of space aliens as a way out of earthly problems we have generated ourselves.

Popular television shows such as the History Channels “Ancient Aliens” propose that our civilization was guided by benevolent aliens sharing other-worldly technology in the past. Other fictional TV series such as “Falling Skies” and “The Event”, and the hit movie, “Cowboys and Aliens”, show nastier sides of possible space aliens and their non-human agendas.

Getting into the fear-and-fright act, the Discovery Channel recently showed “Alien Invasion”, with a decimated mankind fighting guerrilla-style against overwhelming alien technology (and winning!). Even the staid National Geographic Channel presented the threatening Alien Invasion: Are We Ready?” featuring science fiction authors, some who are colleagues of mine in SIGMA.

SIGMA comprises forty science fiction authors who provide pro bono futurism to the Federal government and appropriate NGOs. As professional writers who have spent our literary careers exploring the future over an extreme range of possibilities, we have brought a new way of thinking to some government officials. SIGMA members have consulted with many Federal agencies in recent years, most publicly the Department of Homeland Security, about innovative ideas for dealing with issues of national concern. We offer practical futurism for the benefit of the nation and humankind.

Down to Earth

But in all of our meetings and conferences with government officials and others, not once has SIGMA ever proposed an alien invasion – not as a possibility, not as a threat, not as a solution to planetary problems. We say that almost all our earthly problems are man-made, and almost all possible solutions will come from the human mind, spirit and will. More than likely, outer space aliens are not a threat, and most certainly are not our saviors.

But then, we are only science fiction writers. What would we know about aliens?

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