Friday, July 6, 2012

The Alien Invasion Scenario

As kids, we love it. War of the Worlds, Independence Day, V, Robotech, Transformers, all the convoluted comic book cosmic storylines, it's pure candy. But by the time we start learning anything about science we realize it's bunk. Movies like Battle for LA and Skyline drive that point home with their earnest ridiculousness. There's no reason for them to come here. If there is a reason, they're likely to be so advanced that we won't even realize we're in danger until we're dead.  The Screwfly Solution is the ultimate alien invasion story. Of course, having told you that gives away the ending but it's a short story, a quick read and worth your time if you haven't read it. 

There is, however, a scenario that gives us a proper alien invasion we can fight against, even win, though there are darker implications. 

The first wave of invaders catches Earth unawares. We are pressed hard but somehow, fortuitously, the aliens can be engaged and defeated by our weapons. They drop rocks on a few large targets and then deploy troops with a large fleet of landing ships, fighting on land. This is the Martian scenario straight out of HG Wells but our tech is sufficient to fight them to defeat. They may have higher technology but we have them outnumbered and, by Jove, our fighting spirit is second to none! 

We win, pat ourselves on the back, and start rebuilding while our scientists reverse engineer the alien technology. 

And here comes a second wave of invaders, somehow spaced just far enough apart for us to have created a united planetary defense force, integrate the new weapons technology, and bring hundreds of divisions online. Our blaster tanks are supplemented with mobile infantry suits and antimatter bombs and other scifi pew-pew. 

We win. And there's another interbellum period. Research, refit, rearm. We're now deploying space forces and can confront the enemy on the high frontier. Another invasion. 

We won. And now we're adapting alien bioengineering technology to change ourselves, to create human warriors. We're accelerating AI research to create the first conscious machines. And humanity will triumph again! The propaganda reassures us of how wonderful we are, how perfect, how we represent such a threat to the universe that aliens cross the stars to confront us. 

Does anything about this strike you as artificial? Certainly it does to some of the top military theorists. The threats are enough to challenge us but never quite destroy us. It is a selection pressure and we are changing under its influence. These alien threats fit neatly into our conventional science fiction fears, as if ripped from our subconscious. These aliens appear to be constructs. And where are the true aliens? What are they? Is the vast, inhuman intelligence sitting out in the Oort cloud, fabricating the next threat? Our world is a Petri dish, we are the culture, the unknown intelligence the experimenter. What are they shaping us into and why? 

And the alarm sounds. The next invasion has begun. To the ramparts! To the ramparts! 


  1. Oh, what you and the link say are very likely. All I propose here is a scenario that gives us (the audience) what we want with a suitable "be careful what you ask for" implied at the end. In the apes and angels question, we are most decidedly the apes and the aliens at work are clearly not the invaders we are pluckily defeating.

    No answer should ever be given in the story, obviously, but my guess is an alien intelligence is providing the selection pressure to bring our development along to the point where we will be someone new worth talking to, give or take a gigayear

  2. Stupid edit screen froze. Anyway, the only other invasion scenario that looked good was the War Agianst the Chtorr which was an alien ecosystem trying to terraform Earth. It might not even be conscious of what it's doing and we are fighting our asses off. Technically, King's Mist gives us the same scenario by different means.

  3. Good scenario for a novel/short story! As I see it, they are trying to create a warrior species. Maybe they are confronted to an enemy so dangerous that creating and unleashing a berserker civilisation is a better choice than anything they could come up with, for example. Or maybe they have no hope of surviving whatever is attacking them, but they want to give us a chance.
    But as you sad, it's better to leave it to the interpretation of the reader.

    Of course, we can still have the good old 'cousin species' as the invading alien, like in your Star Trek re-imagining. But this one is more interesting (in the Chinese sense, at least).

    I had to mess with the Screwfly solution CSS to read it, as it was half on the white and half on the blue part...
    Interesting idea, otherwise, a little bit too dark for my tastes, though. And I'm under the impression that the aliens worked on more than one level, given the apathy of the varied governments against this threat, and the way people joyously jumped at it, despite it clearly not being part of the airborne agent (the hero tries his best to resist it instead).

    Interesting link, Thucydides. The "and so shall we" evokes me potential narratives...

  4. The very first idea i had was trying to train up a warrior race but that's pretty pulp in the first place. My preferred theory at the moment is that this is a different take on the 2001 Monolith. Instead of zapping the brain to make us smarter, it's engaging us in the language we understand best, pew-pew.

    Of course, this kind of provolve approach has been done before. I think it was a Clarke story -- human astronauts find an alien building filled with rooms. As they move through each room they are shown lessons about this and that while also being mentally enhanced. By the time they come out the other end they are ready to become enlightened energy beings and shed the mortal chrysalis.

    Anyway, that's a working theory and I'm not convinced it's the best. If it's left open-ended, I'm sure someone will come up with a far better idea than that and I can sagely nod and say "You are very perceptive" while making note of what they said. :)

  5. "We won. And now we're adapting alien bioengineering technology to change ourselves, to create human warriors. We're accelerating AI research to create the first conscious machines."

    And surprise, we're our own aliens.

  6. Cthulhu, you have probably solved Jolly's problem from the previous thread. Now *we* have created a post apocalyptic post human warrior race, and they are going to wipe the floor with us to get the resources they need to continue the war.

    Unfortunately, the Aliens "neglected" to leave the secret of FTL travel among the detritus of war, so now we are trapped in the solar system with these Berserker/Sauron/Ubermench supersoldiers...

    Even the "so shall we" ending of the link at the top of the page is more a testament to the second law of thermodynamics than anything else; it may take too much energy and resources to hunt down every last living human; it may simply be enough to scatter the people into tiny nomadic bands and wait for them to become extinct on their own...

  7. There are some thoughts here. I'll throw them into another post.

  8. I have another post on human vs. transhuman, needs some revising before it's ready.