Friday, August 03, 2007

Alien Evolution


OK, here are some of my thoughts on the alien evolution concept.

Some well developed ones: The “Predator” works because of the care taken in developing the physiology and the society. Especially nice is the fact that they see heat signatures. The suggestion is that they evolved under a hotter sun than humans. It also suggests a reptilian background, since a number of reptiles have this capability.

Problems: They are SO humanoid. They also have a society based pretty clearly on some savage human societies. Head hunters and warrior societies. This does clearly suggest a predatory evolution for them, which is a nice touch.

Alien, from the Alien movies. An excellent one because time was spent developing this elaborate life cycle, which is not unlike that of quite a few insects. They have insect and reptilian characteristics. It’s interesting that the eggs are soft rather than hard, which really suggests early evolving reptiles on earth.

Problems: Although quite a few insects make internal toxins and even release these into the atmosphere, the acidic blood is a little too corrosive. Eating through the kind of metal used to make spaceships would be quite a feat. Also, the growth rate of the alien in the first movie is too extreme. Growth rates can be high for some insects, and even for fish and birds, but nutrients are needed. You only get out what you put in.

The Thing: John Carpenter’s version. I really like this alien. It’s a cool enemy. But I have to think it’s pretty unrealistic. Plenty of one celled organisms grow by absorbing other cells, and the “Thing” is supposed to be like a collection of cells. Mimicry is also very common in evolution and the Thing is an extreme extension of that. However, knowing how complex the human brain is, and how complex the cell structures are in a human, I can’t imagine an organism that could assimilate so perfectly in such a short period of time and be absolutely believable as the person it assimilated. It’s still cool, though.

Some bad aliens: The “Space Herpes” from Ice Pirates. Clearly this was meant to be a take-off on the Chest burster scene from alien but I didn’t think it worked. Or that it was even funny.

From Buck Rogers, the TV series. Hawk is descended from a bird-like species. His only connection is, apparently, that he has feathers on his head instead of hair. Minor “cosmetic” changes to a human are Not Good Enough. Quite a few Star Trek aliens fall into this category. The Borg are intriguing, though.

From books? I thought ERB having the human-type Barsoomians lay eggs instead of bear live young was pretty weak. I love these books but the Human-egg-thing is definitely not an evolutionary likelihood.

15 comments:

Steve Malley said...

Let us also raise a toast to Star Trek:

From 'aliens are regular folks in body paint or fake ears' to 'aliens are regular folks with fake ears and some kind of nubbin on their foreheads'...

They came a long way, baby.

Lisa said...

I haven't read enough science fiction to have a good frame of reference, but I agree that aliens that resemble human seem kind of lame. Aren't there any stories that depict aliens as a form of intelligent energy that we can't see, maybe a vapor or liquid or intelligent bacteria, or something that lives in water like a fish or in ice, or that resembles electricity? I think that as imaginative as human beings can be, we have a blind spot when it comes to imagining alien cultures -- in the same way that we have a hard time imagining the image of a God. Just about every time, the alien or the God looks like us.

Charles Gramlich said...

Steve, ain't it so. LOL.

Lisa, Star trek did a couple of aliens of that stripe, gaseous or electrical. The THING from John Carpenter's movie is a collection of single cell organisms.

minus273 said...

Larry Niven's Ringworld series. Pierson's Puppeteers-3 legs arranged like a camera tripod-2 heads each with 1 eye-each head on top of a long slender flexable neck-terrified of everything in the known universe. Very far from humanoid.

minus273 said...

Oops, almost forgot. Puppeteers have 3 sexes so breeding is complicated too.

Sidney said...

There was an interesting episode of Buck Rogers that starred Mark Lenard of Star Trek fame. He was from a race that could detach their heads. I always thought that was kind of a cool touch, though generally I didn't care for the show.

Stewart Sternberg said...

I love these kinds of posts. I read recently that H.G. Wells actually wrote a sequel to War of the Worlds. Apparently in that little read novel the main character is convinced that the aliens have turned a ray on earth and are slowly mutating the humans to turn them into Martians. I think I need to go and find that book

the walking man said...

Not hating nor loving the Movie genre of aliens I have very little thoughts on creatures from other places but this one thing you said:

"Plenty of one celled organisms grow by absorbing other cells, and the “Thing” is supposed to be like a collection of cells. Mimicry is also very common in evolution and the Thing is an extreme extension of that. However, knowing how complex the human brain is, and how complex the cell structures are in a human, I can’t imagine an organism that could assimilate so perfectly in such a short period of time and be absolutely believable as the person it assimilated."

Made me think of cancer cells because that's what they do is kill non infected human cells for food eventually assimilating the human, the only problem in that scenario is the body it feeds off of eventually dies so I guess it does no good as an example.

Peace

TWM

Lucas Pederson said...

Was the movie Species anbout an alien? I can't remember. I do remember it was sort of strange.

I love the whole Predator concept. I've been a Predator fan for years. Although the second movie sucked monkey poo, in my opinion. I love the Alien Vs. Predator comics too. Their good for a cuckle or two.

I thought the idea in Stephen King's The Tommyknockers was a great one for aliens, eventhough the aliens themselves weren't much revealed it was the sense of their power, of their evil that made it fasinating for me. The book on a whol;e wasn't as grand as most of King's other work, but it was a good idea, nonetheless.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

My aunt had a chihua that bared its teeth like Alien. I loved the remake of THE THING because my guilty pleasure is a Kurt Russell film, even TANGO & CASH. The best alien of all is the giant turnip thing in IT CONQUERED THE WORLD. Hmnn, THE THING & CASH CONQUER THE WORLD. Get me rewrite, stat!

Charles Gramlich said...

minus, that's a good example. I'll have to use it.

Sid, I remember that episode. I typically only liked Colonel Deering in that series, and I think she fell for the guy who could detach his head in that episode.

Stewart, I never heard of that sequel. Keep us informed if you find it.

Mark, good point but the cancer doesn't assimulate and then continue both form and function of the original.

Lucas, I think with Species that it was about a being created by alien DNA. The second one did suck.

Wayne, I like Kurt Russell myself, even the wild 3000 miles to Graceland where he played an Elvis impersonator.

writtenwyrdd said...

Then there is the alien's are like us trend in the paranormal romance genre. Really bad.

Susan Miller said...

Man, I feel really out of my league here, because, of course, I am. In the spirit of "what the hell" I will say that I enjoyed the movie Contact with Jodie Foster. In that respect I'm always hoping that any other possible life forms will be more advanced and intelligent...and, subsequently, more benevolent.

Danny Tagalog said...

http://jp.youtube.com/watch?v=3Hv4q-Ry6AE

Borg documentary above!

Bret said...

Charles,

I've been thinking a bit about your Alien Evolution lecture... My question is this (and I'll admit to not having a strong enough background in this evolutionary biology to offer a strong backing to my argument).

Would the ability to read heat signatures develop on a hotter world than ours or a colder one? It seems to me that if everything is hot, having the ability to sense heat doesn't do much good. Granted, many desert species, especially reptiles sense heat, but it's also true that most are nocturnal, and temperatures in the desert plummet at night. In a cold environment, the ability to read a heat signature would come in handy.

So I wonder if a predator like species wouldn't have developed on either a cold world, or a desert world, where they were forced to hunt at night. It would explain their heat vision and their weak eyesight.