Monday, November 15, 2010

The Conversation

Ah, space aliens: the topic de jour for Hollywood and the bane of the reasonable world.

Let’s start in Denver where, not surprisingly, voters overwhelmingly defeated a ballot proposition to form an extraterrestrial affairs committee. What’s interesting is a Google search of the results. You’d figure there would be more Denver news sources covering the results of the vote and yet there are few to be found online. It’s clear that Denver was doing its best not to look silly.

The mere fact that supporters of the measure managed to get the ballot initiative to a vote is pretty impressive. It raised the issue in a way that it had not been considered before: a civic response to the possibility of extraterrestrial contact. Most people would probably agree that the challenge is perhaps a little larger than one city could handle. But hey, if the United Nations doesn’t want to tackle the issue, why not Denver?

Hollywood, meanwhile, revels in the silly. “Skyline” is about to come crashing into movie theaters with the well worn H.G. Wells and “Independence Day” theme of fighting back against marauding space aliens. A new movie will tie in an alien conspiracy with an imagined “Apollo 18” mission. And Blair Underwood is trying his best to portray a realistic President of the United States in the TV show “The Event.” His mission: figure out how to handle extraterrestrials that have been in U.S. custody for decades

What does all this say? We enjoy our space aliens in fiction and simply do not have time to deal with them in reality. It’s perfectly understandable. We have huge challenges to deal with in global economic, environmental and political arenas. The good people of Denver are trying to pull themselves out of the nationwide recession and everyone is trying to keep Iran from building nuclear weapons. It’s fine if we want to amuse ourselves at the movie theater, but please don’t spend any real time or money on the issue of extraterrestrial First Contact.

I think the discussion is good and the reaction of the sober masses quite logical. However, Hollywood needs to move the conversation forward. Movies like Skyline continue to cannibalize plot lines that have around for 112 years. Can’t we come up with new ideas? Can’t we examine new possibilities? There are plenty of writers considering more realistic views of First Contact: Seth Shostak, Paul Davies and Michael Michaud have all written excellent books in recent years. It’s time that Hollywood stole a few ideas from the scientific community and envision First Contact in a creative and thoughtful light. Then perhaps, with help from the popular media, the wider global community can begin to consider extraterrestrial First Contact in a reasonable fashion.

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