Alien Invasions | The Writers’ Room Podcast | Episode 309
In honor of NEW Independence Day: Resurgence, in theaters June 24, the Writers’ Room talks alien invasions this week. The OG installment came out in 1996 and told the tale of an ensemble of people who participate in the final human counterattack against an invading alien force on July 4, our new Independence Day.
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ID4 seized upon a public appetite for a specific type of story: the alien invasion. The alien invasion is a well-loved genre in science fiction and film, in which extraterrestrial entities invade Earth either to exterminate human life, enslave us in order to harvest humans for food, similarly use the planet’s resources, or destroy everything altogether.
Historically, the invasion scenario has stood as a way to play out fears about military domination and what comes in its wake. H.G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds was the first to make cultural waves in this way, especially after Orson Welles’ radio broadcast of the short story caused widespread panic due to listeners believing it to be real. Talk about seizing on public fears.
The trappings of the story vary with current world news and the fears specific to those events. Alien invasion as a storytelling device flourished during the Cold War, for example, because it could play out the fears of the other, the Soviets, and anxieties about occupation and nuclear devastation. See: The Invasion of the Body Snatchers from 1956.
In these stories, the aliens tend to either observe (often via experiments a la The X Files) or invade, rather than help the people of Earth to join a greater cosmological pantheon. The rare exception sees alien-initiated first contact in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951 and Keanu flavored versions), or our favorite, Vulcan contact from 1996’s Star Trek: First Contact (though this happens after a failed invasion by the Borg, small details). In both cases, aliens visit Earth only after noticing that its inhabitants have attained the threshold of nuclear weapons combined with advancing space travel – typically this is the one-two punch that gets us extraterrestrial attention.
Not to discount earthlings in all this – there is a subgenre dedicated to invasion of an alien species told from the perspective of the aliens, in which humans are the aliens. These are fun to explore as well, check out The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury and the 2011 movie Mars Needs Moms.
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