I’ve wondered if the history of science fiction aliens is actually a reflection of the history of immigration. And the Fantasy journey, is that not just a long migration looking for a “home” made by wandering, often restless characters, sojourning here and there. There is a long history of the association of immigrants and aliens and science fiction/fantasy. Being an immigrant, I can feel the resonance now more than ever before: the quest to get to some other place, the endless traveling, the passing through towns–that fantasy quest part, and also the outsider/alien that science fiction loves to cast in the starring role–the uncomfortable character facing crowds of others who are “alike” or who have something in common , or the invading horde of “aliens” taking away our lives, changing our culture, threatening our identities–and surprisingly bonding those who used to think they were so different into a “same” so there can be a common villain in the “Alien.”
Not that everyone takes a negative view of “aliens”—E.T. is simply a lost anthropologist/researcher, and Close Encounters is a giant Cultural Exchange Program (we take some of yours, you take some of ours…).
A few nights ago, me and some Clarionites (go CLARION SAN DIEGO, 2007) were talking about the lone-status of “aliens” in Star Trek, a time and series which touted such huge cultural exchanges between species, but we often saw only one of any particular race in Starfleet. One Ferengi (Nog), one Klingon (Worf), two trills (Judzia and Ezri–and them only one at a time, sharing the same symbiant), one Betazed (Troi), one from Tasha Yar’s planet (Tasha), one Vulcan at a time (Spock and then Tuvok), one changeling (not in starfleet, but still alone), one hologram, one android. These are planets full of people all mixing together and in the 24th Century we are still having problems understanding other cultures, still having problems seeing whole mixes of populations in Starfleet, on ships, etc.
Yes, the storylines reflect where we are in relation to aliens. We are seeking to understand them one person at a time–we concentrate on the loneliness of the immigrant adapting to all the human (white) people on the Enterprise or Voyager. But they don’t reflect the movement towards globalization that even today we are experiencing–where populations have a wider diversity, where there is no singular pure population in many places that reflect ONE culture. Star Trek may have cured poverty, cured all illness, solved political rifts, but they cannot conquer “alienation.” They only underline and reflect how essential alienation is to science fiction…it probes the human spirit as outcast, alone, different.
As authors are we trying to make all the Others familiar? Or do we just identify with those outcast “aliens”, those that were not born somewhere, but who live there anyway? What is the relationship between chronicling the journey of an immigrant and the journeys of our science fictional/fantastical outcasts?
I don’t know. I just know that it’s interesting that in a future of an endless universe with endless cultures and repeated exploration, there remains the story of movement through strange lands with strangers all around us who see us, too, as strange. It’s as if, as authors, we must tell an immigrant story.