For the Love of Fast Things and Loud Noises
This Independence Day, I found myself thinking about orks. Yes, orks. Specifically, the Warhammer 40,000 version of the beasts (what were once known as ‘Space Orks’) – loud, aggressive, blissfully ignorant, and incredibly, amazingly happy.
If you don’t know much about them, let me give you a brief overview:
Orks, in the 40k-verse, are an asexually reproducing bipedal race that was genetically engineered by somebody in the distant past to be the perfect warrior. They love fighting, they feel relatively little pain, they are partially photosynthetic, they regenerate lost limbs, and the more they fight, the bigger they get. Naturally, whoever created this species was promptly knocked over the head with a tire iron and his or her creations have been running amok for tens of thousands of years. Orks love loud noises, they love going fast (and fervently believe that things go faster when painted red), and enjoy nothing better than killing and pummelling all other creatures, including each other to a limited extent. In a world gone mad with war, the Orks are right at home. They lack any capacity for moral thought or deep introspection, they live for the moment, and they believe so firmly in reincarnation that death seems only distantly problematic. Even if their weapons malfunction (and they often do), or their ‘doctors’ do something awful to them instead of healing them (which is common), or they die a pointless and ignominious death (which is pretty standard), they maintain a positive attitude simply because they are unable to imagine a different attitude to have.
This brings me back to this past weekend, when people all over the city were lighting off explosions deep into the night. While I do like fireworks, there was a kind of obsessive, brutish compulsion surrounding this amateur display that made them more aggravating than celebratory. All the noise with none of the splendor – folks lighting off skyrockets amid apartment complexes and houses that would make it very difficult for even the launcher to full appreciate his handiwork. Then there were the M80s and the cherry bombs – all pop and no flash, and one wonders what the appeal is, exactly. All of this kept going until well past 2am. I found it hard to get to sleep as my city blew itself up around me for no discernible purpose. Had it been Independence Day itself, well, then it would be excusable, but this was the nights of the 5th and 6th. Show’s over, guys – go to sleep.
There is something inherently ‘orky’ about this behavior, and I don’t mean that in the negative sense. These people were deriving joy from destructive forces without bothering to consider the feelings of those around them trying to sleep. While that certainly is inconsiderate, it also belies a certain worldview that will keep them easily entertained and happy. The kind of person who enjoys gunning their motorcycle through a residential neighborhood at 11pm on a Tuesday is not the kind of person who is overly bothered by what others think of them. The kind of person who is excited when things are on fire is not the kind of person to overvalue possessions or to be bogged down with empathy for those suffering around them. Call them callous or selfish, but you can’t deny their sunny outlook on life. They probably sleep very soundly at night.
Depending on who you talk to, the world has one of two major problems: either everybody spends too much time following rules and worrying about the other guy, or everybody spends too much time ignoring the rules and pursuing their own agenda at the expense of the common population. This is civilization Vs barbarism, described in very broad strokes. Society vs the Individual. Truth be told, we need both things to be successful as a culture, as a society, and as a species. We need the Elves to get everything to work as it should, and we need the Orks to break down old conventions, hop on those noisy gyrocopters, and go throw firebombs in the streets to shake things up. You can’t worry about everything and be happy and, by the same token, you can’t screw everybody over and build a better world. If we want to do both things – be happy and build a better world – we need to learn to tap into the ork in each of us on occasion. We also need to find a way to understand when our neighbors do so, too.
So you wanna conquer the Earth?
There’s a lot of stories of alien invasion out there, from HG Wells on up to Battle for LA and probably a whole heap-load of cable TV shows and specials that I haven’t seen piled atop the dozens and dozens of ones I have. There was even a special on the Discovery Channel’s show ‘Curiosity’ that had experts discussing the ins and outs of what a likely alien invasion would look like.
All of it is a colossal bunch of nonsense.
Don’t get me wrong–I think those movies and books and such are great fun, it’s just they usually don’t make a whole lot of sense. The aliens are almost always caught holding the idiot ball and certain humans are perfectly defended by Plot Armor to the point where one really has to ask yourself: What were the aliens thinking?
Points in Case:
War of the Worlds
The Plan: Use Tripods and chemical weapons to gas/kill all humans before attempting to alter earth into a more suitable habitat.
Well, seeing how it was written around the turn of the 20th century, we have to cut HG Wells a little slack. We don’t have to cut the remakes as much, however, and the alien plan here is monstrously inefficient. Tripods are great weapons, but as tools of planetary conquest they are rather inefficient. How long, exactly, to those things expect to be wandering around the Earth before they kill every human? It’s going to take a damned long time, if it’s even possible at all. Also, they get wiped out by the flu? Guys, c’mon–it’s an alien planet. Seal up them tripods, will ya? Use Purell or something.
The Plan: Use massive flying saucers and overwhelming air power to obliterate all major human power centers, then (presumably) invade with ground forces en masse.
You know, not actually such a terrible plan. Of course, it is going to be massively costly for the aliens themselves (as every air war we’ve ever fought has told us, air power only goes so far), but they’d probably win.
Oh, wait–I forgot that Jeff Goldblum has a Macbook Pro. Shit. They’re screwed. (how is it that the Macs are compatible with the alien mothership again? They weren’t compatible with anything here on Earth at the time, soooo…)
The Plan: Sneak around naked and scare children. Then, when everybody’s freaked out, use short-range nerve gas dispensers to kill the people. Avoid squirt guns, lakes, pools, sprinkler systems, human tears, blood, etc….
Three words for this plan: What. The. Fuck.
Stupidest alien invasion ever. Seriously, what were they thinking? Was the alien high command sitting around and saying ‘Hey, Bill, that planet over there–you know, the one comprised almost entirely of deadly poison–what say we invade while naked. Sounds fun, no?’
Also, aliens who can traverse the void of space didn’t think to bring a power drill to remove cellar doors? Seriously? Did they do any recon at all, or did they just jump in blind? Gallipoli was better planned than this nonsense.
The Plan: Act all friendly to human kind and gradually draw them into a fascist regime with you guys as leaders. Kill off rebels slowly and quietly to avoid fuss.
Pretty good plan, actually, and it mostly worked. Of course, it went the way all fascist dictatorships go–down the tubes. There’s only so long lizard people in masks can rule a place before everybody hates them enough to overthrow them. Look at Lybia.
Don’t get me started on the reboot of V. That show made so little sense that I’m still trying to figure out if their plan was only dumb or both dumb and logically inconsistent.
How to do it Right
If you are a super-advanced alien species who’s eyeing Earth, there is probably a much more efficient way to handle humanity than depicted in the movies. The challenges of taking on the whole human race sprawled across the entire planet are pretty significant. Conventional warfare–attacking with tripods, flying saucers, raygun-infantry, etc.., is going to be really costly and take a long, long time, no matter how awesome your technology is. There are easier ways, folks. Mostly, how you go about handling things is largely dependent upon what you’re there to do. I think all purposes for invasion fall under a couple basic categories: Resources, Colonization, Conquest, and Genocide.
Ah, the Earth is a beautiful jewel in the vastness of space, filled with plentiful resources your species needs to survive and/or get rich. But how to get them? Here are some simple, practical ideas:
1) Buy Them: Granted it doesn’t make a precisely riveting movie, but why not just buy the stuff you want from unscrupulous human businessmen? Surely you have something they need and, chances are, the stupid humans aren’t going to realize the value of their algae/seawater/topsoil/bacteria anyway. Make a deal. Dump a thousand tons of gold in their backyard that you harvested off some airless rock somewhere and make a killing. Give them the formula for transparent aluminum, for crying out loud–does it really matter? The idiots are going to blow themselves up in a few decades anyway.
2) Steal it: This may come as a shock to you, Alien High Command, but most of planet Earth isn’t watching the stars for invaders. You could probably sneak on down to somewhere in Siberia, build a mine, suck whatever you need out of the ground, and be gone before anybody knew any better. You could probably do this over and over again, actually, and never get nabbed.
Yeah, the Earth looks like a pretty good place to live. Beats the depths of the void, at any rate, and you need somewhere to flop. Contrary to popular alien belief, however, you really don’t need to kill all the humans to do this. It’s pretty simple, really. Just do the following:
Step 1: Blow up something big and important. Cut Italy in half. Blow up New York…the state, not the city. Cover Africa in darkness for a week. Make it rain in the Sahara.
Step 2: Announce your demands to the UN. You plan on moving into central Australia and staying there as long as you damn well please. Anybody have a problem with that, and threaten to make Pangea a reality again.
Step 3: Set up shop and play the diplomacy game like everybody else, except this time you are the only folks with rayguns and orbital bombardment capabilities.
How do we know this works? Well, the Romans did it–over and over and over and over. Worked every time. Soon as you start giving the earthlings your firewater, universal vaccines, and hyperspace viaducts, why are they going to complain? If they do, you blow up their holy sites–simple, see?
A little more intensive than Colonization. You don’t so much want to live on Earth as subjugate it to your will. Whether or not you stay really depends on how many slaves the humans can provide you with. Now, the above method for colonization should probably work fine in this instance. Barring that, however, you can try this:
1) Wholesale kidnapping: You’ve got spaceships, teleporters, tractor beams, etc.–how hard is it, really, to get yourself some human slaves? Beam them up, Scotty, then take off.
2) Genetic tampering: Some clever nanotechnology, perhaps some unique biological compounds intoduced into public drinking supplies, and bam–a very suggestible human race. You just need a little patience.
Say you just don’t plain old like human beings. You want the bastards dead. Well, stop futzing around and just do it, already. You don’t need to use flying saucers (well, at least not in the atmosphere), and you probably don’t even need nukes (though you probably have access to them or their equivalents in spades). Divert an asteroid, watch Bruce Willis and his buddies screw up royally in their ham-handed attempt to stop it, and watch the fireworks. Done and done.
If that fails, try controlling the weather.
See, conquering the Earth isn’t that hard. What’s your excuse, Ming the Merciless? Flash? They guy doesn’t even wear a shirt! C’mon!