The issue was bound to come up once people started writing science fiction stories. You’ve got humans, you’ve got aliens, you’ve got robots–put them together in a dark room without parental supervision and you get…
It’s revolting, it’s fascinating, it’s gooey, it’s radioactive…It’s alien love!
If you’re looking for a catalog of science-fiction’s multitudinous approaches to alien love, Star Trek is a great place to start, if only to learn the dimensions of the playing field. In this respect, the series in its various incarnations has fulfilled its promise to “Boldly Go Where No Man/One Has Gone Before.” Star Trek has explored inter-racial love, inter-species love, human-robot love, robotic procreation, human-vaporous entity love, homosexuality, transgenderism, male pregnancy, virgin birth, pheremone-driven sexual attraction, drug-enhanced sexual attraction…the list goes on. Human-alien hybrids and cyborgs are routine fare. Sometimes the intent is titillation (sex sells, after all), sometimes it’s simple curiosity (How would they…er, could they?), and sometimes it’s used as a metaphor for a question that’s central to the genre:
“What happens when we embrace the Other?”
The Other is anything that isn’t us. Someone of the opposite sex, or a different race, or another culture. Maybe it’s a new idea or a different way of interpreting the world. We might confront the Other when we move to the opposite side of the globe, walk across to the opposite side of the street, or face someone on the opposite side of a sales counter. What will happen?
1. The Other might expand our perceptions in ways we never thought possible, and together, we’ll create something new and wonderful.
2. The Other might reveal our worst prejudices and motivations.
3. The Other might engage us in battle.
4. The Other might consume us…or worse.
Star Trek is hopeful, by and large, so it prefers Option 1. Embrace the Other, and you get hybrid vigor, synergy, a whole that’s more than the sum of its parts. You get Spock. You get Deanna Troi. You get B’Elanna Torres. You also get the Borg, which sort of kills my point, but…oh, wait. You still get Seven of Nine. Sigh. Happier now.
Thoughtful sci-fi might take us to Option 2, and we get to look at ourselves in the funhouse mirror of Alien Nation or District 9. The frontiers of our prejudices expand even as they remain fundamentally unchanged. We take alien refugees and do the sorts of things to them we’ve always done to immigrants until we get used to having them around. Who’s the monster now?
Action-oriented sci-fi often selects Option 3, which is a lot of fun, in a fast-food sort of way. It doesn’t stick with you, but it sure tastes good going down. Something like Mars Attacks. “Can’t we all just get along?” Well…no. As much as we’d like to share peace, love, and rock & roll with everybody, sometimes the Other just wants us dead.
The last option is the most disquieting. We fear embracing the Other means losing part or all of our identity. The Other makes us part of itself, changing us into something different, unrecognizable, as alien as it is. Something not…us. We see this expressed in stories like The Blob, The Thing, The Puppet Masters, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. And in the Bible.
Sure. In the story of Jesus, God turns the whole concept on its head. There’s more than a merger, there’s an Incarnation. God encapsulates Himself in humanity. The ultimate Other becomes one of us. He makes an unimaginable sacrifice, and it’s all because he loves us. Embracing that sacrifice involves the surrender of our will, but rather than losing our identity, we finally bring into reality who and what we’re meant to be. We become more ourselves–our true selves–than ever. The broken image of God we wear is repaired and renewed.
How’s that for alien love?