Alien Nations

Category: Alien Nation
Last article published: 22 March 2015
This is the 32nd post under this label
What do you do when a label was all about reviewing a certain show, and you've covered it all. And you don't have any of the tie-in comics or novels. You commit to a thought experiment like this one.

In Alien Nation (the film and then the TV series), alien refugees wash up on the "shores" of Los Angeles and years later, the police force gets its first alien cop. A story of integration where the aliens stand for any minority group, but their aliens mores and biology gives the buddy cop formula an entertaining sci-fi twist. But how would the idea play in other genres? I haven't seen Bright because it's reputed to be both terrible and offensive, but that movie is essentially Alien Nation with Orcs. Sword & Sorcery meets the real world (a few year later, it would be Shadowrun), so that's one we already have, for good or ill.

Other ideas?

For superheroes, we might look at Wild Cards' Jokertown as a model, but comics have also used echoes of this idea. We might thing of Asgard landing in the American Midwest, or New Krypton, or Sub Diego. Just rifle through the super-powered races of any big comic book universe and you'll find lots of potential "refugees", be they Deviants, Atlanteans, Subterraneans, or Durlans. Or make it a veteran's story, with highly modified cyborgs or super-soldiers returning from the war and having a hard time finding their place in civilian life (the Underground RPG).

Horror might yield results too. What if ghosts were refugees from the Astral Plane and a city opened its gates wide? An Arkham or a Salem might have the proper feel. These ghosts get jobs, their own neighborhoods, and a dose of undeadism from the living population who complains on talk radio about the chains rattling in the night. Television's iZombie kind of tries to do that with zombies.

What about historical stories? Could we engineer a story where a tribe of Native Americans are successfully integrated into a frontier town in the Old West? What about a great disaster in Medieval Europe bringing Europeans and the threat of plague to dynastic China? What if we took a Colonial story and turned it on its head, with either the Third World knocking at the door some time in the past, or the white colonists fleeing from something and asking for sanctuary instead of taking land by force? Potentially dangerous ground for writers or role-players, but if done right... The problem is that the "aliens" are perhaps too close to what's already there, so the better idea might use time travel, and the refugees from another era and culture entirely. Or else do the whole aliens/monsters thing, but in a western, samurai, Imperial Rome, etc. context.

And of course, that's Alien Nation's formula, the one that means to explore alienation on both sides. If the film or show were made today, the Syrian situation might inform the plot with Newcomers being denied entry instead of integrated. How would that play out? Or darker still, what's happening with immigrants today, reflecting a mirror back at Western countries where the "aliens" are brutalized in the absence of any way to send them back where they came from. While we can think in terms of other genres, science fiction's lens makes us see our own world from a different angle, and better understand it. So a revival would most definitely use elements of how "the other" is treated in contemporary society. And it's sickening that in many communities, that's actually worse than it was in the 90s when the original show was produced.


Radagast said...

"What about a great disaster in Medieval Europe bringing Europeans and the threat of plague to dynastic China?"

I've actually read a story along those lines - it's the 19th century, only Victoria's Britain heeds the warning signs, and they up sticks to India. The story itself is set some time later.

S.M. Stirling's novel 'the Peshawar Lancers'.


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