Dec 12, 2015

Guardian Alien

Cover art by Richard Powers. Click image to enlarge.
I'm writing this blog post the weekend before Syfy's "adaptation" of Childhood's End arrives on the small screen. In August I put on hold my Search for Interesting Hollywood Aliens so that I could wait for Childhood's End to be televised. I have no real hope that anyone in Hollywood will depict interesting aliens in Childhood's End or any other 2015 production, but I must wait and see.

I've previously blogged about  Childhood's End. I've read several of Clarke's novels and I've been heavily influenced by his ideas, but I've never read Childhood's End. Well, in the interest of full disclosure, it is probably better to say that I never paid for a copy of Childhood's End. I never kept track, but I've probably read a significant portion of Childhood's End while standing in book stores, wondering if I should buy and read the novel.

Mysterious Motivations.
My reluctance to sit down and read Childhood's End stems from the same misgivings that Clarke himself had about the story. After writing the story, he had doubts about trying to pass off a story about paranormal "mental powers" as science fiction. At a very young age I read Clarke's "The Nine Billion Names of God". Along with stories such as "Baby is Three", "The Nine Billion Names of God" turned me off from paranormal fiction.

Too alien?
From a very young age, my preferences were clearly in the domain of science-based "hard science fiction". I'll gladly take a story such as The City and the Stars or Rendezvous with Rama over paranormal fiction.

Guardian Aliens
Home sweet home.
One solution to the Fermi Paradox is that human-like species such as we humans are all quickly assimilated into a vast interstellar culture of life forms that have transcended physical existence as we know it. This is a difficult approach to the Fermi Paradox and science fiction story writing because of the challenge of depicting "transcendent" life forms and successfully getting readers to relate their human lives to such god-like beings. Particularly in the United States, depicting God as a space alien is likely to enrage a fraction of the population and be bad for bu$$ine$$.

Clarke made an interesting choice in many of his stories from Childhood's End to Rendezvous with Rama and 2001. The space aliens often remain "off stage" since they are too alien for we primitive humans to even "see" or understand. In order to have a story, there must be some intermediary between the transcendent space aliens and we primitive Earthlings.

Guardian Aliens
For Childhood's End, Clarke's intermediaries are the devil-like "Overlords". I'll be interested to see how the Syfy adaptation of Clarke's story deals with these creatures and religion. Apparently they greatly expanded the topic of religion far beyond what Clarke wrote into the story.

Double crossed.
Based on the teaser video from Syfy, I don't expect this "adaptation" to follow Clarke very closely. Rather than try to attract viewers by fostering a sense of wonder about aliens and the future, they decided to play the fear card, fostering a sense of dread and featuring soldiers, guns, an explosion and even a shooting in their 2 minute "teaser".

Of course, in the novel the word "gun" only appears twice; once to note that someone does not have a gun and once in the context of a "flash gun" like a 1950s camera would use. Sadly, Hollywood marketing must go BOOM, as usual, and in so doing, I suspect Syfy's "adaption" will ignore the intent of what Clarke actually wrote.

Next: Episode 1 of Syfy's 'Childhood's End'.
Hollywood go BOOM! $elling fear and dread.

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