Posts in Alien
It's language Jim but not as we know it.
I've been hard at work illustrating and animating since the beginning of February of this year on a sequence for a TV Commercial. The way I work gives me lots embarrassing rashes, time to think and now with the iPad in my life,  my wide and free ranging interests are more easily accessible through some cleverly designed apps that widely source articles from around the web and package them together into these terrific, networked little apps. That and it's an easy way to order effective ointments online.  I'm going to try and put some of the memes ricocheting around my brain hole for the past several months into a semi-coherent stream of consciousness. Let's start with Sir Ridley Scott
and his return to the Alien franchise because,  well,  why wouldn't you?!

Initially there was a fair amount of excitement within the geek world that the man who made the original Alien movie was returning to make a prequel and potentially heralded a return to the moody, atmospheric suspense and genuine science fiction of the original movie. There was lots of speculation; about it's story line, whether Sigourney Weaver would be returning in some capacity or the original designer, Swiss artist, H.R. Giger would reprise and build on his original concepts of the alien.  Would it be in 3D? Would Russell Crowe perform in motion capture technology as the Alien?  It was all terrifically exciting speculation and I know many geeks soiled themselves in giddy expectation.

Sadly that's all changed. And there's some previous and ominous form to my dread.  Ridley Scott recently made a Robin Hood movie with his grumpy muse, Russell Crowe. I haven't seen it, well, I'll correct that. Apparently I have. But I don't remember it. I got stoned and fell asleep ten minutes in and woke up through the end credits but from what I've heard and read I didn't miss much. I was,  in an apparent way,  pissed off about what Mr Scott apparently did to the Robin Hood movie because of what I'd read it was apparently going to be about. Like the concept for the Alien prequel, it sounded like something I really wanted to see. Apparently.

Russell Crowe initially signed on with another director to a storyline that had him playing the Sheriff of Nottingham utilizing the latest 15th century scientific knowledge, 'CSI' style,  to work out the mystery of who was bailing up and stealing from travellers through Sherwood Forrest. In this concept, the Sheriff would be the conflicted hero. Torn between his loyalty to the King and his own morals.   Now doesn't that sound like a fresh angle on such a well known story like Robin Hood? I thought so. Things went south reportedly when Russell got old mate Ridley on board who decided that what the world really needed was a modern, gritty and more historically accurate retelling of the Robin Hood story. And the world responded with a collective -'meh!' Well everyone except David Stratton.

So back to Alien. Yep, there's no fooling my thoughtfully logical readers. It is happening again. Reportedly the revised Ridley Scott version of the Alien prequel is that it's no longer an Alien prequel... Or at least it bears only a cursory resemblance to it. Until it comes out we'll just have to wait and see if what he's done improves on the original idea or sinks it like a huge Robin Hood stool to the bottom of the toilet. Personally I think he's missed an opportunity to experiment & make a truly interesting and 'alien' movie.

I used to fantasize that what would make a really interesting Alien prequel would be if it had no human beings in it at all. Or at least not until the end when the crew of the ship Nostromo from the first movie, make their appearance in response to the distress call.  I imagined a story line where alien scientist's encounter the alien, not on it's home planet but in the ruins of a recently dead civilization the species has decimated. Then, full of hubris that you could imagine has been endlessly repeated and is doomed to continue, they transport a captured Alien to their home world for study. Perhaps the ship and crew remains the rescue party from the Nostromo discover, were the last survivors from the civilization the Alien destroyed when it made it's inevitable escape from their labs.

Reclining drowsily in the placenta inspired thought capsule I've had installed off the exterior of my house, (you can't miss it. It glows quite brightly through the day and makes a loud, irritating noise if you get too close,)  I wondered if they would have the creative courage to make a movie with truly alien characters and environments.  The secret, I speculated through my large unwieldy Italian designed goggles, in depicting a truly alien species would be to not go too overboard in imagining the alienness of the aliens because we humans still need a bit of human to relate to the story otherwise you end up with a David Bowie, 70's era music video.  But it still needs to be alien enough so that we can still recognize it as alien in every sense of the word.

So this has been floating about in my brain and I've made a connection between that nascent meme and reviews I've been reading about British author, China Mieville's new novel; Embassytown. This isn't a review because I've yet to read the novel (But I've since downloaded it to my ipad). Of the several exciting reviews I've read,  this excellent one from James Bradley in the Weekend Australian says that he explores and contrasts Alien species against our own through differences in language. But rather than just basic differences like those between, say Chinese and English and the whacky hilarity that ensues when someone tries to ask for directions to a public toilet,  these are differences in the actual form of language.

It can't be a given that future communication between our own and other off world sentient species will be like anything we could currently envision. From the sounds of it, Mr Meiville's latest novel goes a long way in exploring this conceit.  

The alien species in Meiville's novel communicate not through symbolic language where words denote and connote meanings.  Mievilles aliens have no such device. If I'm summarising correctly because it's a difficult concept to get your head around, they communicate like us through a series of noises however as Bradley writes, `there is no space between thinking and speaking, or mind and word. Which means: "Each word is like a funnel. Where to us each word means something, to the Hosts, each is a door opening. A door through which the thought of that referent, the thought itself that reached for that word, can be seen."  On the surface this sounds like a language that could have been invented by Bureaucrats or the Insurance industry but it also sounds like a language with a basis in modern poetry where context, historical, emotional, personal and societal seem to me to be the key to appreciating much of it.  But ironically I think it would be a very efficient language as backstory to a topic you are conversing about is already known because of how the language works. Or at least that's my reading of it.

I hope Ridley Scott doesn't get his hands on the movie rights to Meiville's new novel. I respect him, he's made some great movies but I really don't think he has the courage to tackle a story like this based on his latest form. Still, we shall see as `Alien: Prometheus' isn't due out till March 2012.
Where ideas go to die

I have lots of ideas and most times, well, who am I kidding, all of the time, they just sit there piling up in the back of my mind. Gnawing on themselves until the day when someone else thinks of a similar or identical concept.  They pop up on the news or the Internet and I say to myself, 'goddammit!'  

So I'm going to put them out there now because beyond the obvious fact that my mind needs the room, there's absolutely no way I'll ever realize them to conclusion. But perhaps they might inspire someone reading them who will. The most I can expect in thanks is a nice comment saying 'thanks Rossco for your wonderful idea. I took and ran it and after further development, I'm triffically successful as a result and I couldn't have done it without you. What a guy!' 

So here's one item in my garage sale of ideas for anyone to take for their own and build on.

Movie idea:

The colony.
And nothing's really changed.
Australia in the near future. A fleet of modestly sized, beat up looking spaceships appear above The city of Sydney. There is the usual kerfuffle when events like this happen. Attempts are made to contact them, the worlds media descend on Sydney to cover the event, people either flee Sydney or alternately flock to it to welcome the extraterrestrial visitors. Soon one of the ships descends to land and from it a small group of large, pompously dressed, bright red aliens walk/ slither from it.  Ignoring the locals vainly trying to get their attention, they plant an elaborate, important looking shiny pole in the soil, salute it and then seem to congratulate each other. 

They signal to the other ships who move off around the country and land disgorging what look like Alien soldiers and a ragged bunch of other aliens who we soon come to learn, are convicts.  This is a story that literally mirrors the British colonisation of Australia.  A bungled first contact with the locals and the clumsy attempts to communicate with them. The aliens are arrogant and seem only to acknowledge the locals in the most anthropological and at best, condescending manner. Some however seem to genuinely engage with us and want to learn our language and customs. 

Mirroring the story of Bennelong, one of the locals is captured and 'tamed'. He is asked if he wants to go back to the aliens home world and does so when one of the ships leave. Alien disease wipes out many Australians and the country is quarantined from the rest of the world, there are cultural misunderstandings and locals and aliens loose their lives. The aliens seem also to have trouble living on our food and many lie close to death or dying of starvation in the streets of Sydney and around the country. Just as we seem to have reached an understanding between the two species, more ships appear above Sydney.