The Fermi Paradox and Sci-fi

In the prior post we introduced the Fermi paradox—or Fermi question—before an overview of the many hypotheses that try to answer the question, and ended noting that we must consider what we are to do, given the possibilities. In this post I’m going to share which of those hypotheses sci-fi has chosen to tell stories about.

First we should note that screen sci-fi (this is, recall, a blog that concerns itself with sci-fi in movies and television), since the very, very beginning, has embraced questionably imperialist thrills. In Le Voyage dans la Lune, George Melies’ professor-astronomers encounter a “primitive” alien culture on Earth’s moon when they land there, replete with costumes, dances, and violent responses to accidental manslaughter. Hey, we get it, aliens are part of why audiences and writers are in it: As a thin metaphor for speculative human cultures that bring our own into relief. So, many properties are unconcerned with the *yawn* boring question of the Fermi paradox, instead imagining a diegesis with a whole smorgasbord of alien civilizations that are explicitly engaged with humans, at times killing, trading, or kissing us, depending on which story you ask.

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But some screen sci-fi does occasionally concern itself with the Fermi question.

Which are we telling stories about?

Screen sci-fi is a vast library, and more is being produced all the time, so it’s hard to give an exact breakdown, but if Drake can do it for Fermi’s question, we can at least ballpark it, too. To do this, I took a look at every sci-fi in the survey that produced Make It So and has been extended here on scifiinterfaces.com, and I tallied the breakdown between aliens, no aliens, and silent aliens. Here’s the Google Sheet with the data. And here’s what we see. Continue reading

5 Sci-fi U.S. Presidents not using interfaces

It was my intention to simply show you some images of fictional United States Presidents using interfaces in science fiction movies for Presidents’ Day. But alas. They don’t.

I’m not going to claim this is exhaustive, but I looked at five Presidents:

  1. President Merkin Muffley from Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
  2. President Beck from Deep Impact (1998)
  3. President James Dale from Mars Attacks! (1996)
  4. President Thomas J. Whitmore from Independence Day (1996)
  5. President McKenna from X2 (2003)

Over these movies, Presidents can be seen reading displays and teleprompters,…

President Beck explains meteors to the public.

President Beck explains dire asteroids to the public.

President X prepares to read some bad news for mutants.

President McKenna prepares to read some dire news for mutants.

…speaking into public address systems,… Continue reading