Posts Tagged ‘aliens’

3415729922_4e3ec21584_zThey say that in space no-one can hear you scream. The truth is even more disturbing. In space, no-one can tell that you aren’t American.

“No, I’m the British representative,” I said in Embalgon for the third time. I wasn’t going to correct the minister for calling me ambassador – he didn’t need to know that I was a public relations officer, only sent because others had struggled with his language. “Here to discuss the new embassy.”

“Julian Atticus, is this ‘English’ your language?” The Embalgon interior minister’s gills flapped in agitation. Though his scales remained a sedate blue, I sensed that he was finding this as frustrating as I was.

“Absolutely,” I said. “We invented it.”

“Good.” The minister narrowed one pair of eyes, the Embalgon equivalent of a smile, and sat back in his chair. “Then you represent the Americans, and their debts.”

I leaned back too, enjoying the fine silk-like materials from which the Embalgon’s made their furniture, gazing out the window at the city below. It was a beautiful place, even the factories forced to match its undulating curves if they wanted a share of the lucrative local trade. A trade the British government hoped to profit from, by setting up an embassy to regulate British business here. Our business presence was nothing compared with the Americans, but the Embalgons gave embassies great influence over their natives’ businesses, and the tax potential alone made the venture worthwhile.

At least now I knew why negotiations had stalled – the bloody Americans and their government’s bloody debts again. Was this how it felt to be Canadian back on Earth, constantly associated with the ruins of their southern neighbour’s government?

I mustered my thoughts, and the Embalgon words to express them, but the concepts didn’t quite match. I didn’t hold up much hope for this conversation.

“On Earth, language groups are not the same as nations,” I said. “Americans and Britons share a language, but we are politically distinct.”

I could see that I was getting nowhere. It was like trying to explain the difference between sex and gender to some humans, the ideas so utterly connected in their minds that I might as well have used the same word. For an Embalgon, language, nation, culture, even economy were so utterly intertwined as to be inseparable. I might have been able to explain this to an academic, or even a teacher, but to an elected politician? No chance.

Being labelled as American was indignity enough. Now I was going to have to include their debts in the negotiations.

“So how much do the Americans owe from their previous embassy here?” I asked, realising as I said it that I couldn’t even bear to use ‘we’ or ‘us’. I could lie to the press a dozen times a day without flinching, but couldn’t bring myself to pretend to be a Yank. So much for my strength of character.

With one suckered hand, the minister held out a flat device the size of my palm. I read the figure on the screen. The sheer size of it choked my brain – nearly double what I was even authorised to discuss. This deal was not going to happen.


“Who’s currently responsible for American businesses trading here?” I asked, as casually as I could.

The minister snorted.

“Responsible,” he said. “If only someone would be responsible for them. No-one is keeping them in line. No-one is regulating their shipping. The Great Sea only knows where all the goods are going.”

“Then whoever takes over this debt is responsible for those businesses too? For regulation, oversight, and so on?”

A look of disappointment filled the minister’s face. He’d clearly hoped to keep this part from me, to fob off a perceived burden along with the debt.

Cultural confusion can so easily cut both ways.

“Fine,” he said. “We are willing to drop twenty percent of the debt if you will just take control of those factories with it.”

“Fifty percent,” I said.




We didn’t shake on it. Human skin feels repulsive to Embalgons, and theirs brings us out in a rash. Instead encryption codes were exchanged and attached to an electronic agreement. The deal was done.

I called our ambassador from the shuttle on the way out of atmosphere and told her the good news. In space, no-one can tell that you aren’t the Americans.

That means no-one can stop you taxing them.



After Dylan Hearn’s review of Lies We Will Tell Ourselves, it seemed like a good time to return to one of the characters from that collection, so I chose Julian Atticus – bitter Englishman, publish relations officer and reluctant diplomat. If you’d like to read more from him then why not pick up Lies We Will Tell Ourselves, available on the Kindle.

And if you’d like to read more free flash fiction then check out my Flash Friday stories, and come back here every Friday for more of the same.



Photo by Cliff1066 via Flickr creative commons.

A special treat today – I have a guest post from Sue Archer of the Doorway Between Worlds blog. I’m a fan of the way Sue uses science fiction and fantasy to explore topics around communication, and it’s a pleasure to host her opinions on another topic here today, one that I’ve touched on in the past. So without further ado…

Female Superhero Movie Franchises: What Would Ellen Ripley Say?

When I was eight years old, my parents gave me a copy of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. I devoured the story, identifying with the plucky character of Lucy. I then went on to read A Wrinkle in Time, and got drawn in to the world of Meg Murray, who was geeky (like me) and who saved her brother from evil. And I knew: science fiction and fantasy were written for me. This was a genre where girls could save the world.

When I was ten years old, I played with She-Ra: Princess of Power dolls, because other dolls were downright boring next to ones who could use swords and magic. I watched the various incarnations of the Justice League and Marvel characters on television and pretended that I was a superhero like Wonder Woman.

When I was twelve years old, a movie came out that I wasn’t old enough to see yet. In this movie, an ordinary woman fought against the odds to save humanity from aliens. The movie went on to spawn several sequels, and the female lead became a hugely popular character.

Her name was Ellen Ripley. And the year Aliens came out? 1986.


Fast forward twenty-eight years later. Count ’em: Twenty-eight. We are in 2014, and since Ellen Ripley, I have not seen another adult female character leading a movie franchise in the speculative fiction genre. (The closest thing so far is The Hunger Games, but it’s aimed at more of a teenage audience.) Frankly, I’m tired of waiting for another one. What happened?

The Wonder Woman That Wasn’t

There certainly hasn’t been a lack of trying by those who understand that this genre is for women as well as men. Joss Whedon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame was slated to helm a Wonder Woman film. Joss Whedon and Wonder Woman! Alas, that movie never got off the ground. And now we’re left with DC introducing Wonder Woman as a secondary character to Superman and Batman in their next superhero film. Apparently the studio thinks my favourite Amazon is just not strong enough to have her own movie. Which is ridiculous.

Superheroes Without Superpowers

I love the Marvel movies, but I’m disappointed that they aren’t making definite moves towards a female-led superhero film. Instead, we’ve had female characters who are part of a team: Black Widow, a female assassin in a bodysuit who has no superpowers; and Gamora—wait for it—a female assassin in a bodysuit who has no superpowers. Black Widow was done well, while Gamora had an underused backstory and was upstaged by a sarcastic raccoon and a talking tree. Neither of these women were leads. I’m tired of looking for small victories. When will we get a movie about Captain Marvel? Or another Marvel female character who is just as powerful as the men?

Men as Women

And I don’t mean a female character who is based off of a powerful male one. Marvel’s announcement of a female Thor being introduced in their comics annoyed me. I would have no issue with Sif taking up the hammer of Thor and wielding its powers as herself. But for the woman taking the hammer to be called Thor? This is insulting. Other characters have taken up Mjolnir in the past and gained the powers of Thor, but they kept their names. Why does the woman have to lose hers and be called Thor? It reminds me of Batgirl, Supergirl, and all of those other characters that were derived from male ones. Is Marvel afraid of developing a new standalone female character? That’s just sad.

Superwomen vs. Hollywood

I’ve heard all of the arguments about why a female-led movie franchise is not being made. And none of them make any sense.

Well, look what happened when we made Elektra and Catwoman. No one turned out, so clearly the appetite is not there for female-led movies. (It couldn’t possibly be because they were terrible movies.)

Women don’t go to see these kinds of movies, so we wouldn’t make any money. (Too bad that according to the MPAA, 42% of the domestic audience who came to see Iron Man 3 were women. Superhero movies in general are coming in at around 40% women in the audience. Not to mention you’re assuming men don’t want to see women superheroes. Not true of the men I know.)

We’ve already made plans for other movies, so you’ll need to wait a few years. (So change your plans. You could if you really wanted to.)

And this is the crux of it. The movie industry is made up largely of men who don’t really want to produce movies about female superheroes. So, unfortunately, I think I’ll be waiting for a few more years before I see what I want. (Some possible light at the end of the tunnel: There have been some recent rumours about an unnamed female-led movie in the Spiderman universe for 2017. I’ll believe it when I see it.)

What I’d pay money to see: Ellen Ripley facing down the leaders of The Company, also known as Hollywood movie execs. I can only imagine what she would say.

In the meantime, I’m off to watch my copy of Aliens.

Which female-led shows have you enjoyed? Who would you like to see on the big screen?


Thank you to Sue for the post. If you enjoyed it then please go read more of her views on the Doorway Between Worlds.

A lot of scifi explores how humans will react to the rest of the universe. But just as fascinating is considering how the universe will react to us. Alan Dean Foster’s A Call To Arms suggested that aliens might use our adaptability and aggression, recruiting us to fight their wars. In the TV show Babylon 5 we were treated as a curiosity, a slightly backwards race that couldn’t stop meddling in things beyond its abilities. The way a writer portrays those reactions says as much about how they view humanity as how they view the rest of the universe.

If you’ve got five minutes, stop and watch this entertaining video, another example of how the aliens might react. A public service warning against the dangers of humanity.