HOW WOULD YOU react to an alien invasion? Sci-fi writer Ernie Cline, author of Ready Player One, thinks the attack wouldn’t come as that much of a shock, since decades of monster movies have gotten us used to the idea.
“We wouldn’t be prepared for it completely,” Cline says in Episode 158 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast, “but we would have all these expectations based on forty or fifty years of War of the Worlds and V and Dark Skies and everything else.”
It’s an idea he plays with in his new novel Armada, in which the government has known for decades of an alien invasion and has been funding sci-fi movies and videogames in order to prepare us for war.
“If you’re a five-year-old kid, seeing Star Wars, there would be no better propaganda,” says Cline. “I was ready to go fight aliens.”
Armada also suggests that pieces of the truth are scattered throughout pop culture, an idea Cline credits to the movie Mirage Men, which suggests that the government created Close Encounters of the Third Kind in order to deflect suspicion from a similar event in real life.
“Then if you told the real story, people would say, ‘Oh, that’s just like Close Encounters of the Third Kind,’” says Cline. “It completely discredits you, because it makes you seem like a nut.”
If aliens are real, we can only hope the government takes a page from Armada and constructs a fleet of Earth defense drones that we can pilot from our laptops and game consoles. It might be our only hope, and it would definitely be a blast.
“It’s such a natural idea,” says Cline, “because when you sit down and play a videogame, you want those videogame skills to have some sort of real-world value. So it’s the fantasy of everyone in the world getting to use all their videogame skills.”
Listen to our complete interview with Ernie Cline in Episode 158 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Ernie Cline on Dungeons & Dragons:
“It was forbidden, because my family was very religious, and my mother had gotten ahold of this book from someone at church called Playing with Fire. … And it was just fear-mongering about all the dangers of role-playing games. And she thought the Player’s Handbook—you know, that had all those spells in the back—that I was really going to try to collect spell components and cast those spells, and that it was meddling with witchcraft, that I was meddling with powers I didn’t understand, all that. That was part of the appeal of Dungeons & Dragons, it was almost like heavy metal and backmasking, this thing you’re not supposed to mess with, which made it even more appealing to me. I remember sneaking my Dungeons & Dragons books in and out of the house under my jacket. Instead of doing drugs I was sneaking RPG supplements.”
Ernie Cline on drones:
“When I watch Star Wars now, I wonder why they aren’t using drones. If they can have real-time holographic phone calls between planets at faster-than-light speeds, that’s enough information clearly to make a remote-control X-Wing or TIE Fighter. You do not need to send Porkins down to die senselessly. So now I watch any movie where somebody’s climbing into a ship to go into a dangerous—I mean, it makes sense for the movie, but does it make sense from a scientific standpoint? If you could make drones to do it, then you would use drones. So I’d never seen that idea of drones sent to do an alien invasion. In most alien invasion stories, it’s like Independence Day, they’re not using drones, they’re putting real people in real ships to go down and die to try to take over the planet.”
Ernie Cline on alien invaders:
“[In movies] they just come down and begin to conduct a World War II-style ground invasion against us, with ship-to-ship combat, because it’s all really great and cinematic and a lot like Star Wars. But why would the aliens do that? They could just hurl a meteor at Earth if they wanted to exterminate us. Or why do they even come to Earth to begin with? The idea is always that Earth is this perfect, rare, blue world, but it’s perfect for us because we evolved to live here, but for any other alien they always have to terraform Earth. Well why not terraform a lifeless world that’s not inhabited by nuke-wielding monkey boys who are going to fight back? … And if an intelligent species has the technology to travel light years across interstellar space with these massive warships, then they’ve probably reached the Singularity, and they’d be beyond the need for anything that we have.”
Ernie Cline on Wil Wheaton:
“All my favorite audiobooks are always done by an actor who brings the story to life, and I always had Wil Wheaton in mind, because of Stand By Me and Next Generation. I love Wil’s writing too. He used to write a column—for the Onion, I think—called ‘Games of Our Lives,’ where he would review old Atari games, and they’re just hysterical. … [Ready Player One] has become one of the bestselling audiobooks in history, because of his performance. He brings all the characters to life, and he does the Pac-Man sounds, and I just got to finish listening to him do Armada this past weekend, and it’s amazing. Once again, he does Patrick Stewart impressions and videogame sounds, and also just brings my characters to life. There’s one conversation where he’s doing eight different voices at once and jumping in and out of different characters. It’s just amazing.”