Friday, October 15, 2010

My Favorite Aliens Part Three

That's right, the final chapter in this journey across space. Granted, this wasn't finished yesterday like I hoped. But that's simply because it's been proven that there is less time during the week and therefore it is impossible to get anything done after I get home.


5. Advisors

I promise you, this is the last we'll be hearing from Half-Life!

Geez, these things. I think it would be very upsetting to see one of these in real life. Imagine if you will a giant cybernetic slug that can crush you with it's mind. Sure, Vulcans can mind-meld but Advisors can, and have, twisted people like licorice and thrown them across a building.

Now, for anyone unfamiliar, the Advisors are like bureaucratic middlemen appointed by the Combine to rule over Earth. The Combine are, of course, an alien empire which we are lead to believe has enslaved countless different species, planets, galaxies and even Universes.

Again, either Valve didn't care enough to consider the implications of that or this is the single most efficient military force ever devised. I don't need to remind you how stupidly big space is, at our present state we cannot completely control a single planet. What kind of cold, unsympathetic, logical mind has the mental capacity to organize and weaponize a whole Universe let alone several.

I think the Combine are really under appreciated as enemies. The most we know about them really comes from the bumbling trans-human soldiers we fight throughout the game, when the awful truth is that the Combine is a Lovecraftian cosmic horror, totally inescapable and truly mind-boggling in scope. But it's worse then that, they're bureaucrats.

I like the Advisors because as a creature, they're not intimidating looking, pathetic even. They're these huge grubs, they don't have arms, or eyes, or any kind of sensory organs. Sure, in Episode Two they actually "hatch" and can live without their life-support, but it's still terrifying. One, because they seem to be totally invulnerable and two, because they're a stark reminder of what we might become. They come from a highly advanced society, they no longer need their bodies and so they start to wither and become useless. Who's to say we won't become like that when we become more advanced as well? The Advisors are totally dependent of their technology. Technology, and they're horrifying telepathic powers.

4. Martians

Imagine the above, only more squid-like and working on a much smaller scale and you've got the grandparent of every alien ever (At least the good ones). The best part is that the Martians from The War of the Worlds were totally unlike what people at that time thought aliens would be like. When people during Victorian Times thought aliens, they thought handsome Aryan men from another world. What did H.G. Wells suggest? Hideous brain-slugs with tentacles that drank Human blood. Just read this description of them when they first appear:

A big greyish rounded bulk, the size, perhaps, of a bear, was rising slowly and painfully out of the cylinder. As it bulged up and caught the light, it glistened like wet leather. Two large dark-coloured eyes were regarding me steadfastly. The mass that framed them, the head of the thing, was rounded, and had, one might say, a face. There was a mouth under the eyes, the lipless brim of which quivered and panted, and dropped saliva. The whole creature heaved and pulsated convulsively.


It might seem like Wells was just trying to create the most grotesque monster he could, well that's because he was but he also had science backing him up. You see, Wells had a theory that as Mankind became more advanced our bodies would atrophy as our brains grew larger, so much so that eventually we would become little more than brains with hands sticking out of the side.

Aaaaaaaand, that's were the Advisors came from. Posers.

But it's not just the Martians themselves that make them so wonderful, it's that when they take over a planet, they do it in style.

Tripods are the DeLoreans of war machines.

3. The Thing

Just look at that. It's the opposite of the last two aliens, it doesn't need high technology, it's only weapon is fear.

Jeez, I remember when I first watched it. I heard all about this wonderful movie about an alien trapped in the Antarctic and I just had to see it. Eventually, I convinced my mother to buy it and watch it with my sister and I. The fact that the DVD case had a picture of what looked like a screaming face trapped in ice was just foreshadowing of what was to come.

The movie built up slowly, thankfully Kurt Russel's beard was there to keep things interesting when suddenly this happened...

...and I was like "YES.".

It just got better. Probably the best part is when a person infected by The Thing dies. His head rips itself from the burning body and falls off the table it was put on. After that, the head sprouts legs and eye-stalks and crawls away.

I'd like to think my mother realizes what a horrible, horrible mistake she made in watching this movie.

2. Anything by H.P. Lovecraft

Similar to how the Martians were the precursors to the Combine, Lovecraft and his menagerie of cosmic horrors are responsible for The Thing.

Simply put, Howard created the most weirdly fear inspiring monsters of the early 20th century (and arguably the rest of the 20th century if you don't count a certain mustachioed man from around the 1930's.). If I were to put all his creatures in their own spots it would take up a huge amount of space on this list.

The Great Race of Yith

Arguably the least threatening of his creatures, which isn't saying much, the Yithians are a race of telepaths that can hop from one body to another. They inhabited the Earth millions of years ago and built huge libraries underneath modern-day Australia. The Yithians had a war with another species, the Flying Polyps, and has a mass -evacuation. It was at that time they inhabited the bodies of giant primordial cone-shaped mollusks. Even later then that, they turned themselves into beetles.

It gets better.


The Mi-Go are giant fungus-crustaceans from Pluto (which they call Yuggoth). They've come to Earth to mine for rare minerals and steal people's brains. They then take these brains back to Yuggoth. Also, the Mi-Go do not use spaceships, they just up and fly through space as is, in nothing more than their yeasty, crunchy carapace.

Elder Things

Like the Yithians, the Elder Things colonized Earth millions of years ago, especially Antarctica. Once there, they built huge cities in the then lush, tropical environment. Over time however, the polar regions began to freeze, but that's not what go rid of the Elder Things, it was what they created here on Earth...


These protoplasmic blobs were mindless servants to the Elder Things, they were used to create the great basalt cities on the Antarctic. However, the Shoggoths rebelled and wiped their former masters from the Earth.

Just so we're clear here, Shoggoths are blobs that can assume any shape, any size, can produce organs at will and live in the Antarctic.

That's right, The Thing is a Shoggoth.

And number one is...

1. ...


No, don't act like you're surprised. You knew this was going to happen just as well as I did. You knew that after all that, after the Prawns, Tholians, Buggers, Pod-People, Grovebacks, Antlions, Brazilians, Vortigaunts, Borg, Pythagorians, Martians, Yithians, Elder Things, Mi-Go, Things and even the entire Universal Union, number one would of course be Dale and his jerk friends.

I have no way of explaining why I fell so totally in love with these kitchen utensils. But if I had to guess I would say it was the screeching voice, the utter loathing of anything non-Dalek, the sheer absurdity of their battle-armor. Really, there's nothing not to like about the Daleks. They're at the same time adorable and yet deadly.

Plus, Mother hates them so they'll be around forever.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My Favorite Aliens Part Two

Another day, another opportunity to babble incoherently about creatures not of this Earth. So let's jump right in with...

10. Antlions

I make no secret of the fact that Half-Life is so deeply ingrained into my mind that my thoughts actually reflect it, so much so in fact that I actually see ghostly little heads-up displays in the corner of my vision and five tiny dots in the center of my pupils, it's helpful when I need to shoot actual guns as well.

Antlions are really dandy, I remember the first time I saw them. It was ten years ago when Half-Life 2 was still a brand new experience to me. The first time the player sees them is when they're in a car that is slowly being lowered down to a beach by a magnetic crane. The crane fails, drops the car and the player is immediately swarmed by giant inter-dimensional insects.

In Episode 2 we finally get to see inside an Antlion hive and this is the first time that I was really fascinated by them. It was here that we first saw the Worker Antlion and the larvae that they protect.

I think the best part about Antlions is that they're a total mish-mash of all kinds of arthropods. First of all, they're like real-life Antlions in that they burrow underneath sand only to come up to tear something to ribbons, they're like spiders in that they spin webs around their hive but they also make giant honeycombs like bees. But then again they have huge egg sacks like spiders (that quiver when you shoot them). On the other hand it's mentioned they have some kind of "spawning season", very much unlike bees or ants. They don't seem to have a queen Antlion yet they have other clearly defined castes. Plus, they produce some sort of magic "extract" so we might as well assume they produce honey as well.

It becomes apparent that the Antlion life cycle makes no sense. Like a lot of other things in these games it seems like Valve was either really lazy and just threw everything they knew about arthropods into one creature or this was all meticulously planned.

9. Paciencia UFO Sighting Aliens

I have very particular tastes, I demand my creatures to be bizarre. Well there's few things that are as bizarre as UFO Sightings.

Our story begins with Antonio La Rubia, a 33-year-old bus driver who encountered a huge object, which he estimated to be 70 meters (235 feet) across, sitting in a field near his home. He decided to retreat, but was unable to do so, for at the moment he started to run, an intensely bright light lit up the area, and he was unable to move. At that moment Antonio saw three "robots" positioned near him, and he was captured and taken into the disc.

And what did these robots look like?

That's right. These.

The first time I saw these terrors was in my Elementary School's library. I drew them all the time when I was seven but eventually forgot about them. A couple years later they were suddenly shoved back into my life in yet another book about abductions and once again I totally forgot about them after awhile.

A few years after that I suddenly remembered them again. "Golly!" I thought "What were those weird football-shaped aliens with the funny helmets called?"

Well, turns out they were the mysterious beings who, on September 15, 1977, abducted an unassuming man from Paciencia (near Rio de Janeiro), Brazil to show him their inter-galactic keyboard.

8. Vortigaunts

I'll be honest with you, this isn't the last time we'll be hearing from Half-Life. It isn't a bad thing I suppose that so many great aliens could com from a a single franchise (I didn't include any Xen wildlife besides the Antlions lest this become the list of my fifteen favorite things I like about just one video game.)

The Vortigaunts. They're a hive-mind, they shoot lightning out of their hands and they've got giant red eyes. I've always sort of identified giant eyes with being from another dimension, they just go hand-in-hand for me. Assuming Valve ever makes another Half-Life series (which they won't) I would like to play as a Vortigaunt. Plus, Sweepy is a Vortigaunt and Sweepy is cool.

The only problem I have with them is that they're a bit too humanoid. Granted, they've got three arms which is cash, but they still sort of look like hunched over people.

Maybe if they abducted someone from Brazil they'd be higher up on this list.

7. The Borg

When you get right down to it, the Borg are like a virus. They assimilate, consume and if you were to fight them, any casualty your side takes just helps to make them stronger. Plus, they're basically robot space-zombies.

I don't care if Cybermen came first, the Borg are cooler. Did Cybermen ever give me nightmares when I was a toddler? NO. Did the Borg? YES. Did the image of a disembodied Cyberman head getting attached to a body, spinal cord and all get burnt into my memory and silently terrify me until I was twelve? NO. Did the Borg? YES!

6. The Pythagorians

Antlions are weird, the Brazilian-Abductors are weirder, and the Borg still haunt me in my nightmares. But I think the award for most mysterious enemies on this list go to the Pythagorians.

That big machine in the above picture? That's what they look like. They don't speak, they don't emote and the particulars of their society are only ever hinted at vaguely, at best. Now, I'm not even entirely sure what these are even called, I just call them Pythagorians because they're from the (again) Half-Life 2 mod Mistake of Pythagoras. In the mod, the Pythags are from an alternate reality and invade Earth for reasons that are never hinted at. The player must correct some "mistake".

They're so great because I can't tell whether they're even alive or not. They're just big floating machines. Yet, this somehow makes them more endearing, it lets the player come up with their own interpretation of them.

After playing MOP a couple times I've built up a little theory as to what exactly happened: teleportation experiments caused some disaster in their dimension, creating another faction of black (or in the above picture, dark brown) Pythags that started a war with the white ones. Later in the mod the white ones, who are losing the war, help the player.

At the end the player makes it back to Earth, everything is all well after the "mistake", somehow related to the Pythagorean Theorem, is fixed. When suddenly, a single white Pythagorian shows up. At this point the player is well aware, or at least they should be, that the white ones are there to help, but the other characters don't. This white Pythag, apparently the leader, was the one who helped the player and enabled them to finish the game and when the player has returned the favor and essentially saved their "species" he goes to thank them in their own universe.

What happens? It gets mistaken for the enemy and is killed.

Now, I have no shame in telling you that when I saw this I was devastated and the ending cutscene didn't help. We see the very same army that killed it attending a funeral for the King Pythag. I teared up. I tear up thinking about it even now. Just the thought of the giant triangular head-piece, propped up on a metal stand, surrounded by flowers as soldiers watch and wonder what they did as a single piano softly plays as the screen turns black makes me overcome with emotions that scare and confuse me.

In hindsight, these should be higher up on the list. If inanimate shapes from an obscure mod for a ten year old video game can move me to tears when nothing, literally nothing else in life will that really says something about how great of characters they are, or how insane I am.

I don't know what it says about me as a person that I feel more emotion for a triangle than most people but there will always be a strange, soft spot in my heart and brain for these nameless, featureless beings.

(Unlike the Borg.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My Favorite Aliens Part One

I love aliens. I think about them all the time, I draw them all the time and I imagine the people I'm talking to are aliens all the time. So I think it's long overdue that I tell you all about my fifteen favorite aliens of all time.

15. Prawns

Ah yes, these guys. You know, when I first heard about District 9 I thought "Apartheid with aliens? That's a stupid idea!" but very quickly I was convinced otherwise and a large reason why was because of the aliens, insensitively called Prawns by the Human characters. They're big nasty bugs with face tentacles, making them look like a certain Great Old One.

Plus they subvert the all-too-common trope of all-powerful alien invaders. Yes they have superior technology, yes they have a giant spaceship looming over South Africa and of course they have irresistible weapons, but they're powerless here on Earth for reasons I can't remember being explored and I think that's wonderful.

Plus, any movie that can make me tear up when the aliens die is a good movie.

14. Tholians

Ah yes, Star Trek. As I'm told, when I was a tiny baby in the 90's I would run towards the T.V. every time I heard the opening to The Next Generation and I would occasionally take my uncle's model of the U.S.S. Voyager and run around the house with it. Yes, I was an adorable child.

Recently, I've been watching episodes of the Original Series. My favorites being The Doomsday Machine and The Trouble With Tribbles. But another episode stands out to me for it's creatures: The Tholian Web.

The unfortunate part is that the Tholians themselves only appear onscreen for a couple seconds and they don't actually leave that much impact. Yeah, they have a cool voice and they look like they're made of crystals but that's all you see of them.

Flash forward a few weeks when reruns of Enterprise are on. I was intrigued as it was a Mirror Universe episode which are, with no exception, always good. Too my surprise it had Tholians in it and it was a sequel to the only other episode with them in it.

13. Buggers

Idontknow is always recommending terrible things to me, like browser-games and books, one day in particular he told me to read something called Ender's Game. And he kept telling me. And kept telling me. Eventually, out of politeness I finally bought the book.

I read it all in about three days. There's plenty of things to like about it, foremost is that the author predicted the invention of the Internet long before computers were commonplace. But even better then that are the resident aliens: The Buggers. Now, no description is really given for what the Buggers look like except that they're insect-like so I just assume they're typical bloopity-bloop aliens, which is fine with me. Also, as far as I know, they're the earliest instance of a hive-mind species. You'll notice later on in this list that I like hive-minds.

12. Body-Snatchers

I love a good 50's Sci-Fi movie and Invasion of the Body-Snatchers is one of the seminal works of that era. Like hive-minds, the concept of a creature assimilating or replacing a person is just plain appealing to me. So of course, the Body Snatchers are on this list. Sadly, I haven't gotten to see the 50's version yet, only the new one from 2007 version and the one with Lenard Nimoy and Jeff Goldbloom which I think is the superior version simply for having those two in the same movie.

Even better is that they were a pretty obvious metaphor for Communism. But they're better than just your garden variety Communism, they're sentient vegetables that will kill and replace you.

Just look at him.

11. Anything from Darwin IV

Back in the 90's there was a guy named Wayne Barlowe who one day he asked himself "Am I a bad enough dude to design an entire extra-terrestrial ecosystem?". Turns out he was and Expedition was published. This is the story of three artificially-intelligent probes which are sent to the planet Darwin IV to investigate the strange creatures living there.

Like the Groveback...


and this weird looking thing, the Daggerwrist.

I haven't found a copy of this book yet but I want one so badly. If you happen to see a copy at a garage sale of used book-store I seriously recommend getting it for the pictures alone. Especially considering that none of them have eyes and they're all bioluminecent. Is Spock bioluminescent? NO.

Well that's all for now, but there will be more hideous space-things have more tomorrow!

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Oh hello everyone, how are you? Good? I hope so.

Everything is fine here, I've gotten over real-life Insomnia and can sleep again (and in turn have nightmares about giant owls again).

HEY! Take a look at this!

This video (and my large collection of books on M.C. Escher) were probably the most important sources of inspiration for Paranoia and to a smaller extent Insomnia.

I have watched this video over and over again and every time it's always the same: totally bizarre. This never gets any less strange or incredible to me and I love it for that. The problem? This map is no where to be found. There is no mention of it except for this one video.

Now, it's been on my favorites for a while now so I decided that since I'm pretty much INTERNET FAMOUS I would try to send a message to the email address seen at the beginning of the video. In my letter I basically said everything that I said here and how much I would love to play this map even if it is incomplete.

I day later I got a response telling me that the copy of the map was lost on a CD somewhere, never to be found again and that the creator may or may not recreate it. Also, he lost inspiration a long time ago.

What the video again and ask yourself how you could loose inspiration when making that.

It's astounding really, that something so professionally surreal could just be abandoned. I can't help but feel a sense of loss when I realize that no one, especially not me, will get to play this map. I'm taking this as a cautionary tale. So remember everyone, don't throw away any piece of art you make, save it.

Unless said work is really really embarrassing, I let it slide if you throw that out.