From the origins of time (the 1980s) comes the story of an army of poorly pixelated space aliens descending on a kind of spurting nipple lone gunman, with nothing more to guard him than three crude cylinders as he fends off the onslaught. The space beasts drop ever nearer to Earth, with their mother ship cruising back and forth above, gaining in speed as they approach the ground, unleashing a barrage of vertical drizzle heavy artillery to the fuzzy chomp-chomp of bad sound effects.
If this sounds terrifying, I assure you it is no fantasy. It is the Atari version of Space Invaders, an all-out alien attack, relentless and rabid, with no quarter asked and none given. Prophetic as the well choreographed cluster of space octopi, Easter Island statues, cyclopses and houses with feet are to the general safety of the world, people still ignored the warning signs.
Even as a kid I realized that our space military was severely underfunded and understaffed. Lucky then that there is a plan to put an elite unit of astro-soldiers into orbit to blast the shit out of any of these menacing creatures as they approach our ionosphere in order to loot our resources and enslave the population.
Because NASA is fearing budget cuts they have released an alarming report, detailing the detection of thousands of armies mobilizing on our neighboring planets, ready to swarm our pale blue dot. There are dragons on Mercury, vermin on Venus, the red scourge on Mars, giants on Jupiter, Saturn can be used like a great big radial saw, space hemorrhoids on Uranus, nomads on Neptune, pirates on Pluto. And that is just our solar system. Who knows what lies beyond, although, if an army of space killers actually makes it to Earth from a few light years away, by definition they will be way more evolved than we are, and will eat our space cadets like floating marshmallows. After that they will descend to pick through the rest of us from Australia to Russia, from Greenland to Disneyland, from Ybor City to New York City, although, as Humphrey Bogart told the Nazis in the movie Casablanca, “There are some sections of New York City I would advise you not to try and invade.”
Indeed, the island of Manhattan may be the only population that survives a full-on alien attack. The residents already know how to deal with diversity on a massive scale, the endemic lower class is pretty handy with a switchblade, you can’t beat the food, and they’ve got the Philharmonic and the Museum of Modern Art, which for some people is a universal form of psychological torture. Even a big blob of evil alien pus from Zebulon-3 would be paralyzed in front of a Marcel Duchamp exhibit, shaking its big globular head and muttering, “I just don’t get it.” Failing that, the club crowd could just party them to death. There is always something to do in that town, and the fun never stops. After three days of cocaine and mescal the space goblins would be keeling over headfirst trying to keep up with the drag queens, our first and most effective line of defense. Drag queens are like the Seal Team Six of extraterrestrial combat. Considering their line of work they aren’t afraid of anything, and have pretty much seen it all. Then we can dump our interstellar adversaries in the East River. After all, that waterway can’t get any worse.
On second thought, maybe that is all wrong. Perhaps diplomacy is the key to the future of the galaxy. Go ahead and shake hands with an alien. It would be cool to have a friend that is pure silicon that is not from Los Angeles. Although we are amazing as a planet when it comes to peace, love, sustainability, compassion, understanding, education, equality, efficiency, freedom from fear, and calm reasoning, I suppose we can always do a little bit better, and maybe they can show us how. After all violence breeds violence, and a little goodwill can go a long way. In 1933 Andre Malraux wrote that the sons of torture victims make great terrorists. I suspect that holds true from one side of the universe to the other, as well as the flip side of that equation.
These days when I want to play Space Invaders I have to go to a bar called the Smog Cutter. They have a backroom with old school video games. I open up a tab, grab a beer and begin vying to win the high score, and with my valedictory status I can boast on my application to the Space Army that I am top gun. I blast away at the primitive yet highly advanced space monsters and they blast away at me, encroaching ever forward. Finally I’m outnumbered as they hover right above me. Then the screen freezes. “Damn,” I mutter. Old piece of crap. Before I go grab the manager to get my money back I get a laugh out of the stuck display. On the old screen, in between the group of aliens and my player, my laser bullet and another laser bullet are frozen next to each other, creating an equal sign.