Surviving A Science Fictional Year: Family Sci-Fi

I have no reference for how many people on this planet have seen Batteries Not Included. If you haven’t, you really, really, should. The alien designs are probably the most heart warming robot design second to Johnny Five.

The models used for the movie Batteries Not Included.

And yes, those are momma and poppa alien UFO-bots with their three children UFO-bots. The adorable is barely tolerable.

Batteries Not Included isn’t super deep, but it is incredibly touching. My favorite scene is the one where the momma UFO-bot is ready to conceive (which I imagine must be that her innards have produced some kind of consciousness to which a vessel needs given?), so the poppa gathers scrap metal for her, which is fed with a conveyor belt into her insides, where it is processed and rendered into the bodies of the children.

Related to that is the scene where two characters examine her insides, while they’re open, and see what looks like a buzzing metropolis with millions of even smaller machines (represented by moving points of light) running up and down cables. That one scene is a little mind blowing: the humans identify with the machines as a thinking object, but each machine carries within itself potential millions of thinking objects. That night I tried to think about the experience of the human body from the perspective of a white blood cell or invading cold virus. At that scale, concepts of infection and immunity probably don’t exist, it’s just another expression of the food chain, but at super miniature: the virus feeds on microscopic nodules of my body, and the white cell feeds on a virus. Somehow, the human body has marshaled thousands of such microcosms into itself to defend the thing we think of as a whole. Is it turtles all the way down? Are there red blood cell scientists who struggle in the face of great opposition to understand the universe, and I am that universe? Is each microscopic machine inside the UFO a universe itself with yet smaller machines tending their needs? If any of that is true, what does thought look like on those scales? Am I just a (spectacularly terrible) white blood cell myself?

The last movie I watched was Flight of The Navigator, which is another amazing movie. It’s essentially alien abduction for kids, not the terrifying kind that make you avoid sleep until your mid-teens. It has all the right elements: mysterious lights, missing time, government involvement, bizarre intelligences. But it does have an unusually friendly and approachable alien, unlike almost every other abduction story in existence.

The thing that stood out to me most was the main character’s willingness, no matter how painful, to leave his world and everything he knew because he had transcended it. The last ten minutes of that movie are a powerful metaphor for what it’s like to realize that you’ve outgrown a place and a time.

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jh montgomery

I'm a guy with opinions. Some of those are about science fiction. Like a voice shouting into a hurricane of voices, I write about science fiction for Hush Comics. I grew up watching the original Star Trek with my mom in our basement. I have shockingly few memories of it, apart from the silver and gray grid covered VHS boxes old Star Trek tapes came in, but it left it's mark forever. My first memory of being in a movie theater was Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. A group entered dressed as the crew of Star Trek, acting the part (the man dressed in Vulcan robes addressing the man with a middle-aged lesbian perm as captain). I nearly lost my mind with the excitement of sharing a theater with Leonard Nimoy. No no, my mom would tell me: that's someone dressing up. Impossible. Later, I would walk in on my parents watching the wrong movie at the wrong moment and be mortally terrified of alien abductions from the age of eight to thirteen. This fear was so strong, I couldn't watch the X-Files until it came to Netflix. As a teenager, hearing the theme song coming from another room in the house would give me anxiety. Science fiction, at its best is the pursuit, and evolution, toward transcendance: cultural, technological, spiritual. Transcendance marked me early, and forever.

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