Without much warning last month I unveiled my latest Kickstarter, the sequel to the Map of Zombies, THE MAP OF ALIEN INVADERS! Now, with just 5 days left in the Kickstarter, here’s the 98% complete version of the map, classifying over 500 types of hostile tentacle monsters, reptilians, plant creatures, sexy female aliens, Elder Things and much more!
Based on numerous firsthand reports, this shows all of the major alien invasions which have harassed Earth since the replicating crystalline entities known as the Xipéhuz in 1888 (or technically, according to the timeline of that story, thousands of years earlier). The main thing missing from the map at this point is the icons which will go with the story names, reflecting some of the major tropes of different stories (space wars, comedies, postapocalyptic stories, etc.) and media types (film, TV, prose, video games, comics, animation). Also, the red-yellow area around the Earth needs some fixes and color alteration. Once that’s all done, and probably some corrections, it’s done!
Researching alien invasions carries a different set of challenges from researching, say, zombie apocalypses. The most obvious is that alien invasions are massively more complicated. Even the definitions of “alien” and “invasion” are hard to agree on. Is it an “invasion” if it’s a war between humans and aliens in outer space? Is it an “invasion” if the aliens show up on Earth, freak people out just by being there, but don’t really do anything? Is it an “invasion” if it’s not a full-on global assault, but just a few inept aliens with a plan that doesn’t threaten more than a few 1950s teenagers? (Answer: yes.) Is it an alien invasion if the aliens are actually from Earth and have just been hiding under the ocean or underground or somewhere? (Answer: not really, but the Silurians from Doctor Who and the newts from War Against the Newts were too good not to include anyway.)
My original idea was to classify aliens by their intentions (conquest, genocide, literally blowing up the entire planet, etc.), but this proved difficult, since invaders’ goals often change over time and may not even be known to mere Earthlings. In the end, I classified aliens primarily by their physical shape, and only to a lesser extent by their methods. But even aliens’ physical shape may not be constant: in Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher for instance (the film is better than the book) the Earth is menaced by saucer-flying “gray” aliens, deadly intestinal parasite aliens, and human-possessing aliens, but they’re all aspects of the sentient Byrum fungus, so technically it’s a parasitic fungus invasion. (But still really different from, say, The Quatermass Experiment.)
Another problem with categorizing alien invasions is that many of the most interesting ones are short (i.e. not movies or novels). Many interesting classic invasions are in short stories (there wasn’t much market for full-length science fiction novels until the 1950s paperback boom), short comics, episodes of TV shows like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits and Ultra Q, even radio serials. To fit everything on a 24”x36” poster, I had to pick just a few of the most interesting short stories, like William Tenn’s The Liberation of Earth and P. Schuyler Miller’s Spawn. I also chose to remove some of the worst and most boring full-length alien invasions, such as Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and almost every alien invasion movie on Netflix.
The sheer number of alien invaders may seem overwhelming, but humans should take comfort in the fact that hostile aliens are actually in the minority. Until H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds (1897) and the flying saucer boom of the 1950s, most alien visitors were actually friendly, or benevolently amused by humanity, like the 23-mile-high alien in Voltaire’s Micromégas (1752). And while on first glance intelligent alien invaders would seem more threatening than unintelligent zombies, in fact going by the numbers, alien invasions are much more likely to end happily for Earth. Only a relatively few cases involve aliens who are so powerful that they can just terraform huge swatches of Earth while totally ignoring humans (Trees, Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy, etc.), or wipe out all Earthly species with imported alien plantlife (The Genocides), or simply nuke the planet from afar without warning (The Killing Star). It’s far more common for aliens to humans to discover a secret weapon, hack the aliens’ computers, or just defeat the aliens with courage, resilience and our vampire allies. Occasionally, alien invasion stories are about struggling in the grip of a superior and incomprehensible power, but more often, to quote ID42: Resurgence, it’s about “Let’s kick some alien ass!”
I’ll write some more about the different subcategories of alien invaders later, but for now, please check out the map and if you haven’t already, support the Kickstarter!