Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The End of the World (As We Know It)

And how do you feel?

Last Saturday, Fosco offered you a short story by Steven Millhauser. Well, today is not Saturday, but Fosco thinks you should take a brief (less than ten minute) break from your Wednesday to read this recent Steven Millhauser story (from The New Yorker). In this very short story, he imagines what an invasion from outer space will actually look like (if it eventually does happen). It's purposefully lacking in drama, which makes it all the sadder.

Millhauser's whole point here is that, when we finally do encounter an alien life form, in all likelihood that life form will be completely uninterested in us. And yet, it may still kill us all.

We have been invaded by nothing, by emptiness, by animate dust. The invader appears to have no characteristic other than the ability to reproduce rapidly. It doesn’t hate us. It doesn’t seek our annihilation, our subjection and humiliation. Nor does it desire to protect us from danger, to save us, to teach us the secret of immortal life. What it wishes to do is replicate.
This is the problem with all of our "humanity under attack" movies, from Signs to Independence Day to The Happening: they are all about us. But, no matter what we'd like to think, the universe does not particularly care about humanity. If we ever encounter an alien life form, we are likely to register--if we register at all--as completely irrelevant. And that's actually really scary.

Once again, Steven Millhauser does something amazing.


Anonymous said...

Oz is not seeing something extraordinary or brilliant about this concept, because it's only common sense. Oz has given that very concept a thought many times, often during meetings.

But you must be talking about the article in general.

Jeremy said...

Hmm, why am i underwhelmed? Maybe it's just my high school science-fiction years speaking, but it seems like the idea's not really so original. And Millhauser here sounds like a post-9/11 Ray Bradbury (well, Bradbury is also a post-9/11 Bradbury, but you understand: the idea and the nostalgic-Americana tone here resonate with a new geopolitical world).

I still plan to take your advice and pick up Dangerous Laugher. And I'm always glad when you cover short stories.