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John Scalzi – Everything I Need to Know About Winter I Learned From SciFi Movies


Like many of the people in the U.S., I currently find myself encased in what I believe the technical term is “a metric buttload” of snow, the sort where I could go out my front door and no one would find me until April. But unlike many, I am not filled with despair at the snowpocalypse! Because I have watched many scifi movies, and they have given me all sorts of good advice about how to brave wintry conditions. And now, I will share them with you. Because I am giving that way.

The Thing From Another World (1951) / The Thing (1982)
1. You know what, if you find an ancient space ship trapped in the ice, you might just want to leave it there.

2. If you’re trapped in an antarctic research station where things have gotten weird, and one of your colleagues keeps telling you he wants to see you privately just for a minute, you don’t have to set him on fire. Maybe he does just want to have a chat. But take a flamethrower with you, just in case.

3. Those people in the helicopter, shooting at that dog? Maybe they know more than you.

4. The guy who accuses you of being the thing? He’s totally the thing.

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
1. If it’s so cold that your tauntaun wants to stay in, reconsider going out.

2. When you’re caught in a snow storm and you hallucinate a dead guy telling you to travel someplace warm and swampy, that’s just your brain’s way of saying “screw you for freezing me to death.”

3. If you decide to cut open your tauntaun to keep someone from turning into a meatsicle, it’s probably best to keep that from the tauntaun until the last minute.

4. That wampa doesn’t want to hug you.

5. It’s nice if your friend decides to ride out into a bitter and dangerous snow storm to come rescue your frozen ass, but you probably shouldn’t count on it. Emergency supplies can be your friends, too.

6. Have you practiced using the force to dislodge your lightsaber from a snow pile while you’re hanging upside down? And why not?

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) / Star Trek (2009)
1. When the computerized voice in your escape pod tells you to stay near the pod, it might be right.

2. Creatures galloping toward you in the snow love it when you stand there trying to figure out what they are. It makes you easier to catch.

3. Related to this, you can’t hope for an evolutionarily unlikely larger creature to spring out of the ice to eat the creature about to eat you. So prepare accordingly!

4. If you must take refuge in an ice cave, aim for the one with the conveniently placed Vulcan. It may take some guesswork, but it will so be worth it.

5. From time to time, you may find yourself sentenced to an icy prison planet. When that happens, it’s okay to ask for weather-appropriate clothing instead of just going in whatever you happen to have on. Sure, someone in prison might take it from you when you get there, because that’s what people on icy prison planets do. But until then, you’ll be toasty.

The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
1. Remember that when the temperature drops to 100 below zero, burning books to stay warm doesn’t make you, like, a bad person. Well, no, actually it does. Sorry. You coulda burned the rugs first, you damn nihilist.

2. Also, geeks: When the Super-Winter comes, and everyone else is burning books to stay warm? All that gloating you did about how awesome your Kindle is will finally come back to haunt you.

3. When half of the continental United States is encased in ice, saying “How’s the global warming working out for you?” in an arch and sarcastic way will get you thrown out into the cold. Because while technically you may be right, now is not the time.

Alien Vs. Predator (2004)
1. Hey, remember that advice about ancient space ships trapped in Antarctic ice? Goes double for pyramids.

2. In fact: when in doubt, just stay the hell out of Antarctica. Leave it to the penguins and the things.

See how practical and useful all this advice is for our current weather situation? Thank you, science fiction! Now we’re ready for anything.

If you have your own Winter/Cold & Ice advice based on scifi movies, the comment thread awaits your wisdom.

Winner of the Hugo Award and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, John Scalzi is the author of The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies and the novels Old Man’s War and Zoe’s Tale. He’s also Creative Consultant for the Stargate: Universe television series. His column appears every Thursday.

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