The new version of The Thing is coming out this weekend — actually a prequel to the 1982 film, but titled the same, so whatever — and while scifi horror fans are ramping up to enjoy the carnage, I am reminded of something else entirely, namely: the Things Science Fiction Film Has Ruined for Me. And what things might those be? Well:
Like a lot of super nerds, there’s a part of me that
wants to go down to our most southern continent and spend time as part
of the staff at either McMurdo Station or the Amundsen-Scott South Pole
Station, because, come on, it’s Antarctica, full of ice and
science (the thin, cold atmosphere of Antarctica makes it perfect for
astronomical observations, among many other things). This despite the
fact that, as a southern California native, I experience
hyperventilation at the very thought of snow, which is not so great
considering I now live in Ohio.
What keeps me from applying to either base as janitor or comic relief? If you’re thinking, “Oh, probably the 1982 version of The Thing,” you would be exactly correct,
and I don’t suspect that the new version of the film coming out this
weekend is going to make things any better, pun intended. The rational
part of my brain understands that the chances of an interstellar
spacecraft encased in ice containing a hyperadaptive alien species that
will eat me and wear my skin being down there at the South Pole are
actually pretty slim. But, you know. Why take that chance.
fact: At the South Pole station, during the southern hemisphere winter,
the large majority of the station’s staff leave the place, and a
caretaker staff of about 50 stay behind to keep the lights on and make
sure the place isn’t encased in snow. What do these 50 people do the
night after the last flight has left, sealing them off from the rest of
humanity for six months? They watch The Thing. That’s hardcore, people. Seriously.
Antarctica also houses the Alien vs. Predator
ziggurat, but that hasn’t ruined the continent for me. It just makes me
want to nuke it from orbit, because it’s the only way to be sure.
From the late 1990s until the advent of smart phones a couple of years
ago, the “clamshell” cell phone was all the rage, and I couldn’t hold one
without giving in to the impulse to go Full Shatner on it, flipping it
open like the Star Trek communicator it was so clearly designed to look
like and screaming “KHAAAAAN,” which gave the appearance that every blood vessel in
my skull was bursting open. Which led to moments like this:
SCENE: Sometime in 2002.
Me (flipping open cell phone): KHAAAAAN!
Wife: Really? Again? How old are you?
Me (defensively): Bill Shatner was in his 50s when he first shouted “KHAAAAAN.”
Wife: Yes, but he got paid for it. You do it for free.
Me: Well, you know the old saying, “How do you get to the Genesis Planet? Practice, practice, practice.”
Wife (after a minute): I don’t think you realize how close I just came to leaving you.
the iPhone and Droids came out and now no one pretends their cell phone is
a communicator. But then, there is almost certainly an app that will
scream “KHAAAAAN” for you whenever you like, so I think it probably all
Who can hear one without
wondering whether it means they will be terminated? Well, everyone in
Austria. Fine. But there’s still every other single person in the world,
man. Now you may think this is a fairly small problem, all things
considered, because the United States isn’t exactly packed to the brim
with Austrian expats. Fair enough. But you know what — this week I am
flying to Germany to do a 10-day book tour. Most of my stops are in
southern Germany. Austria is just across the border. My chance of
hearing Austrian accents has just gone up significantly.
Austria: I don’t think you are actually a nation of Terminators. I’m
sure most of you have never even bothered to find Sarah Connor. But it’s
where my brain goes first. Because I’m a nerd. Please forgive me.
The Australian Outback
Likewise, Australia, I know for a fact that five miles outside of Sydney
your entire country does not in fact become a sweltering desert filled
with leather fetishists in spiked dune buggies. I mean, I have visited
you. You were lovely. I hope to visit again. I did not see The Humongous
at Hungry Jack’s, waiting in line for a burger. But between the Mad Max films, Pitch Black, and The Blood of Heroes,
I gotta tell you: My image of you past the city limits is all messed
up. At least I don’t think you’re full of hobbits and elves.