Being born at the tag-end of the baby boom, I was destined (or doomed, depending on how you look at it) to fall in love with sci-fi. It was one of my first literary loves, as a matter of fact. Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov . . . these writers totally rocked my world. It was the perfect genre for the age: hopeful, exciting, visionary, full of promise and possibility. Then came Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. "Hey, we might not be alone" became "Hey! We're not alone!" or, more ominously, "Oh God, we're not alone."
Sci-Fi is the genre that explored both possibilities: the end of our existential crisis and the end of our existence. My novel, The 5th Wave, explores the latter scenario, because, frankly, I believe it represents the likeliest outcome of an extraterrestrial encounter. In short, if they're out there, we better hope they never find us. When civilizations collide, it usually isn't the more primitive one that prevails. And that raises the obvious question: what, if anything, will? What will endure after everything has been stripped away, including hope for another day? Great sci-fi has never shied from tackling the Big Questions, though really great sci-fi never forgets to entertain us along the way. Shock and awe applies to art, as well. So to celebrate the unique place this genre holds in our hearts, here are my top five shockers from films that have left indelible impressions upon our collective psyche.
<em>“Luke, I am your father.” </em>Who doesn’t remember the moment they heard that line? The number of people who do is exceeded only by the number of times it’s been repeated, in practically every context you can think of.
When Charltan Heston discovers the Statue of Liberty on the beach. We sort of knew that moment was coming, but it still didn’t fail to shock us.
Practically every scene in which the xenomorph appears (from egg, from stomach, from air duct), except the final one, which was totally predictable but exciting nevertheless.
The moment this trained crew of explorers takes off their masks inside an alien incubation chamber, an act so shockingly stupid that we’re convinced we <em>deserve </em>to get eaten.
Totally shocking that we’re able to take down the mothership by means of a computer virus. A computer virus? Beings thousands of years more advanced than us and they never heard of a firewall? This is only slightly more shocking than the demise of the Martians in WAR OF THE WORLDS, brought about by a biological virus. Didn’t these guys think to get their flu shots before invading? And what the heck is it about aliens and viruses? What, earth is the only planet unlucky enough to have them?