How to Survive in a Sci-Fi World – redux

I have been trawling through the archives a little bit recently, primarily to get ideas for a redesign, but also reminding myself that I actually can write, and that I used to kick ARSE at this blogging thing. During the history safari, I rediscovered a gem I originally posted back in 2006. I hate the thought of it languishing, unloved and unread, so in the spirit of all the remakes infecting our cinemas, I have brought it back to life. Slightly tweaked of course, because I would hate to be accused of rehashing content for the sake of it 😛

So without further gilding the lily, I bring you:


Before we get to the fun stuff, a little background. I love sci-fi and fantasy, and have read and watched far too much over the years (according to friends and family that is. As far as I am concerned, bring it on!) All this has left me with a slightly, um, geeky, outlook on life, and more trivia than you can shake a moderately large stick at.

One thing that you would have to be fairly unperceptive not to have noticed, is the number of cliches that abound in this genre. Whilst watching Alien for the nth time with my brother, he yelled at the screen “don’t you realise, you never go back for the ships cat!” That stuck, and the idea transmogrified into what you see below. Kind of a beginners guide for the first-time heroine (or hero, I’m not picky. All the gender specific nouns I’ve used are interchangeable). Inspired by everything from the “classics” to the slightly more screwball, I hope they strike a cord, and you find at least a few funny. Do let me know, both what you think of these, and if you can think of more.

For Starters:

  1. You have blonde hair, a rather angular jaw, and a penchant for wearing figure hugging outfits. Of course you’re the hero.
  2. You’ve woken up on a strange starship on the other side of the galaxy. You are the sole representative of your class/race/species and for company you have a representative of your mortal enemy. You might as well just give in already hon, you know you’re both going to end up madly and passionately in love.
  3. You are rescued from certain death by a renegade representative of your mortal enemy. Oh, wake up already – you’re looking at your soulmate.

The Ship & Crew:

  1. Nope. No point in looking for seatbelts in this baby. They limit the chances for being knocked off your feet in the arms of your waiting, devoted second in command.
  2. You’re going to need a good second in command – go down the local bar and find the most drunk and disreputable individual you can find. He will clean up nicely and will be ruggedly handsome. He will prove to be a top-ranking officer just a bit down on his luck, and you have won his eternal gratitude.
  3. But be warned, your new second in command has a Tainted History that will cause him to have a conflict of loyalties in one episode in the second series. Just remember to treat him like a respected member of your crew, repeatedly remind him that his past has no bearing on how you treat him now, and you’ll never be rid of him. A few smouldering glances never hurt either
  4. When choosing your command crew (especially your second officer), interesting and diverse ethnic backgrounds are essential. All the better if they are one of the few surviving members of an ancient native tribe. This will ensure an ample supply of ancestral wisdom and a less technological-orientated outlook on life, which will in turn provide an innovative (and ultimately successful) escape plan.

Essential Skills:

  1. Despite all the high-tech weaponry that theFleet has seen fit to give you, it never hurts to know how to use a bent hair-pin to open a lock.
  2. No matter how attached you are to that blaster, you’d better brush up on your fencing skills. It’s just so pretty to watch you understand.

Away Missions:

  1. Ensure that all the essential crew have come along with you on this mission (captain, second officer, medical officer, chief engineer…) That leaves the ship adequately staffed with expendable flunkies, and provides a previously mediocre junior officer with a chance to prove their worth.
  2. You and your partner (preferably a representative of a species normally your mortal enemy)/away team have landed on a peaceful planet. Leave. Quickly.
  3. The leader of the peaceful planet has an immaculately groomed goatee – kill him now, it will save you a lot of trouble in the long run.
  4. The leader of the peaceful planet that you failed to get away from quick enough, or kill, asks for your impartial opinion on how to deal with this teeny bit of civil unrest he’s been having lately… are you actually paying attention to the flashing neon danger signs?
  5. Be nice and listen to that bedraggled orphan kid. You’re gonna need her help by the end to get out of this one alive.
  6. You are locked in jail and are awaiting the death sentence – once you’ve tried bribing the guards with your body, and are in a huff because that failed, relax and wait for a powercut (handily supplied by the Rebels who you are helping to overthrow the evil-goatee-wearing-leader of the Peaceful Planet). With the forcefield off, you will be free to disarm the one (tired/incompetent) guard with a judo chop whilst he hesitates to use his lethal gun because you are female.
  7. You are cornered by guards during your escape from the prison. Duck into a handy access tunnel, find your way unerringly (but without the aid of a map or prior knowledge of the building) back to your cell, pick up the lethal weapon the incompetent guard dropped when you judo-chopped him (luckily the security forces overlooked this one weapon when they cleared up the mess), and return to where you were cornered. The guards have waited for you, and you are now able to shoot them all and escape.
  8. Your gun has run out of energy for it’s (visible from the side) laser-beam and you have one guard left to kill. Relax, he will wait calmly whilst you swear at the weapon, shake it a few times, look down the barrel whilst depressing the trigger, narrowly avoid getting shot in the eye with the last dregs of power, drop the gun, and judo-chop him. You are now free to call up to your ship and get transported off the surface (for such sophisticated technology, those transporters aren’t that good at transporting you out of danger when you need it most.)

Danger Scenarios:

  1. Everything is going swimmingly well – you overthrew evil-goatee-wearing-leader of the Peaceful Planet, and helped the rebels form their new Fair and Democratic government. You’re now whiling away the journey back to your home planet/base. Get the toolkit out now – something big is going to go boom very, VERY soon.
  2. The alien civilisation you’ve just encountered claim to be Kindly and Benevolent. Am I the only one thinking that perhaps you’d have been better off staying at home?
  3. Your ship has developed a mechanical problem the engineers all say is un-solvable – don’t panic, just find the newest ensign and he’ll reverse the polarity and you will be fine.
  4. You are faced with a bomb to diffuse and are not sure which of the two wires to cut – we all know, it is the one that you didn’t first think it was. If you are lucky enough to have a slightly more competent writer on staff, it will be the first one. Make sure you take a deep breath and close your eyes before you cut the wire. Because of course that will lessen the pain of exploding if you happen to be wrong.

Mortal Danger:

  1. (a) Relax, they’re the Bad Guy’s henchmen and they always miss. And, if by some mischance they don’t, well, you’re the Captain. They won’t kill you off.
    (b) If it is the end of the series, this is a slightly dicier prospect. Um, you were polite to the scriptwriters and director, weren’t you?
  2. You’ve been shot – you are a major enough character to survive this one. Just lie there and groan convincingly till your partner finds you and carries you back to the ship, where he will exhibit previously unknown medical prowess and save your life.
  3. Your partner has just exhibited previously unknown medical prowess and saved your life (from a normally instantly fatal wound that you were a major enough character to survive). You will now have passionate sex even though you should still be in excruciating pain and it would probably be wiser to recuperate a little first.
  4. Don’t make comments like “over my dead body” to the Bad Guy, unless you particularly want to die. Soon. In a horrible and messy fashion.
  5. Against all probability, you’ve just been killed. Don’t worry, the scriptwriters will bring you back at the end of the next episode, just giving your crew time to mourn and wonder what they will do without you. (This is likely to happen with enough frequency to make us all think you have a revolving door in the afterlife.)
  6. You die. Don’t worry, it was all just a dream.

Things to Look Out For:

  1. Are you sure that’s just a bad case of indigestion…?
  2. If a mysterious, aged, trader gives you a mysterious artefact whilst you are exploring a station in the boondocks, keep it. It will be invaluable in a later episode.
  3. Take note of the name of the solve survivor of that colony planet who you just took back to HQ. He’s going to be back in the next season as a special advisor.
  4. The (human looking) guy you meet on a backwater station has a slight accent and badly dyed hair. He’s an alien. The greenish tinge to his skin is a dead give-away an all.
  5. That new space ship you are facing: it’s evil. It has lots of extraneous sharp pointy bits. It’s painted black, with a red insignia, which looks suspiciously like stylised skull and crossbones. Bad I tell you.
  6. There’s this place on all the maps marked “the Forbidden Zone”… Need I tell you where you’re headed next?
  7. Your crew has just worked hard and solved a problem. Now, feel free to forget it and make them think of some other solution when the same problem occurs in four weeks time.
  8. A hole the size of a penny is made in the hull of your space ship: decompression of the ships’ atmosphere will take half a minute or so.
  9. A hole the size of a barn is made in the hull of your space ship: decompression of the ships’ atmosphere will take half a minute or so.

General Concerns:

  1. A bit bored with being an incredibly competent woman-of-action with large breasts, no sexual inhibitions, and more skills/degrees than you can shake a blaster at? Don’t worry, you actually have a Tainted History.
  2. Your Tainted History will be revealed either:
    a) in a slow point mid series and will never be referred to again after it becomes clear that this is the case of your hesitation in relationships, and has been solved with one quick chat. Or
    b) at a critical moment so you can get support and sudden acceptance/understanding from your previously mistrusting crew. You will overcome your Past in time to Save the Day. And to save embarrassment, it will never be referred to again.
  3. Concerned that your gravity-defying assets actually need gravity to look convincing? I wouldn’t stress; every planet and station you visit will have a surface gravity of 9.8 meters per second squared, just like home. And as the artificial gravity is the last thing to fail on the ship, if it ever does, you’ll either have escaped or will be fetchingly dishevelled enough that people won’t notice.

Final Pieces of Advice to Make You Seem Like a Seasoned Captain:

  1. Never, ever, no matter how cute it is, go back for the ships’ cat.
  2. A guy starts sweating milk and you’re still trusting him? Perhaps you deserve to die…
  3. It’s been three films. Perhaps by now you should be getting the idea that hypersleep isn’t the safest mode of transport?
  4. It’s cute. It’s furry. It’s an alien you picked up on some back-water planet because you felt sorry for it. Have the engineer on standby because something is going to go wrong. Soon.
  5. And finally, if in doubt, go into the air ducts. Go on, it’s fun. And it gives us plenty of opportunity for us (and the devoted second in command) to admire your bum as you wiggle sensuously up the tube.

Originally posted on May 10, 2006