When the Twerms Came: Arthur C Clarke’s easy guide for aliens to invade Earth?

Why waste all that energy when there are smarter ways? Image courtesy movie 'Independence Day'

It’s time to come clean: I have a fascination with alien invasions of our planet.

As a kid, I was an avid listener of radio (my only electronic medium, as I grew up in a land without television, and in a time before the Internet) — and expected the regular transmissions to be interrupted any moment to break the news of an alien invasion underway. The spoilsports shattered my childhood dreams everyday.

Now slightly older, I keep looking for the perfect moments for that history-shattering event. A widely reproduced op ed essay I wrote in July 2010 opened with these words:

“If you’re an alien planning to invade the Earth, choose July 11. Chances are that our planet will offer little or no resistance. Today, most members of the Earth’s dominant species – the nearly 7 billion humans – will be preoccupied with 22 able-bodied men chasing a little hollow sphere. It’s only a game, really, but what a game: the whole world holds its breath as the ‘titans of kick’ clash in the FIFA World Cup Final…”

The careless aliens didn’t heed my advice, but I live in hope. I keep looking for the strategic moments and smart ways to take over the planet — with as little violence as possible. After all, I’m a peace-loving person (even if I’m unhappy with the planet’s current management).

I’m not alone in this noble quest. Science fiction writers have been at it for decades, and future Earth invaders are well advised to first study these useful instructions masquerading as popular literature. In an op ed essay published today, I highlight one such story by Sir Arthur C Clarke.

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I wrote WikiLeaks, Swiss Banks and Alien invasions with my tongue in my cheek about half the time (go figure!). I’ve been following the WikiLeaks cablegate saga for several weeks, and was intrigued to read that other critically sensitive secrets — that have nothing to do with garrulous American diplomats — were also reaching this online platform for assorted whistle-blowers.

One such story, appearing in the London Observer on 16 January 2011, reported how the Swiss whistleblower Rudolf Elmer plans to hand over offshore banking secrets of the rich and famous to WikiLeaks. That reminded me of an obscure short story that Arthur C Clarke had written more than 40 years ago, which is not as widely known as it should be. This short essay is an attempt to revive interest in it.

I describe how PLAYBOY Magazine used the story as a basis for a psychedelic comic strip illustrated by the American underground cartoonist Skip Williamson. That appeared in their issue for May 1972 — and I’m still trying to locate that story. All in the interests of pop culture, of course.

Read WikiLeaks, Swiss Banks and Alien invasions on Groundviews.org