The Mermaids in God’s Eye

There is a moment in the film Mermaids when Cher’s character slaps her daughter (played by Winona Ryder) in the middle of an argument. The shock of the blow causes both of them to pause, and there is a splendid moment when they realise that they are arguing hammer and tongs not because they are very different but because they are very similar.

This obviously reminded me of the great 1970s novel The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. If you don’t get the reference or the similarity I will explain it all after the break!

The Mote in God’s Eye

Described by Robert A. Heinlein as “possibly the finest science fiction novel I have ever read” this story finds a human expedition encounter a race of very alien Moties trapped in a section of space from which they do not have the technology to escape.

The story presents these ever more alien beings in a memorable way (strange way of talking, three arms and so forth) and it is not until the end that they are seen as a threat to humanity and our heroes pull off a narrow escape at the end of the story. There is a detailed review of it on wiki (here) but this is enough for the purposes of this blog.

The Similarity

I was discussing this novel with friends when I realised what the core story is about, despite their alien appearance the Moties are, underneath, the same as us – they want the same worlds, resources and need for room to expand. With a war-like history they are a threat to humanity should they ever escape from their cosmic trap. Deep down many wars are fought for this reason – two species can only co-exist with diverse needs!

This is just like Cher and Winona – they fight because they are the same!

In conclusion

So there you have it; we have wandered around two very different works and ended up in the same place. Now I don’t want to suggest that the entertaining film is as great a piece of art as the wonderful novel of alien encounter, but it does feature the Shoop shoop song (It’s in his kiss!)

What do you think?


About Tony Jones
Big Finish writer, reviewer and blogger, I'm interested in science fiction and Doctor Who. I review for CultBox, The Doctor Who Companion and others. I am also Lead Writer for Starburst Magazine, and write the occasional piece for Vortex, the BSFA critical magazine.

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