2021: Not Another 1920 — Per Stu
Less Mystery About Misery. Meet the Stralfs. Learn Their History.
(Continuing this expansive metaphor on our metacognition — for going post-postmodern.) (And the podcast trailer at our website, bottom of page, will help make that title seem a little less cryptic, but not so much that it ruins everything.)
It’s February 7, 2022, less than a week before our invading underlords, the Stralfs, hold their annual conference to determine if they’ll return to Planet Stralf or stay here another year, trying to make us evermore miserable. On Super Bowl Sunday they’ll gather and listen to numerous presentations on what went well and what went poorly in 2021. Things going “well” for Stralfs means things going poorly for us.
According to Stu, once the Stralfs failed to convince us to leave Earth by 2014, their original achievement plan, one hundred years after they had started WWI, they reassess the likelihood of mission success annually — on Super Bowl Sunday.
This meeting was initially held during the week after Christmas, which they despise for obvious reasons. The first big conference then, in 1914, was an emergency assembly prompted by the impromptu Christmas Day truces during WWI frontline fighting. One main concern was that the Christmas truce might awaken humans to the fact that they’re much more “staged” or directed than they’d realized. If in a war they can choose to simply stop killing each other right after they’d been shooting and bombing, what would that imply about the other roles they played with such passion, or reason?
Or worse (for Stralfs), what if it made humans realize the power others have even over their feelings, their sense of identity, their roles, and their options. They trained to kill. They learned to be soldiers. They identified proudly and confidently as soldiers willing to kill and die for an idea of goodness, and they dare not betray who they were as a person. And then… Bam.
Not a bomb. Not even an epiphany about war or the trouble with it, but about everything. How contextual, how arbitrary, how flexible, were the rest of the scripts in their lives, even ones they thought they had written or at least chosen? That was the Stralfs’ fear — reflection and introspection.
Germany’s Sturm and Drang aesthetic, championing dramatic emotional lives and feelings over the Enlightenment’s aesthetic of rationalism, and savoring war and pain but also a freed individualism, was over a hundred years old. The offshoot American Romanticist movement, transcendentalism, and its view of the autonomy of truth was almost as old. Humans should have been at a stable point by now — balancing emotion and reason. But this truce did not make sense. If they stop fighting just for Christmas, what’s next? Quite disturbing, if you’re Stralf underlords trying to nudge humans into warring herds.
A Century Earlier
According to Stu, the Stralfs had begun scouting here in 1819, first around the Kankakee River and Beaver Lake where they had landed. They noticed there seem to be two different types of us, the more natural natives (Naturals) and the newcomers (Europeans). The newcomers had more technology and an attitude of superiority and progress. That group didn’t understand why the Naturals didn’t want their help and knowledge about progress.
As the Stralfs came to understood more about the friction between the two types and realized what the Europeans were expecting to do with the land, they also realized how much the whole species was different from themselves. This species was made up of different herds. And there were even herds within herds, and they hurt each other for lots of different reasons.
The Stralfs knew they could work with this. They knew they could herd the herds and sub-herds, through individuals, through mumbling into their minds, just as they did with the lower mobies on their own planet — where they were the highest organism in terms of management abilities. They hadn’t done very well in managing some of their own resources, so now they needed a new planet, similar to their own, of course. But they would not kill in order to take it, because they didn’t think that would be fair or right.
They noticed that both human societies used violence within their communities, and both had members that were violent against the other type, like the lower mobies on their own planet. After about a year, their large scouting corps took off from Beaver Lake and headed southeast, planning to eventually reach Marietta, Ohio, which they’d seen on a map and had heard was the source of the newcomers, the Europeans.
However, after only a short time in the air they noticed many fires glowing near a river, the Wabash River, so they decided to land if they could find a suitable large pond or lake. The ideal landing site is a shallow and still body of water, one that would just cover their small saucers and they sat still on the lake or pond bed, so they wouldn’t be found.
According to Stu, the scout corps saucers were only about six feet in diameter and 3 feet high at the center. Stralfs are less than a foot tall at “equilibrium pressure,” so even a scout saucer could hold around thirty Stralfs comfortably enough, at least for scouts. A pond was found in what is now Lafayette, not far from downtown, and that became their remote outpost as they explored the area.
This area was much more populated than their main site at Beaver Lake, so they drilled on camouflage techniques as a refresher, not having used them much at Beaver Lake since that area was mostly tall grasses, shrubs, and trees. At equilibrium, Stralfs resemble a large brown potato, except they’re softer, like a pawpaw. (Stu has suggested bumper stickers with “Those Potatoes Are Malicious!” to raise awareness. I admit I kinda like it.)
Exposure to UV rays softens their skin over time, allows temporary color changes, and their muscular invertebrate structure allows them to temporarily take on different shapes, mostly for camouflage. They can even take in fluid or air in order to become bigger, temporarily, up to about two feet in height, assuming they’ve been outside enough to absorb UV rays.
In terms of functions, they’re actually a little like an octopus with no real tentacles, except that they can extend short protrusions, a little bigger than caterpillar legs, to get around. They can also hold sticks by making tight pockets in their skin in which they grab the end of the stick, two to six usually, and use them like stilts. This creates a third-class lever action, so they can move pretty quickly when they’re “on stilts.”
Eventually, the corps of little potato-pawpaw-octopus aliens spread out around the area to learn more about humans as individuals and in groups. It was then that they learned about what happened at Battleground and also how another type of European, the French, had been different from the type they’d learned about so far. They didn’t know what to do with the new information yet. Their mission was to learn, not to decide, at least not yet.
You might want to listen to the one minute podcast trailer below to see where this is going.
More tomorrow, if at all possible.