Monkey Brains Love Spaceship Rumbles
Like many of you, I’m something of a stickler for accuracy when it comes to Sci-Fi. I enjoy pointing out the odd foible as I exit the theater, and I confess to many an eye-roll while reading some poorly researched foray into the average Quantum Adventure Novel.
But I recently had an epiphany, and I wanted to share it with you. You’re welcome, please send money.
For our purposes here today, I’m going to assign each of you sophisticated, jaded readers two brains. One Modern Brain, which is full of coffee and code, and one Monkey Brain who’s job it is to keep you from getting eaten. Don’t underestimate the Monkey Brain, as its job is also to get you laid. At that point, the Modern Brain can kiss my ass. But I digress.
I want you to recall, many misty moons ago, when you saw Star Wars for the first time. Remember in the very beginning, after the giant slab of InfoDump serenely moved off into the distance, how that Big Ass(tm) Star Destroyer passed overhead, rumbling like an avalanche? Do you remember the dopplered whine of the Tie Fighters zipping past the camera during the later space battles? I do, and I remember two things that happened to me at the same time.
My Modern Brain leaned over to my companion and sneered, “Sound can’t propagate in a vacuum, what were they thinking?” But at the same time my Monkey Brain was screaming, “JESUS H CHRIST! THAT THING IS FUCKING HUGE! WHY ARE WE STILL HERE? GET UP OR WE MAY WET OURSELVES!” and “DUCK! DUCK! DUCK!”.
Monkey Brains love spaceship rumbles. They don’t know about vacuums, but they know a crapload about judging the size and speed of something from the sound it makes. (The exception to this is the Cheetah, which sounds like a small kitten and is quite capable of producing monkey chiclets anyway.) And the best part is that they share this information with you whether you want them to or not. Without this bit of input, my Modern Brain, having no scaling information in the frame, would have no way to tell how huge the ship was. That majestic moment would have been lost on me completely.
Of course I was too busy sneering at the time to thank the Monkey Brain.
I went along like this for years, until the night that I was rescued by The Little Mermaid.
Some friends and relatives were all gathered together for the holidays. Someone’s children had gotten a copy of Disney’s The Little Mermaid for Christmas. There’s a large musical number in the beginning that features Sebastian the Crab singing and dancing like crazy. After his performance he stalks off to do his master’s bidding, and someone, we’ll call him Sparky, bellows out the following information:
Crabs don’t walk like that!
Silence. Heads turn. Eyes roll. Now, strictly speaking, while this is true, they don’t SING AND DANCE either. And I opened my mouth and said, “You’re missing the point!”
And as those words left my largest head orifice, I realized that I had been missing the point, and harpooning exactly this kind of thing for decades.
Alas, I suck.
The next time you find yourself about to pick that nit, just take a deep breath and let your Monkey Brain thrill to the rumble of huge spaceships as they tow that 50 zillion tons of gravel across a tin roof, or whatever the fuck it is they do that makes that noise.
Your brain, and one very talented little crab, will thank you for it.