What Are You Trying To Sell Me, Monolith?

Eric Dovigi
11 min readDec 3, 2020

The Greatest and Most Terrible Marketing Ploy In History, or Kubrick-loving aliens?

The monolith.

Two Kinds of Aliens

There are two kinds of aliens in this world: those who have done their homework, and those who haven’t. In the latter category you’ve got your sentient clouds, your colors from space, your discs that hover just on the edge of sight. Boring stuff. In the former category you’ve got your flying saucers, tripods, green men, grey men, unemotive human simulacra, and — you guessed it — monoliths.

These are the aliens that took the time to watch a little sci-fi before making the interstellar journey.

By the way, if we ever visit alien planets, in some distant Star Trek-like future (which I hope you’ll agree with me happens to be the only important utopian vision in literature), Star Fleet Command will have to have a Science-Fiction Department: a group that will consume the target-planet’s sci fi and tell us how to choose a form in which to approach them so that they can understand what we are.

I bet their list of tropes will be more or less similar to ours. The little green men are the most fun. The human simulacra you save for when you need to intervene in a nuclear arms race. You take the form of flying saucers when you’re observing a middle-stage capitalist society and want to corner the merchandise market. What about monoliths?

Monoliths are a last resort. You come as a monolith when the bastards are at their wit’s end.

The Monolith

On November 18th some airborne Utah biologists came upon an unusual sight: a twelve foot metal “monolith.” (Monolith is a bit of a misnomer because the -lith suffix means “stone,” but whatever.) Unlike the famous black monolith from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, this monolith was light colored and in the form of a triangular prism. A few days later, the media got hold of the story. The public quickly found the monolith’s coordinates and started making the journey.

I had questions.

Why Utah? Why the desert? How big is it? How heavy? What’s it made out of? Is it supposed to be art? Is it supposed to be a marketing ploy? Is it…