5. Aliens and Other Creatures

Page 3 of 7 | Bellicose Beasts | Imagination Rules! | All Alien | Alien Language | Your Alien Hatching? | Communicating to the Reader | Try This |

All Alien All the Time
funhouse alienOr are they really?

Even as we talk about using imagination and logical thought to create wonderful and perhaps bizarre alien creatures, we should also realize that even the most alien of characters will have some humanlike qualities, even if subtle ones. After all, we the writers are all human (well, I am anyway), and most of our readers are, as well. It would be hard to find common ground and understanding with fictional aliens who had no elements of humanity. On some level, regardless of how strange and otherworldly the aliens might be, we need to be able to feel something of what they feel. Remember E.T., from the movie? He was a very strange-looking fellow, clearly not human. And yet he was kind, and curious—and he was lonely, separated from his people.

One way of thinking about aliens is that they are a deliberately distorted reflection of who we are. Think of them as humans, viewed in a fun-house mirror.

As you read various authors' portrayals of aliens (you're still reading plenty of stories, right—lots of different kinds of SF and fantasy?), you'll see an enormous amount of variation. Some authors make their aliens more alien, and some make them less so. It all depends on what they're trying to do in the story. Are they trying to explore the truly alien for its own sake (or to examine the possible effects on humans of encounter with the alien)? Or are they using aliens as interesting stand-ins for human characters? Or are they using them for humorous effect?

For that matter, are they portraying future humans so altered by technology and genetic manipulation that their humans are effectively alien?

These are questions to consider when you write aliens into your own stories.

 
 

Course content copyright © 2005 Jeffrey A. Carver
May not be reproduced without permission of the author.
Visit the Science Fiction Worlds of Jeffrey A. Carver.