Monday, 21 January 2013

Unearthly Children [My Favourite Martian bloghop]

Our galaxy is now known to be full of planets of all sizes, including small rocky worlds a little like our own. It’s no longer unreasonable to say that the chance of life emerging elsewhere in the galaxy is pretty good.

However there’s no reason for that alien life to resemble our own human civilization. Our own intelligence is just a good survival trick that helped us to colonize a particular niche. Most of the Earth’s other inhabitants manage just fine without smarts, or, in a few cases (dolphins, octopi, social insects and certain plants) they seem to use them in a different way.

In my opinion many aliens in science fiction appear too human, in both appearance and motivation. Sometimes this is to the good – after all, a lot of sci-fi is metaphor or allegory, but sometimes, frankly, it’s just lazy. Cat-like aliens are another issue – I’ve blogged about them in the past and will do so again. However it’s always good to see, or read about the exceptions: this post is dedicated to my favourite aliens who are truly alien.

[Tripod: Jeff Wayne's The War Of The Worlds stage show. Photo: Sci-Fi Gene]

H.G. Wells’ Martians: the blog hoppers amongst you will be pleased to discover that my favourite aliens are indeed Martian. In his classic novel of alien invasion, Wells imagined an ancient species shaped by the environment of Mars and by their own evolutionary history: mentally supercharged but physically frail after tens of thousands of years of dependence on their machines.

Runners up:

Alastair Reynolds’ Shrouders and Pattern Jugglers, the aliens of Revelation Space. Shrouders are inscrutable hermits, hidden behind deadly shields, while the Jugglers hide in plain sight: an intelligent sea capable of communication, exchange and barter but still unpredictable and equally mysterious.

The Borg: most of Star Trek’s aliens are just people with prosthetic skin features or pointy ears and mullets. When the Borg first appeared, for a while they were something genuinely different – even though Borg units still have a humanoid shape (fair enough, they are the absorbed bodies of other Star Trek species) the Borg collective intelligence was an unstoppable force unlike anything on Earth. Sadly later episodes featuring the Borg Queen or liberated units such as Seven of Nine gave the species back too much humanity.

The Xeelee: Stephen Baxter’s aliens are master engineers, working on galaxy-wide projects with purposes utterly beyond human imagination – so our predictable response, since we can’t understand them, is to throw stuff at them.

Finally the Alien itself, the xenomorph which has no humanity, just a hunger to seek out prey and complete its lifecycle. Its appearance, while designed to play on basic human fears, is perfectly unearthly.

I concede that it’s hard to write or portray something truly alien, just as it’s hard for a writer to come up with any character that is not, somehow, a facet of their own personality. But it’s not impossible – and it’s worth going that extra light-year to make your alien species a little more credible.

We are not alone! This post is part of the My Favourite Martian bloghop, hosted by http://www.thegeektwins.comhttp://justadashofgeek.comhttp://lkhill.blogspot.com and www.comicbookandmoviereviews.com. You can find out about the bloghop and other participants here.



25 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I almost selected Seven of Nine, as she was once Borg.
My entries for the blogfest will be up tomorrow.
And of the two I've read so far, both of you selected Martians.

Cynthia said...

Saying hello from the blog hop... the H.G. Wells story you mentioned sounds interesting. Thanks for the recommendations.

Natasha Dythia said...

AWESOME! Thanks for the unearthly suggestions!
http://justadashofgeek.com

Jeff Hargett said...

The WotW Martians and the Borg are both forces with which to reckon and good choices. True, the Borg were a threat like none ever encountered. We must thank Q for the exposure. :-)

L.G. Keltner said...

You mentioned some great aliens! I love Star Trek episodes featuring the Borg. As for the xenomorph, I think that's the alien I'd least like to run across in real life.

Sci-Fi Gene said...

To the L.G. Jeff and Alex units - one way or another the Borg stood out from many of the other Star Trek races or ideas, although I notice Spock and Q are generating a lot of interest elsewhere.

To the Natasha and Cynthia units - you're welcome and I'll check out your recommendations too <3

Sci-Fi Gene said...

Other trends I've seen today - so far, apart from Spock, Q and The Doctor there's still plenty of love out there for both Marvin the Martian and Mork. Only one other vote for the H.G.Wells Martians so far, from a fan of the brilliant 1953 movie.

Liesel K Hill said...

H.G.Wells' aliens were definitely one of a kind. :D My Martian Post. Happy Monday!

Jay Andrews said...

Wow! What an original suggestion. Liked what you had to say an awful lot my blogging buddy.

Its nice to see someone with a passion for his hobby.

M Pax said...

I love your choices. I agree that it's difficult to leave our own perscpective and come up with something truly alien.

Todd Reed said...

I think if I'm going to go literary, I have to opt for Ylla from "The Martian Chronicles" by Ray Bradbury.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Exciting choice Gene. You're one of the few to choose an actual Martian. Including me! Great job and thanks for supporting the blog hop!

Sci-Fi Gene said...

The Liesel unit - thanks! I read your post too, haven't seen the particular episode but sounds intriguing.

The Jay unit - awesome commenting skills, man. That's taking overfamiliarity to new heights. Thanks for dropping by and remember flattery will get you almost anywhere.

Sci-Fi Gene said...

The M Pax unit: incidentally your chosen name reminds me of another cool alien. I imagine if you can combine renaissance fairs, ghosts and genetic experimentation then aliens should be a piece of cake... nice book trailer BTW.

Sci-Fi Gene said...

The Maurice Mitchell unit: it's been fun. There are other Martian votes out there - good to see a few people remember Marvin :)

The Todd unit: good point. There aren't many "literary aliens" to choose from though.

Chris Kelworth said...

Thanks for sharing. Yes, it's great to come across aliens who are truly alien, very different from us in so many fundamental ways.

Tony Laplume said...

I think the whole point of the later Borg episodes was to deconstruct them a little more thoroughly than Next Generation itself managed to do. They remained a threat, but they were less mysterious. So yes, they became easier to understand, but no less monstrous in their goals. That Seven had to fight so hard to remember what being human is supposed to be like, that's pretty scary. It's the loss of individuality in the pursuit of perfection, basically a living nirvana, something Buddhists certainly never thought of as a nightmare!

Melissa Bradley said...

I love the episode where Q brings the Enterprise out for their first encounter with the Borg. They really were a juggernaut force that became a bit too human.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Cool picks! While I enjoy the old Star Trek, Star Wars, Babylon5, etc aliens, I agree that aliens really should be very different.

Sci-Fi Gene said...

the Martinson and Kelworth units: thanks! or, as Mr. Garrison puts it in his review of Contact - "Sat through that entire movie to see the alien and it was her goddamn father..."

Sci-Fi Gene said...

the Melissa and Tony units: thanks too! Agree about the juggernaut. I'm sure there was a decision to make them more comprehensible - and to be fair it did lead to some interesting stories. Perhaps the way to preserve the sense of the alien is to use mystery.

Julie said...

I'm not familiar with your choice. Sounds like a good one though. And an actual Martian. Julie @ http://icreatepurtythangs.blogspot.com

Sci-Fi Gene said...

The Julie unit: hi! if you haven't come across H.G. Wells' novels (such as The War Of The Worlds) there's a lot to enjoy. I'll be writing more about Wells in a future blog post.

Trisha said...

You definitely chose some very alien aliens - other aliens just have magical powers while these ones are the type you can really imagine living in other worlds of distant origin. Nice post!

Sci-Fi Gene said...

Greetings Trisha unit! Yes, for me this is kind of the point of them being alien. Another example is Avatar - as with War Of The Worlds there was a lot of work put into the evolutionary basis of many of the Pandoran animals, although I think they compromised with the Na'avi who are more or less human (in a blue sort of way.)