Well, I promised you sexy aliens, and here he is:
A Pierson’s Puppeteer in all his lithe glory…these cowardly geniuses are my 2nd favourite aliens in all of SF, together with all the other creatures in Larry Niven’s alien menagerie, like the Bandersnatchi, the Thrintun and the Kzinti. (Um, does anyone think that puppeteer’s necks are – dare I say it – phallic? Are they actually necks at all?) [Sorta NSFW alien taxonomy ahead – Web Editor.)
And here’s a luscious lady, oozing sex appeal, and also oozing ooze:
Meet the ‘Bitch’ Queen Alien herself — calm down boys!
And here are my 1st favourite aliens in all of SF:
Yes, it’s those darned Tribbles, the brainchild of SF author David Gerrold.
We all love aliens; and though many writers have credibly created entire universes without aliens, I don’t half miss ’em when they’re not there.
But how to create an alien that is, er, alien, but still empathetic? How can we conjure up sentient creatures that are totally unlike us, without creating monsters we don’t give a damn about?
There are several solutions.
1) Make them cute like dogs, or hamsters (the Tribbles!)
2) Make them like human beings, with extra limbs (the Burroughs Martian)
3) Or borrow attributes from some of the strangest creatures on Earth – which can be very strange indeed. Creatures capable of bioluminescence, creatures which can change their sex, creatures that can survive in the hottest or coldest conditions, flat creatures, parasites that eat their host, symbiotes, metamorphoising creatures – the choice is almost endless.
In Red Claw I created an entire planet of alien creatures, complete with Latin names and a xenobiological taxonomy. Becuse it occurred to me that when there are aliens on a planet, there will be LOTS of aliens. Billions, if not trillions of species – just as we have on Earth.
And in Debatable Space I created a sentient alien species that was as different to us as possible – the flame beasts. We are made of flesh, they are made of flame (except it’s not really flame.) We die once, they die many times, yet still live forever. We are organic, they are made of whatever the fabric of the universe was before the Big Bang. We love doing silly human things like watching soap opera on the telly and, er, they also like watching soap opera on the telly, made by humans, and starring humans. For these immortal, all-wise, all-powerful creatures envy us – because we have things that they don’t have.
And in that one small respect, we can understand and empathise with the flame beasts. (Plus, they sing the blues.)
I’ve been drawing up a list of other alien beings that I or some other science fiction writer ought to use in a story – aliens who avoid the cliches of being a) humanoid with ripped abs, or b) made of rock, or c) made of silicon, or d) suns or planets which are sentient, or e) like exaggerated versions of existing Earth creatures, e.g. squids (see above) or f) like extinct Earth creatures, including and especially dinosaurs.
This turns out to be a very small list, but here goes:
1) Alien stairs. Why do human dwellings have stairs? Because we were invaded aeons ago. We are the pets of our own machievellian and evil staircases, but luckily they need us so we can TREAD ON THEM.
2) Aliens who are made of cardboard. When it rains, they shape-shift; they are papier-mache monsters, who recycle when they die.
3) Aliens who keep themselves to themselves, so that even when you invade and terraform their planet, you’d never know you were there. (Amazing that no one has thought of this before!)
4) Aliens who are made of dark matter who every million years swarm and eat the universe. Forget the melodrama and exploding buildings of 2012; with this scenario, one moment there’s a universe, the next moment there’s not.
5) Aliens who can shapeshift to be exactly like human beings (nope, that’s been done.)
6) Aliens with a hive mind (old hat!), aliens who can live in vacuum (tired!) aliens who –
Nope, all the possible aliens worth creating have already been created. Extrapolative biology can only extrapolate so far; and most of the best ‘amazing but plausible’ ideas have already been bagged. so the real challenge for SF writers is creating aliens who have complex and different emotions, and complex and different cultures.
Unless, that is, someone wants to have a go creating
9) Aliens who really really can’t believe how utterly alien is the species known as Homo sapiens.