|Posted on January 17, 2018 at 12:45 AM|
Sci-fi is a big field, and there are so many sub-genre that you can get dizzy trying to keep track of them all. So what is it about aliens that attracts me more than ray guns and spaceships? It's the possibilities for exploring cultures and languages, and odd ways of looking at the universe.
When I look at cultures here on Earth, the variety is amazing. There are so many different ways of doing the same essential tasks. In America, we eat with fork and knife and spoon. They do the same in England, but they hold their fork turned the other way. Some fork-knife-spoon cultures find it perfectly acceptable to stab bites with the knife and place them in the mouth; others don't. Then there are chopstick cultures, and again, good manners in their use varies from place to place. And then there are dipping cultures that use sops, and hand cultures that pick up food with their fingers and...the list goes on. And that's just the physical act of eating! We haven't started to talk about cooking methods, or walking styles, or the proper way to rear children. Or governance. Or beliefs about the spiritual world. Or...
You get the idea. But all this dizying variety is just within Human cultures. What about aliens? They should be at least as odd as we are.
I like exploring cultures here on Earth. I grew up in a multicultural neighborhood, in a city where over a hundred languages are spoken at home. I attended a church that was about evenly split between Balck, White, and Hispanic. At college, I had so many friends from other countries, that American students often just assumed I was a foreign student, too. I've visited exotic places like Singapore, Budapest, Hong Kong, and Timișoara. I've lived in Taiwan, Solomon Islands, and North Dakota. Crossing cultures and learning how others do things, learning to appreciate different perspectives and ways of accomplishing things has been part of the way I've lived. So, when I start building an alien culture for one of my stories, and one of them needs to eat, I start thinking about all the ways that we do that here on Earth, and ask myself, "Is there a reason why this culture could do this the same way as one of our cultures here? If so which one? Perhaps a combination? Or is there some other way to do this, one that no Human culture (that I'm aware of) does it?"
If it isn't at least as odd as other Human cultures, how can I call them aliens?