romantic subplots. seriously, not every single story needs to have one.
Absolutely. Romance is great when it’s an integral part of the plot, but not when it’s shoved in because you need to be able to market it.
omygosh yes. It even takes AWAY from the story sometimes
Aliens that are basically humans who have different body types, but think and behave in exactly the same as us. Very few sci fi works manage to come up with aliens that really feel alien. Blindsight would be one of my favorite examples of aliens that are really alien.
To be fair, we still need to be able to emphasize with alien characters and have their emotions be convincing, which is harder when they’re in the depths of the uncanny valley. Take Pokemon: the ones people think have the best design, and people think are the cutest, are usually the ones that most closely resemble just regular animals instead of the more “out there” designs. Think Pikachu, Eevee, or my favourites, Fennekin and Vulpix.
I understand the reason aliens get anthropomorphized for narrative purposes. I just find it lazy and ultimately defeats the purpose of having aliens in the first place. At that point you might as well just write a story about humans. The alternative is to just treat them as a mystery. The story can focus on human characters and how they interpret the aliens.
I think that sentient aliens are likely to have certain common characteristics due to evolutionary process. Presumably intelligence evolves as a survival trait to help the organism within its environment. That means an intelligent creature is likely to see itself as an individual, understand the environment around it, compete for resources with others, and so on.
However, there is a wide range of intelligence even here on earth. An octopus, a parrot, or even a cat is an alien intelligence to us. We can sort of figure out their behavior in broad strokes, but a lot of the time their actions end up being surprising and inexplicable to us. This is the aspect of aliens I find interesting.
Another aspect to consider is that it’s highly unlikely that we’d run into aliens at roughly the same stage of development as us. We managed to go from living in caves to landing on the moon in a few thousand years. This is a blink of an eye in cosmic terms. The progress is also non-linear.
A civilization that’s even a few thousand years ahead of us may be utterly incomprehensible. I would certainly expect it to be post-biological. This could be one reason we don’t see aliens around. We might be like an ant hill next to an intergalactic highway.
Good points and illustration. I think that there is no true need to be able to empathize with alien intelligence in a narrative. Goodness knows I have trouble empathizing with plenty of human characters… Hierarchy of Foreignness was even a thematic element in the Ender books.
Have you read A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge? I remember it doing a pretty good job of imagining polymorphic sentience and civilization churn.
Good points definitely. However I personally don’t dislike media for not having alien enough aliens.
I really like C.J. Cherryh’s books. So many have interactions between human and “Alien” worlds, and do a really good job of having “Equal/Greater Non-human intelligences”
I especially recommend “Foreigner” and “Faded Sun Trilogy”
Oh thanks for the tip, will have to check this out. :)
Never heard of it, I’m gonna check it out, thx.
Blindsight is a masterpiece, highly recommended.
Sweet, found a torrent audiobook for it: link
I recommend reading “Children of time”
Oh yeah I loved both Children of Time and Children of Ruin. I thought that depiction of octopus intelligence in the latter one was fantastic.
Easily avoidable misunderstandings, IE the sitcom effect. Basically the forced plots for everything from sitcoms to Shakespeare fall apart in real life when people would’ve taken the 2 seconds to resolve it.
In sci-fi, humanity tends to start off completely powerless and ignorant of alien life, yet by the end, they become a leading power. Star Trek, despite being my favorite sci-fi, is especially guilty of this. IMO it’s kind of narcissistic, and more so, boring. I’d like to see more sci-fi that focuses mainly on aliens, their culture, interactions, problems and solutions, which is why in the sci-fi universe I’m worldbuilding, humans aren’t even mentioned.
I honestly think the entire space opera genre is one big boring cliche - humans being present or not.
You might like the book Children of Time though. It does feature humans as a extremely developed species, but they end up destroying themselves with some unlikely result of an uplift experiment taking their place.
“Space opera” is more like Star Wars. I’m not sure I’d call Star Trek a space opera.
I definitely have a soft spot for space opera, even so, I do have to admit it can get cliched at times. Still, IMO not all cliches are objectively bad, they’re used a lot because a lot of people do like seeing them.
I also love how they portray aliens in an alien invasion as evil incarnate, as if humans would act differently in such a scenario.
If the new rover finds life on Mars, we’ll end up killing it. Change my mind.
I don’t think they will kill it but you can bet a fortune on them locking the thing up in a box for research.
Anything that survived Mars becoming as inhospitable as it is right now, will be sturdy as hell and we probably don’t need to worry too much about it (until massive terraforming of Mars would be attempted).
I think you’ll love Asimov’s Foundation Saga if you haven’t read it already, he precisely focuses on these aspects and when he talks about humans the new perspective is often funny, I’m not really stating a cliche my bad but do check it out if and when you get time. I came across an animated series haven’t really seen it but from reviews feels like it’s gonna have Asimov feels Legend of the Galactic Heroes
So, I want to jump in and say that Star Trek is intentionally narcissistic. If you think of it as Science Fiction, I really think it falls short. What I think is a much better perspective is “What could humans be in a post-scarcity world?” Not that it makes the tropes any less annoying, but it does make the episodes that explore that much more meaningful. Star Trek is a critique of humanity, and an imagination of what we could become. It is less about interactions between different intelligences (although some episodes try, and usually fail to be) and more about how humans can interact with themselves.
Fair enough. I really do like Star Trek’s leftist messages, and I’m trying to replicate that first and foremost in my own writing.
the problem with non-human-centric plots is selling them. few want to read about non-humans.
But these are essentially humans dressed up in fur suits. They have human attributes, human voices, even humanoid shapes.
Not exactly. It is true that they are human-like at certain level but the series is very centric about their non-human instinct influence in their life.
The series is well classified as a human drama with animals. There is a fact and is that there are humans in the same world too (but away of the main series as far I remember). The rest are just non-human animals with attributes that you use to give only to humans.
I mean, there are entire book series about sapient cats (Warriors by Erin Hunter), rabbits (Watership Down), forest creatures in general (Redwall) etc. The spinoff game series Pokemon Mystery Dungeon (which is where my profile picture comes from), focuses entirely on a world inhabited only by Pokemon, and it’s massively popular.
But even then all of these beings have human problems and human like personalities, and voices. I think this is the difficulty in writing non human tales, is that the tales that most people empathize with, no matter how alien their premise or characters may be, still end up centering around human like traits and problems.
Heroics. The fate of the society/world/universe turns on the actions of one or a few characters.
Heroics only make sense in certain settings. In many/most, it really doesn’t make sense for the main characters to be the primary plot drivers when there are millions or billions of other actors in the world. I think it is overused, presents a tunnel-vision worldview, and ultimately confines the world to the characters and ends up less interesting for it.
It’s a young adult book, but Miyuki Miyabe’s “The Book of Heroes” pretty much turns the hero cliche on its head and is worth a read despite being definitely a book meant for teenagers.
Interesting, I’ll check it out.
Gimmicks and novelty for the sake of gimmicks and novelty. “Dialogue? I don’t know, pretty cliché”
all the step-sibling sex
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