Day 8, and still strong. Thank you for returning to today’s serving, as it is a topic that has crossed my head many times before. This post was originally going to be more in-depth and to be posted on this upcoming weekend, but there should be a guest post to replace it. I will disclose a few more details at the end of this analysis, so kick back and enjoy!
Science-fiction. This is a genre of writing that may be associated more with fantastical elements of futurism, neon lights amongst the backdrop of space, and our ‘evolution’ in technology, biology, and our place in the universe. Many franchises like Star Wars and Halo are very human-centric, and alien species may come across as gimmicky or reskinned humans. In the case of Star Wars, the Wookies may not share human languages and features, but they share human skills and personality. Zabraks may carry a different culture than humans in Star Wars, but Darth Maul could have been a human character and nothing would have been lost in tradition.
So, what sets alien characters apart from human ones?
While the above image may imply the bulk of this post will be centred on the Sangheili from Halo, that would be familiar territory and a bit bland when put against tomorrow’s (potentially) massive post. There is one other franchise that has an extremely popular first entry, and sequels that you will either love or hate. And for once on this blog, it is a novel series that could have been the Star Wars of books had it capitalized on its first entry.
If you guessed Ender’s Game and its sequels (all by Orson Scott Card), bingo. In specific, the second novel of the series Speaker for the Dead introduces one alien species that is, of course, relatable to humanity, but very different and very unique.
If you have read the first novel of the series (or its dreaded film adaptation) you may be familiar with the Buggers/Formics, which are an alien race connected by a hive mind. Each individual is a node for a larger network to command ships in perfect synchronization against humanity and did not know anything better than to attack due to differences in philosophy and being foreign to human morality. Each Bugger can live in enclosed spaces with ceilings that are uncomfortably low for humans, and can only communicate to humanity through telepathic abilities. Once a queen is taken out, Bugger fleets are simply graveyards.
While the ‘hivemind’ alien concept may be slightly cliché in science-fiction to this point, Card did introduce a second alien species to the ‘Enderverse’ in its second entry. They are called the Piggies, or Pequeninos. Unlike the Buggers, they are relatively unsophisticated in terms of technology and human fear has kept the Piggies outside the walls of their society. Speaker for the Dead is quite brilliant in how it portrays this race, as they initially rip a man apart and leave every piece and bit of his body in a grass field (drenched in red) outside the gates of the human settlement. This is later revealed to be how the Piggies give rituals to the dead so that they can transform into the ‘Third Life,’ and become ‘fathertrees’ in order to reproduce. The deceased man had not wanted to kill the Piggies and offered their lives instead.
To put this in a more sympathetic light, the Piggies all deal with a virus that has plagued their species for countless millennia.
After this description of sorts, why are the Piggies such a great alien race for literature in general?
Firstly, these beings are both very similar to us humans as well as foreign. They have emotions that we as readers can feel for and make judgement on, which is the same as any human character that is written to be human. They have their own distinct culture, history, and tradition that is interwoven with their plight and the plot as opposed to serving as background details. This means that these aspects of their society are just like ours: they can evolve, and make contact with ours. Perhaps most importantly, these are not alien characters that only serve to eradicate humanity and nothing more. This is a huge falling in science-fiction, as alien characters are not meant to be overdramatic villains but instead individuals with backgrounds and contrasts to human characters.
While it may seem as if I have grievances with aliens from other forms of media and entertainment, I will ensure you that Wookies and Elites are awesome. They have a distinct look and nuances that give personality. There is a wide spectrum of possibility on whether or not an alien species is different enough from humans, but it is not bad writing. It is just that these artists have not fully embraced the idea of alien characters and made something truly foreign but utterly familiar.
To end off this posts, there will be a guest post this weekend as I stated before. This is the first one since my six-week absence in August, and as I am not going anywhere, it will be a bit different. This post will be a sort of break from the norm of my writing for a single day, and I will work in full conjunction with this poster to ensure that the post will amazing when it comes live. I will not tease any of its content but be assured that you will enjoy it, and it will receive just as much attention as everything else on this blog.
Also, make sure you stay safe from the cold! 🙂
And of course, a link to Orson Scott Card’s website: http://www.hatrack.com/