I was impressed by David Brin’s eight, very distinct sapient species in Brightness Reef. I’ve also heard that C.J. Cherryh does a wonderful alien, and I intend to read Foreigner very soon. On the nonfiction side, I picked up Stanley Schmidt’s Aliens and Alien Societies for some tips.
The book was a decent overview, and I managed to pull together a further-reading list from the bibliography, based off my interests. It looks like I need to find a way to acquire back issues of Analog. [update: Mwahaha the University library has access to the e-journal. I am set!]
On Reproduction (p. 93)
Two sexes are enough to confer large evolutionary advantages, but some evolutionary lines may have more … On the other hand, some Earthly animals evolved from sexual ancestors have found ways to reproduce parthenogenetically–there are entire species of lizards whose members are all identical females.
My main alien character is female, but I pondered sex and pronouns quite a bit, and out of general interest I want to check out this article:
- Cueller, O., “Animal Parthenogenesis,” Science, Aug 26, 1977
On Really Big Civilizations (p. 131-135)
In addition to aliens, I’m using hyperspace to get my characters from point A to point B, with permanent jump stations modeled after Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga: each gate leads to a specific destination and you need a spaceship to go through it. Clearly, I have a strong interest in interstellar travel.
- Zubrin, Robert M., “The Magnetic Sail,” Analog, May 1992.
- Arnold, Roger, and Donald Kingsbury, “The Spaceport,” Analog, Nov/Dec 1979.
- Barlowe, Meacham, and Summers, Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials, Workman, 1979.
- Mallove and Matloff’s The Starflight Handbook, Wiley, 1989.
- Forward, Robert L., “Faster Than Light,” Analog, March 1995.
On religions and sciences (p. 114-117)
It seems fairly safe to say, though, that most [human] religions include rituals related to a belief in one or more powers higher than human, stories to explain the origins of world and life, and teachings aimed at inculcating and perpetuating a model code.
Good reminder! I need to do more worldbuilding on my alien religion.
On trade (p. 119-120)
- Salomon, Warren, “The economics of interstellar commerce,” Analog, May 1989.
- Barnes, John, “How to build a future,” Analog, March, 1990.
On custom, etiquette, social pressure, morality (p. 122-123)
Many social dictates of acceptable behavior involve such areas as reproduction (a society must control fighting over potential mates, ensure that children are raised acceptably, and so forth), eating and elimination … To make alien cultures live and breathe, you will want to give ample attention to details of custom, gesture, morality, and clothing; and you will want all of these things to grow out of your particular aliens’ nature and background.”
Schmidt recommends the novels of C.J. Cherryh for her skillful use of gesture and nuance to distinguish alien from human and alien from alien. On a related note, author N.K. Jemison recently wrote a blog post on worldbuilding and profanity.
What are your favorite aliens in fiction?