Namaskar. I’ve been busy with study, working on notes, and creating new presets for MB3d now that I’ve finished resizing older ones to economize on file space, and this so far is my favorite of the bunch. It’s a truly alien-looking object that I’ve rendered as a 1600×900 wallpaper. This seems a good starting point for a larger print-sized image. I’m keeping this one’s basic preset with fewer edits than I thought might be needed during this first render shown here. Double-click to embiggen.
All JPEG, PNG & GIF images in this post are original works by the author, created via a variety of apps and unless otherwise stated are copyright 2016 by Troy Loy. I hereby permit the free, noncommercial use of these images, with proper attribution or a link back to the original source. Thank you!
As a science fiction fan who’s written fiction of my own, and this blog and elsewhere, I like to design my own aliens. Recently I got a comment on an older post of mine, and since I don’t normally respond to comments on posts more than two weeks old, I thought I’d instead respond here.
Here’s the comment:
I searched this topic to try to find a site that would tell me not what to do as I write my first alien contact book.
I have never been on this site before, and don’t know if replying is possible, but if so, can you reply and tell me what not to do? Or someone, anyone. I’m trying to create an interesting diverse alien culture for my already created human hybrid race to interact with positively, but with some difficulties. My main character is a language communication expert.
So, what not to do when designing aliens (plausible, however fictional)? Here are some quick tips:
Don’t succumb to humans-in-funny-suits syndrome: Aliens in looks should be aliens in mentality. At the very least, especially with obvious nonhumans, give them some sort of outstanding but plausible psychological or cultural distinctions from other species that will not only set them apart, but make them memorable to the readers of whatever fiction you’re writing. Remember: aliens will have evolved in a different set of selective pressures than humans, and this will be true of variant humans as well. This fact will shape their minds and societies as it shapes their bodies. Build them accordingly, but try to avoid stereotyping them (My, I wonder whose first mate and engineer that Wookie is?). This hold even if the aliens have a hive-mind, as there will probably be a functional division of labor in the species.
Unless for historical or other good reasons, like prior contact with humans in the setting, avoid having the aliens automatically know human languages. I highly recommend inventing the alien’s own language, at least a few useful phrases at start. It’s not only a good exercise, but fun as well. I’m currently designing the language of my own alien humans, the Kai’Siri, and it’s a blast!
Don’t give them too much in the way of weird powers. Not only is this bad from a role-playing perspective, as it unbalances the species in play and relegates them to mostly non-player character status, and without limits it’s boring to readers. the alien tech should not be too rubber-scienceyand not over-explained — Remember: A good explanation is better than no explanation, but none at all is better than a contrived and implausible explanation. The Holtzman effect in Dune is a good example of a rubber-science plot device that was not over-explained nor implausibly so.
Aside from weird powers, avoid an otherwise implausible biology for your species, unless you are writing Weird Tale fiction where impossible Things That Must Not Be Named™ have good reason to exist in the story (It’s horror, after all.). Even in Lovecraft’s own fiction, like At The Mountains of Madness, the Old Ones were given reasonably plausible (using the known science of the time) traits and were relatively well thought out. They did, after all, make it into Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials! [an update] Also bear in mind that most alien species will not be able to breed with humans unless human variants themselves, and even that will be iffy with extreme deviations from the norm.
Conclusion: These are a few key things to bear in mind in creating aliens, and their use ought to take some of the headache out of the process. I hope this answers your questions, and if not, I can always write follow-up posts on this, one of my favorite topics.
The Ri’jt’ar are a tough-minded and conservative species, Pseudoreptilias tenax, given to the rule of law over individual freedoms and a communal lifestyle, contemplating the long-term consequences of their actions, and in general being sensible if somewhat resistant to change.
There are two notable individuals of this species who break the rules, the massively-built but brilliant Dasaelos of Caste Gurao, a powerful warlord and fearsome in personal combat, and his defective first attempt at cloning a new body for himself, the intellectually challenged but mighty Gr’ozz.
Both are giants of the species, standing almost three meters tall and massing about 1000 kilograms each, with very different personalities despite their genetic similarity.
Dasaelos (not his real name, only a humanly pronounceable corruption of it) is narcissistic, possibly psychopathic, and pathologically afraid of death, though this apparently doesn’t dampen his lust for war and power. He wants to grab death by its metaphorical horns and wrestle it to oblivion, leaving him to outlive, well, everyone. He’s a little like the Mesopotamian hero Gilgamesh in that regard, seeking immortality even at great risk to himself. For this end, he searched for and found technology once the property of an ancient elder being, the Crawling Clone-lord, in the form of a ring made of transparent metal that taps and stores data from his brain up till the moment of death of the body that wears it. It’s sort of a repository for what might count as his “soul” which may be placed on the same finger of another body, preferably a blank-minded clone, to bring him back to life in this new body. He has a vast supply of cloned bodies on hand and in storage just for this purpose, all of which have the same cybernetic augmentations as he.
Dasaelos is a mutant, and part of his mutation involves the hormonal condition leading to his gigantism and another his malformed limbs, which would ordinarily cripple him without the bionic enhancements. The most obvious such enhancement is his left hand, a cybernetic living-metal weapon that may shift form into a variety of other tools and weapons, including a particle-beam blaster and a force-screen generator. In the form of a hand, and with his other augmentations it is capable of punching through solid concrete without injuring him, and he is capable of pressing about 10000 kilograms without noticeable fatigue for about 20 minutes.
Dasaelos is also psionically gifted, possessing the ability to manipulate nuclear forces, in his case the ability to generate and control thermonuclear plasma as a weapon. He has enough fine control over this to affect the operation of nearby fusion reactors, either by dampening reactions or causing a catastrophic detonation before shutdown can be initiated. He may also use this on nearby tactical thermonuclear weapons to prevent them from detonating.
Gr’ozz, on the other hand, is a different sort. Gentle in disposition, as the prototype of all other cloned bodies of Dasaelos he is not the brightest of the lot, more than a bit of a halfwit. He likes humans for some odd reason, as his own species, usually under orders from Dasaelos, are often trying to kill him. Humans have offered him asylum on Terra, and he knows of and has met the Mirus, even fighting by his side against their mutual enemies. Gr’ozz seems stupid, but this is a ruse. Deep within his brain is a font of brilliance, lending him his “moments of Zen,” when he conceives items of great practical wisdom even in the middle of a fight, often, though not always, leading to his victory.
Gr’ozz differs from Dasaelos physically as well. Though he shares similar bionic enhancements (upgraded by human allies) his left arm is tipped with a mass of ultra-dense, sculpted bone with the general look of a medieval spiked mace. This bone mace is grown from his own cells and was a gift to him from a young bio-psi to replace the malformed stump he had after first escaping to earth. This cannot change form, unlike Dasaelos’s cyberhand, and so Gr’ozz has developed great skill at doing things one-handed. He uses the mace for little else but smashing holes in things and general smackdowns with people who try to kill him or hurt his friends.
Gr’ozz has been described in attitude as “a big scaly teddybear,” and acts the part.
Perhaps with a fear greater than his fear of death, Dasaelos has a reason why he has attempted to have Gr’ozz terminated; He dreads the mere thought that his brilliant, calculating mind may by some chance be transferred, through his body-hopping technology, perhaps by a malicious servant seeking to betray him, into Gr’ozz’s damaged brain, to live another portion of eternity as, and I quote, “…intellect hobbled by a mindless existence, too slow-witted to realize my predicament even as the universe grows cold and dark.”
Frankly, I think that would be horrible to Gr’ozz as well, to have such a kind and congenial mind however slow replaced by that of a madman driven by fear, rage, and self-aggrandizement. The tradeoff would be bad for both, but Gr’ozz would get the worst out of the deal.
This short film shows what might happen when Earth is doomed by a nearby supernova and aliens come to rescue humanity – for a price – to survive their world’s destruction at the cost of becoming slaves to the aliens…
Far back in the legends of the Kai’Siri people, originating in an ancient war fought before Second Age of Consolidation, lies the planet Bruticus, its Terran name, a gigantic world with extreme gravity and home to a diminutive but hardy intelligent species.
The Kai’Siri, or course, forbid the naming of this world in their own language, such is its reputation.
Bruticus is an interdicted world in a forbidden area of what was part of the First Exarchate, as the Kai’Siri had never been able to fully conquer the natives, and this fact sat poorly with them.
It’s partly for religious reasons that Kai’Siri were originally driven to conquer, from the dictum to spread the Kai’Siri culture across the stars.
Kai’Siri religion is odd. It is not an evangelical faith; only ethnic Kai’Siri may be members of it, usually inculcated in childhood with some adult conversions.
Worship is mostly directed to familial gods, not national or regional gods, but the central core of the faith binds the Kai’Siri as a people and in the past drove its militarization.
“Spread the culture, but the faith belongs to us alone.”
Bruticus handed the Kai’Siri perhaps their worst defeat in a war lasting almost a hundred years, when the natives made use of the planet’s strong gravity and multiple large moons, routing the humans of Sirug and resulting in the death by suicide of all of the defeated army, too shamed to return home and live with their defeat.
The Second Exarchate has scant records of the war, given the destruction of the Second Age of Consolidation and its attendant wars. So Bruticus remains isolated by time, location, and oddly enough for a rationalist culture like the Kai’Siri, a hint of superstitious dread, the inhabitants shrouded in mystery.
It is only with the development of Kurtz-Dunar technology for riding gravity wells in the Second Exarchate that contact between natives and Kai’Siri has become possible again.
But what of fact?
Bruticus is a super-Terran world, more rocky than gaseous, though with a thick atmosphere rich in hydrogen, methane, and ammonia fairly far from its star but warm enough to allow for life using complex hydrocarbons and reductive metabolisms using respiration of hydrogen.
Bruticans, who call themselves Phlaathaq, are much like large Terran sand-fleas in shape and built low to the ground to avoid dangerous short-distance falls in the strong gravity well.
Bruticus has a slightly ovoid shape because of its spin, with stronger gravity near the poles and lighter at the equator, about 12 Terran gravities on average.
Phlaathaq have a clever sort of biotechnology at their disposal, using stock from native organisms bred to specific functions, and often engineered to purpose using other organisms bred for that function.
Case in point are the ballistic dendromorphs, tentacled, ambulatory, tree-like mollusk analogs whose central body cavities are largely filled with a biochemical solid rocket propellant based on the combustion of chlorine and hydrogen. These serve as a means of travel off of Bruticus, and produce enough thrust to reach an impressive escape velocity and in less than three days reach the outermost of the five moons.
Think of something that looks like a cross between the recent Orion system spacecraft, an outsized California redwood, and a Lovecraftian Dark Young.
Other organisms, symbiotes, can cling to and serve as payload attachments to the dendromorphs, whether as explosive warheads, piloted capsules with life-support and acceleration couches, and there are organisms attached to these to serve as bio-avionic systems for the dendromorphs in flight.
Such launches are limited to the equatorial regions where gravity is lightest, and the dendromorphs are optimized for the climate there, even being resistant to the floods of the ammonia seas in the cold season and frequent massive storms of the warmer season when the oceans evaporate.
The effectiveness of this biology-based approach to technology in warfare has earned the planet-moons system of Bruticus an evil reputation among those familiar with Kai’Siri lore, but as more information comes to light and peaceful contact becomes possible, more of this massive world’s secrets will be laid bare, in future installments of this post, and in fiction.