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What do Space Aliens Look Like?


Gordon Rowlinson

There comes a time in every Sci Fi writer's life where he or she writes a story about space aliens. The writer is then faced with a dilemma: what do Space Aliens look like? From UFO encounters, we have descriptions of the little gray-skinned men with pear-shaped heads and large cat-like eyes. But whether the descriptions of these encounters can be trusted is debatable. The fact of the matter is we do not have a good scientific point of reference as to what space aliens look like. How does one attempt to write something that sounds believable, exciting and thought provoking?

I recently wrestled with this problem in a story that was published in the Quantum Muse (First Contact Quantum Muse Flash Dec 3, 2012).

http://www.quantummuse.com/flashviewa.php?RecID=207    In my story, I created an alien creature that looked like a dragon. Although the story appeared to be generally well-liked, it left me with an unsatisfactory feeling. I felt I was using earth references to create a species from another planet. Why would any space alien look like a lizard or any creature on Earth?

I tried again two years later in a story called Europa Ocean World (Quantum Muse June, 2014) . http://www.quantummuse.com/story.php?RecID=639 In this story, I created a giant alien monster with tentacles that lived under the frozen ocean surface of Jupiter's moon Europa. Even though I did not fully describe the monster and purposely left a lot to the reader's imagination, I felt better about this story because the alien was different than any Earth creature.  

It appears that Sci Fi writers continually fall back on Earth references to create the aliens for their stories. It's necessary to create something imaginative yet relatable to human readers. In addition, we are all influenced by the ideas in the Sci Fi classics Buck Rogers and Star Trek. In these classic shows, space aliens looked almost exactly like human beings. Aliens may or may not be biped, but why would aliens be almost exactly like homosapens?

Another Sci Fi idea that is popular but far fetched is the idea that Sci Fi aliens can successfully breed with humans. How can a species from another planet breed with humans and produce half humans when humans cannot successfully breed with other Earth species? However I am now venturing into dangerous territory. I am inviting an angry backlash from the multitude of rabid Star Trek fans as I am questioning the origin of the beloved Mr. Spock character, who was half Vulcan, half human. Trekkers, don't be hard on me in the hate mail. Alas, I'm just a human being searching and reaching in the dark for answers.

As one browses through Sci Fi literature, there are many examples of imaginative space aliens. Probably the best known alien in literature is the Martians in the Sci Fi classic War of the Worlds by HG Wells (1897). Well's aliens had a head and “had, one might say, a face” However Wells's Martian had groups of tentacles for appendages and thus were very different than humans. The Martians were unaccustomed to Earth's stronger gravity and had to rely on large walking machines to move around. Most interesting of all, the Martians were susceptible to Earth diseases and eventually died of simple cold germs. It stands to reason that any creature coming to our planet will have trouble living under conditions different to their planet. Another imaginative alien was the Eaters in Robert Silverberg's Sundance (1969). The Eaters are grazing creatures that had no circulatory system or blood. “What they do have is, well, a kind of lymph that permeates every tissue and transmits nourishment along the interfaces. Waste products go out the same way, osmotically.”

We are proud to state that there have been many imaginative and thought provoking aliens in the stories here at the Quantum Muse. In Endless Horizon by E Sullivan (Quantum Muse Nov 2014),

http://www.quantummuse.com/story.php?RecID=679 ,killer alien blobs can be killed by shooting at the center of the body. That was where the creature's brain was. However the blob consciousness can be downloaded into another blob and the thing would relentlessly keep coming after you.

In The Clouds of Huepto by Jessica Baumgartner (Quantum Muse Sept 2014) http://www.quantummuse.com/story.php?RecID=659 ,aliens on the planet Huepto are diamond-like organic crystals that are alive and reside in clouds. It should be noted that singer John Lennon was so inspired by this Sci Fi story that he ripped off the idea for the Beatles hit song “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.”*

In The Troop by Harris Tobias (Quantum Muse Nov, 2011)  http://www.quantummuse.com/story.php?RecID=415 ,aliens are portrayed as a strong, nomadic herding species that is the “size of a compact car.” Although these aliens look different than Earth species, they have similar social behaviors of Earth social animals. 

In Peaceful Intent by Harris Tobias (Quantum Muse April, 2011)  http://www.quantummuse.com/story.php?RecID=326 ,the question is raised as to the size of aliens. In this story, the author has created a species that is cute and cuddly and the size of mice. They land on Earth in a spaceship “no bigger than a small mailbox” and are friendly. It stands to reason that creatures that from another planet will not necessarily be the same approximate size as humans.    

What do space aliens really look like? Your comments below are welcome. The above imaginative alien stories and much more are in the vast Quantum Muse archives for your reading pleasure.


2015-05-25 13:07:39
Pippin91 - Thanks, Sidewinder for saying far more eloquently than I did that it's highly likely that the same features would evolve again and again, even on different planets. As to Stanley Gerson: Would you please stop posting these requests here. This is a discussion forum and your posts will not help you contact Tim Goyette, I can assure you of that.

2015-05-16 20:11:08
05/16/2015 Hi, I'm trying to contact Editor Tim Goyette on my working email: gersjoel01@gmail.com. This about serializing my novella. Please have him write me, Stanley Gerson

2015-05-13 19:02:32
Sidewinder4 - Form follows from function: feet to walk, wings to fly, some appendage that can serve as an oar [flipper, cupped hand etc.] to swim. A creature without our five senses and mobility would be at a disadvantage. Consider a clam or even a dolphin; anything that lacks the sensing and mobility of a higher order mammal may be "lunch" for the quicker thinking/moving/grabbing critters. Symmetry, shell or bones, to protect vital organs [brain, gonads, stomach, etc] and five or more sense intelligence; any life form that didn't have these would of necessity need to denominate a "slave" species who did. Such a symbiosis between two or more life forms could be argued to actually be a single life form that manifested in multiple bodies. E.G. people cannot "get by" without the bacteria in their digestive tract that help digest our food. Head, shoulders, knees, and toes; eyes and ears and mouth and nose, or some such to do their jobs. "The blue-green scaled creature crawled from the sea and supported itself on its two rear flippers. Its fore appendages divided at their ends in half and gripped what seemed a spear. Facing a pack of gray green quadrupeds who were more than willing to run away as it bellowed a warning, it seemed to smile even though its mouth contracted into a tight circle."

2015-05-05 12:36:45
GordonRowlinson - About ten years ago, I read of a speculative theory about earthlike planets producing similar species. I was going to mention this in the article. However I couldn't find the magazine in my basement. Maybe you are right. However you are talking about a planet with the exact same temperature, exact same gravity, exact same atmosphere, exact same environment. I tend to think Earth is pretty unique.

2015-05-04 17:59:33
Pippin91 - Another thought: we see many cases where evolution has created some very useful trait several times in populations isolated from each other. So why wouldn't a wolf-like canid evolve on an earthlike planet, for example? We know now there are many planets similar to Earth, so my guess is that any life that evolved on those planets could have followed paths similar to the life that evolved here.

2015-05-04 17:56:21
Pippin91 - I created four different alien races for my book Brighter than the Stars. I really considered making them all very alien but decided they needed to have traits and body forms that people could relate to so that I could create sympathetic characters. To explain this similarity to Earth creatures, I had some of the aliens coming to Earth for hundreds of thousands of years and intermingling their genes with ours. It IS possible this could have happened. Just watch the show Ancient Aliens for ruminations on early visits of aliens to Earth.

2015-05-04 17:26:44
Dear Editor Tim Goyette, I found out my former email address wasn't accepting your responses about serializing "iSly". Please email me at gersjoel01@gmail.com . Sorry for the confusion, found out today, and it explains a lot. Later, stanley gerson (pen name)

2015-05-01 10:54:05
Very thought provoking. Maybe john lennon was head of the alien race. Pearl shaped head? Cat like eyes? You never know...

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