Science fiction authors and readers love aliens. My aim is to inspire writers with ideas from weird aliens in fiction and from the perspective of a scientist with a life-long interest in the diversity of life on our planet. Writers can make their alien creations believable by describing them using different senses - sight, sound, smell.
Biology facts will be interspersed with fictitious life forms.
Weird biology fact: We have traces of viral DNA in our genomes.
First, what are aliens? Aliens are intended to have inhuman characteristics. I will use broad categories of humanoid, animal based and other.
Human-like aliens are common in science fiction stories, and a degree of physical compatibility may be desirable, although not essential. Humanoids predominate in video media, partly because they are easier to represent. Consider Dr Who: even the exterminating Daleks are mutated humans in a robotic shell.
In my series, Atrapako on Eden, the Atrapako are another extreme example. They have adapted to the harsh conditions on their planet by developing thick scales and claws as well as other physiological changes.
Animal-like aliens are also common, and many resemble people in fur. Felines are popular, such as the lion-like Hani of C.J. Cherryh, Anne McCaffrey’s Hrubbans, and the Kzinti of Larry Niven.
Mythological Dragons are clearly related to reptiles and fall into the category of animal-like aliens. I have dragons and other reptiles inhabiting the Planet Sythos in my story, Grand Master’s Pawn. Their voices sound like hisses or croaks.
One early example of non-humanoid aliens is described in the War of the Worlds (1897) by WG Wells.
Piers Anthony in his Cluster series created a variety of non-humanoid sentient aliens. He used the unifying theme of aura as a means of communication and exchange of minds into different bodies. In Thousandstar (1980), a humanoid woman falls in love with an alien resembling a giant amoeba (my description).
Adrian Tchaikovsky has fun with insect characteristics in humans in the Apt series.
My book, A Tale of Two Colonies, describes a planet inhabited by giant arthropods. Carnivorous insectoids also inhabit a planet in Grand Master’s Pawn.
Weird biology fact: Insect metamorphosis means that delicate winged butterflies with six legs are the adult forms of squiggly, voracious caterpillars with many legs and prolegs.
Think of the myriad varieties of animals living in the sea. Many are spineless invertebrate animals such as jellyfish, sea cucumbers, and squid.
I have an octopus-like creature in Grand Master’s Pawn, and a tentacled worm in Grand Master’s Game.
Weird biology fact: squid communicate by changing color.
Intelligent plant-based aliens are less common. They include Tolkien’s Ents, which are essentially walking, talking trees. Carnivorous plant-like aliens are popular, such as the walking plants with lethal stings from John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids (1951).
I introduced a planetoid Grand Master shaped like a giant flower with three petals in Grand Master’s Game. She walks on her roots and rustle her leaves to speak.
Weird biology fact: carnivorous plants can move fast, but they cannot walk. On the other hand, some seeds fly!
Can you imagine intelligent microbes? Bacteria, aka prokaryotes, can survive in extremely hostile environments, in soil, ice, boiling springs. They communicate via chemical messages and exchange pieces of DNA, like the genes for antibiotic resistance. Different bacteria can combine in a colony called a biofilm. What fascinating elements for novel aliens!
My book, Grand Master’s Game, includes an amoeboid called Umloa. He communicates by smells.
Weird biology fact: the descendants of ancient bacteria live in your cells as the energy producing mitochondria.
Aliens can include entities of gas or pure energy. Sir Fred Hoyle, the eminent English astronomer, disputed the Big Bang theory. His 1957 novel, The Black Cloud, explores the idea of an intelligent interstellar cloud. Aliens can be entities of pure energy, although they may be obvious of us.
I hope some of these weird life forms will inspire you to create unique and believable aliens in your stories.
Science Fiction Books by Aurora Springer
The Lady is Blue: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00K1N951Q
Grand Master’s Pawn: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00TP1N5PM
A Tale of Two Colonies: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MFY8A5Q
Captured by the Hawk: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MYHSC52
Aurora Springer is a scientist morphing into a novelist. She has a PhD in molecular biophysics and discovers science facts in her day job. She has invented adventures in weird worlds for as long as she can remember. In 2014, Aurora achieved her life-long ambition to publish her stories. Her works are character-driven romances set in weird worlds described with a sprinkle of humor. Some of the stories were composed thirty years ago. She was born in the UK and lives in Atlanta with her husband, a dog and two cats to sit on the keyboard. Her hobbies, besides reading and writing, include outdoor activities like gardening, watching wildlife, hiking and canoeing.