Aliens aren’t little green men.
They don’t maneuver flying saucers around the Bermuda Triangle and the New Mexico desert, and I seriously doubt they have an over-abundant interest in our cows; they especially don’t look like Keanu Reeves with even less of a facial expression than usual.
Well, that’s not entirely true – maybe they are, maybe they do, and maybe they are preoccupied in such a way. But these cultural representations of aliens are so like us except for a few superficial and pointless differences that it just doesn’t seem right. Our ideas of aliens are completely anthropocentric, based on some sort of integral precept that aliens anywhere near our intellectual equals must have evolved like us.
…The only group I’m really going to accept that from are the makers of the original The Day the Earth Stood Still film, since special effects were practically nonexistent and they were using aliens as a medium to make an increasingly valid point. And, I suppose, authors like Bruce Coville who wrote his My Teacher is an Alien series for a younger audience and also used aliens as a medium to make a good point. And Star Trek (the original series), too, which also couldn’t help but have essentially humanoid aliens under layers of make-up; they also dabbled in non-carbon-based life, and used aliens as a similar medium.
Okay, so I’ll accept human-like extra-terrestrials from lots of things, but only if they’re using the idea of aliens as a self-improvement tool for humanity and can’t do much about their array of available special effects. But that anthropocentric precept is thankfully being increasingly challenged, whether by scientific extrapolations as to what far away aliens might actually be like or sci-fi ideas of bioengineering alien hives, and it continuously needs to be challenged more.
It’s not just the Earth and assorted desert-like planets of our solar system anymore. There are moons with chemical lakes, planets made from diamond, and giant – by giant I mean ‘holy shit I though the Sun was big’ – clouds of water floating in space. There are even Earth-like planets, where deviations in gravity, atmosphere, and molten planetary cores could change everything. To fully see what the aliens of these planets might be like, we need to look at concepts that have shaped humans, animals, and even the ancient beginnings of life on Earth. Here are a few of those concepts:
1. Predation: Evolution has shaped pretty much everything about life as we know it, and a large part of that whole deal was things feasting on other things. Without predation, humans might not have the language, thought, or sensorimotor powers we have today; well, we certainly wouldn’t, since life never would have gotten past its placid, prokaryotic sludge stage. In fact, the impact of predation is so ridiculously huge that the post had to be split into two parts: