The Gordian Fetish – Designing an Alien.

The Gordian Fetish – Designing an Alien.

I usually use aliens as surrogate humans; to throw light on various aspects of human behaviour or psychology. Thus it was with the Gordian Fetish. My aliens had board meetings, incompetent managers, shady dealers and inspections.

Designing a credible alien is extremely difficult. One can easily fall into the trap of the stereotypical portrayal or the creation of something that is ridiculous.

As a biologist it is easy for me to look at the human body and make improvements to create an idealised humanoid. The human body is the result of billions of years of evolution. It is riddled with imperfections that are the result of that evolution. I could list a number that would be easy to modify:

1. Having the brain restricted in a vulnerable bony casing.

2. Have a neck so easily broken.

3. Having a respiratory system with only one opening.

4. Having a respiratory system interconnected with the digestive tract so we easily choke.

5. Having an excretion, egestion and reproduction all having their openings close together thus inviting contamination and infection.

6. Having the birth canal opening through the pelvic girdle so creating hugely difficult births.

7. Articulation of limbs.

8. Prostate glands surrounding the urethra.

I could go on and on with this one. Evolution is not design and we are the result of random mutations from fishes common cloaca’s, cephalisation and such things as the adaptation of swim bladders into lungs. Far from ideal.

So, as a Science Fiction writer, it would be easy to create an idealised alien without all these inherent ‘design’ faults. But then aliens will have evolved too and be the result of their own sets of random mutations and selection. They too would be riddled with absurdities.

With humans one has a range of features and emotional reactions, revealing gestures, signs, that are common to all and are useful to use in one’s writing. With aliens, you have to create the equivalent of a smile, a shrug, a frown, a hand gesture, and assume that these simian characteristics might exist in an alien race who might not have evolved from monkeys.

Fortunately, with the Gordian Fetish, I was introducing an element of humour, so I was free to create aliens that were rather absurd, with shape-changing, colourations, changeable appendages and the like.

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