Many authors and fans of science fiction 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. 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.
In Science Fiction Romance, human-like aliens are common, since 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.
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.
Dragons are clearly related to reptiles and fall into the category of animal-like aliens.
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.
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.
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).
Weird biology fact: carnivorous plants can move fast, but they cannot walk. On the other hand, some seeds fly!
Can you imagine intelligent bacteria? 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! Maybe I’ll use these aliens!
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.
Four hundred years earlier the great spaceships had departed from Terra to colonize distant planets. Few ships reached their destinations; their sporadic signals waned and disappeared. No one knew whether the colonists survived. Now, construction of a new generation of hyperdrive ships was scheduled at one every five years. Planet Delta was selected as the next target for survey because the arrival of a brief signal suggested the descendants of the colonists were alive.
Tiger Lily longs for freedom. In her fight to escape the subterranean slums of Terra, Lily competes to join the scout team selected for the next spaceship along with a new set of prospective colonists. Their mission to discover the lost colony faces the challenges posed by the voracious predators of the planet. In the mountains, they encounter Conley, a grim warrior who longs to escape the confines of his isolated valley. Has Tiger Lily met her match in this tortured warrior? But, where is he leading them? Danger lies ahead, and conflicts between humans and aliens. Can they ensure the safety of the new human colonists, or must they retreat to Terra?
In my "day job" I am a scientist, although I have composed stories as long as I can remember. This year, I achieved my life-long ambition to publish novels. My works include science fiction and fantasy with romance and a sprinkle of humor. I was born in the UK and live in Atlanta with my husband, a dog and two cats to interrupt my typing.
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