Tuesday, May 12, 2015

How #Alien Are Your Characters?

One of my saurian characters from Keir
One question that my editor asked me on the first round of copy edits many moons ago now was why all my characters were human or humanoid. Why were there no aliens who, basically, looked more alien?

I’ll confess that until then I hadn’t really thought about it but I had a logical explanation. For one thing, when writing a science fiction romance it, of course, makes it easier if the two main characters who are due to fall in love have a fairly close physical similarity. Sex scenes would obviously be a lot more involved and, er, convoluted shall we say, if the physical differences were very marked. Perhaps that’s something to explore when I’m more confident of my skills in the genre. :D

For my first book I wanted to keep things simple. And I felt that in a galaxy full of diversity, those species who had more in common with us would be more likely to interact, and to therefore form friendships or even romantic attachments. For instance--who do you spend the most time with? A best friend? A partner? Work colleagues? Family? Obviously with family you have that tie of blood and unity that (most) families take as the basis for their relationships together. You might not have chosen each and every one of your work colleagues to be with, but you’ve (presumably) all chosen to work in that profession and therefore have that bond. With a best friend you often have shared experiences and/or interests--things that unite you. With a partner there must have been some initial attraction that has led to a mutual bond and the desire to spend (hopefully) the majority of your lives together.

So in each relationship, there are one or more areas of related interest or goals that connect you. That compel you to spend time together. So it seemed logical to me that races with certain aspects in common might be more inclined to socialize and interact together than, say, those whose even basic needs are incompatible with our own. An oxygen-breathing race like us, for example, would be unlikely to want to spend time with a race that breathes or needs cyanide. A marine species may not want to risk asphyxiation in our atmosphere any more than we’d like to drown. 

It wouldn’t be impossible, and the very nature of a completely different society would no doubt compel a lot of humans to actively pursue such interactions, but the average person would probably seek the simpler solution. How many of us learn to deep sea dive, for example? How many would want to learn? Of course, there may be other ways to adapt ourselves in the future--as an example I recommend Neal Asher’s books where cybernetic and genetic adaptations abound--which would make these interactions easier, perhaps even commonplace.

There are more alien-style aliens in the universe I’ve created. Few interact with the humanoid races that tend to have dominated my stories so far. But there are always opportunities to explore those in the future.

What’s your view on it? Do you think I’m just evading the issue with my reasoning? Do you go for the most outlandish species you can imagine, or do you prefer to keep yours close to human?

(originally posted at Spacefreighters Lounge, February 2012)

A Science Fiction Romance Novel
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A demon waiting to die...
An outcast reviled for his discolored skin and rumors of black magic, Keirlan de Corizi sees no hope for redemption. Imprisoned beneath the palace that was once his home, the legendary 'Blue Demon of Adalucien' waits for death to finally free him of his curse. But salvation comes in an unexpected guise.

A woman determined to save him.
Able to cross space and time with a wave of her hand, Tarquin Secker has spent eternity on a hopeless quest. Drawn by a compulsion she can't explain, she risks her apparent immortality to save Keir, and offers him sanctuary on her home-world, Lyagnius. But Quin has secrets of her own.

When Keir mistakenly unleashes the dormant alien powers within him and earns exile from Lyagnius, Quin chooses to stand by him. Can he master his newfound abilities in time to save Quin from the darkness that seeks to possess her?


Still to come -
Google Play

Book Two of the series, Keir’s Fall: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25417498-keir-s-fall


After spending twelve years working as an Analytical Chemist in a Metals and Minerals laboratory, Pippa Jay is now a stay-at-home mum who writes scifi and the supernatural. Somewhere along the way a touch of romance crept into her work and refused to leave. In between torturing her plethora of characters, she spends the odd free moment playing guitar very badly, punishing herself with freestyle street dance, and studying the Dark Side of the Force. Although happily settled in the historical town of Colchester in the UK with her husband of 21 years and three little monsters, she continues to roam the rest of the Universe in her head.

Pippa Jay is a dedicated member of the Science Fiction Romance Brigade and Broad Universe, blogging at Spacefreighters Lounge, Adventures in Scifi, and Romancing the Genres. Her works include YA and adult stories crossing a multitude of subgenres from scifi to the paranormal, often with romance, and she’s one of eight authors included in a science fiction romance anthology—Tales from the SFR Brigade. She’s also a double SFR Galaxy Award winner, been a finalist in the Heart of Denver RWA Aspen Gold Contest (3rd place), the EPIC eBook awards, and the GCC RWA Silken Sands Star Awards (2nd place).

You can stalk her at her website, or at her blog, but without doubt her favorite place to hang around and chat is on Twitter as @pippajaygreen.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this guest post are solely that of the author and not of the SFR Brigade.


  1. I'm of the same opinion. I also love exploring the sameness between us and other humanoid species. Not the differences, but the sameness.

  2. I'm all for variety, so I welcome authors experimenting with different types of aliens. Humanoid aliens can certainly make for more accessible romances and of course some readers are just seeking a steamy SFR fix, so such aliens can satisfy on that count.

    That said, there's plenty of room in SFR for stories that feature non-PIV sex/physical intimacy and other alternatives as part of the romance. Granted, the audience for that probably isn't huge, but I for one am very intrigued by the possibilities.

    I can see, though, how it'd be a challenge to write scenes of intimacy between a human and a non-humanoid alien without fetishizing the non-humanoid alien (unless one is writing erotic SF/SFR, in which case, not so challenging!). Plus, would readers view the story as erotic simply because it involves a non-humanoid lover? Still, I hope the obstacles don't inhibit some authors from giving it a try!

  3. I think there is a kind of automatic assumption that if you start involving tentacles or various alien appendages, then it's going to be icky or alien erotica. Or heading for the old alien probing of abduction stories. One day I would love to try writing something that falls between that.

  4. >something that falls between that

    Would love to read it! For me, that's an area where SFR has great potential to transform/subvert!

  5. This is really good reasoning! I think it would be a different kind of story to try to write how two alien species that don't share many common biological characteristics would interact, but for the sake of having a story about aliens that are interacting, it is logical to use this reason. It would help the world building even more if there were these other kinds of aliens too, which could lessen some of the questions the reader might have about how there are only humanoid aliens. It's great that you did include that and there's room for more exploration!



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