Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Designing Lovable Aliens

Why do we love aliens?

Could we love a yucky looking alien? A gooey blob? A slinky tube?

What is so attractive about someone vastly different?

How can we possibly read and write SFR?

Is it the haunted loneliness of Barnabas Collins that attracts us? The barriers of Mr. Spock? Or is it the lure of The Unknown?

That's the reason I read science fiction -- and the reason I write it. The "science" part has all kinds of questions about things that nobody knows -- "going where no one has gone before."

The adventure of exploring strange places, and the adventure of discovering things about here and now that have elluded others is irresistibly captivating.

But it's the same with the Relationships, the "fiction" part of Science Fiction, whether it involves Romance, Love, or friendship, or some adversarial tie -- or possibly a felial tie! (oooo, I adore half-breed stories!)

When you meet an alien, what you've been taught about his species may turn out to be wrong, and you have to become an explorer, discovering what makes this alien act and react. You have to become half-alien yourself, or at least more empathic than the ordinary human.

It is an adventure into the psyche -- yours and the alien's -- in exactly the same way that you must explore the science, with an open mind, willingly discarding what you "know" that turns out to be wrong.

That's why it's so puzzling that it has taken until now for us to begin to get SFR!

These two genres go together like Mom and Apple Pie, like Pizza and Beer. How can you have one without the other?

So tell me, what is it about aliens that you find so fascinating? Could you love a gooey glob?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. A gooey blob would definitely be pushing it for me, but then I have to realize I'm not the one falling in love with the blob. It would be my character and it's her mindset and her upbringing that would determine if the blob looks like Pierce Brosnan to her, or not.

    And it would be up to my skills as a writer to let the reader into her head, perceiving the blob as worthy and desirable.

    Would that be an adventure I'd want to explore? You betcha. Anything that makes me step out of my skin, out of my mundane existence and makes me stretch my perceptions is worth it.

    Hey, Odo on DS9 was a blob.

    But it's funny you bring this up, JL, because I just pitched a book to my agent who loved the plot but couldn't get past the fact that the hero was felinoid--and not even as much as Cherryh's Hani are or Norman's Sholan are. She felt readers wouldn't buy into a felinoid hero. I think they will--if it's written well.

    What say you all? ~Linnea

  2. I loved Odo from DS9. He was second only to Worf in my heart. (swoon)

    Ahem. Interesting dialogue. I think the gooey blob would be a tough sell to the readers UNLESS he was a shifter like Odo and the heroine first encountered him in a more palatable form. Now maybe your heroine is completely open-minded; she's been raised to find nothing repugnant in a gooey gelatinous intelligence, but your readers will be going "Eww" when our intrepid gal runs her fingers lovingly through his viscous fluid IF they haven't built up some emotional attachment to him first.

    As for your hero, I'm not a fan of the furries. In general anthropomorphic stuff doesn't do it for me but I liked what you did in developing him. I'd probably give a furry a chance if you wrote him, but from anyone else, not likely.

    Then again, what do I know? I'm almost done with Falling and I've got a cool as hell (evolved) Praying Mantis-like bounty hunter taking center stage. I found myself research mantis mating habits and nodding sagely to myself. "Yes, no wonder he's an exile. Women bite their lovers' heads off up to 30% of the time on his homeworld..."

  3. Kate Douglas made a nice pile of money with her felinoid heroes (and heroine) in her Starquest series--and this was erotica, so readers couldn't exactly gloss over the romantic and sexual aspects of the relationship. So, yes, readers are happy to accept felinoid heroes. Elloras Cave put out that series. Her WolfTales series,which begin with a hero stuck in half-wolf, half-human form, have been picked up by Kensington, so it looks like mainstream publishers are slowly beginning to figure that out as well.

  4. I think it's the author's job to make the reader believe the heroine could fall in love with the blog. Or the felinoid.

    (Rough tongues. What's not to love there?)

    In the project I'm trying to sell now, the heroine loves a psychopath. She doesn't end up with him, but I wanted to show that it was easier for the heroine to connect with the inhuman hero than with the human psycho killer.

    I think one of the most noble and moral things we can accomplish as specrom authors is to allow our readers to experience loving the other. Considering our times, it's a very important skill that our fiction can teach.

    So yeah, I think a blob could be a romantic hero. In the most skillful authorial hands.

  5. I love felinoid or lupine heroes. The Beast is one of the most attractive of romantic heroes to me. I loved Vincent in the TV series because, unlike the Beast in the traditional fairy tale and its various adaptations, he would never change into an ordinary man. One of my favorite of Mercedes Lackey's novels is THE FIRE ROSE, a Beauty and the Beast version in which the hero, after an unwise magical experiment, is stuck in half-wolf form. He doesn't get "fixed" by the end of the book. I identify with the princess in a little skit on the old ELECTRIC COMPANY (a children's show on public TV). She kissed a frog, which turned into a prince. She said, clearly disgruntled, "If I'da wanted a prince, I'da KISSED a prince." An essay in a fantasy romance newsletter once remarked that it would be too hard to get a reader to accept a character with scales or tentacles as the romantic lead. I responded: Scales? What about mermaids? Tentacles? What about the Simes in the Jacqueline Lichtenberg / Jean Lorrah Sime~Gen universe? I would like to have a story published in which the hero has tentacles and other inhuman features below the waist, like Wilbur Whateley in "The Dunwich Horror." I've started a Lovecraftian fantasy-romance novella with such a half-human hero but haven't finished it. Can you imagine the possibilities of tentacles? :)

  6. Odo is DEFINITELY a favorite of mine. You know, I was fascinated by Warf when he first turned up, and that was way before meeting Odo. So on ST: DS9 Odo was my definite favorite.

    However, don't forget we had internal symbionts on DS9 as well -- a lover who crawls inside you and lives in there.

    Oddly enough, after I put up this post, I was proofing a set of my short stories that may get published as a single-author anthology. And I discovered I still like my story Vanillamint Tapestry, about a pair of secret agents, one of whom is inside the other.

    Hal Clement did this in his famous classic novel NEEDLE.

    Now write us a sizzling sex scene told from the point of view of the blob!

    On cats - yeah..... Vincent is a definite YES! Of course I have a soft heart for half-breeds, too.

    I think what I was getting at is the part of sexuality which is (for women anyway?) based on the psychic and psychological bonding, and the part that's purely physical.

    I mean, if all the lead female characters in Romance don't have to be svelt, shouldn't we cut the guys some slack too?

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

  7. Can you imagine the possibilities of tentacles?

    The Japanese can. It's a subsect of Hentai, and it's more or less animated tentacle-porn. Watch
    Urotsukidoji only if you have a high shock threshold.

  8. RE Hentai with tentacles: I watched one and was disappointed. The tentacle scenes weren't erotica; they were rape. I haven't explored this type of anime enough to know whether there are any examples in which tentacle sex is actually portrayed as sensual and affectionate. From commentary I've read, I suspect not. In general, from the few samples of anime porn I've seen, I get the impression that Japanese culture has a VERY different notion of what's erotic, at least in visual media, from the Western idea.

  9. Anonymous2:39 PM EDT

    Some of Melanie Jackson's heroes aren't too attractive if you look at them objectively, and PC Cast's hero in Goddess by Mistake spent more time as a centaur than as a human male, definitely leaving the heroine time to wonder how she was going to actually ... manage. Come to think of it, Kenyon's characters are very attractive, but a lot of them spend time in feline bodies lately. That last book even had the heroine allergic to the hero, which was amusing even if the book as a whole was very badly edited. Jessica Bryan, one of my first paranormal romance weaknesses, allowed her characters to remain in mer form if I recall correctly. Oh, and Bujold has had some unattractive pairings for that matter.