Remaking People

fantasy-2847724_1920

I’ve admitted before I’m not good at writing/thinking about aliens.  It’s not that I think they can’t exist (logically they should.)  It’s that I have next to no interest in them.  Sure, the point at which humans interact with aliens is interesting but that’s about it.

You see, I like humans.  The ways in which we fall short of the ideal and sometimes manage to be better than any idea fascinate me.  I might actually be interested in humans interacting with aliens.  Full disclosure, I have a novel where aliens are the very bad guys somewhere in the endless cue.  But they are also incomprehensible. We don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing or if they’re bad guys according to them, because they’re DUH alien.

I am not so Odd that I don’t get that people write aliens to explore facets of humanity that they know just can’t be so. I do GET that. I just can’t do it, because in my deep brain I don’t believe we could understand aliens enough to make them interesting.  Rather, I think if they interact with us they’ll be like the forces of nature: remote, unknowable, and just happening.

Mind you, yeah, I also have a space opera called “translators in space” that will probably never get written because every year I’m further away from what I knew of language and linguistics.  (No, seriously.  I should have written it in my twenties.  Ah well.)  In those the aliens are really humans.  Or rather, maybe elves.  They are like humans with some essential differences.

Oh, okay, fine.  This being an Odd audience I’m going to guess everyone here has heard of the man who walked around the horses (yes, I know.  Probably assassination, blah blah blah.  Bear with me.)  There was a similar case in 1992 when we’d just moved to CO. Girl on a hike with a group, walked a little ahead, around a rock.  There was nowhere else for her to go but the trail. but she vanished, they couldn’t find her, no one ever found her.  There were stories at the time of people who vanish into thin air.  Believe it or not a trivial number of people have.

In this world, these people would get kidnapped, because some program identified exceptional ability at languages.  You see, aliens do exist, many of them.  And they trade. But no other species has the ability to learn languages.  Languages are hard coded.  So they kidnap humans, who don’t even know they exist, give them immortality treatments and auction them to be translator son alien ships.

The aliens are like those in the Weber-Ringo Prince Roger series.  Human-analog-aliens.

And you guys knowing me, you probably know how the series would go.  The first novel would be called Star Tongue.  Anyway — G-d only knows if I’ll get to it before I die, but…

The aliens are still not real aliens.  Because real aliens, my back brain thinks, would be incomprehensible.

All of which is still preferable to — well, mostly leftist — writers’ tendency to remake humans.

I don’t know if I ever told anyone at large (my friends know) my impetus into writing was the same as most writers.  I read something that drove me nuts and made me go “Oh, no, it wouldn’t be THAT way.”

I’m strange only in that I was very young and that the book that caused this reaction was a classic of science fiction The Left Hand of Darkness.

Let me start by saying that I LIKED the book.  Loved it even.  Mostly because it was different and it made me think.  (Like other books of the time, it didn’t age well, mostly on language, but also structure, which I guess was innovative and daring at the time, but strikes me as “too early seventies for words. Not this might be JUST ME but there’s a whole batch of books — one Heinlein — I can’t stand to re-read. I came of age in the seventies and eventually grew to loathe that false-craft feel of art at that time.  No one else is forced to agree with me.)

But part of what made me think — because my relaxing reads are books on evolution and animals and their biology and behavior (guys, I read Konrad Lorenz for fun) is that the left (and at the time anyone with even vague intellectual pretensions was at the very least soft left, because the zeitgeist was) was very funny about humans.

They often opened their books on humans by gesticulating broadly at imaginary religious fanatics and rubbing said fanatics’ noses in the fact that “we are animals.  No, we’re really animals.”  And then proceeded to go a little bananas, sometimes in supposed non-fiction, like Desmond Morris in The Naked Ape, which assured us only humans killed their own species, or something equally ridiculous (I read it at around 14 or 15, I just remember his thesis that humans were uniquely vile made me snort-giggle at the time.  Because, you know, you can sustain that if you’re religious, and say humans should aspire to the divine image, but if we’re really just animals, there is NO vile.  We do what instinct and nature tell us, no judgement, right?)

But mostly this dysfunction showed in science fiction, particularly at the time.  “We’re just animals.  If we just changed/removed/tweaked x y z we’d be communitarian, sharing, no war animals.”

The way hermaphrodites behave in TLHOD made me snort/giggle too for various reasons, the first being that hermaphrodite species on Earth (granted mostly very small) have some of the most violent mating behaviors in the world.  Makes sense since at least in live-bearing, or for that matter those who care for eggs, species, the cost falls on the one who carries young or sits on eggs.  The other one just goes off, whistling his merry way and lives to mate another day.  So in a species where either of the couple can bear, there would be a “war” (There are several books on war of the sexes in various species, which has led to things like praying mantises and duck penises.) to determine who bears.  And yes, she did get right that in an intelligent species, value would have to be put on children-of-the-body or no one would want to do it. (Or most children would be conceived by rape.  Which to be fair, is most hermaphrodite species on Earth.)

What she got wrong, related to that, is then having the kids raised in some sort of hippie dippie commune.

In fact, the whole setup makes perfect sense as a professional woman’s fantasy.  “I want to have kids, but someone else raises them, and it will be the perfect communitarian family and no one will think it’s bad if I’m not there, or take no more interest in them than in any of the family kids.”

In point of fact, from evolutionary pov, an hermaphrodite species would have a hell of an attachment to their own biological “of the body” kids, for the simple reason that otherwise, being intelligent and able to circumvent instinct, no one would have kids “of the body” and those born of rape would be abandoned to die.  World’s shortest species/race/breed.

Yes, I’m sure that some human (and these were supposed to be modified humans) tribes have done the communitarian child raising, but it’s not the norm, it’s not usually as communitarian as it looks and…. oh, heck, even extended family raising the kids, which it sort of is, is nowhere nearly what US leftists think it is.  There’s squabbles, politics, and the mothers very much care and “pull” for their own kid.

Anyway, it amused me because it was nowhere near the only.  There was this trend back then for hermaphrodite modified humans that somehow made them more cooperative/better at not warring, etc, which I found absolutely mind bogglingly bizarre and made me wonder why people thought injecting the fierce young-protecting instinct of the female into a species at large would make it more sharing and caring, not the other way around.  (And lord, study any society with multiple concubines and wives.  Women protect THEIR children, there is no sisterhood or love all babies, when yours is in the mix.  Some of the most horrific tales of mankind are the vengeance wrought by a woman on rival women AND THEIR BABIES.)

So this caused me to write my first book.  And yeah, my biology was better, but honestly, the writing sucked, mostly because well… I had no clue how to tell a story.

But you know, the left looks at “we’re all animals” and instead of viewing it as the permanent struggle of humans and what we, religious people, view as “needing grace to overcome the animal” (We never thought we weren’t animals.  What do you think most of the admonishments of religion: original sin, fallen nature, clay of the earth, etc. are all about?) they think they can just wish away.

Honestly, it shouldn’t surprise me how people who tried to levitate the Denver mint with their minds also think that the “natural human” would be perfect and sweet and cooperating if “capitalism” didn’t corrupt him.

I just sort of assume they’ve never paid attention to how humans work, including themselves.

From eugenics “we’ll breed this bad trait out.” To open borders “all cultures are equally valid and nothing bad will result from mixing them willy nilly, also they’ll all change to the perfect, inborn socialist culture of all brown people” to “if we just distribute all the wealth, everyone will work for the joy of it” the left is at war with reality, and the reality of humanity most of all.

We’re animals, okay?  Sure, some of us aspire to being better than that, but it’s not magic, and the macro system changing won’t turn us into angels.  (Except in the sense it kills most people, so I guess….)

Nah.  If the left truly believes that, we’ve found the aliens.

207 responses to “Remaking People

  1. richardmcenroe

    ” I came of age in the seventies and eventually grew to loathe that false-craft feel of art at that time. No one else is forced to agree with me.”

    BLESS YOU

    • “Look at me; I’m so clever!”

      • “I’m bravely doing these new things that have never, ever been done before (except by all those people)”!

        • “I’m different because I’m doing exactly the same thing as all these other people who are different.”

          At least most goths are self-aware enough to poke fun at themselves being “different” (says the goth who did lazy man being different).

          • I don’t know. Some of the first Goths that I met were more creative and “different”. It wasn’t until it became popular and the younger people glomed on when there became so cookie cutter.

            • Define first…We’ve been around since the late 70s as part of the post punk world and I’d say 75% of the major parts of the scene today were in place by 1990 outside of the ongoing vacuuming in and creating a goth twist on new musical genres (something the metal scene is also very good at…probably other music scenes as well but I’m just unfamiliar with it).

              In reality, any successful subculture will have strong cookie cutter aspects as an identifier. They will also (and this is a key thing that keep things that people tend to adopt as teenagers alive for a long time) need to develop ways to “act your age” within the subculture. In the goth world taking a piss on goth conformity is a big part of being a gerigoth (and maybe a bit of being an elder goth too…mostly being an elder).

              No, mom, I don’t want to study sociology and you can’t make me. 🙂

              • In 2015 I was in Mainz, Germany. As I strolled through the market square, a herd of 25-30 punks and a few goths had gathered on the steps of the Rathaus, glowering at everyone daring to oogle them. All in black, all with studded dog collars and wrist-bands, all in loose black pants with rips and chains or ripped fishnets and black mini-skirts… It took a lot of effort not to giggle a little, even though it would have been an invitation to trouble.

                • I would have demanded the sing at least four lines from “This Corrosion” and, no, “Hey, now, hey, now now, sing this corrosion to me” does not count.

                  Or ask if they were goths where were they when the rest of us were sacking Rome.

                  Were they teenagers? One way to tell the babybats from the kindergoths is the former have already learned not to take themselves too seriously.

                  • They looked to be 18-30. Between the age and the number, I decided that it wasn’t worth risking getting beaten up. I’ve seen what happens when a tourist ticks off German punks.

              • Pretty sure it was late 70s. MAYBE 80 or 81 (I was a kid). I was stuck waiting somewhere and there was a woman there wearing an old wedding gown. She said it was her great-great-something-grandmother’s wedding gown that she had found in a trunk in her attic (yellowed, aged, falling apart), along with an ornate set of jewelry that looked to be made for wear with the dress, only most of the stones were removed. I was a kid and curious, and she was nice enough to tell me all about it. I had never heard of a Goth before (it was some years later before I really understood what it was). She was picked up by a man wearing a tattered old suit (or tux maybe, it was fancy anyway in spite of it’s condition. Even at that age a pretty woman was FAR more fascinating to look at than some dude, so I don’t remember him very clearly.

                I’ve never really been “in the scene” because where I grew up there really wasn’t one, then I spent a few years in the Marines which didn’t lend itself to such things. I always found it interesting though.

                After i got out of the Marines, I dated a girl (very very shortly, late 90s or early 00s) who was big into being a Goth (we were introduced by a friend, and it turned out I was interested in her favorite subject…namely HER. Hey, don’t judge, she was cute). I hadn’t been paying much attention to the scene so I didn’t really know what to expect. She wore the black lipstick and nail polish that by that time had become Goth Uniform. She also drew funny squiggley lines from the corner of her eye (Wish I kept a pic, not explaining it well, sorta Egyptian) which were also worn by the few of her female friends that I met (and practically ever female at a club she took me to, so I assume it was the norm). The one thing that really threw me was that she wore chains (like a punk might), which I had never seen on a Goth. I stopped calling her because I could never tell when I would move in for a kiss whether she would have a razor blade in her mouth or not. THAT was always an unpleasant surprise.

                • Wow, you did meet some old schoolers. Can I ask what part of the world that was? I know a handful that old in the scene from the Boston area (as we used to say, it wasn’t how long had Ashe been around the goth scene, but how long had the goth scene been around him).

                  The eyeliner lines are a joke even in the scene as you can have “too much fun with eyeliner”. It is to the point the card game “Oh My Goth” (which parodies the scene well enough I assume the creators are in it) gives you +1 Goth point per “Fun with eyeliner card” until you get three then they all become -1 Goth point.

                  But, yes, generic black is the “uniform”, but wearing nothing but generic black everything does set you off as either:

                  1. Newbie
                  2. Tourist
                  3. Lazy F***

                  and people better know you to pull off #3. The key is accessorizing as they young woman you saw understood. Matching earring and cufflinks were my usual flair (which also required french cuffs or, in most of my cases, cutting off cuff buttons and sewing a second button hole and pretending).

                  There is a lot of punk/goth/rivethead crossover these days (in some places the individual groups don’t have critical mass to be a scene of their own) so the fashion crosses over too. Also, with fetish wear being more available since the 90s there is a ton of that crossing over. I swear, more people in the vendors room at the Boston Fetish Flea Market are punk/goth/metal/rivethead/steampunk (which is just goths who have discovered brown) people buying fashion items than kink people buying play items.

                  • Not too far from Chicago, although I can’t be sure if she was from there or not.

                  • Oh, and “steampunk (which is just goths who have discovered brown)”
                    I have a couple of friends who are (mildly) into steampunk, I wonder if that line will get me beat up or not. Hmm…. That might be an idea, one of them is awfully cute…

                    • Given I learned it from people in the steampunk scene (which crosses over with the goth scene a lot in my experience) it’s probably a safe one.

                  • Less than five years back we were at a Denny’s with my parents, and there was a crowd of vaguely Goth/Lolita/frilly anime kids hanging out; I’d say late high school to very early college, too young to drink. Few more girls than boys, and no top-hats on anybody.

                    They cooed at the baby, and when they noticed the Princess and Duchess looking at the “win a stuffy toy” game, they spent at least twenty bucks getting them toys.

                    Before that point, while they were sitting around basically hanging out at the Denny’s on a Friday night, my mom was giving them a bit of a hairy eyeball and grumbled about the outlandish outfits.

                    “Why on earth would they dress like that?”
                    “Because they can be pretty, mom– those guys look nice, too. Even with the eye makeup. They picked a fashion group that lets them dress up without having to pretend a bikini top is a decent shirt, and nobody gives you crud if you’re wearing a black and neon pink striped dress shirt, but they do if you are wearing a t-shirt and jeans.”

                    It was kinda cool how quickly mom thawed after that. ^.^

                    A few of the girls were…um…plump, but they also were able to dress in a way that made them look nice.

            • Reversion to mean. . . .

        • Isn’t that most of today’s advertising?

          I guess even that isn’t new. Figures.

    • It’s been a long week or two. Is the un-re-readable Heinlein I Will Fear no Evil”? I de-paperbacked when we moved, and have been slowly rebuilding my RAH collection. That’s at the bottom of the list.

      • No. The Cat Who Walks Through Walls has a ton more seventies lingo. Yes, I know that’s not when it came out. But still.

        • One of these days, I want to reread the later RAH novels again. Probably start with TEfL and carry onward. I’ll have to note Cat. A 30 second (really!) read didn’t pick up the 70s pieces, but I’ve got other projects on my mind.

        • I have several times heard songs that are Totally 80s Songs, even if they weren’t technically released then.
          (Heck, one was released in 2014.)

      • I will admit at this point the only post 70s RAH books I’d bother keeping or replacing if I gave away are Friday and Job. Maybe, maybe, maybe on a good day The Number of the Beast (which, if I ever strike it rich is going to make the descendants of my nieces and nephews hate me).

  2. richardmcenroe

    I read all the proper stuff, back then, or tried to. And then I’d go back to reading Chandler and Laumer and Anderson, where the real people were…

  3. I remember the essay on how the Pilgrims had tried (and failed) a communist society. (Some friends of mine claim it’s been debunked, but for some reason, the debunking isn’t forthcoming.) One of the lines of the essay included the phrase “as though Man were wiser than God.” Obviously it has no pull with the anti-theistic, but it’s a great way to explain why we keep imagining that we can remake society if only we get rid of those elements that fight against it.

    The poor we will always have with us. That goes for the poor in spirit as well.

    • Thing is, there have been Communal societies in America that worked fairly well, for a generation at least. Most were deeply religious, and strong believers in hard work. The Onida colony in upstate New York is one example, and the Amana olonies in Iowa are another. I have to wonder if the ‘failure’ of Puritan communalism might have had less to do with the communalism than with either the character of the Puritan sect or with lack of familiarity with local species and conditions.

      OTOH, there have been numerous Communal movements among the Intellectual class that have failed miserably because of a basic unfamiliarity with hard physical labor. Indeed, if I recall correctly, there was a,proposal floating around among the Trancendentalists that died stillborn because the wives of the principal air-dreamers had a fairly good idea how much nasty, messy, smelly, physically hard work would have to be done.

      • there have been numerous Communal movements among the Intellectual class that have failed miserably because of a basic unfamiliarity with hard physical labor.

        Consider, as an example of this, Bernie Sanders being expelled from the kibbutz he’d attempted to join, on grounds he wanted to talk political philosophy when there was much work to be done.

      • IIRC, the successful community groups had a better selection; their folks had no motives besides living in community, rather than the “get me the heck out of here AND live in community.”

      • Indeed, if I recall correctly, there was a,proposal floating around among the Trancendentalists that died stillborn because the wives of the principal air-dreamers had a fairly good idea how much nasty, messy, smelly, physically hard work would have to be done.

        If I am remembering the one that was mentioned here correctly, “and figured out who would be stuck doing it!”

      • And the groups that lasted as communal organizations had rules that allowed them to expel the non-workers. They generally answer to a higher Power as well, with a very few notable exceptions like The Farm.

        The Puritans were mostly artisans and not so many farmers. They also ran into the famous “freeloader” problem, which led to the end of the communitarian impulse.

        • They also ran into the famous “freeloader” problem, which led to the end of the communitarian impulse.

          Yup. The abusive use of the commons by some also put an end to allowing free grazing of animals there.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        because the wives of the principal air-dreamers had a fairly good idea how much nasty, messy, smelly, physically hard work would have to be done.

        And they knew who would have to the messiest smelliest work. 😈

      • *giggle* – in the Luna City series, I have a story line of a 60ies failed commune. It failed after a summer, when all but couple realized how very much hard work would be involved in living off the land, raising vegetables, chickens and goats. About the only aspect which worked out was the fact that they made killer wine from the local wild mustang grapes.

        • Oneida included some very unhappy people, which was why it became a company instead of staying a commune.

          Also, everybody refused to sleep with Leon Czolgosz, which was one of the grievances which led up to his career as a presidential assassin.

        • My great grandad, veteran of (wars) and farm life, did eddicate us little ‘uns on occasion. Whilst we snapped beans, picked rocks, or shucked corn, churned butter, fed chickens and the like.

          He had much scorn for Communism and the like, saying it was just a way to get poor faster, and if it ever worked anywhere like they said it would he’d consider it evidence on Himself’s own angels come to the earth to walk among men. He also enforced the rule that if you didn’t work you didn’t eat, and we *really* liked to eat (at any and every occasion). Which was somehow excused for visitors, though it wasn’t wise for a little ‘un to make public note of this where Taller People could hear.

          There was one “commune” of my recollection in our wee neck of the woods. We called them the goat people. and they kept goats. They also smoked weed, but we didn’t call them by that name because it wasn’t polite. The only reason it kept going for about five, maybe six years was a rich parent, or so I thought at the time. They tried to sell goat milk and cheese, but that didn’t pan out too well in the eighties. They also kept bees, and the honey was good, but when they had it was highly erratic.

          The shack they lived in was continually falling apart (a goat fell through the roof the oncet), and they’d sometimes pay us to fix it up for them a little (always less than the trouble it took it seemed, nad I did wonder where they got the money, after all). Patch holes, that sort of thing. It was an education of a different sort. You get to see a different part of life when you have to work in or on a place someone else has made their home. But it soured me on anything approaching communal living for life, that’s for sure. Some things just should *not* be shared with other human beings.

      • Pretty much the failure of every communal movement has occurred upon the death of the extremely charismatic or influential leader. The Oneida name and crafts survived by incorporation.

        The sects that survived in the U.S. weren’t and aren’t communal.

        • The Hutterites are still semi-communal, or were as of 2002. Common dining, recreation, and work spaces, private family quarters. The elders decide what the community needs for each “colony” and everyone who, say, needs glasses gets the same frames (his and hers, but all women get identical, likewise all men).

          • I might have a completely warped view of the Hutterites, but every time I read about them, they sound like New Soviet Men in a rigid social structure.

    • The impulse likely comes from the very earliest days of the church, when Christian communities shared everything in common.

      Left unmentioned is that this was treated as a miracle, and it is on record that God publically smote down at least one couple trying to game the system.

      • Note that this was in the earlier period of Acts.

        But we’ve had communal living since. The great rule? No marriage. And the members join on their own. (times when people have been shoved away in monastery/convents were also times of corruption in them, too.)

      • Left unmentioned is that this was treated as a miracle, and it is on record that God publically smote down at least one couple trying to game the system.

        While the rest is sound, that couple got smote because they publicly lied about having sold everything and donated it, not because they only sold part and donated it.

        The other way is very popular with religious flavored abusive groups, for obvious reasons.

        Even though Peter flat out SAID it was Ananias and Sapphira’s, to do with as they wish, and that it was the lie which he then detailed. With the right framing, it’s pretty easy to make it look like Peter was mad they’d kept part back.

    • “…One of the lines of the essay included the phrase “as though Man were wiser than God.” Obviously it has no pull with the anti-theistic,..”

      In some sense, the view of “God” as an arbitrary director is what supports the idea that we can just arbitrarily decide that people can behave differently than they really do. We could say instead that even God bows to nature!

      Think about it.

      Yes, of course God created Nature, but not arbitrarily. Rather more like the ultimate utilitarian. Nature has to *work*. It has to result in offspring reaching adulthood and reproducing successfully in turn. It has to result in everything that is necessary to that end or it doesn’t work.

      Something like, oh, microbiology, has to exist and therefore disease has to exist and social rules to control disease have to exist.

      We also need to conserve energy thus laziness has to exist. And the story about the first Pilgrims is that too many people decided to do things that *they* felt was important instead of doing the hard and very boring work of growing food or building shelters. Grasshoppers and Ants! But who’d want to be the Ant? Particularly if the rules are set up so that whatever you build is taken for common use instead of your own?

      People are very sensitive to being allowed to benefit from their own effort. Some of the “injustices” of my childhood that lodged themselves most firmly in my memory are when I thought ahead or worked hard and someone decided to just give that to someone else. It’s silly stuff, maybe, but I *remember* that in 5th grade we did a mosaic of colored broken glass of the 50 states and we all tried to find different colors and I found pink. I was the *only* one who found pink. And the teacher gave my pink glass to another girl to use for Minnesota. When you’re all excited about having done something special, that’s like a kick in the face. Or the time I was at an ROTC “survival” training and carried dry twigs and grass in my jacket all day because it was going to sprinkle and I *knew* they’d be having us start a fire, we divided into groups and I brought out my stash and as soon as I did our groups got rearranged and I wasn’t allowed to retrieve my tinder. Pissed me off, yes. Stupid, I suppose. But brushing off a few events is different than if your whole system enforces the same thing over and over and over again.

      There’s no possible reason anymore to think ahead or to work harder than anyone else. God, Man or Nature? Even God knows better than to try it.

      • We could say instead that even God bows to nature!

        *lightbulb*

        The God of the Christians yokes Himself to nature– He made a system, it’s rational, He wants us to figure it out and use it, though He might make some small violations to serve as gifts to us, ie, miracles.

        Allah makes no such promise– to the point you need to add “if Allah wills it” because their lord might change his mind at any point.

        • There was a great philosophical debate in Islam on the topic, and the side that won was the side that said that God can not act in a rational, discoverable and orderly manner, because “God is not bound.”

      • Or the time I was at an ROTC “survival” training and carried dry twigs and grass in my jacket all day because it was going to sprinkle and I *knew* they’d be having us start a fire, we divided into groups and I brought out my stash and as soon as I did our groups got rearranged and I wasn’t allowed to retrieve my tinder. Pissed me off, yes.

        As well it should– that is the kind of thing that should earn the “leader” a kick in the head, before he’s dragged off to a basic leadership course.

        Maybe several kicks in the head. I’ll volunteer to administer them.

        That is a stupid abuse of power.

        If they didn’t want you to do it, the proper response is:
        “That is the kind of thinking that can save your life in a real situation, and you were wise to do it. Now, we want to teach you how to get a fire started when it HAS been raining, so please give it to me, and I want EACH of you to go out and try to find something dry enough to start a fire.”

  4. the left … was very funny about humans.

    A half century’s observation of the left has yet to produce for me any evidence of their having the slightest understanding of humans. What they mostly are is in denial of human nature; what they mostly do is construct straw people which they delude themselves are human.

    • and in general, their caricatures of real people are straw people that they would like to have the ruling over and control of.

  5. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Well, there might be incomprehensible aliens out there, but IMO they’ll be incomprehensible more because of their “native” environment than anything else.

    As for aliens from an Earth-like world, IMO the major differences as far as understanding them will be cultural. Of course, cultural differences could make contact with them very interesting. Just as cultural differences on Earth can have “interesting” results.

    Mind you, I have thought of an alien species that would be almost incomprehensible to humans, but they (in my mind, not known to other characters in that universe) are a non-fallen species (or several species). Still they understand fallen species better than the fallen species understand them. 😀

    • Given how well Men understand Women and vice-versa (for purpose of illustration we will assume binariness) I think the assertion we could understand aliens is highly dubious. It takes serious effort for Europeans to understand Middle-Easterners, much less (for example) Japanese, and we have multiple points of commonality.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Yes, serious effort would be needed but is possible.

        With “incomprehensible aliens”, the idea that it’s not possible no matter how you try.

        • Unless you kinda ‘cheat’ by making them wholly telepathic, but only among themselves, or have them live on such amdifferent time scale that interaction is impossible (as Eric Frank Russel did once).

      • Mostly we don’t even understand our own selves, and as for others . . . ask anyone if their spouse, parent, sibling or child really understands them!

        • I am reminded of the fact that the wisest and most enlightened amongst us (just ask them! or read their press notices.) are wholly incapable of understanding conservatives:

          Nate Silver is wrong about Ben Shapiro
          All conservatives are the same, and they are all awful. At least that’s the analysis from the Nate Silver, editor-in-chief of the polling powerhouse FiveThirtyEight.

          Something must be wrong with Facebook, Silver seemed to say Monday, because the top stories on the site were from predominantly right-of-center outlets. The top two pieces traffic-wise came from conservative columnist and editor of the Daily Wire, Ben Shapiro, and the third from the Daily Caller. Apparently, this is evidence the social network has abandoned its social responsibility.

          [SNIP]

          Except the problem doesn’t seem to be with Facebook. An embarrassment for the pollster, the problem is with Silver and the sneering thousands who thoughtlessly retweeted him.

          At least in this case, Silver assumes anyone who doesn’t think the way he does must be out of the mainstream. This is a problem that a lot of liberals suffer from. It explains the Trump presidency. Silver doesn’t offer up his preferred solution to the popularity of conservative viewpoints. But going by his tweets, he seems to be suggesting that Facebook should censor or tone down Shapiro.

          This would be a mistake. Shapiro and his Daily Wire have achieved massive success because they offer a well-reasoned alternative to leftist ideas. Not long ago, Caitlin Flanagan wrote in the Atlantic about another conservative, a fellow traveler of Shapiro’s on the so-called dark web, in a piece called, “Why the Left is so afraid of Jordan Peterson.”

          That psychology professor has gained a cult following in the millions with his podcasts, his writings, and his speeches because of his critique of identity politics. And it hit close to home for Flanagan. She was surprised to discover that her college-aged son subscribed to Peterson.

          Recovering from her shock, her conclusion was spot on. The conservative offers something different than the normal liberal regurgitation on race, class, and gender, she wrote. That ideology, which she had assumed to be mainstream, is dying outside the ivory tower — as Flanagan put it, its “doomsday clock clicks closer to the end.”

          The appeal is the same with Shapiro, who has a larger audience than Peterson and arguably a more coherent political philosophy. He offers something both cogent and different than the rest of the pundits, and that is why he succeeds. Just look at the Facebook algorithm that Silver bemoans.

          Earlier this spring, Facebook changed its algorithm to favor posts with “meaningful interactions.” The more users commented on a post, reacted to it, and shared the link, the more likely it was to rise to the top of newsfeeds. Hence, the Shapiro and Daily Caller posts. In short, their brand of journalism is popular because people like it.

          [SNIP]

          A large swath of the country, that often-forgotten geography forgotten between the coasts, reads something different from what they read in D.C. and Los Angeles. If Silver and company want to understand the country, they shouldn’t be so dismissive.

          • But being dismissive is all they have. It is the entire basis of their treasured Moral Superiority. They cannot afford to engage with the real world because one of the first things they would have to own is that Communism almost always results in mass graves, and Socialism only a little less frequently.

          • This is the same strain of thinking that generated the “Jordan Peterson is the stupid person’s idea of a smart person.” meme which has even shown up on a D&D blog (one of my favorites which has only had this one overtly political post…I’m hoping it does not become a trend).

          • George Orwell wrote “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” This is why the left is so intent on silencing people they don’t want to hear; because liberty is an obstacle to their goals. Indeed, their unwillingness to people with different views is why they are so insular and are amazed that “anyone voted for Nixon, because no one I know voted for him) back in the 60s and 70s and now say the same thing about Trump. They are literally on their own Marxist Fantasy Island.

      • There’s a terrific Military SF/First Contact novel called CAINS LAND (Robert Frezza, and I wish to hell he would write more then the five books Del Rey published) in which the scientists on the expodition (most of whom are Japanese) suggest teaching the aliens Japanese to communicate. One of the officers observes “Japanese frequently fail to understand Japanese”.

      • And we don’t in point of fact understand many animals in this world.

        • Athena T. Cat understands me perfectly. After all, look at how well trained I am! (Dorothy Grant can vouch for me. She’s seen Athena in action. Or inaction as the situation warrants.)

        • Understanding isn’t really necessary, though. You can recognize what is about to happen, and what is likely to divert it, without having the foggiest idea what’s causing it.

          Pattern recognition is strong in us.
          We’ll jump to all sorts of false conclusions about *why* the color yellow makes aliens unpleasant to be around. But we will notice the correlation. (After some bad experiences and possibly some mangled corpses, of course.)

  6. the left looks at “we’re all animals” and instead of viewing it as the permanent struggle of humans … they think they can just wish away.

    In fairness, when you look closely at their view of animals, especially the PETA crowd, their comprehension of them is … amazing.

  7. I love the concept. We are the universal translators…

  8. I’ve admitted before I’m not good at writing/thinking about aliens.

    Aliens are … alien. I was watching an episode of Babylon 5 last night and the thought came to mind, ‘Isn’t it quaint that every alien species we meet is in some way so human?’ Said as much to The Spouse, who observed, ‘That’s what we understand.’

    • Well, I’d rather be in the Star Trek universe where all but a handful of intelligent species are easily differentiated by the ear and forehead shape.

      • And no matter what the Federation decided was bad for me and I could not have, there would be a Ferengi willing to get it for me (for a price of course).

      • I’ll skip my rant about a close encounter with a Portlandia group (Finnish(?) knit caps with long tassels when it’s 50 degrees out is peculiar by K-falls standards). Best guestimate was these people were planning on taking a load of cannabis to Parts Unknown. Their acute lack of respect for other people had us wishing they’d have a close encounter with the Oregon 140 OSP drug interdiction task force. That seemed the way to bet with these people.

        Protip: hogging the sole bathroom in a small but busy restaurant at lunch hour to smoke *something* doesn’t win you any karma points. (Not MJ; could not recognize the smell, other than “something was smoked here.)

    • I like the Chanur books. There are (roughly) three different categories of aliens… the ones “just like us” that aren’t like us at all, the ones who are terrifyingly and incomprehensibly different than us, and the methane breathers who may or may not even notice the existence of anyone else, but come and go and *trade* and do it all without ever once communicating anything because they can’t.

      • Rather. I am sure part of the problem, particularly now we can do digital effects and not just prosthetic makeups, is the tendency of television and movie producers to want to spread the we-can-all-get-along message.

        I can’t help but think that there are going to be aliens that we have so little in common with that there will be no basis for communication. I don’t see John Ringo’s Posleens sitting down at the bar or gambling tables, and in that I appreciated their creation.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Nah, as Tom Kratman has shown, the Posleens can “learn proper manners”. 😈

          • I wouldn’t know, I told John I couldn’t keep reading the series when he destroyed some of my favorite mountains… 😉

      • Concur, entirely.
        (I would also posit Cuckoo’s Egg as a good example, though there the aliens aren’t outrageously alien.)

    • Patrick Chester

      Must be the Swedish Meatballs.

      • Given what was going on with the Vorlons, I suspect the “be driven mad if you ever learn the truth” is entirely possible.

  9. I’ve never liked Le Guin. Something always seemed to put me off the story. I wonder if it was because the relationships didn’t hold true?

    Many years ago one of the authors I read (maybe OSC?) said something like “Some writers write because they have a story that needs to get out. Some people write because they see the drek about them and say to themselves ‘I can do a better job than that.'”

    • I liked her first three Hainish novels, and the Earthsea trilogy. I didn’t much care of “the Left Hand of Darkness”. I also liked “The Dispossessed”, but nothing she wrote after that.

      • The Lathe of Heaven also sits badly.

          • May I rant a little in defense of Left Hand of Darkness? I read it in the 70’s and loved it. To this day I am haunted by the image of the tent on the glacier at night. I was tremendously gratified that Le Guin in an interview said she wrote the book because she saw the same image and wanted to know who the people were and why they were there, and that she was as surprised as the rest of us to find out their genders.

            This was before the left trashed LHoD for being insufficiently woke, and Le Guin apologized for it. Ah, the happy far-off days which knew other genres of literature besides ‘political tract’.

            I think the hermaphroditism is intriguing, but as one aspect of a fascinating society, not the be-all and end-all of the world. It’s not utopia at all; utopia wouldn’t be so violent! Remember how many spontaneous stabbings and shootings occur in the story? I haven’t the book here but there’s a line something like: ‘Gethenians do not mobilize. The kill each other by ones and twos often, by hundreds never’.

            I’ve read a lot of SF worlds, and most do not really come to life. Gethen does. I want to visit some day. Maybe I’ll do some backcountry skiing.

            • Oh, the world and the character came to life. I did say Iiked the book. And Therem Hart Rem Ir Estraven is a haunting character.
              The narration just didn’t hold up well because there’s the “legends” in that faux …. craft-like seventies way, etc.
              But the world came to life. It’s just when you put it down you go “Waitaminute.”
              And she’d never sell it today because she called the hermaphrodites “he.” Ask me how I know.

              • Oh, she got trashed six ways to sunday even without the ‘he’ issue. The chorus of howls went up because Genly Ai was sometimes suprised at or even bewildered by the whole hermaphrodite business. So he’s obviously a terrible person, and we all know how it goes from there. Yes, that happened.

                • Eh. The crazies are getting crazier.Bah.

                • A lot of the “they wouldn’t kill in the hundreds” thing is seventies pop-sci. But it’s part of what upset me about the world building and propelled me to write.

                  • If memory serves, one of the Ekumen observers wonders if ‘not killing in the hundreds’ was not down to gender or lack of it at all, but because of the harsh physical setting: ‘spending a winter on Winter and seeing the face of the Ice’.

                    Man, it is amazing how much of that book I remember after all these years. Thank you for your patience in letting me go about it.

                    • True, that. The colder the climate, the less species compete with each other and the more they compete by just surviving.

                • Reading current day reviews to feminist books praised to the skies in the 70s can be interesting. Poor writer. Thought that making a book a vivid depictions of the Terrible, Terrible, Terrible Men was enough. Now she gets whines that shouldn’t every feminist book have a Strong Woman Character?

    • I couldn’t get into Earthsea, and since I was told it was the most accessable of her works I didn’t look further. I put it down to style, though. There are authors I dislike because of what I consider fatal flaws in the stories (I got less than two chapters into Thomas Covenant because I loathed the ‘hero’) , but also authors like C. J. Cherryh whose work I admire in the abstract and simply can’t get into.

      • The style reminded me of early Andre Norton. Both are, um, “misty and silvery” for lack of a better term. The world building seems vague and not pinned to a place, in contrast to Anne McCaffrey, for example.

        • Which is odd, since I liked Norton just fine…at least I did when I was younger. Never got into Witchworld, though.

        • Interesting, as I found her world-building to be pretty solid.
          Lots of different tastes here – but we all read something by Sarah. I think that’s a compliment to you, Sarah.

          • no, I know what she means about sense of place. it’s not world building. It’s a visual/spacial thing.
            Weirdly no bother reading it. REAL trouble if I’m writing something and can’t see the terrain.

            • What Sarah said. The sense of place is “soft,” there are no hard (or very few) hard edges to locations in Witchworld. Likewise Earthsea. The later Witchworld and the collaborate Witchworld books are different, but the first trilogy… “silvery and misty” is really the only way I can describe the feeling. There’s a haze that obscures the world outside the location of current action.

              • It’s almost like they managed to catch how people think of things in real life— there’s seldom a crystal clear map, it’s more like the stuff you’re looking right at is there, and then you have a sort of “sense” of stuff that you’re not paying attention to.

                Sort of like the difference between colored pencils and pastels? It’s not like you can’t see the picture.

                Kind of like Robin McKinley, at least for me.

                • This, I think. She was good at giving you the world as the character saw it, vagueness and uncertainty and ignorance and all. Even her “as you know, Bob” speeches sounded like people who didn’t know their world any better than the guy running the gas station knows his.

                  Tolkien had a similar feel to me. Which is why I’ve never read the SILMARILLION. I *like* being in a world I don’t entirely understand.

        • I always figured Norton’s “misty” period came later, mid-’60s-ish.

      • Cherryh is a competent writer, but for the most part her stories just don’t resonate with me. Other than “Merchanter’s Luck”, which rocks even if it is a romance in SF clothing…

        • Merchanter’s Luck is one of my favorites, too. I know a lot of people who bounce off of Cherryh’s writing but I’m forever thankful that she got published anyway because if she polished it all down so that it was maximally accessible it would be boring and dull and sad and a tragedy.

        • I thoroughly enjoyed the Chanur saga, ate least the original trilogy. The later books felt like she was milking it.

          • My favorite is actually the one where they take on the male crewmember because he’s so hopelessly earnest and sappy and reads trashy romances and falls in love and wants so BADLY to belong.

            It spoke to me. *snif*

  10. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    “We’re all animals”.

    Years ago, I read a book where there was a “war” between regular humans and modified animals (humanoid & having true intelligence).

    One of the characters (a modified human) comments that most of the “common folks” dislike the idea that “humans are only animals” because in their mind that means that the powerful will treat them like animals.

    Oh, the modified human ends the war with the modified animals by arranging matters so that regular humans see the “modified animals” as “just like them”. Note, the “modified animals” had valid concerns about their living conditions & how they were being treated but the Powers-That-Be kept thinking of them are feral animals.

  11. Do I lose my Odd Card if I admit that I’d never heard of either “He Walked Around the Horses” or the case it was based on? Looking it up, it reminded me a bit of both “Picnic at Hanging Rock” and the more recent “In the Woods.” It does seem that disappearances are one of those universal story themes that fascinate us.

    • I think you’re good. I had never heard of it either.

    • No, but you have to exchange it for an “Odd-Squared” card.

      I know about these things because I possess an “Odd-Cubed” card.

    • The name of the gentleman was Benjamin Bathurst, and I first encountered him through an H. Beam Piper short story in his Paratime continuum. (Entitled “He Walked Around the Horses,” as it happens.) The facts of the case are this: He was a minor English diplomat traveling in Europe. He was staying at a hotel with a clearly viewable fenced stable yard with a single gate. He walked around the horses, out of view, and was “never seen again.” Charles Fort collected the case with some of his other inexplicable happenings. And as our hostess said, the most likely scenario is an assassination with the hotel staff complicit.

      • Eh, he was actually out of sight for longer than some of the reports indicated (which spurred the stories).

        Good bit of evidence he was simply mugged. He was, after all, incognito.

    • You’re supposed to do what I did and quietly read it on Gutenberg and then finishing the blog post. That way no one will know I never heard of it before today, which would be embarrassing given I claim to be a Piper fan.

      Fortunately the Huns will never know.

  12. I s’pose I could set this up as relevant to today’s topic, but that would require minor exertion, so …


    HT: Power Line

  13. It would seem that most people who say only humans are vile animals have never been around animals. Wild animals frequently fight to the death over food and territories. The pecking order comes from the hierarchy of chickens. Cattle and pig herds also have hierarchies established and enforced by violence. Male lions and horses will kill the young of the groups they take over so only their offspring will survive. Dog packs fight frequently to the death. Iberian lynx kill their siblings.

    Animals are very peaceful in Disney cartoons and leftist minds.

    • There’s a reason that “catfight” represents a vicious, no holds barred brawl.

        • BIG smile. I very much needed that, thank you.

        • You realize that Leslie Fish has been breeding those for a good 30 years……

          “Cats need home – Leslie Fish needs homes for her fur babies – Silverdust Witch Cats * — The Silverdust is derived from the Oriental Shorthair, which in turn descends from the Siamese, and these little creatures do indeed have the slender body-build, big ears and eyes, personality and voice of the Siamese. There the resemblance ends, for the Silverdust has a roaned-grey silver coat, gold-green eyes, workable thumbs on each forepaw, a larger-than-normal skull with a larger-than-normal brain inside, and a remarkably high intelligence. Silverdusts are also very friendly and people-oriented, and are shameless petting-sluts.”

          • Rats, the Facebook link didn’t make it.

          • I did find this, though…..

          • Sounds like a really lovely cat right up to ‘these little creatures do indeed have … voice of the Siamese.’  I am still haunted by the disturbing cries … no make that screams … of a pair of Siamese cats that roamed the neighborhood of our first house.

      • There once were two cats of Kilkenny. . . .

  14. The aliens are still not real aliens. Because real aliens, my back brain thinks, would be incomprehensible.

    This still amuses the heck out of me, because my hind-brain insists that would only apply to things like angels and demons, maybe the “angels that didn’t choose” type elves–stuff not sharing a biological and time-based foundation.

    Flesh and blood aliens would be comprehensible, at the bare minimum on the level that a cat is, and if they are moral beings then no less so than a human culture. (which, as folks here know, is a pretty broad range)

    Now here is where it amuses me:
    there’s a Coast to Coast AM type theory that various aliens and Cryptids are more spirit than physical.
    ^.^

    • Try Passport to Magonia by Jacques Vallee which argues fairies are UFOs or vice versa. Also The Gods of Eden by William Bramely touches on the idea a bit, I think (it might be a book of the same title by a different author).

  15. I think that CJ Cherryh does aliens best by preserving that bit of incomprehension that humans have. Foreigner did this very well (tho, I got bored because the series kept going on, and on, and on, and on).

    My absolute favorite human & alien novel tho is Cuckoo’s Egg for the simple reason that we readers have a front row seat for all of Thorn’s trials and tribulations as he struggles to make sense of the world and customs. Only at the end does he realize that the world and customs don’t make sense because they’re not his.

    • Cuckoo’s Egg is one of my favorites, too. I want the next book, don’t you? It ends with the guy realizing what he was created for in that culture and why and why he was raised by the warrior who raised him and then the human ship arrives…

  16. I’ve gradually come around to comprehensible alien theory… not that we’d likely understand any aliens we meet but my reasoning goes like this… starting with solar nebula and planetary accretion disks, there’s a reasonable chance that basic planetary *chemistry* will not be much different between star systems in the same sequence that allows carbon and oxygen and iron, if I’m even a little bit right about the nebula *sorting* to some extent as planets form so that elements nearer the star or farther away from the star might resemble our own system to a greater extent. Water being the universal solvent, (though not the only one), life is likely to hit the same Goldilocks Zone. There’s really not incredible differences in atmosphere mixes that are inert enough to not be caustic and allow oxidation reactions. From there we’ve got parallel evolution issues of mobility at the very least. Limbs (or not) but probably thumbs at least. The electricity in our brains is how atoms work at the atomic level. Is an alien system not going to have electrons or electrical charges? Get around to higher life forms and there’s the issue of evolutionary benefit to child care and rearing as well as cultural inculcation and then… well, abstract thought, the ability to imagine tomorrow and next year and to conceptualize what can’t be seen. To lie. To create fiction. Etc.

  17. I’m partial to Pournelle* & Niven’s Moties. They’re different enough, but humans can kind of figure them out (we’re pretty good at that sort of thing).

    *It’s hard to believe he’s gone sometimes. God bless you sir.

    • about once a week I think of something I want to tell him…

      • Miss him as well even though I never had the good fortune to meet him. I keep thinking of what he would be writing on his blog about all of the insanity going on these days. Of course his technical advice on computers and gadgets was also unparalleled. Sigh.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      To the Moties, we’re a bunch of Crazy Eddies!!!! 😀

      • A few SF authors excelled at presenting real aliens. Niven, Pournelle, Heinlein (when he bothered – his puppet masters are superb), Doc Smith, Clement. Most cannot be bothered as their aliens are mere maguffins, used to create situation for our heroes to endure.

        Truth be told, most readers are not really interested in meeting truly alien beings, more so these days than ever.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          I like Campbell’s definition of an alien.

          IE “A being who thinks as well as a man but different than a man”.

          Mind you, “different than a man” may be “because the alien’s culture is different than the man’s”.

          Now, Niven & Pournelle’s Moties were different for reasons of biology but humans were still able to understand (to a degree) them.

          • And all of us who use “the gripping hand” may raise our imaginary (I hope!) third hands. Hmm, that must be the one that doesn’t hurt. Tomorrow should be too rainy to do outside work. I should be disappointed, but nooooooooooo.

    • Patrick Chester

      The Traveller RPG has some very alien aliens. Hivers and K’Kree are pretty different.

      Vargr are somewhat familiar, though they’re from Earth originally so that’s not surprising. Their mindset is a bit different from Humans, though.

  18. Christopher M. Chupik

    I fear the day when the technology exists to permit the elitist utopians of the world to abolish the people and engineer another. History shows us that someone will try.

    • And, to quote the Grail Knight, the elites will find that they ” Chose… poorly.”

      Starting with the US Representative who suggested that the Feds would drop a nuclear weapon in US citizens who opt to keep semi-automatic firearms, including AR-15s, should the Feds attempt to ban them.

      • While I am confident all here will have read Mr. Correia’s reaction to Congressidjit Swalwell’s proposal …

        http://monsterhunternation.com/2018/11/19/the-2nd-amendment-is-obsolete-says-congressman-who-wants-to-nuke-omaha/

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          I had not. I’ve been trying to cut back on politics.

          I would like to say that if we cannot permit most people to be armed, we likewise cannot permit most people to be educated.

          • we likewise cannot permit most people to be educated

            We don’t — look at the performance levels of most public K-12 schools. They get diplomas but that has little to do with having been educated (some* would argue that being truly educated to get a kid thrown out of most public schools.)

            *not the same “some” commonly quoted in the MSM expressing criticism of the current administration.

      • The same individual would scream bloody murder if we actually attempted to win a war against foreigners.

        But he fantasized about bathing the heartland in nuclear fire.

        When it prospers, none dare call it…

    • It won’t work. They will try. THey’ve been trying. it won’t work.

      • Patrick Chester

        They’ll probably create something like the Reavers. Or turn into them. The way they screech, it won’t be that much of a change.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      Two problems IMO.

      First, the “Elites” won’t change themselves to Superior People (since they are already superior in their own minds).

      Second, it is very very likely IMO that their “perfect servants” won’t be “perfect servants” and thus wonder “why are we serving those idiots”. 😈

      • Look at what they did with millenials now entering the House. Or as son calls them The Kinder-caucus.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Of course, the idiots who voted them into office may start wondering “why did we vote them into office”. 👿

      • … wonder ‘why are we serving those idiots’.


        See: the collected works of Cyril Kornbluth

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Well Res, I’m somewhat an optimist. When the number of idiots grows to a dangerous point, the more likely that the non-idiots will arrange “accidental” deaths for the worst of the idiots. 😈

        • I’ve read this story! Never saw this on TV.

          • It was also made into a 1969 Night Gallery segment, starring Burgess Meredith and Chill Wills; I thought this 1952 episode less familiar.


            Also, I couldn’t find that one.

  19. “Women protect THEIR children, there is no sisterhood or love all babies, when yours is in the mix. Some of the most horrific tales of mankind are the vengeance wrought by a woman on rival women AND THEIR BABIES.”

    From your keyboard to God’s ears.
    The history of harems is what it is. Horrifying.
    The history of women rulers could easily be written without ever invoking the word “mercy”. (Which *would* arguably make them better rulers than King Stephen…)
    The vicious things women do to each other at work and school is something everyone should be at least somewhat familiar with.
    Heck, my prepubescent daughters manage to frighten me on almost a daily basis.

    • *nod*

      If I had to pick one utterly brilliant bit from all of Christianity, it would be the idea of “all men are brothers”– including the permutations that mean that yes, that kid over there is my baby, too, even if I don’t have any direct influence on him.

      It isn’t a cure-all, but man is it an improvement.

  20. “Nature, Mr. Allnutt, is what we are put in this world to rise above.” – Rose Sayer (Katherine Hepburn) in The African Queen.

    Though that raises another question: if human nature is flawed, what parts of it are flawed? And by what principle?

    • by the principle that it annoys even ourselves. Pride, envy and all uncharitableness…

    • I still remember the man who quoted this to attack a woman who spied on her husband to discover his adultery. He was defending the adultery. . . .

      The real fun was his atheism. He had no business talking about our being put here even in the passive voice, and certainly not about any purpose in doing so.

  21. I don’t write incomprehensible aliens because part of the fun of SF (for me) is the feeling that “this is what it would be like.” So when I write aliens I try to make them _real_. Not humans-in-suits, not mythological archetypes, not movie monsters. (Whether I succeed is a whole other issue.)

    • See, the problem is real-to-me. To me, aliens would be incomprehensible.
      Look, there’s a good chance ELEPHANTS are sentient and have a language (out of our range.)
      This is a creature from OUR WORLD and we didn’t recognize it how long?
      How much better will we do with aliens, even from a similar world?
      Yeah.

      • Don’t know how much language they have left. We’ve killed so many of them that they’ve possibly lost 50% or more of their vocabulary and grammar. Same thing has been happening with Native American languages. Too few speakers and the language goes extinct.

      • Not elephants.

        Mice! Duh! They’re here to supervise the work that their computer is doing.

  22. If people don’t mind video game examples, I think Lavos from the SNES game Chrono Trigger is a pretty well-done alien. It has a feed/reproduce life cycle and will swat anything that attacks it directly, but otherwise you never really learn much about despite the entire plot revolving around it. You never even find out for sure if it’s sapient.

  23. I would be interested in your view of the aliens in The Mote In God’s Eye. I thought the reproductive urge being threat of death was interesting as well as the specialization beyond male and female. The story seemed to present figuring out alien life reasonably well. Happy Thanksgiving.

    • It’s irrational. Dying when you can’t reproduce is taking yourself out of the gene pool

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Mary, in the case of the Moties it wasn’t a matter of rationality but of biology.

        The Moties started out male, then turned female and after they became pregnant & had a child, they turned male again for a period.

        If a female Motie didn’t get pregnant, she would die.

        • I didn’t say THEY were irrationals. I said IT was irrational. And it is.

          Biology can not be irrational, because Mother Nature can’t be fooled.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            We’ll have to “agree to disagree” here because I don’t see why an alien “Mother Nature” has to be the same as Earth’s “Mother Nature”.

            • Because there’s only one Nature. And you can not evade evolution on an alien planet.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                And how many other planets with life on them do we know about for you to make that statement?

                While we likely can agree that G*d was responsible for life on this world, we have no way of knowing how he might have arranged it elsewhere.

                • By what reason would we break it down by planet?

                  There are an impressive range of habitats on earth– from the hot-sulfur-gas-bubbled lava-slits at the bottom of the ocean, to the top of mountains in the Antarctic.

                  And, frankly, the range of what we find is impressively small, compared to what pops out of human imagination.

                  • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                    Agree.

                    Of course, Mary & I are disagreeing concerning a fictional Higher Life Form (ie the Moties) and the Motie Life-Cycle is nothing like that of Higher-Life Forms here on Earth.

                    • The arguments still hold, though– she may be wrong about a thing being natural law counter-indicated, but the angle would be why it works in nature, not that there’s a different nature.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Point.

                      We just don’t know how nature might work on another planet even while we know of how interesting nature has worked on our world.

                    • True, but we need more than “it is elsewhere” to assume it would be different elsewhere– if there were multiple routes, some SHOULD show up here.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      All the more reasons for “wanting to go out there”. 😉

      • Failure is a frequent negative evolutionary vector………

  24. Making People Better – Bah!

    \https://youtu.be/1VR3Av9qfZc

  25. overgrownhobbit

    Mrs. Hoyt wrote:
    my relaxing reads are books on evolution and animals and their biology and behavior (guys, I read Konrad Lorenz for fun) .
    And we know she lives with cats.

    Animals are the alien species. And we do just what the human/aliens in her story would do:
    these people would get kidnapped, because some program identified exceptional ability at languages. You see, aliens do exist, many of them. And they trade. But no other species has the ability to learn languages. Languages are hard coded. So they kidnap humans, who don’t even know they exist, give them immortality treatments and auction them to be translator son alien ships..

    We kidnap their young, and manage their bodies so that they can be a bridge between us and the other members of their species. We made foxes revert to puppies to turn them into dogs, so that we could live and “understand” each other. One alien to the other.

    But animals aren’t sentient. They aren’t us. They really are alien. Was it Augustine-? One of the early Church writers posited that if we met a sentient species capable of supernatural abilities: perceiving time, justice, beauty and truth, no matter how odd they appeared, no matter what shape they had, they’d be human. Like us. They’d be necessarily figure-outable, because what makes us human isn’t based on matter, but mind and soul. Sentient alien is a contradiction in terms. Like a new primary color. Or dry water.

    Unless you just use the old meaning of the word: foreigner, not of our tribe. And as you know, tribal customs can be both delightfully, and horribly different. So there’s trade, and war, and all the things humans do to and with each other: i.e.* the stuff of stories…

    *side note: learning Latin is so strange. Just did pronouns this week, so now when I type “i.e.” I think “id est” and “oooooooooooooooooooh. Right.”

  26. One of my brothers pointed out a long time ago that the whole ‘zombie’ thing can be thought of as a between-the-lines attack on socialism. The zombies are the walking dead, feeding off the living much as socialism feeds off capitalism.
    So – maybe ‘the trick’ to writing about aliens is simply to write about a human or class of humans with an unusual/odd/disgusting trait, then add horns and leathery scales as needed.

    • Yeah. We knew that about zombies. And yeah, that’s how most people write them. Doesn’t interest me.

    • I said a few years ago that when the Left writers / movie makers started pushing vampires as heroes, all they wanted to do was make an unproductive parasite sexy.

      • Eh, the sexy vampire was older than that. The fact of it being when the writers started to make their fairies all delicate and innocuous,* they left a gap for the “supernatural sexy danger” WIDE open. There really is not much danger between a vampire and the “Love Talker.”

        *Not really surprising when it started in an era where people were really burned as witches for trafficking with the fairies.

  27. “It’s not that I think they [aliens] can’t exist (logically they should.)”

    Why is the existence of aliens logical? I don’t think we know enough about life and the universe to reach a conclusion about the existence of aliens.

    Yes, it is a big universe. However . . .

    1) We don’t know enough about the beginning of life to be able to estimate the probability of life beginning on any particular planet.

    2) We don’t know how living beings began to reproduce. Probably, a living being would have to come into existence with the ability to reproduce. Though that would make #1 even more unlikely.

    3) We don’t know how living beings developed Consciousness and Intelligence (C & I). These are prerequisites to a mind.

    We don’t know enough to make any rational estimate that is more than a guess.

    • Sample size of one. From which we can conclude that the odds of life are greater than zero — literal zero, they still might be indistinguishable from it.

  28. Hmmm. I’ve been jotting notes on an Alien story, that has the more “advanced” society using out-of-original body techniques to gestate their elite young. I may have to re-think some of it, based on this thread.

  29. In the context of the commentary on aliens, humans, and animals, I think it is interesting that psychiatrists were originally called “alienists.”