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You’d be surprised what a plate of liver and onions goes for on Zeta Reticuli.

9 April 2013

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I’m one of those people who likes conspiracy theories and scientific conjecture (which are often at odds with each other). They generally tend to disagree on the topic of aliens, which is fertile ground for both camps.

I’ve read articles by scientists who claim any extraterrestrial life that manages to evolve enough to travel the stars will probably look basically like us — bipedal, two arms, one head, and so on. This is because those scientists assume (rightly or wrongly) that the human form is terribly efficient, even for alien life. We’ll call these the Crappy Next Generation Aliens Camp.

Then there are conspiracy theorists who believe in the common conception of Alien Grays, possibly from Zeta Reticuli. You know the ones — big heads, elephant skin, tiny anorexic bodies, fondness for probing everything they can get their probes on. We’ll call this camp The Truth Is Out There.

Then there are scientists who are just convinced that extraterrestrial life just can’t be humanoid — it might be a huge, sentient cloud, or a scaly, oily thing swimming through lakes of ammonia out there somewhere. The scientists who belive that these are the type of life forms we can expect also don’t think they’ll be intelligent enough to travel the stars, which smacks of pre-contact racism to me. We’ll call these guys the Big Oozing Slug camp.

Then — and these guys are interesting — you have both the science and conspiracy nerds who are convinced that any alien life we meet will be robotic. They point to different examples — the probes we send out, Gort from The Day The Earth Stood Still, the cockroach episode of X-Files, random insanity that a specific theorist encountered in a fever dream after one too many PBRs and Gray Probes. We can call this group The Terminator Was A Documentary.

So which of them is right? For my taste, the scientists lean too heavily on the way life evolved on Earth as a baseline for how it must evolve on other planets. The conspiracy theorists rely too much on museum-quality crazy. To me, they might all be right, or none of them might have a clue. It doesn’t matter.

Why? Because I make shit up anyway.

You won’t often catch me coming out in favor of not doing research, even where sci-fi is concerned. But in the case of aliens, I totally support just making things up completely out of your brain. Sure, you can read all the articles, read all the conspiracy forums and let them stimulate your imagination… but if you make something up completely out of your own brain, I think you stand just as much chance of being right as any of the groups I mentioned above.

It’s one of the things that’s so freeing about writing sci-fi — you can make your aliens sentient tigers. You can make them human, or essentially human. Or you can make them piles of goop that quote random 50s TV shows. It’s wide open.

So what are the best aliens you’ve come across in any form of fiction? Which were the lamest?

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