I attended FenCon 2019 and went to a couple of panels by science fiction and fantasy authors that I thought had useful information for writers. One of those panels was Extraordinary Creatures.
- Julie Czerneda, with 17 science fiction and 3 fantasy novels
- Amber Royer, with 2 comic science fiction novels
- William Ledbetter, an author of hard science fiction and alien first contact
- Stephen Patrick, author of Holocaust Engine
- Adrian Simmons, editor of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly
Favorite alien or mythological beasts
- dragons, though most don’t do it right
- goblins, who are traditionally bad guys but have their own issues
- the alien from Aliens, because was visceral and can do things humans can’t
Discussion of different takes on sentience included
- intelligent plants–communicate through photosynthesis?
- Arrival –aliens trying to communicate
- AIs–“cannot be a construct, but yes”
- Turing Copper–a mystery series where AI is in love with creator
- Godzilla originally began as a response to worries about radiation poisoning
- smites bad in world
- protector demon summoned to take care of human issues
- Harry Harrison’s Death World 1970s
- planet evolved things to destroy humans
- planet trying to expel humans, like white cells attacking foreign bodies
- entirely inter-connected eco system
Does the story drive biology or do you create the creatures first?
- function first–I needed annoying background. I took a Hoover vacuum and put flowers on it.
- for a series I tried to think of what would have a particular sense
- figure out the story first and have a character who happens to be alien… need gift/benefit and drawback
- try to personify the story with the monsters
- did Godzilla dealing with climate change
- 18th C demon and Texas Rangers
- I usually start with monster and give myself freedom to explore
- intelligent weasel “utterly malignant and wicked”
- alien first–then build story–then change alien 🙂
- alien invasion of plants taking over the ecosystem, ultimate invasive species
- Avoid discussing how the not-biology works.
- “as close as we can get” is all you can do
- People will name things similarly to what they already know.
- I had a creature called “butter bugs” because when you stepped on them, they smelled like buttered popcorn.
- Need to read a lot of bio/science for world building, if not an alternate Earth.
What about cyborgs?
- It depends how written.
- Example would be a human brain in a completely mechanical body.
- Discussion of The Ship Who Sang, Anne McCaffrey.
- Separated brain has issues, b/c memory relates to smell, touch, taste.
- Will we be able to scan human brains?
- Can a scan inherit the brain owner’s stuff?
- chemistry drives the emotional life, so they are still human
- intelligent and self-aware = person, may not be human anymore
- human v person is a sliding scale
There were two additional panels along these same lines: Fungi and Fun and Alien Life-Not Alone.