For my MFA, I’m beginning an adult science fiction novel, working title Equilibrium, that takes place in a galaxy full of alien races. More on the novel later, I’m sure. But right now, what I’m thinking about is that I need one more set of aliens for a small appearance to promote a rigid viewpoint at a key moment. I already have:
— the greedy Vogul, desert-dwelling creatures in shells who survived by hoarding
— the clannish Gath, a prey species of the prairies who banded together to defend themselves from large predators
— the sophisticated Fanari, flying predators who evolved in a gas giant in symbiosis with a kind of floating plant
— the laid-back “Monkeys,” an arboreal species who communicate entirely through visual means (so humans gave them that silly knickname)
— the Servants of the Repository, dedicated to the collection of knowledge, a race of beings controlled by/in harmony with (depending on your point of view) a sentient library who can download and upload directly into their brains.
— wise and caring slug-like creatures who communicate chemically, as yet unnamed…
— The Family, a species-hopping group of diplomats whose original form is lost to history. They maintain their identities by recording and absorbing memories when transferring from one genetically engineered body to another.
— ??????? One more species to vote humanity ineligible to sign the The Treaty
The Evolution Part
You might have noticed that many of these thumbnail descriptions include a hint as to how the species evolved. I can’t help but think that different evolutionary paths would lead to different cultures–that’s the interesting part, the amazing variety of cultures the story allows for. Of course what I have here is a very simplified version, but I particularly felt I needed to mention how those species who aren’t predators like us rose to be the dominant, sentient races on their planets. (In fact, if I didn’t mention anything, you can assume the species evolved as predators). On our world, evolutionary pressures have made predators more intelligent than their prey, and I can’t forget that truth when I’m making up alien races. So if I want to race that’s going to think fundamentally differently than us because they’re not predators, I need a reason why they were able to flourish way back in their prehistory. And this in turn provides a point of inspiration, a starting place for me to imagine a whole society.