Saturday, August 11, 2012

Writing Believable Aliens - Jaleta Clegg

Release Date August 10 at 
Jaleta Clegg

What makes aliens tick? How do you invent an alien species? How do you make them believable? Hard questions, but a lot of fun. This is one reason I love science fiction.

Star Trek did it by making almost all aliens humanoid. Adding face paint was a whole lot easier and cheaper than full body costumes and prosthetics. With CGI, it’s a lot easier to create some very non-humanoid aliens for cheap, true. But are they still believable?

Humanoid aliens tend to act human. It’s the way we think. Their cultures are a lot like ours, because that’s the easy way out. Non-humanoids can be too alien. You have to leave your reader some common ground, some way to relate, even if it’s “I want to eat your flesh.” We understand hunger. We understand curiosity. We understand territorial instincts.

In Priestess of the Eggstone, the Sessimoniss, seven-foot-tall lizard men, are very human in many ways. Their culture was based off baboon culture, though. It’s all about clans and your place within your clan. A baboon cast out from its clan usually doesn’t live very long. But baboon society is fluid compared to Sessimoniss society. Sessimoniss position within a clan is determined by biology. Were you born with the right attributes to be an alpha male? Welcome to the warrior class. Otherwise, you’re a servant. Were you born to be a breeding alpha female? Then that’s what you become, sheltered and hidden after your marriage to another clan. Not born with those genes? You get to stay an immature female and serve the breeders of your clan.

One of my biggest pet peeves about aliens is that they seem to have a monoculture. One culture, one society, one type of everything. If humans can evolve thousands of different societies, why not aliens? If you’re going to have a monoculture, like the Sessimoniss, you’d better present good arguments for it. I blame mine on their biology and the fact that they are on the brink of extinction. But change can and does happen within their society. It takes an external force to initiate the change, but that’s a good portion of the storyline in Priestess of the Eggstone.

What are your favorite aliens? What makes them memorable? How do they compare to human societies? Read your favorite books and pick apart the author’s work. Find out how they did it. It’s one of the best ways to learn how to create your own aliens and make them believable.

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Bio: Jaleta Clegg loves to play with words. She writes science fiction and silly horror, and dabbles in everything else. Priestess of the Eggstone, book 2 in her series The Fall of the Altairan Empire, releases on August 10. Pick up your copy at

Book 1 of The Fall of the Altaiaran Empire, Nexus Point, is available from several sources. Check

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Let's see if you're paying attention. Leave a comment about Jaleta's nice essay. Include contact info and GIMME THE BOOK, and I'll be sending somebody a real paperback copy of my own science fiction novel, Ultimate Duty. I've got some extras lying around doing nothing, and I want to give them to a good home. No aliens, but some fairly hot sex scenes. US and Canada only please for mailing, ebooks to anybody who wants a copy.


  1. Thanks for adorning my blog, Jaleta. You're getting a lot more hits than comments. Just wanted you to know you're not being ignored. ;-)

  2. This article is really worth reading, it has too much details in it and yet it is so simple to understand.

    GED Online


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