Xenocentric Science-Fiction

What I love most about science-fiction aren’t the cool gadgets and the ships (although I’d probably sell a kidney for a trip around the stars), or the many ways in which humanity might evolve or ruin itself, but the exploration of foreign planets and encounter of alien species. Nothing makes me more excited than the prospect of discovering life on exoplanets! And I’m not talking about bacteria and frozen spores, I’ll let the scientists get giddy about those. I’m talking about alien societies with own rules and laws, with particular technological adaptations and their very own cultures and ideologies.

I enjoy science-fiction in all its shapes and sizes — hard sci-fi, soft and social sci-fi, cyberpunk, steampunk, time travel, alternate history, military sci-fi, *gaaasp*, alien invasion, superhuman, post-apocalyptic, dystopic, space opera and space western, etcetera. *inhale*exhale* But in all that forest of subgenres, the shrub I’m building my treehouse on is something I could probably call xenocentric science-fiction.

In other words, I write about aliens in their own environment.

(Hm… I’ve just googled that and there’s no such term for the subgenre, so I may be just coining this term on the fly, but bear with me.)

The most important players in my story are aliens. The plot starts out as human bickering and evolves into inter-species enmity. The setting grows from a rundown orbital station to a multi-planetary world, and the conflict shifts from an internal disruption to a guerilla war that spans the galaxy. Sure I have all kinds of ships, deadly weapons and futuristic communication technologies, but those are just props and tools used to achieve goals. The soul of the story lies in the creatures inhabiting it, their interests and distinctive points of view, and their relationships.

The idea for this story started out small and shy, and as I expanded and had increasingly fierce fights with insecurities and doubts (there’s nothing like the sound of a knee cracking one’s own belittlement’s nuts open), I reached a point where the world I created and the personalities inhabiting it would not be satisfied with hesitant scribbling any longer. Trying to write the story just wouldn’t cut it anymore. I had to step up my game and push my knowledge and skills—and most of all my attitude—to a whole new level to even attempt to write this, all the while stifling the miserable cries in the back of my head that said I sucked for all eternity.

It was the alien protagonist that pulled me out by the hair and sat me at the desk to write. I owe him big time, and he knows it. Hm? What? Ssshh. I’m talking to these people here.

I can doubt that I have the skills required to write this story well, I can doubt having the storytelling charms necessary to make these creatures plausible and compelling to others, and I can doubt achieving any marketability with the end product, but what I cannot doubt is my fascination with these aliens and the gnawing, visceral desire to write their story.

So above all my fiction is heavily xenocentric, and all my studying and practicing, the work I do, the challenges I take up and the many potential failures I face, are all in the service of an alien species.

What about the core of your writing life? What do all your ideas swarm around?

 

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This blog post is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge, April 2012

21 Replies to “Xenocentric Science-Fiction”

  1. That’s science fiction taken to a whole new level. I guess the freedom writing xenocentric stories is both a blessing and a curse. You get to create the entire playground and the characters in it, but it’s a LOT of work. Can’t wait to read your stuff. Oh, and I did my Lucky 7 meme post today.

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  2. I love xenocentric [right click, add to dictionary] stories, but alas, none of my science fiction has featured aliens yet. Even my Great Big Space Opera centers on human conflict in an interstellar colonial setting. I do have a short story with something that might be an alien, but it’s left ambiguous for the reader to decide.

    Honestly, writing aliens intimidates me a little. I don’t want to be the guy that takes the easy way out and writes a Star Trek-esque rubber forehead alien. Aliens should be effing alien, after all. And I’m not always confident I can pull that off.

    This entry definitely made me want to read your work though! Sounds like an awesome story.

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    1. The little nagging fear that I’m missing something obviously silly in creating my aliens is a constant companion, and makes me a bit paranoid. Hopefully more careful too. I’m not using human traits and expanding them to become a species-defining characteristic as is done in Star-Trek (and the like), so at least in that aspect I’m less worried. Sometimes. 🙂

      Human conflict in an inter-stellar or colonial setting is very difficult to write too, and requires a lot of care with setting up the environment and weaving it into the lives of the characters naturally. I have high respect for any writing that requires a lot of worldbuilding.

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  3. I haven’t read a lot of sci-fi, but I’m really drawn to the society-building that the genre houses so well. I read Asimov’s “Foundation” (loved it), but didn’t move onto the next in the series (the usual constraints of time). I will admit to watching a lot of the sci-fi channel in the 90’s.

    I can’t wait to see what you’re creating, Vero. Be bold. Keep writing it!

    And kick Doubt in the jimmy. 😀

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  4. Oh wait, I have a sci-fi book recommendation!

    This was the first book my (now defunct) book club read: “Letters from the Flesh” by Marcos Donnelly (a Rochester, NY area writer). He created his own version of alien life. I really liked the book.

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    1. Hm… that book sounds rather interesting. I’ve added it to my to-read list. Thanks!

      I’ve got quite a few books about alien species on that list that I’ve been drooling over for a while — like Vernon Vinge’s “A Deepness in the Sky” — but that darn list is soooo long… *yelping panda*

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  5. This sounds awesome! My favorite part of the Martian Chronicles was the first one, when the Martians are “alone” and we get to see their world, their lives–loved it!

    Doubting that you have the skills or talent necessary to write the story the way it’s supposed to is a *good* sign–it means you’re committed to the story itself, that it’s not about you as an author but about the *story* itself. For me, that’s the most important requirement to get it done: you kick your ego out of the way and do whatever is necessary for the story to shine. It will–you’ll see 🙂

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    1. Thank you so much for the words of encouragement, Guilie!

      That’s true, one’s ego and expectations of oneself stand mostly in the way of writing. It’s fulfilling the expectations you have of your story that pushes you forward. I won’t ever unlearn that.

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    1. It’s on my list somewhere, indeed, but I must say Le Guin’s style doesn’t particularly resonate with me, she’s too… political. 🙂 When it comes to soft (sociological) sci-fi, I’m more on Octavia Butler’s side. “Lilith’s Brood” was simply fascinating!

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  6. When I think of sci-fi it does’t appeal to me, but lately I’ve read a few stories that I didn’t know were sci-fi and enjoyed them very much! I think I had the wrong impression about the genre and I’ll be more that willing to give it a fair try. Nice post. Your niche might be just around the corner. =)

    From Diary of a Writer in Progress

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    1. Thanks, Georgina! Sci-fi gets a bad reputation sometimes, because of the many hard-sci-fi books that are pretty hard to swallow by even the most eager readers. It’s a fun and very versatile genre, and I can only recommend that you dip your toes into it. 🙂

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  7. Oooh, Vero made up a new word!

    I love world building. But it all boils down to humanity (or alienality) for me. How do we think and click and interact? How do we effect each other? Why do we make the choices that we make? That’s where my swarm lies.

    But having said that, I do have an idea for a sociological sci-fi book. But I’m scared to write it because I’m not a sci-fi guru. But maybe I’ll write it anyway.

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    1. It’s writing things anyway that’s the reason fiction exists and thrives and frolics! 😉

      The reason and purpose of human actions and the sometimes rippling consequences a simple choice can have are fascinating. I’m a bit of a psychology-addict myself, so I can totally understand your fascination with human motivation and interrelation, Jaye.

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  8. Xenocenctric. How cool. It’s certainly a hard row to hoe but as you say, fascinating. I recall reading a Star Wars extended universe story where the author depicted an alien species which changed sex periodically, with a resulting change of role in society. Intriguing stuff. I had fun with my own ptorix aliens but they are secondary characters, not the protags. Then again… there’s an idea…

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