Aliens: an author can invent an alien culture so vivid and believable that you re-think what is normal in the world. Or, the invention just has a particular quirk that is special and noteworthy.
Here are my favorite examples.
Sometimes we’re treated to a view of life from inside the aliens’ point of view.
- C.J. Cherryh’s Atevi in the Foreigner universe have a culture of assassins, finesse, and numerical felicity.
- Vernor Vinge wrote a pair of novels loosely linked across millenia (longer). Each book features parallel story lines, at least one taking place amongst the resident aliens.
- The pack minds of A Fire Upon the Deep – never take the first-person-singular point of view for granted.
- The spider world of A Deepness in the Sky. Paternal fur and a color called plaid.
- David Brin’s Thennanin – in the Uplift War books.
Aliens – first contact or not-well understood
- C.J. Cherryh’s Hisa in Downbelow Station, etc. I love the phrase “You make warm we eyes” – the way they speak is great.
- Elizabeth Moon natives in Remnant Population – right-foot drumming vs left-foot drumming as a way of reaching consensus.
- Janet Kagan – natives in Hellspark – I recommend you look up a copy of this 1988 book – there used copies out there. No, you cannot buy my copy. The natives communicate by rippling feathers. I am sad that there will never be a sequel to this.
- Kristine Kathryn Rusch – Disty – – Retrieval Artist novels. I can’t think of another series that explores the concepts of alien law and justice like this.
- David Brin’s Episiarch in Startide Rising and The Uplift War, and probably other novels in that universe. Can create rips in the fabric of space-time because it can disbelieve so strongly in its current situation: “The Episiarch, in its outraged rejection of What Is, had created the passage for its Tandu masters. The opening was held by the adamant power of its ego – by its refusal to concede anything at all to Reality.” … I’ve been on a project or two managed that way…