Oct 092017
 
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One challenge of creating humanoid species is that there’s only one here on Earth and we tend to conceptualize invented ones that aren’t much different from us. This is natural but maybe not ideal. Many aspects of humanity are taken for granted but can be questioned, turned on their head, and varied to create a world view different from all of humanity, not just one human civilization. We can look to different cultures for inspiration and will do so in Cultures and Beyond, (The Art of World Building, #3). If we want to comment on human assumptions, this affords a great opportunity, especially when human characters on our world encounter our species; it’s been noted that fantasy in particular tends to be based on a European model of civilization. The humans are seemingly transplanted from Britain.

To create a different world view, we should avoid having characters react in ways that are identical to humans. While that’s a storytelling issue, its roots lie in species conception, or a lack thereof. If we accept that humans are prone to jealousy, and that’s how we envision a human character reacting, this can be fine, but if we give an identical reaction to a species that’s supposed to be different, this seems like a poor concept. We should question stereotypical reactions of humanity and possibly not give them to our characters at all, not to mention characters of different species.

A good example of this is Spock from Star Trek. He reacts differently than the human crew members to almost everything. It often drives ship mates crazy. He gets misunderstood, some calling him arrogant, cold, or worse. It hurts his badly suppressed feelings. It’s as much a species clash as a cultural one. The judgmental aspect of humanity goes on display as they vilify a guy they’re trying to make sense of, making the human failing of trying to understand another species in human terms.

Decide what your species is like in broad terms. How do they view themselves vs. other species? What is their imagined place in the world? Do others disagree with it? Are they peaceful or a threat to be reckoned with? Do they keep to themselves or travel extensively, and why? What is their reputation? Do they jump to conclusions? Do they react emotionally? Do they trust emotion more than logic, which is viewed with suspicion? Do they take offense at stupid things or overlook them? For all of these things, are they worse or better about it than us? Try not to just make them the same because you haven’t thought about it. Make a list of all the stupid aspects of humanity that you’ve experienced or witnessed (even if it’s just in a story), and then figure out how your species would react instead.

Here’s an example of the sort of things you might want to write: Diaden see other species as weak both physically and in ability to pursue and realize goals. This has made them disdainful and snobby. Worse, it makes them routinely conquer other species in a belief that it’s their job to lead others to a better life. “An unarmed Diaden is a dead one,” they’re proud of saying, as they’re always prepared for battle and put up a terrible fuss if a city has an ordinance against openly carrying weapons, in which case they’ll surrender theirs only because more are hidden on them. They disrespect ideas that go against their own. They practice “a good offense is the best defense.” Most other species find them pushy, warlike, and confrontational. They seldom have friends among other species, and humans in particular are thought to be evil, for lack of a better word, if keeping company with Diaden.

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