Interview with an Alien

I’m sure that every writer has encountered writer’s block at some point. I have heard some say that it doesn’t exist. In my opinion those people are either lying or just very lucky. The method that seems to work for me in dealing with this is to write character profiles.

If you search for character profiles on the web you will find many examples. I think the trick is to write these profiles as if you were the character. If you do this you can start to get an idea of how the character speaks. It also means you can talk around the question which is also helpful in developing the character.

In science fiction though there are also aliens. These need to be developed both as characters and as races as a whole. When getting to know someone we may ask: ‘So are you married?’ or ‘Do you have children?’ However if you were talking to an ant the question becomes meaningless.

“Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger
than we can imagine.” –Sir Arthur Eddington.

In science fiction though there are limits to how strange an alien can be. If an aliens and humans have nothing in common then they will be unable to interact. This is shown in Babylon 5 where it is mentioned that the First Ones are to us as we are to ants. So their can never be much interaction because of this. If there was a war it would be utter annihilation for us.

Back here on Earth we have caused the extinction of some species and endangered others. The cod for instance is becoming endangered but their are creatures that live so deep that they couldn’t survive up here. Our environments are so different that we never can interact.

Nevertheless aliens still have great scope to be strange.You only need to look at other human cultures to see strangeness. Generally the further you go from home the stranger things get. Even traveling around Europe there will be differences. The French eat horses but it Britain that would be see as very strange if not repugnant.

So what questions would you ask an alien to understand his, her or its culture? And when you’ve established the background of the species you’ll have a character and then need to ask them questions and what should they be?

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