Genuinely alien aliens

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This has been on my mind recently. Most of sci-fi deals with, or at least includes, extraterrestrial life forms or some other kind of alien creatures. What often bothers me is that these aliens rarely feel genuinely "alien", as in incomprehensible, strange, mysterious, not playing by our rules and have motives or goals beyond our understanding if they have them at all. Most of the time we just get funny-looking human bodies with maybe an extra pair of eyes or a different shape of body.

Just think for example about Mass Effect, which has been hailed as one of the most intricate sci-fi universes. Very few species IMO feel genuinely alien instead of reskinned humans. All the primary races, i.e. turians, humans, krogans, salarians and asari all walk on two legs, have one head and form mostly human-like societies. In fact the only race I can think of that actually feels alien in the ME universe are the hanar, because they look nothing like humans, speak in no way like humans, behave differently from humans and so on.

So my question is: what aliens do you, fellow Escapists, think are genuinely "alien"? I can think of two at the moment: the aliens from Crysis 1 (not 2), which I don't even think were called "ceph" like in the second one and they might well have been a different race entirely, and [LOVECRAFT SPOILER WARNING] the Old Ones from the Cthulhu Mythos. The aliens in Crysis 1 were never truly explained as to what they exactly were or what they intended to do, and perhaps most importantly, ACTUALLY LOOKED ALIEN. The Old Ones are pretty much the same deal, except they were given even less explanation and were presented more like demigods.

Ridley Scott's Alien is the first one that comes to mind. We never knew how smart they were for instance and how much of the creatures behavior was instinct.

I imagine in Mass effect alot of that has to do with the fact that they still want to "mo-cap" them and use basic human models

(even the krogan)

Mmm read a book at someone's recommendation before, Blindsight by Peter Watts. The aliens in that book really did seem alien. Not at all like us in their actions, methods, or appearance. I rather liked the concept, they weren't even creatures that we could interact with socially.

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A totally black cuboid, only capable of interacting with us in ways that we cannot understand.
Now that is alien.

You bring up ME3 but fail to mention the Elcor, Hanar and Keepers? And what about the Rachni? I'm not particulary happy with this sort of discrimination...

But yeah, as someone pointed out: It saves time doing everyone bipedal. Then you don't have to do weird mo-cap stunts trying to give a weird alien a natural behavior.

The BETA from Muv-Luv Alternative.

Not only do their various "species" resemble a cross between insects and male/female genitalia, but they don't even consider humans to be "living" creatures.

I can't really say anything else without spoilers.

I would mention the Pierson's Puppeteers of Larry Niven's Known Space Universe. As a race they are described as herd mentality and lack almost all of the characteristic trait that human society values. In the books its said the only Puppeteers that have courage are insane and exhibit traits of insanity as we know it in addition to being courageous at times.

I'd say the zerg from starcraft are quite alien. A race where there is a highly specialized body type for whatever role an individual is tasked with, (Usually killing in the case of the zerg) where said specializations come from organisms that the zerg have encountered which have been assimilated into the zerg genetic code.

Now that you mention the Zerg the Tyranids of 40k fit the bill as well if a bit more disturbingly consuming all in their path completely relentlessly, but I would say that alien races in fiction that are hive mind tend to much more alien then most other alien races

How about the thing from "The Thing"?

The real problem is that if we can't comprehend them, how are we supossed to think them up. Aliens in fiction will always be created by our fantasy (or at least untill/if we ever meet the real deal).

HardkorSB:
How about the thing from "The Thing"?

Such a good film. Can we pretend the remake doesn't exist?

The older races from Babylon 5 are truly alien aliens as well in my opinion. They've been around for so long that all they care about is bringing younger races on their paths of respectively absolute order or absolute chaos. Extremes like that are especially alien for humans like us who are in between all extremes.

Duuuuuuuudddddddeeeeee!

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(WARNING: The following three are from Halo. Please, refrain from flaming me for bringing them up as examples. Regardless of your opinion on Halo, these ARE good examples.)

The Flood from Halo definitely come to mind.

And although they LOOK somewhat humanoid, I'd say the Forerunner are pretty damn alien because of their technology.

Also, the Lekgolo. They're the strange worms that make up the Hunters. The reason you come across paired Hunters most of the time is because they're both made up of a single colony of the worms.

kayisking:
The real problem is that if we can't comprehend them, how are we supossed to think them up. Aliens in fiction will always be created by our fantasy (or at least untill/if we ever meet the real deal.

It doesn't need to be incomprehensible, just to feel like something not from this planet. Look at the creatures in the Oddworld games.

http://oddworld.wikia.com/wiki/Scrab
http://oddworld.wikia.com/wiki/Paramite

Or some creatures from Half-Life.

http://half-life.wikia.com/wiki/Bullsquid
http://half-life.wikia.com/wiki/Antlion

HardkorSB:
How about the thing from "The Thing"?

Or, iunno, the Krites (Crites, however you wanna spell it, I've seen both ways)? Just sayin :)

Chairman Miaow:

HardkorSB:
How about the thing from "The Thing"?

Such a good film. Can we pretend the remake doesn't exist?

It isn't a remake, it's a prequel! And I thought it was quite good, definitely one of the better Sci-Fi/Horror films released in the last decade.

OT: Does Predator count? I mean, they don't look overly humanoid...

Chairman Miaow:

HardkorSB:
How about the thing from "The Thing"?

Such a good film. Can we pretend the remake doesn't exist?

I actually like the re-quel.
The 1982 version is one of my all time favourites and I think is way betrer and more memorable (especially the thing itself) but the new one was pretty decent.

Funny thing (no pun intended):
When Carpenter's film came out it was hated by film critics and movoe goers, especially fans of the original. It was called "the worst remake of all time".

Animorphs. By far.

What about the alien from "Alien"? Now that's alien! Also, it looks like that new movie Prometheus might have something really alien like that; I've only seen the trailer though, so I can't say for sure.

Watch Titan A:E. Take a shot every time you see a non humanoid alien. You'll be dead before the cafeteria scene is over.

kayisking:
The real problem is that if we can't comprehend them, how are we supossed to think them up. Aliens in fiction will always be created by our fantasy (or at least untill/if we ever meet the real deal.

this is true.. also you have to remember that being as we are talking about fiction aliens can't be to alien from us otherwise we would have no way to relate to them so it would make for a shitty story... which is why even non-humanoid aliens in fiction still act pretty much like we do and in ways we can relate to

bartholen:
This has been on my mind recently. Most of sci-fi deals with, or at least includes, extraterrestrial life forms or some other kind of alien creatures. What often bothers me is that these aliens rarely feel genuinely "alien", as in incomprehensible, strange, mysterious, not playing by our rules and have motives or goals beyond our understanding if they have them at all. Most of the time we just get funny-looking human bodies with maybe an extra pair of eyes or a different shape of body.

Just think for example about Mass Effect, which has been hailed as one of the most intricate sci-fi universes. Very few species IMO feel genuinely alien instead of reskinned humans. All the primary races, i.e. turians, humans, krogans, salarians and asari all walk on two legs, have one head and form mostly human-like societies. In fact the only race I can think of that actually feels alien in the ME universe are the hanar, because they look nothing like humans, speak in no way like humans, behave differently from humans and so on.

So my question is: what aliens do you, fellow Escapists, think are genuinely "alien"? I can think of two at the moment: the aliens from Crysis 1 (not 2), which I don't even think were called "ceph" like in the second one and they might well have been a different race entirely, and [LOVECRAFT SPOILER WARNING] the Old Ones from the Cthulhu Mythos. The aliens in Crysis 1 were never truly explained as to what they exactly were or what they intended to do, and perhaps most importantly, ACTUALLY LOOKED ALIEN. The Old Ones are pretty much the same deal, except they were given even less explanation and were presented more like demigods.

you are asking for the impossible.

Motivation: since its some form of life, the motives will probably be the same universally: survive, prosper, procreate.
From those, most other motives spring.

Looks:
Practicallity and physics have a ruling here, once again.
is the species tool using? how are they using tools? fancy mindpower telekinesis? or do they need hands? tentacles? etc.
The amount of different ways to manipulate your environment is kind of limited due to the fact that physics are the same for everyone everywhere.
+ If the species is supposed to master the high sciences, it needs to be able to manipulate the environment. again, this puts a clamp on creativity. A tentacle or a hand always looks the same no matter the doodads hanging from them.

As for your examples:

The hanar are british buttlers.

Crysis aliens: squidy fishy things that float. Tentacles, probably for environmental manipulation.

The old ones: oversized earthborn ugly critter-thing we all like to forget exists on the same planet we do in space in quad X large. nothing truly new here. And their motive is: they are bored jerks with super powers.

So really, i do not know what you expect people to come up with.

Perhaps you should go create a truly alien alien so everyone can get an example?

Alien/Xenomorph, Tyranid, Zerg.
Daleks to some extent. There are probably a lot more Doctor Who examples, lots of weird and wonderful creatures in there.

Star Trek hAd some pretty good ones, now that I'm thinking about it.
Not only were there beings like the Q, the Prophets or Nagilum, which don't even have a fixed physical form, and view the rest of the universe from an outsider's perspective, there are the Borg (in my experience the best - as in credible - hive-mind aliens in existence), and somewhat connected, the Undine ("Species 8472").
The Founders were quite good, too.
Even the Original Series occasionally diverged from "humans with facial bumps", with the Excalbians or the Horta, and occasional god-like beings.

Then, in the German series "Raumpatrouille", we had the "Frogs", which were vaguely humanoid gelatinous beings which (being transparent) could not be harmed by lasers, and died when they came in contact with oxygen.

And of course, the aliens thought up by Terry Pratchett. credible, yet each in its own way strange, like the Creapii or, in a rather extreme example, the Jokers.

They do it in Mass Effect because its easier to animate relatively-humanoid beings, and its easier for the player to relate to them as companions.

And the ones from Crysis just looked like squid (which is why they started calling them Ceph in the second).

I'm currently on the last book of the Wess'har series by Karen Traviss and I feel that she's given a good selection of aliens that are both physically different and/or different in terms of culture and thinking patterns. While there can be found similarities between the other species and humans and I'm not claiming other authors haven't done it better, but in general, in some key manner, the aliens feel distinctly alien.

There are the Bezeri (humans liken them to squid, they communicate through bio-luminescence).
The Wess'har are humanoid in appearance with heads somewhat like seahorses, speak in 2 toned voices and have 4 lobed pupils. However they are more distinct from us ethically, considering motive as irrelevant, with results being their basis for judging the rightness of an action. Also, they consider all life forms 'people' with no judgement based on sentience, taking great care not to impact their rights.
The Isenj are most like humans culturally and thinking pattern wise, yet they are spider like in appearance, and have genetic memories.
In addition there are a few other races that don't have as distinct a focus in the books, yet they all carry their own values and priorities, and less than half of the species are in anyway humanoid in appearance.

I don't know if my conveyance of their alien-ness is anything like what you're seeking (I haven't even touched on their technology and society), but I've never once felt like the characters were largely re-skinned humans with some minor differences.

To elaborate:

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bazaalmon:
What about the alien from "Alien"? Now that's alien! Also, it looks like that new movie Prometheus might have something really alien like that; I've only seen the trailer though, so I can't say for sure.

It might just be the way im reading your sentence, but, You do know that Prometheus is part of the Alien series right? while not being part of the series itself it is based in the same universe and is set before the 1st movie. It's even still directed by Riddly Scot

The problem is can you think of a species that ISN'T bipedal that is as efficient as us? You can exactly picture a fish species making it to space travel.

WaReloaded:

Chairman Miaow:

HardkorSB:
How about the thing from "The Thing"?

Such a good film. Can we pretend the remake doesn't exist?

It isn't a remake, it's a prequel! And I thought it was quite good, definitely one of the better Sci-Fi/Horror films released in the last decade.

OT: Does Predator count? I mean, they don't look overly humanoid...

HardkorSB:

Chairman Miaow:

HardkorSB:
How about the thing from "The Thing"?

Such a good film. Can we pretend the remake doesn't exist?

I actually like the re-quel.
The 1982 version is one of my all time favourites and I think is way betrer and more memorable (especially the thing itself) but the new one was pretty decent.

Funny thing (no pun intended):
When Carpenter's film came out it was hated by film critics and movoe goers, especially fans of the original. It was called "the worst remake of all time".

My problem with the re-quel is that it has absolutely zero atmosphere. There is not a single point when I'm question who is thing and who is not. And the special effects weren't exctly top notch considering when it was made. of the re-makes of that story I haven't seen any but the most recent two.

Farscape.

That is all.

Viper1265:
I'd say the zerg from starcraft are quite alien. A race where there is a highly specialized body type for whatever role an individual is tasked with, (Usually killing in the case of the zerg) where said specializations come from organisms that the zerg have encountered which have been assimilated into the zerg genetic code.

Zerg whom are also a direct rip-off of the Tyranids. Whom are even more alien than the zerg. Evolution on demand. You fight them with flamers one day and the other day they don't even notice the flames.

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