What Color are Little Green Men?
by, August 3rd, 2010 at 07:01 PM (803 Views)
Invasion! Wave after wave of aliens have assaulted our earth since their discovery by H. G. Wells in 1898. Books and old time radio shows document the attacks. So do movies and television. Man has battled them for a century, but what do the invaders look like?
What do they look like? Don’t look to television to find out. Television aliens are designed to cost. Tight budgets and demanding schedules mean television aliens look almost human. A few may have pointy ears or lumpy foreheads. but that’s about as alien as they get. They dress in leftovers from the wardrobe department, and may even speak with an accent. Entertaining but improbable.
Movies have more generous budgets and easier schedules. Movie aliens are more varied, but they still look like people in rubber suits. The bar scene in Star Wars had a menagerie of aliens. Each had two arms, two legs, two eyes, etc—all configured just like ours. How likely is that? Not very. Even here on Earth, intelligence isn’t limited to humans and other primates. Dolphins and giant squid are intelligent as well. They don’t look a lot like us.
Meet some aliens who look nothing like us in Dead Astronauts my new science fiction novel. I built them from the ground up. The book’s aliens have taken an interstellar voyage to reach us. To accomplish that, they would have to be intelligent social creatures from an advanced civilization.
Intelligence doesn’t tell us much about the alien. Most likely, it is an omnivore or a carnivore. Seeking like a hunter takes more intelligence than hiding like the hunted. They would form groups and develop advanced communication capabilities to hunt more effectively. The intelligent alien would be a social creature. Developing an advanced civilization requires it build on the experience of its predecessors. That means teaching. The intelligent creature must nurture and educate its young.
The demands of hunting suggest a little more about the intelligent alien. It must be able to sense its environment and do something about it. What advantage would intelligence offer a tree? It needs to sense its environment in three dimensions, so its sensors must be in stereo or better. Whether those sensors are eyes, ears, or something we can't imagine depends on the environment that spawned it.
Beyond those basic requirements, the alien is the product of its origin. It’s highly unlikely that "little green men" will actually be little or green or men. The visitors in Dead Astronauts come from a water-covered earth-like planet of our nearest neighbor Alpha Centura. It’s a squid-like creature with trilateral symmetry that swims by jet propulsion and breathes the air of its planet. Alpha Centura is cooler than our sun, so its vision isn’t like ours.