Science Fiction Felinoids

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on Science Fiction Felinoids

One of the challenges of science fiction writing is populating the stories. One can use humans, but human motivations and cultures can be limited in scope and range. The anwser lies in using other physical forms than the human-- the lizard-like Gorn from Star Trek TOS co mes to mind. I imagined but never wrote about kangaroo-like aliens. A popular shape for aliens is that of the cat-- felinoids. Here are 5 Science Fiction felinoids of my acquaintance--

Even when cat-like in shape, aliens can be very human in values, thought patterns and motivations. It's not easy to create and alien mind from the inside out. We can create an alien with human like thoughts and then set its behavior and one end of the spectrum of human behavior and play it off humans whose personalities stand in contrast to that of the alien. And so it is with " van Vogt's Coeurl. Coeurl in Black Destroyer/The Voyage of the Space Beagle is the last survivor of a dying race. He is decadent and depraved and not nearly as bright as he thinks, despite his abilities. After first conatct, he kills a number of the human explorers, not realizing how obvious he is. We can see the smugness of the house cat in him, but he also fits within expectations for human depravity. He is contrasted by the scientifically and intellectually trained and incredibly well adjusted humans of the Beagle. They have him neatly sorted and classified fairly quickly. He is however not without resources and builds a tiny spaceship with which to escape the humans when his luck turns. Despite ihs briilliance in adaptating human technology, he is emotionally and fundamentally disabled by his depravity. This disability leads to the sort of despair which is seldom a survival trait.

An alien way of thinking can still be human in nature but insane by human standards-- to the point that what we consider normal would be regarded by them as hopelessly and tragically deluded. " Algis Budrys created such a race for "Shadow on the Stars." Farlans in Shadow on the Stars are militaristic and inherently paranoid-- to the point where anyone militarily skilled enough to pose a political threat to his superiors is dealt with quickly and terminally. It is thus that Farla has become beset by a younger, stronger enemy while her Navy is led by preening idiots. Seeking remedy, the Farlans turn to a reservist named L'Maranid. L'Maranid makes short work of Farla's enemy with a series quick victories that shatters them into a collection of successor states. But the paranoid nature of the Farlans is destined to work to wily Earth's advantage.

Some aliens seem not so alien in thinking once one gets past cultural biases. " The Hani of CJ CHerryh's Compact Space are traders in a multi species trading compact. They are newcomers to the game and feel inferior to Compact members who've been around longer. Their society is matriarchal, with males treated as inferiors as a matter of course and dispossessed after their male children are grown. Much of Hani literature is dedicated to the poignant brevity of males. C.J.Cherryh often writes about strong women coming to their own. Human examples are Signe Mallory of ECS Norway and Ari of Cyteen. And then there is Pyanfar Chanur. Chanur's rise parallels and powers the Hani's rise in Compact Space. Of as great an import as Chanur's elevation of the Hani in Compact space is the sexual revolution initiated by her taking her dispossessed and disgraced husband aboard as working crew.

The Kzinti of Larry Niven's Known Space are more alien in their thinking than the others, though they weren't always so. Larry Niven describes the Kzinti of his first story, "the Warriors," as humans dressed up in cat suits. A telling conversation occurs when the Kzin captain askes if they should be running from Angel's Pencil, the human ship and intended prey of the story. Kzinti in later stories would never consider asking such a question. They would "scream and leap" into battle as a matter of course. This impetuosity leads them into a series of defeats, especially in the First Man-Kzin War with its destruction of five invasion fleets in battles in Sol system and then off Wunderland in Alpha Centauri space. The reimagining of the Kzin in the many volumes of the Man-Kzin Wars should make and interesting paper or two.

The itiji, the cats in Golva's Ascent (Asimov's March 2012) by Tom Purdom are alien in culture and motivation. Though they lack hands, they posses sophisticated language abilities and understanding of advanced math, logic, ethics and tactics. They have evolved as hunters with a strong sense of ethics and compassion. Their natures stand in stark conquest to that of the brutal human interlopers on their world. Golva, like the jaguar in "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," is compelled to climb the heights and explore. Unlike that famous jaguar, he lives to tell about it.

Golva is a young itiji polymath and visionary. He has decided to be the first to scale the heights above his home. He encounters and is captured and experimented upon by a group of human explorers. They are unhindered by any conscience or compulsion. Eventually the brutality gets to be too much for one member of the expedition and she assists him to escape back to the lowlands. Golva's erstwhile tormenter makes the mistake of pursuing them. He shortly learns that superior tech and cruelty need not suffice in having one's way. The itiji are very good at coordinating rescue and the use of force. While his captors had thoughtlessly spared Golva no pain in interrogating him, the itiji response to the human attackers is carefully considered and limited to only that which is needed to stop the attack.


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