Hey, everyone! Welcome to our stop on the “Zenn Scarlett” blog tour! Today we have the author doing a guest post on “aliens and the other”, and his writing process. This was a really fun book, and I think I just may read the next one. The book is out now from Strange Chemistry, so definitely check it out.
And now, Schoon on “aliens and the other” – behind the jump!
Why aliens as ‘the other’?
I think my fascination with the “otherness” of aliens stems from an early, kid-sized-grade-school-level interest in science, particularly the biological sciences, evolutionary development and non-human consciousness. I didn’t know those were the names of the things that interested me in the fourth grade, of course. I just knew that I enjoyed, and then pretty much craved, reading books that my small-town library classified as “natural history.” Books about, say, the life of an otter family, or a wolf pack, or a grizzly bear from birth of the cub, through a life of challenge and struggle, right up to the creature’s death. Not the sweetness-and-fluff stories about cute little baby critters, but the books by authors who gave me a glimpse into the wild, hidden, sometimes brutal, deeply fascinating world in which wild animals actually had to survive. It wasn’t always a pretty picture, but these books gave me the first glimmers of insight into the extraordinary complexity and strangeness of animals that weren’t human beings and were different from us in such significant ways.
So, when it came to crafting the creatures that appear in Zenn Scarlett, these alien animals couldn’t help but be influenced by my early attraction to and affection for “the other” and all the strangeness and otherworldliness this implies. The animals that Zenn cares for in the Ciscan Cloister clinic aren’t anthropomorphized (Katie being a sort-of-exception; but her use of sign language changes her relational level, so there’s a reason she’s the way she is). And while they’re aliens, I do take pains to give the reader some familiar, Earthly comparative peg to hang their impressions on.
It’s been said before but bears repeating here that as far as contemporary human culture goes, wild animals are truly the aliens among us. Especially when we consider things like interspecies communication, and especially when the animals in question are cetaceans (dolphins, whales), primates (great apes), elephants and, more recently corvids like crows and ravens, along with certain parrots. These creatures all have, to greater and lesser extent, languages. Not human languages, not human syntax etc, but they clearly have complex forms of communicating wide ranges of emotions and information. Researches are only now beginning to understand and appreciate the complexity at work in the minds of many of the animals with whom we share the planet.
The bottom line being: we don’t need to wait for SETI to lock in on the signal of an alien civilization to have a chance to commune for the first time with “the other,” and to “talk” to an alien intelligence; that other intelligence is all around us, right here, right now. I tried to extrapolate on these earthly intelligences as I considered the “alien-ness” of the aliens in Zenn Scarlett.