Created By: Unknown Troper on January 18, 2008
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Humans Through Alien Eyes

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Stories that have humans interact with aliens who are actually alien run into the fact that we're as alien to them as they are to us.

  • In Larry Niven's Known Space universe, when the kzinti first encounter humans, they are surprised to discover a race that (at the time) is very pacifistic... and then surprised again by humans' ability to adapt peaceful technology to fighting when necessary.
  • In Niven and Pournelle's novel Footfall, the alien invaders can't understand beings that don't reflexively remain docile after being defeated and made to submit.
Community Feedback Replies: 15
  • January 18, 2008
    CountSpatula
    The Ani Morph books sometimes uses this, most predominantly in the books narrated by Ax.
  • January 18, 2008
    Vulpy
    The Twilight Zone loved this one. If this page gets launched, I might hit That Other Wiki for examples.
  • January 19, 2008
    Unknown Troper
    There's also C. J. Cherryh's The Pride of Chanur, in which most of the main characters are aliens and the plot revolves around the results when a crew of hani take in a single human who had escaped from the kif.

  • January 19, 2008
    Unknown Troper
    Steve MB: I started the entry, but can't figure out how to get my name to show up on YKTTW entries.

    Anyway, a possible color quote:

    Many the years since first we met And clashed in the normal ways of war They could have conquered; they might yet We still don't know what they spared us for.

    Fiercely their strong ships beat us back Yet all they asked was that war should cease Cunning and courage they do not lack Look... they have power, but sued for peace! --Leslie Fish, "Neutral Zone, Romulan View"
  • January 19, 2008
    Nasrudith
    I remember reading a short story about ironically bigoted aliens who would tolerate and contact any kind of sentient life except us because we were as they called "Made of meat."
  • January 19, 2008
    SteveMB
    You mean Terry Bisson's "They're Made Out Of Meat"?

    (I think I figured out how to get my handle to show up in TKTTW entries; let's see if it works this time.)

  • January 19, 2008
    Prfnoff
    Metamorphosis by disembowelment in Speaker of the Dead.
  • January 20, 2008
    SteveMB
    Er, could you include a little more detail on that metamorphosis one?

  • January 20, 2008
    Yuri2356
    Sounds like a wierd take on Birth. (Which could seem odd to a species used to hatching from eggs, or something)
  • January 20, 2008
    FalconPain
    Speaker For The Dead explanation, from memory:

    The alien race from that novel had a... ritual?... where they cut one open and removed their inner organs, and a tree would grow from the remains. Naturally, this led to the next stage of their life.

    An alien offered to do this for one of his human friends. The human refused; he did not want to take part in what he thought was murder. The alien did it to him, killing him; everyone thought it was a deliberate act of violence. And this misunderstanding almost led to war. Or did. I forget. It's been a while.
  • January 20, 2008
    WilliamWideWeb
    FP: It didn't lead to war, but it did lead to a bunch of ships entering. Luckily relativity meant that they didn't get there until peace was brokered.
  • January 20, 2008
    SteveMB
    That reminds me of Harry Harrison's story "The Streets of Ashkelon", where aliens respond to a human missionary's attempt to convert them to Christianity by crucifying him and waiting for him to rise on the third day.
  • January 20, 2008
    DoctorNemesis
    Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series features a race of aliens who develop and adapt very slowly in technological and social fields and who expect humans to do the same. They prepare for an invasion in medieval times, but by the time they get to earth the Second World War is under way.
  • January 21, 2008
    Unknown Troper
    A similar thing occured in the backstory of David Weber's 'The Apocalypse Troll', with a bunch of aliens who were hell bent on wiping out every other sentient race in the universe finding themselves with a fight on their hands due to under-estimating humanity's adaptability and rate of development, and if I remember correctly, not realising that we'd reverse engineer every bit of their technology we could get our hands on in order to improve our chances.
  • January 22, 2008
    Native Jovian
    Another David Weber series, Empire from the Ashes, did this as well. The aliens that had almost wiped out humanity at least three times had similar, but differently applied, technology. This led to amusing contrast, where (for example), one side had warp missiles with incredible range that shocked their opponents (because the warp engine was built into the missile) while the other side had warp missions that could be fired ridiculously fast (because the warp engine was built into the launcher). Other examples included shielding technology (where the aliens had weaker but sectional shields, so that one section failing would leave the rest intact, while the humans had stronger but all-or-nothing shields, so it could soak up much more punishment but once it went down the ship was completely exposed) and single-man fighters. (The aliens, who had never seen them before, couldn't figure out what they were... until they started shooting. Then the aliens, having no point defenses, simply wiped them out en masse with nukes.)
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