Created By: CodeMan38 on April 21, 2012 Last Edited By: CodeMan38 on November 20, 2014

In The Land Of Starfish, Humans Are Disabled

Ordinary, able-bodied human beings are at a serious disadvantage in a world populated by Starfish Aliens.

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You know the old saying, "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king?" Well, according to at least one speculative fiction trope, that might not be true. In the land of the blind, everything is designed for blindness, and sighted people will find themselves at a serious disadvantage just trying to get around when lights don't exist and everything is designed for echolocation.

This trope, in short, is about what happens when an ordinary human being finds himself in a land populated by, and thus designed for, creatures that are significantly different from ordinary humans. What's easy for a human is almost impossible for the creatures; what's easy for the creatures, on the other hand, is quite difficult for a human. And thus everything is designed in a way that's perfectly normal for the planet's denizens, but entirely inconvenient for the human visitor.

Curiously, although I love this trope, I can't actually recall any specific examples off the top of my head right now. But I know I've seen it.
Community Feedback Replies: 21
  • April 22, 2012
    HaggisMcCrablice
    The 1956 film The Mole People had two races of people living below ground in the Arctic: deformed mole-like brutes and intelligent but somewhat superstitious albinos. The entire kingdom was dimly lit, and the people lived on mushrooms, which grew well in the cellar-like darkness. The one girl who actually looked normal by our standards was shunned and despised by her folk. The hero fell madly for her, but once upon the surface she is killed by a falling pillar while fleeing in panic from an aftershock. Actually, any work with "Mole People" uses similar conventions, owing to moles being creatures with weak eyes, accustomed to darkness.

    Gullivers Travels may also fall under this Trope, as he visited a land of tiny people, one of giants, and one of intelligent horses, all of which took great pains for Lemuel Gulliver to become accustomed to, and upon returning home to "deprogram" from.
  • April 22, 2012
    Arivne
    Since this trope is about Starfish Aliens, you might find some examples on that page.
  • April 22, 2012
    fulltimeD
    I think we have this as Puny Earthlings. What you're going for is the Same but Only Slightly More Specific. I also have a problem with the language used in your description. Unless stated in canon, one should not assume that a world inhabited by Starfish Aliens is "designed" for Starfish Aliens. That implies intelligent design/creationism which may or may not be a part of the backstory of The Verse. Starfish Aliens usually evolve naturally (or through Hollywood Evolution guided by Precursors) just like humanoids.
  • April 28, 2012
    aurora369
    Not exactly starfish, but Telvanni towers from Morrowind are designed for levitating wizards, and walking muggles will have a hard time trying to get anywhere through them.
  • April 28, 2012
    aurora369
    ^^ It's not about nature designed for blind starfish. It's about either blind starfish designed for this particular nature (be it by evolution, Sufficiently Advanced Aliens or whatever), or, more likely, blind starfish designing their cities for other blind starfish.
  • April 28, 2012
    fulltimeD
    ^ I realize that, I was saying the language made it unclear. You could have mentioned in the description things like architecture or technology, eldritch locations, etc, designed for use by Starfish Aliens, if that was your intent. Your description wasn't clear enough, though.
  • April 30, 2012
    fulltimeD
    Either this is Puny Humans or something else entirely: EG in a world populated by twenty-story tall octopoids, the technology will be barely useable or completely unusable by humans. In a world populated by creatures that interface with their technology using pheromones or other chemical signals, humans wouldn't be able to operate machines. In a world populated by creatures that naturally jump twenty feet at a time and have no need for stairs, ramps, ladders, elevators, etc...

    If the latter, the description REALLY needs work, but you do have a very interesting trope on your hands.
  • April 30, 2012
    nman
    I agree about Puny Earthlings. If not, Humans Are Average can cover examples too.
  • May 1, 2012
    Topazan
    In the HG Wells short story The Country Of The Blind, a mountaineer falls into an isolated valley inhabited only by blind people. At first, he expects his sight to provide him an advantage over this society, but soon has trouble adapting to their way of life. Among other things, they work only at night (or as they call it "the cold") and have no windows or lighting in their homes. Trying to explain the concept of sight only convinces the villagers that he's delusional.
  • May 1, 2012
    fulltimeD
    ^ That's what I mean. It's not an example of Puny Earthlings (or Humans Are Average). It is a perfect example of what the OP is going for with this. But the description needs help.
  • May 1, 2012
    robinjohnson
    In His Dark Materials, a character finds herself on a parallel earth populated by intelligent creatures with only one "hand", so they have to work in pairs to tie knots in ropes to make fishing nets. At first it seems like she has an advantage as she is the only one who can tie knots by herself, but later she realises that working on her own means she is missing out on a lot of social interaction.
  • November 13, 2014
    ElectricalLass
    Bumping for potential.
  • November 13, 2014
    DAN004
    I believe this is essentially "2 beings are somehow not adapted to each others' worlds".

    Maybe we can have some non-alien examples - e.g an extradimensional being or even a monster who lives in a volcano.

    Of particular note: most animals can't live and sustain themselves on environments that are built for humans, and yet humans can turn anything unhabitable into habitable. How would that relate to this trope?
  • November 14, 2014
    Chabal2
    Animorphs: Yeerk ships are designed to be crewed by Taxxons, aliens that are a cross between a ten-foot-long centipede and a sausage full of Jello. On one occasion the Animorphs steal a ship that is designed to be crewed by a mutant Taxxon with twice the number of limbs, but still manage to pilot it.
  • November 14, 2014
    Illemar
    A somewhat smaller example: in the sci-fi story Human Error, a human team that battles a constantly reemerging and all-consuming space mold need fresh suits that will last longer against the mold. However, the delivered suits instead turn out to be for a race of literal Starfish Aliens. As it's the only suits they've got, they have to figure out how to use these suits to destroy the immediate threat of the mold.
  • November 14, 2014
    Bisected8
    • Defied by the Chozo of Metroid. In Samus Aran's backstory, she was adopted by them after being orphaned, and they enhanced her with their own DNA so she could function within their society.
  • November 14, 2014
    oneuglybunny
    Western Animation
    • The alien natives in Battle For Terra can breathe the heavier-than-air atmosphere of Terra just fine, and can "swim" in the stuff to get around. Refugee humans from the war-ravaged Earth can't breathe the stuff, and begin suffocating when caught on-world when their oxygen supply runs out.
  • November 15, 2014
    JonnyB
    One section of Babylon Five contains living quarters for aliens that breath atmospheres poisonous to humans. Villains would often run through this area in an attempt to lose their pursuers as people would have to don breathing apparatus before cycling airlocks, and visibility in the different atmosphere would be limited.
  • November 20, 2014
    robinjohnson
    Humans Are Starfish for a shorter title? Edit: actually that's a bad snowclone, because you need to know about Starfish Aliens for it to work.

    Bizarre Human Physiology?
  • November 20, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ this isn't about bizarre human physiology, it's about how humans can't survive the starfish world (may or may not be vice versa as well).

    Call it Unadaptable Alien Habitat.
  • November 20, 2014
    dalek955
    • In The Order Of The Stick, Roy's sylph girlfriend gives him a talisman that he can break to instantly summon her. When he's falling to his death, he tries to use it so she can catch him, but he can't break it because it's intended to be broken by lightning (sylphs' native damage type) rather than physical strength.
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