The Order of Extra-Terrestrials – Researching the Dynamics of Alien Forms in Science Fiction


Ruchita Machal

Ruchita Machal is currently working on conceptualising mythopoeic nature of Indian Science Fiction for her doctoral research from School of Letters at Ambedkar University, Delhi. She has been working as an Assistant Professor for the past seven years and is currently employed in the Department of English at Motilal Nehru College, University of Delhi.


The concept of extra-terrestrial life has been a subject of much contemplation and speculation. Science Fiction has given its readers a glimpse into what this alien life can be in the sense that it has given a palpable materiality to the physiognomy of alien race. Some of the new developments in the construction of aliens have moved away from the bug-eyed monstrous figure to an idiosyncratic sentient being different from the human race. Many Science Fiction stories have given a dialogic complexity to the interspecies contact and its repercussions for human beings. Alien life in these stories has been analysed through human mannerisms. They pique the curiosity by trying to understand the alien and further encourage a mean to propagate the human agenda of benefitting from the alien technology.

The posthuman fundamentals challenge the continuity of humanist tendencies which establish human life at the apex of understanding what is essentially not human. Recent works in SF have given prominence to reconstruction/deconstruction of alien life thereby changing the modalities of conception of these sentient beings. Moreover, the real challenge lies in the anatomy of these alien bodies which address the aporia of human imagination.

The objective of this research paper is to examine some of these anthropomorphic characteristics that homo sapiens employ in deciphering the alien race as means of understanding their behaviour and their degree of intelligence. Through the paper I am investigating a quantifiable expression for these anatomically different alien lives and their cataclysmic contact with the human race. In this diachronic study, I have traced the changing schema around the alien bodies and its possible absence in some of the recent SF.

Keywords: science fiction, extra-terrestrials, posthumanism, anthropomorphism.


The concept of extra-terrestrial life has been a subject of much contemplation and speculation. The inexhaustible montage of space adventures in SF reveals the magnitude of the relationship humans share with the unexplored. Science Fiction has given its readers a glimpse into what this alien life can be in the sense that it has given a palpable materiality to the physiognomy of alien race. Furthermore, the representation of alien race has always held a tacit meaning for human beings. SF induces the critical faculties to rethink the nature of life forms other than our own. However, the bigger challenge has not been the abstract hypotheses of alien life, but the implications of this nonhuman entity on our world. Needless to say, that some of the early science fiction had pivoted towards the horrifying invasion of our world by the aliens in an attempt to enslave the human race, or worse, annihilate earth and our existence with it. This fascination with the introduction of other exobiological life forms in science-fictional universe and the plausible interpretation of this novum phenomena is the central issue of this paper.

The science-fictional alien has always implied towards its inherent otherness – it is what humans are not. The desire to reach the stars and establish contact with other life forms has been the product of evolving human consciousness and the nature of our being. Science fiction became the medium of sustenance to this phenomenon which gave shape to our desires and fantasies in a remote setting without giving away much of the inhibitions. In the essay “Some Things We Know About Aliens”, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr. writes that the aliens in SF are variants of mythological beasts and monsters from the adventure genre of pulps. They occupy the same literary space as angels and demons did in mythical models. He further extrapolates that aliens are evolutionary beings just like humans, but more importantly the existence of humans is related to the former since “aliens are our shadows, and we are theirs” (1). The aliens acquire their meaning through a system of lack, they represent the human desire for the unknown and unexplored so as to give a sense of wholeness to our existence. The dialectic of alien figure works through a binary - the monstrous alien is destroyed in the plot or the peaceful alien resorts to operate as modus vivendi with their human counterparts. The cosmic isolation of human civilization is questioned in SF through the imagist reproduction of other evolutionary forms in disparate galaxies. They subvert our laws of the world and surprise us by their invasion into the human territory. Since homo sapiens revel in their sole existence, the image of an alien figure is necessary to challenge this existential predicament in the universe. They exist not for themselves, but for human subjects as they are symbolic entities in the conceptual framework of human imagination.

SF stories about alien invasion could perhaps hint at the progressive growth of scientific technology masking the inherent fear of the unknown and unchartered horizons. It would not be wrong to assume that H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds (1897) was the first to popularise the theme of alien invasion in the SF literary canon. The trend of attributing monstrous characteristics to personify the nonhuman alien race has pervaded the popular imagination. Even though Wells’s vision may not have been prophetic but it symbolizes the end of British Empire, and the impending dread of being subjected to colonisation by a far more superior race. It features mankind facing an unmediated attack from the aforementioned superior Martian race who is emboldened by the possession of their advanced weaponry like the heat ray and the poison gas. This catastrophe unleashed on the human civilisation bears the undertone of an evolutionary struggle in the Darwinian sense of ‘survival of the fittest’ in dangerous circumstances. The imminent war on Europe and the instruments of war were few of the predictions in War of the Worlds which proved to be far too realistic than fiction in the coming years. The novel ends on a rather interesting note that no matter how advanced the Martians were, they were eventually destroyed by the opulent micro-organisms in the Earth’s ecosystem. The novel seems to assert that the natural selection expunges the unfit, and since sapiens have adapted and evolved in accordance with Earth’s ecosystem, they are at an obvious advantage than their nemesis. Another note could be made on the anatomy of the alien body – the unnamed protagonist in the novel points out in Book Two that these Martians were essentially just an enlarged head with no olfactory system but dark and protruding eyes, and tentacles which could be an appendage for limbs. Alien life in this novel appears to be an assortment of various animalistic characteristics; the large head could symbolise towards its advanced mental capacity than humans. But what particularly stands out is the lack of olfactory system which may indicate at the absence of a determinant in its psychological perception[1]. To put it simply, the sense of smell functions as one of the qualitative factors in representation/misrepresentation. This could imply that the Martians may visually perceive human as representational objects but not as experiential entities and hence lack the subjectivity in their judgement towards human race.

John Campbell’s “Who Goes There?” (1938) is a fan favourite which has been imprinted in the popular memory by John Carpenter’s directorial rendition in The Thing. The novella was firstly published in Astounding Science Fiction and has garnered much respect among the fans because of its horrific representation of the alien in the eeriness of an isolated backdrop. The alien in the novella is discovered by a group of scientists on an expedition to Antarctica and subsequently the alien is named as the Thing. The alien spaceship and its original occupant are found frozen in ice, the scientists decide to bring the alien back to the base camp and thaw it in order to study its curious anatomy. Once defrosted the alien escapes and the nature of the story changes from a stereotypical science fiction to one that belongs to horror. It is soon discovered that the alien can mutate itself into any organic form as some of the expedition dogs and few of the scientists are later revealed to be its myriad manifestations. In this generic amalgamation, Campbell’s story acquires a stylistic rendition similar to that of horror and of detective fiction since the scientists are acutely paranoid by the Thing’s unexplainable existence ensuing the search for its imitations. Certainly, the alien is not just the figure from outer space but also an imposter amongst the human beings. The Thing in “Who Goes There?” is a peculiar alien since it lacks a distinct body, the only feature of its original form is the head. The alien discovered by the scientists has a tentacled head and three bulbous eyes red in colour which seems to echo the characteristics of the fabled Medusa’s head. The lower half of the alien’s body resembles that of a husky dog which it may have partially ingested but was frozen in the process of metamorphosis. Its alien biology is understood to be protoplasmic since each cell component of the alien’s anatomy has a mind of its own. The alien is also intelligent and skilled since it is able to create atomic energy in the sub-zero temperature at Antarctica. Perhaps, psychic abilities could be attributed to it since the explorers begin to have nightmares whenever they are in close proximity with the alien. Such distinct characteristics make the Thing a creature straight out of nightmares, but also an interesting figure.

Alien bodies and human interactions with the alien are essentially self-reflexive. The alien is an embodiment of what the human imagination conceptualises as the other. But in Campbell’s story, the alien may be a violent monster but it is not one who is xenopsychozoic[2]. Most the alien figures in SF are revealed to possess intelligence but the historical traces of their intelligence and their idea of being is different from that of humans. But in Campbell’s story, the alien does not retain its original form but mutates itself as a clone of the human species or any other living being it encounters. In this sense the alien is not a creature from outer space, the alien is us. This literal metamorphosis of the alien works as a metaphorical mirror for the human subject. In Lacanian terminology, the concept of “I” or the “ego” is developed in the mirror stage which later adds to the symbolic order of identity formation. The process of identification with the mirror image adds to the experience of human existence in the ontological sense. The complex association in Lacanian discourse is foundational to the psychical concepts of “self” and “other”. This relational modality between the self and the other foregrounds the relationship between human and the alien. The Thing from “Who Goes There?” is the dissociative split between the narcissistic human and the hostility of a monstrous figure. Apart from the relational metonymy not much about the alien is revealed in the story. By the end, the Thing evolves from a neuter pronoun “it” to a personal pronoun “he” connoting the humanization of the alien.

The creative faculties in the writers of speculative fiction have pushed the limits of imagination to spawn a meta-human projection in the conceptualisation of alien species. The famous American anthropologist Loren Eiseley rightly complains that the aliens in SF are not necessary alienated from human beings; “alien” exemplifies human traits, their unfamiliarity can only be understood through the familiar – they signify what human consider alien which is not far removed from human imagination[3]. The introduction of alien in SF fulfils the role of an actant to the story wherein the human could discover more about the self by exploring the horizon of what we conceptualise as the “other”. Since it is impossible for man to understand what is absolutely alien, the human imagination inadvertently creates the alien figure who receives its meaning through humanist terms. Similarly, Elana Gomel in her seminal work Science Fiction, Alien Encounters, and the Ethics of Posthumanism (2014) posits an argument that the alien pushes the boundaries of humanism and anthropocentricism. She proclaims that “a certain degree of anthropomorphism in imagining alien intelligence is inevitable. We are cognitively hard-wired to ascribe agency to other beings and since the only intelligence we know is our own, fictional aliens are likely to mirror their creators to some degree” (11).

Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game (1985) is a staple for alien encounter in SF since it strictly adheres to the formula of alien invasion and humans battling the vicious aliens to emerge as valiant warriors and protectors of mankind. The alien race in the novel “Formics” are also called “buggers” because of their insect-like characteristics controlled by the Queen of their hive who commands the alien species. The basic premise of the novel mirrors the law of the jungle, similar to that of War of the Worlds – destroy the alien before it destroys us. The possibilities of establishing a relationship with the alien are never explored and the directive for communicating with the alien is inevitably spoken through war. The young protagonist of the novel Ender Wiggin is the prodigal son and a product of utilitarian principles set in futuristic Earth. He is the ultimate war machine cultivated by the war tycoons to end the alien race. Surprisingly, the protagonist is unaware of the attacks he commands as a leader of his platoon since he has been made to believe that he is training via a game simulation. In the end he grieves for the genocide he committed when he parleys with the truth of his (mis)adventures and decides to make amends by helping to find a new home planet for the survivors of the war. The dehumanisation of the alien in this novel perhaps finds a resolve at the end when the protagonist uncovers the reality by acquiring a perspective on the existential reality of the other, in this case tapping into the consciousness similar to the one deployed by Queen of the hive. He is able to understand that the buggers were an intelligent life too, and they had no intention of destroying humankind once they understood that the earthlings were not a threat. But on Earth, it is the war-hungry commanders who used Ender to inflict genocide on the alien race. Orson Scott Card subtly circumvents his predecessors’ works about alien invasion by offering a means of communication to the aliens to plead their case with the homo sapiens. This idea establishes a familiarity with the alien and makes it difficult to portray them as the evil extra-terrestrials as done by most of the SF during the age. Since the other (alien) has often been the enemy, Orson Scott Card implies that an introspection in the mind of the subaltern née alien could effectively alter the perspective of the self. The ethical issues raised in the work resonate strongly towards the end when the marginalised other has been given the agency of power which shifts the paradigm of human self-centredness.

SF stories have had a heuristic approach while giving a form to the alien; since there is an obvious dearth of real-life aliens to borrow from, SF has seen alien life as successive links in the evolutionary process. Carl Sagan’s political critique in Contact (1985) may be an unfitting example to understand alien anatomy, but it’s certainly a worthy contender foremost in theorizing the existence of an advanced civilisation billions and billions of galaxies away from us. Apart from the popular series Cosmos, Sagan was also directly involved with SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) and was convinced that we are not alone in this universe. The idea that an alien species much advanced than us should contact Earth not for invasion but possibly to share their technology could only by be conceived by a sceptic astrophysicist like Sagan. The protagonist, Ellie Arroway in the novel becomes Sagan’s mouthpiece when she argues that it would be preposterous of human beings to think that we are the only life form in a universe filled with countless galaxies and celestial objects. Also, the alien in the novel never reveals its true form or home planet but appears as a human so as to not perturb the human explorer. Many critics have pointed at theological underpinnings in Contact’s alien, however, I wish to point at one specific detail which suggests the changing topology of the non-human life. The alien materializes itself in a human form, and not just any human, but someone from our memory who may have had a profound impact on our life. This makes the alien cognitively advanced than our race as they are able to understand our complex unconscious and the repressed to simulate surroundings based on the receptors’ degree of consciousness. As the novel indicates, the sole motive of their contact is to educate the earthlings of pre-existing wormholes in our universe which are portals to other life sustaining planets in the universe. The nature of alien intelligence in Contact bears heavy undertones of the God phenomenon offering redemption to humans but through mathematical applications. This kind of benevolent and introspective alien is a stark contrast from the Wellsian model of a violent extra-terrestrial race. Moreover, this friendly neighbourhood alien is also a manifestation of the human psychosis preaching humanist ethics.

The physical matter of alien anatomy is reciprocated in a short story by Marion Zimmer Bradley in “The Wind People” published by the magazine Worlds of If in 1959. In this experimental story, the woman protagonist decides to cohabit the alien planet with her unborn son as she cannot withstand the propulsion of the hyper jump to planet Earth. The story refrains from giving a corporeal body to the alien race. Rather, the alien could be perceived through the rustling of the wind. The alien of the story belongs to the symbolic realm as it comes to connote the latent sexual desires in the mother for her adolescent son. The alien also befits the modalities of denying knowledge to the human subjects; as the mother is reluctant in believing in alien life so she cannot “see” the alien figure. The metaphorical alien in the story is a transgression into the fear of unknown desires and tabooed territories. The mother’s desire for the unknown and her constant repression of these desires are expressed through the alien who remains unseen in the story. Moreover, the oedipal resonances of the son replacing the partner underpin the alien characteristics in the story.

Speculative fiction has been a product of the reaches of human imagination, and alien life has been the mirror-image of what the deontological humans are not. But what is constituent in these representations is how the alien figure operates in the human ecosystem. This heuristic approach only hints at alternative discussions but does not challenge the social normativity which is subtly applied to the alien species. It is rather an extension of domination and normativity for which the human protagonist is the primary signifier. Sonya Dorman’s short story “When I was Miss Dow” is a replication of these normative tendencies that circumscribe alien existence. The story navigates through familiar by-lanes of scientific exploration narrated by the alien protagonist. The alien planet is colonised by human beings and their offices are infiltrated by alien beings who wish to benefit from the technology that their visitors seem to possess. The alien civilisation propounds on singularities: one cerebral brain, one sex, amorphous protean forms which could take the shape of any being. Dorman purports a similar argument even as she subverts the nature of self and the other in the plot. The self in the story (the alien) acquires meaning and identity once it enters the human domain of semiology. The alien protagonist subsumes to the dichotomies of self/other as it fulfils the role of a female secretary to a male scientist/lover. In a series of stereotypical plotlines, the alien forgoes its alien-ness and appropriates to the human world without challenging the social normativity of its inherent nature vis-à-vis its acquired reality. The agency of power in the story lies in the ideological dynamic of the human system reaffirming the dominance of humans as the superior race.

Carl D. Malmgren writes in the essay “Self and the Other in SF: Alien Encounter” that “these alien actants explore the limitations of being human and suggest the possibility of transcending those limits. They examine what we are not, in so doing intimating what we could become” (17). Similarly, Donna Haraway’s ‘cyborg’ or cybernetic organism marks the confrontation between human and animal, human and machine, and human and non-human. In her seminal essay “A Manifesto for the Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Social Feminism in the 1980s” she explicates that the “…[cyborg] is a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction” (149). Haraway argues in her essay that human subject takes centre stage in scientific treatises and the culmination of a cyborg pushes the limitations of technological inference in a capitalist society. Haraway’s cyborg challenges the appropriated dichotomies of human/animal or human/non-human, her creature is a hybrid machinic organism who transcends these dichotomies and operates independently in our social systems. She writes, “a cyborg is a creature in a post-gender world; it has no truck with bisexuality, pre-oedipal symbiosis, unalienated labour, or other seductions to organic wholeness through a final appropriation of all the powers of the parts into a higher unity. In a sense, the cyborg has no origin story in the Western sense” (150). The cyborg is a product of Post-War militarised and political institutions reflecting the hierarchical domination of the scientific discourse. It is a splice of human consciousness with human interests at the core as it attempts to redefine the concepts of bodies and identities. Haraway’s work is a resistance on seeing the monsters as teleological aberrant but rather an augmentation of a new phenomenon in our lived social reality and human subjectivity in reading displaced identities. In her third instalment of the Posthumanities series When Species Meet (2008), Haraway questions the limits of anthropocentric entitlements in understanding species other than the human beings. She begins her work by offering the anecdote of Derrida’s cat from the lecture “The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow)”, the cat Derrida mentions is more akin to Carroll’s Cheshire Cat[4] rather than be an allegorical example of profundity. The question Haraway asks through this Derridean analogy is not what the cat represents, but what it means for the cat to respond. In essence, the cat is independent in its ontological sense, but the way its behaviour is interpreted rests on human phenomenology, and it connotes nothing on what the cat “speaks”[5]. Haraway argues that Derrida propounds his hypothesis on a philosophical plane of understanding the “gaze of the other” for a subject who is obviously at a vantage[6]. Under this hypothesis Derrida fails to acknowledge the “behavioural semiotics” of this cat-human interface. She further extrapolates that to untangle the mystery behind this cat would have meant to develop an argument on the non-linguistic communication between species of different kinds. But Derrida turns introspective in his philosophical debate battling the shame of his nakedness in the presence of another species.

The posthumanist impulse to speculate what the other speaks has been the core of research pertaining to alien worlds. Haraway’s work is a classic example of animalographies wherein the posthuman subjectivity controls what the animals/non-human speaks. No matter how different the alien anatomy may be, but most of formulaic SF would create an alien who behaves similar to its human counterpart. The ethical and cultural characteristics of human life naturally find allegorical representation through alien forms. But the question remains, how to challenge the normativity if the only available language system is our own? Anthropomorphic principles have guided the psychological model of the alien life. But lately, recent criticisms on SF writings have slandered this peculiar intention towards the representation of extra-terrestrial life. Robert G. Pielke notes in his essay “Humans and Aliens: A Unique Relationship” that

...the evolutionary history of every species is unique, and it is related to a given planetary environment. This latter fact makes species that evolve within the same environment related to each other in ways extra-planetary species cannot be. A planetary environment, in other words, creates a family setting from which others are necessarily excluded (30).

This implies that any other intelligent life form in the universe cannot evolve in the same manner as the human genome has evolved over the past years. However, alien life can only be represented through human expressions in a rhetoric available for use. The aporia of extra-terrestrial life challenges the limits of imagination, of which human protagonist is the centre. Nevertheless, few SF writings have challenged the anthropocentric normativity in establishing alien existence.

Solaris (1961) by Stanislaw Lem offers a subversive situation in which the human explorers encounter a sentient life unresponsive to any of the human experiments, or better yet, responds in a manner which is incomprehensible to the terran scientists. The ocean-planet Solaris is perceived as an intelligent alien life, but due to their enormous difference material communication between the two species never takes place. Lem’s fictional alien is beyond human perception and control since its behavioural patterns are incongruous to our capacities. The ocean-planet bears no visceral anatomy which could be compared to any species on Earth. The visitors which later haunt the human hosts are similar to the symmetrical and asymmetrical mimoids which erupt in the ocean’s myriad formations beneath its plasmic surface.

The scientists aboard the space mission resolve to comprehend the “ocean” through symbolic language as they are “visited” by their erotic and guilt fixations. The ocean possesses the psychical ability to read the unconscious human mind and clone these poignant electrical impulses into a corporal human manifestation. The consistency in Lem’s narratorial rendition is the behaviour of the sentient alien life which opposes the anthropocentric claims of other extra-terrestrial renditions in other science-fictional adventures. The interspecies barrier in Solaris is more pertinent since neither of the two species are able to comprehend the other’s activity, inasmuch the imprints that the ocean transforms in a human body do not alleviate the communication between the two. In relation to this interspecies communication Pielke argues that

…we might not ever be able to get to know each other. There is more than a difference of degree involved here… further, this possible ignorance could very well extend to a mutual inability to know what, if anything, would cause or allow harm to occur. If mutual ignorance were to be so extensive that a knowledge of harm were not possible for either human or moral, it would then be precisely the situation beyond morality that Lem describes. (34)

The synthesis of harm and non-harm could only be established if the two species are able to comprehend the existence of their counterpart. But in the case of Solaris, it becomes increasingly certain for the humans to understand that the ocean is beyond these human principles and may not understand the complex dichotomy of morally defined right or wrong precedent.

The determinism in anthropocentric laws does not bridge the interspecies gap between the human scientists and the ocean-planet Solaris. The expedition turns from a scientific exercise in understanding alien mannerism to an introspective moral coda of human psyche. These augmented visitors are manifestations of repressed but powerful emotions in the human unconscious; they are not necessarily reproduced by the ocean-planet to perturb the human hosts. They could be emanations of the ocean as an attempt to establish contact with human subjects through a semiotics comprehensible to human system. Furthermore, these ambiguous “assimilations”[7] seem like an embodiment of Freudian Id to the self-centred human conscious. The other in this case is not the sentient alien but the projection of the repressed self which becomes precursory in breaking the barrier of the logical and empirical realities of the human value system. By coming into contact with the alien, the protagonist Kelvin is able to conceive a reality which could not be explained through rational tautology. His cognition of alien activity rests entirely on his decision to abandon his home planet and his sense of humanity with it. Kelvin abandons the egoism of humanity and embraces alien-ness which supplants his non-rational relationship with Solaris.

The hominid alien in Michael Bishop’s novella “Death and Designation Among the Asadi” reimagines the creatures of high sentience and their interaction with human explorers. The novella first appeared in the 1973 edition of the SF magazine Worlds of If and was later included as a prequel to the novel Transfigurations in 1979. The novel follows the field notes of Egan Chaney, a xenologist who is on an expedition to study the sundry population of Asadi race on the alien planet, BoskVeld. The Asadi bear a mane like a lion and seem to communicate with a change in the colour of their eyes. The protagonist, Chaney presumes that Asadi population have similarities with the primeval tribal groups but changes his opinion since he cannot find any evidence of what constitutes as folk culture in human systems. He enters the Asadi clearing with a shaved head to be akin to a pariah in the alien culture, and later befriends The Bachelor who becomes a proprietor in his adventure. The Asadi population gather during the day for gesticulation which seem mundane to the protagonist and disperse to their individual stations at dawn to continue the cyclical function next day.

“Death and Designation” is an unsettling story since it showcases the alien race indulging in strange practices which easily transcend to profanity. These alien forms practice cannibalism as a right to passage in becoming a leader. Moreover, their actions are not carried out as acts of free will, they are psychologically connected to a bat-like homunculus who is integral in transfiguring the Asadi male into a leader. Bishop’s novella is an appropriate extension to Lem’s Solaris in conceptualising an alien life form which is truly alien. The grotesque behaviour of Asadi questions the empirical tools of anthropology through an eccentric protagonist who interpellated the alien jurisprudence. The protagonist strives to understand the unnatural behaviour of Asadi as their society does not function as a collaborative unit. They are chaotic and possess no “group consciousness” which does not ascribe to the anthropological definition of a society. Bishop’s Asadi is a transgression in the classification of the science fictional alien from a symbolic presence analogue to the human perceiver into a grotesque form which presents an anomaly in the evolutionary process. The design of this grotesque alien upholds the laws of the human world as it obstructs further contemplation on its ontological existence. The discerning factor in the social activities of the Asadi is amiss since it requires a preconception of indeterminacy in the limited horizon of human imagination. The Asadi ritual on death is a continuum of the organic transmutations in the evolution of life forms in the universe.

The fictional alien in scientific narratives has been a pertinent aid in the exploration of the anthropological territories of terran species. The deep-seated interspecies differences cause tension in the conceptualised framework of the human cosmos. The alien figure transcends from the clutches of being an allegorical phantom to a stimulating projection of the humanist tendencies imposed on other species. The invention of alien in SF is fundamental in reiterating the fragmentary ideals of the existing order. It is meant to unsettle its readers and inspire awe by evaluating the ethical modalities of human systems. The prognosis of alien contact in SF conspicuously incorporates varieties of ontological dilemma within the human traditions. Moreover, these alien sentients mediate an examination in the socio-historical complexities of the human morphology. The artistic consciousness of SF in the formation of a new evolutionary ideal juxtaposes the desire to delimit the territorial dominion of the infinitesimal human species in the vast universe.


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[1] Clare Batty proposes an argument in her article “A Representation Account of Olfactory Experience” that olfactory perception adds to the visual experience of representational objects rather than remain purely sensational.

[2] Istvan Csicsery-Ronan, Jr. mentions in the article “Some Things We Know About Aliens” that “the paradox of ‘alien’ is that it designates a creature at the line of the near (the house of ‘uncanny’) and the distant (the space of ‘xenopsychozoic’).

[3] The anthropologist complains in The Immense Journey, “In modern literature on space travel I have read about cabbage men and bird men; I have investigated the loves of lizard men and tree men, but in each case I have labored under no illusion. I have been reading about a man, Homo sapiens, that common earthling, clapped into an ill-fitting coat of feathers and retaining all his basic human attributes…”.

[4] Derrida finds the cat in his room symbolically similar to Carroll’s Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland.

[5] Donna Haraway in When Species Meet writes, “He [Derrida] identified the key question as being not whether the cat could “speak” but whether it is possible to know what respond means and how to distinguish a response from a reaction, for human beings as well as for anyone else”.

[6] Derrida refers to the phrase as “gaze of an animal” in the lecture. He writes, “I often ask myself, just to see, who I am – and who I am (following) at the moment when, caught naked, in silence, by the gaze of an animal, for example the eyes of a cat, I have trouble, yes, a bad time overcoming my embarrassment”.

[7] A conversation between Kelvin and Snow in Solaris. The two characters are giving their hypotheses on the visitors. “Perhaps it used a formula which is not expressed in verbal terms. It may be taken from a recording imprinted on our minds (…) ‘It’ removed the deepest, most isolates imprint, the most ‘assimilated’ structure, without necessarily knowing what it meant to us.”