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Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Alien Nonhuman Beings in Literature and Film

     Aliens--nonhuman beings, usually intelligent and sentient, usually from places other than Earth--are of the most familiar elements of science fiction. Even people who don't read science fiction have become well acquainted with quite a few of them through television shows and movies. "E.T." was the title character of one of the highest-grossing movies ever made; the Star Wars movies popularized wookies, Yoda and Jabba the Hut; Star Trek offered a steady parade of nonhuman life-forms, some of them regular members of the cast.

     Movies have been dealing with aliens for much longer. Invasions of giant spiders and such have long been a staple of low-budget horror films, while occasionally a film would try something a bit more sophisticated like H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds. The same novel inspired Orson Wells' 1938 radio broadcast that literally terrified thousands of listeners.

     Printed science fiction has also featured a great many aliens, often with more care and finesse than they've usually received in the visual and broadcast media.

     Some writers have made a specialty of creating fascinating, believable aliens, along with their cultures and the worlds that produced them. Intelligent nonhumans have been an important element in literature much longer than what we now know as science fiction. Gods, demons and talking animals appear in the most ancient mythologies. The folklores of many lands have produced elves, dragons and trolls that have persisted in some form into the written fantasy of today.

Stanley Schmidt, Aliens and Alien Societies, 1995 

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