A Writerly Conundrum

So I took the 20K word fragment I’m trying to resurrect into a book proposal and ran it through the hamsters.  The consensus was that what I had worked, which is a good thing since I wrote it over 10 years ago.  However, everyone had the same problem, which is a uniquely SFnal one.

I have a environment without a human POV, everything is from the perspective of my aliens.  Because of this I have, writ large, the problem you have in a 1st person story of describing the protagonist.  When you’re writing from the POV of an alien species, they generally aren’t going to conveniently think of their morphology for the reader’s benefit.  Also, the old trick of passing a character in front of a mirror isn’t going to work, because these guys do not have eyes as such.  They have overdeveloped echolocation and some limited sense of heat/IR radiation.  It is literally impossible for these creatures to perceive themselves as human would.  But I’m trying to give a human reader a mental image of what they “look” like, from within that alien POV.

Oh, then we have pronouns in English used for a species where gender is a completely social construct independent of biology. . .

Fun ways to my my job difficult.

3 Replies to “A Writerly Conundrum”

  1. Sorry I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. Yeah, that’s a hard nut, especially if they’re the POV, they won’t think of themselves as “odd”. If it’s an alien contact, you could use a critique of how weird these earthlings are to rely on something as fickle and easily tricked as a higher spectrum of radiation (since they can’t “see” they wouldn’t have the concept of “visible” light, or for them it would be in the IR spectrum – “how can they see that way?”). OR reading a contact report filed by the humans, “Silly humans, a five pointed star head is the natural way, that roundish thing with a lower form of bilateral symmetry is so limiting and indicitive of their lower evolutionary path.” Or the ever popular, “We look weird, have you looked at yourselves recently. Only two legs, what’s up with that?”

    As for the pronouns, if gender is a construct, I would assume there would be outward signs of such. Other than that it would have to be based on how/when then create gender, what are the social stigmas put on the selection or assignment, etc. In their culture, would it be a social gaff to wrongly assume which gender? Would one be considered “more/less preferable”.

    And strange human biology, and I’m sure you know this, we are all female to start. It’s only because of the Y chromosome that male babies get different signals when producing hormones at something like the 6 week or so (I’d have to recheck) that alters the female body structure to a male body structure. This is why there are three extra chromosome syndromes for females (affecting chromosome pair 26, XXY, XXX, and XY, in the later, something happens that inhibits the overproduction of testosterone and other hormones so the fetus remains morphologically female) and only one for males (XYY). Besides the whole “androgyny” thing (which have a higher percentage of XY sex pairings).

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