Insectoid Aliens in Science Fiction Bug Us Out

In my first full-length novel, The Killbug Eulogies, human soldiers fight giant insectoid aliens across the galaxy. Bugs appeal to me in scifi because they are among the least human adversaries an audience can imagine. A werewolf, for instance, is ordinary human nature gone feral, but a bug’s life is completely alien to ours.

Some insectoid aliens look like a weevil I found on a subway platform in the Bronx.

The Humor of The Horror

Consider what is normal for an insect in a human context: quickly the grisly horror comes out the other side to absurd. For instance, the sexual practices of a mantis or bed bug are monstrous if you describe a single encounter, but as part of a day-to-day routine, it’s hard not to make jokes about it. A human society where one partner routinely devours the other’s head after intercourse isn’t even coherent.

On the other hand, people living in the kind of harmony found in a colony of ants or a hive of bees is equally surreal.

Insectoid Aliens Just Don’t Get You

Imagine if we could ask an insect questions about its values: “What’s the importance of family? What does real power look like? How do you define good and evil?” What would it say? Nothing we could relate to at all.

Nevertheless, insects belong to the animal kingdom, same as us. If nature planned our species a certain way, it had different ideas for theirs. A fully-functional society without spinal columns! These exist in numbers almost beyond counting. Yet we almost think they aren’t possible.

Live Together Live Alike

But if we shared a galaxy with insects who existed on the same scale as us, if they built communities that rivaled ours, we’d be forced to spend time thinking about the what’s and why’s of their way of life. Eventually, what makes them strange would start to make sense to us.

And if a struggle arose between our worlds, we would be forced to learn to think like each other, we would adopt each other’s tactics. Amid the intimacy of combat, each side would learn how the other behaves when the chips are down, what they truly value, what they fear the most, what scenarios they are surprisingly willing to tolerate. They would become like us, we would become like them.

Scary. Fascinating.

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