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Sty-Fi One

Filmed science fiction has evolved a stylized presentation such that we might call the genre sty-fi with equal justice. Kabuki-style conventions produce a certain futuristic ambiance. Scientific content deployed to supply plot leverage has disappeared. What’s left is heroic fantasy in modern dress. Some of these convention are worth noting:

Aliens must be bi-pedal with arms and legs. Their females must have frontal mammaries of visibly notable protuberance. It will not do to introduce alien females who sport eight small teats running four- and-four in parallel down the female’s chest-to-belly regions. Alien females are forbidden to be bearded.

Aliens must be distinguished from humans by notable differences in their heads. Foreheads may be ridged, ears may be elongated or grossly exaggerated in complexity. Noses may be compressed, nostrils may be separated, cheek may be sunken or highly protruding. Two eyes, however, are obligatory. Huge hexagonal eyes that sit on top of the head are no-nos; so are eyes arranged on flexible antennae. If the aliens are cast as unmitigated evil, all bets are off: they may have monstrous octopus or spider-heads, these limited only by budgetary considerations. These creatures, however, must have oddly deformed vocal chords so that their speech (but only, perhaps in English, which is the second language of all aliens) has a deep, threatening or a high hissing sound.

Aliens must be obviously more rough, tough, and barbaric than humans or obviously much more ethereal, featureless, thin, fairy, and refined. If sexual mating between humans and aliens is part of the plot vector, the aliens must have acceptably human appearance—but in general it is assumed that love can suddenly ignite even between washboard-foreheads and Marilyn Monroe-shaped human females, between fetching females and lizards barely covered by camouflaging human outer skins—such collisions resulting in pregnancies, no less. Human females must be drawn to super-masculine alien roughness, no matter how dangerously craggy—at least on the visible surfaces of the alien bodies. Human males must be drawn to the ravishingly sexy bodies of aliens whose only “alien” features are their sensitivity, telepathic or psychic powers, and perhaps irresistibly cute ear deformations. Any violations of these sty-fi standards will remain on the cutting floor.

Sty-fi also demands, as already noted, that all species speak English, that all planets have a breathable gaseous atmosphere (otherwise the actors’ faces may not be seen), that visited worlds all have precisely the right gravity so that the invaders can walk upright. Neither spaceships nor alien buildings may have rectangular, arched, or circular openings. These must be oddly humped as if to indicate that straight lines and right angles are, well, so yesterday. The Editors would entertain receiving additional sty-fi conventions from readers of this blog, delivered via dwarfplanetpress@gmail.com, name of the contributor spelled out in full, please. Once we have a sufficient collection, we shall follow this up with a post entitled “Sty-Fi Two.”

The characters shown above are:

  • Kira Nerys, a Bajoran major, played by Nana Visitor, in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
  • Quark, a Ferengi trader, played by Armin Shimerman in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
  • Kahless the unifying emperor of the Klingon Empire, played by Robert Herron in Star Trek: the Original Series.

One Response

  1. Nice post. I would note that in cartoon sci-fi at least, the single eye is acceptable even in possible mates and can be made to appear very beautiful. Even machines come in one or two or many eyed forms. In Wall-E, obesity is acceptable in humans!

    As to women being attracted to rough alien males… well, let’s not forget rape… In Alien — the first film — it is a man who is “raped” and spawns the creature.
    I like the “Firefly” answer to gravitational atmospheric problems on new worlds: terraforming. It’s a trick kind of like gamma space!

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