Why in the world do so many alien females have entirely human anatomy? Okay, I understand that a form similar to ours is often a way to balance the alien with the familiar. I’m sure some of you recall that I did a three-part series on finding this balance. That doesn’t mean that genders are going to present identically to humanity quite so often. You can find those original entries here: part 1, part 2, and part 3.
This is something that has been bugging me a lot lately. Movies, television shows and books I’ve run across lately have all been throwing colorful skins over humans and calling it an alien or in one case, a set of anthropomorphic creatures. I’ll focus on the anthro, since I suppose you can argue a case for the human-alien designs regardless of evolutionary origin. With earthly animals, however, this isn’t as readily argued.
When you design anthropomorphic animals for your stories, you are working with what we as humans already understand to be true. Fish are aquatic, birds have feathers and mammals are the only creatures to have mammary glands. You get a pass on the upright walking and a hand wave for the use of fingers and talking. Some works keep their animals more animalistic than others. I especially enjoy those where the animals still handle behavior in the same manner as an animal of their sort would.
The creators wouldn’t consider making the birds in their work featherless, so why would they give non-mammals a set of very human breasts? To me, and be aware that this entire post is only my opinion, a lizard that has fully human anatomy drags me right out of the narrative. I guess in works made for very young viewers/readers, near-human anatomy helps to distinguish genders and expressions more quickly, but in works made for adults, it feels jarring to me.
Knowing that you only get one freebie in most writing, I would suggest that you heed this caution for your own work. Don’t create more reasons for people to be drawn out of your story than you absolutely have to. Only go as far afield from logic as it takes to make the story work and no further. Your audience will flex with you some, but you don’t want the story to get stretched so thin it breaks. These are just my thoughts and opinions. How do you feel about such stories? Do you prefer your aliens and anthro to feel more human or less human?