Home > Writing Tips > Xenofiction! And other cultures in general.

Xenofiction! And other cultures in general.
Xenofiction is a class of science fiction written from the perspective of species or cultures extremely different from humanity - stories like Watership Down (rabbits), Raptor Red (dinosaurs, mainly Utahraptors), Ecco the Dolphin (cetaceans), and so on.

I love xenofiction. I love reading it, and I love writing it. The thing, though, with writing about other species - or just cultures different from your own - is that, hey, there are going to be some differences. Research and a little imagination are some of a writer's best friends, especially when stepping out of your own culture, species, or both.

A bottlenose dolphin probably wouldn't greet something with open fins - their forelimbs are for steering, not grasping. Beings with beaks or simple facial muscles probably don't smile in the same manner humans do, or perhaps a smile means something completely different.

Okay, yeah, I just wanted an excuse to use my new favorite word. But still: other cultures/species = imagination and research. Please.
It's always a good idea to read over fics where characters are animals/far enough away from humans to be different, because a lot of times things can sneak by you simply because the author is human.

For example: "On the other hand..." Dolphins, to use your example, don't have hands. XD
Exactly. Using idioms that refer to human body parts or inventions can look really strange when writing xenofiction. Sometimes you just have to get creative; perhaps an equivalent dolphin expression could be "Looking from another direction..." or whatever.

I actually did see that 'open fins' thing once in an Ecco the Dolphin fanfic. That one threw me right out of the story, as did a mention of Ecco smiling.
As far as human standards of smiling, don't dolphins always look like they're smiling? XP (Ecco is a cool series, btw... I just wish I could find my Ecco Genesis games.)

A lot of people overlook things in anthropomorphic fiction, too, although I suppose sometimes it's forgivable because you could simply be making them seem more human-like than animal-like...
Well, yes, but he was supposed to have been smiling in response to other dolphins. So yeah, no. XD (It is. If I may descend into shameless self-promotion, I've taken a challenge over at LiveJournal to write 100 fics set in the Genesis timeline. Link's in my profile! [/shamelessness])

And yeah, there is that. Even in stories where the anthros are pretty much culturally human, there's still going to be differences, like with the meanings of tail position, ear position, or fur poofing up.
I enjoyed the Duncton Wood novels by William Horwood. They followed the lives and adventures of a group (burrow? nest?) of moles. It was quite Watership Down, really. I guess they fall under the xenofiction heading. I think he also wrote a series called The Wolves of Time, about a pack of timber wolves.

I read Raptor Red a long time ago when I was going through my dinosaurs are great phase, and enjoyed it. And Watership Down is just one of the saddest novels I have ever read...

Tarka the otter is brilliant. The way the ending is never fails to make me cry....!
(Sparky: I saw that link in your profile when I was reading your Ecco fics a little while ago. I'm applying for the Star Fox series in fanfic100. X3)

Watership Down and Redwall were some of my favorite books when I was younger.

Star Fox, the video game I'm currently a fan on, is anthro, and I always have problems figuring out what to call them as a group, or whether the bird anthros should have wings or arms.
I'd forgotten Tarka the Otter. Very sad book. I was addicted to the Silver Brumby books and the novels of Joyce Stranger when I was a kid. Chia the Wildcat and The Running Foxes always make me cry...

Joyce Stranger was (is?) a naturalist, so her books are full of realistic detail about the lives of the animals she wrote about. Mostly British wildlife such as foxes, wildcats and deer, but I think she wrote some set in Australia too.

Anthro-wise, Redwall was fantastic, and I've always had a sneaking fondness for cartoons like Bucky O'Hare and Sandokan hides

Hmm. I wonder if there's any Sandokan or Tailspin fanfic out there...
Read The Silver Brumby and The Running Foxes. Also, the Run Like the Wind books are exellent. I am a Redwall lover!^_^ I have every Redwall (storybook not little add on) exept 3, and I've read those 3!