Fiction is an artform which is unique in its ability to see live through the eyes of another, and none moreso than xenofiction. Xenofiction is defined as a story told from the perspective of a non-human. In wider literature, this perspective is often that of an animal. Within sci fi, the perspective is often an alien, AI being, or nanoswarm that has taken over a human. Let’s check out some of the best xenofiction within the world of sci fi.
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Speaker For The Dead
Orson Scott Card
Speaker For The Dead is a sequel to the widely praised Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. We won’t delve too deeply into the plot to avoid any spoilers for those who haven’t had the pleasure of the original book, but fans of xenofiction and sci fi in general are sure to love this one. The narrative perspective is a clever one, and there are subtleties and layers to the xenofiction perspective that are revealed as the story develops. Read Ender’s Game first, but definitely make time for Speaker For The Dead after.
Iain M Banks
Excession is one of the middle books in Iain M Banks’ culture series, but is perhaps the best example of xenofiction from Banks. To have a full understanding of the non-human perspective, one must read the prequels, but in essence Excession features incredibly powerful AIs. Given that real human society is moving more and more in an AI direction, Excession is sure to provide food for thought for the contemporary reader.
Needle by Hal Clement was originally released back in the 1950s, and was considered groundbreaking at the time. Why? It introduced a groundbreaking new concept into the world of xenofiction sci fi - a benevolent possessive force. Before Needle, entities controlling humans were widely seen as hostile or negative. Needle broke new ground in showing they could in fact be positive. A classic read which helped set the stage for leader titles in sci fi xenofiction.
The Crucible Of Time
The Crucible Of Time by John Brunner is a fine example of 1980s sci fi. The story deals with an alien race who are forced to escape their homeworld. The reason this story is such an excellent choice for fans of xenofiction is down to its convincing and thorough presentation of aliens and the way in which their biology differs from our own. Although the points of difference between the aliens in The Crucible Of Time and humanity are incredibly interesting, the true fascination lies in the commonality between all living things.
Nor Crystal Tears
Alan Dean Foster
Nor Crystal Tears by Alan Dean Foster is part of the Humanx Commonwealth universe, but works well as a standalone tale. If the unique ability of xenofiction is to make the reader empathize with an unusual perspective, Nor Crystal Tears certainly achieves it. The non-human viewpoint takes the form of an insect-like race. The story draws upon ideas from the first contact genre to explore the fear an alien race might feel when encountering humans for the first time. Classic sci fi xenofiction.
Evolution is one of the more recent examples of xenofiction on this list, having been published in the 21st century. It is also one of the most visionary. How so? Evolution deals with an incredible timespan, going deep into the past, and then looking far into the future. Along the way, the stories incorporate a wide range of xenofiction, including many species and variations on commonly recognized lifeforms.
The Gods Themselves
Like much of sci fi powerhouse Isaac Asimov’s work, The Gods Themselves was first released as a series of stories, before being grouped into a single book. This is perhaps the most critically acclaimed work of sci fi xenofiction on the list, having won both the Hugo and Nebula awards. The non-human perspective stems from the inhabitants of a parallel universe which operates according to different laws than our own. Asimov explores the interaction between universes with his usual intellectual rigor.
The Faded Sun
The Faded Sun trilogy is a masterful example of sci fi xenofiction. Unlike many of the other works on this list, which feature the non-human perspective exclusively, The Faded Sun makes use of both human and non-human main characters. This helps to contrast the human way of thinking and acting with the alien way. As well as skillfully navigating this dual-xenofiction viewpoint, Cherryh presents a gripping and moving coming of age tale. Highly recommended.
They Called Me Dragon
Gail Ann Gibbs
As well as sharing some of the best and most established xenofiction writers, Top Sci Fi Books is keen to promote some lesser-known and up an coming talent within the genre. One such example is Gail Ann Gibbs. Gibbs mixes elements of children’s storytelling, fantasy fiction, and xenofiction in They Called Me Dragon. It’s an interesting take on the genre and one suitable to introduce younger readers to non-human perspectives.
The Straggler's Mask
The Straggler’s Mask mixes together aspects of fantasy, science fiction, xenofiction, and planetary adventure. It deals with a non-human protagonist, forced to compete a challenging quest under testing circumstances. Pohjalainen is one of the newer voices among modern xenofiction writers, and it’s encouraging to see the genre taken in new and weird directions as it has been here.
What Is A Xenofiction Science Fiction Book?
Xenofiction is a type of storytelling which shows events from a non-human perspective. The non-human aspect may take up the whole of the story, or only part of it. For example, some books have sections told from a non-human viewpoint, while others consist entirely of non-human narration.
Xenofiction exists more broadly than just as a subgenre of sci fi. For example, stories told from the viewpoint of an animal can be said to be xenofiction. However, given the prevalence of non-human characters in sci fi, it is a rich source of xenofiction inspiration
What Are Some Common Perspectives For Sci Fi Xenofiction Stories To Be Told From?
There are a wide range of different ways sci fi authors have got to grips with the xenofiction style of writing, and these have produced a rich variety of narrators.
There are, of course, variations on each of the following, and mix ups and blends, but a lot of sci fi xenofiction makes use of the following ideas:
Aliens. Naturally, science fiction often features creatures from other worlds. Some xenofiction is told from the perspective of an alien living on their home planet. This gives the author plenty of scope to get inside that society, and the psychology of its inhabitants. Other stories show an alien reacting to life on Earth.
Human hosts. Remember that scene in Men In Black when a small alien is controlling the mind of a human? A lot of sci fi xenofiction works like that. Sometimes, aliens will inhabit a human form, either through physical or technological means. This gives a chance for the author to explore the interaction between human and alien means of existing.
AI. A lot of sci fi, particularly in the more recent decades, has explored what will happen when AI gains power. This is ripe grounds for xenofiction, as it allows the reader to try and envision things as an AI would. This has a special level of potency in the modern era as we are on the cusp of AI becoming something truly meaningful.
A lot of xenofiction perspectives have a lot in common with human ones, while some are truly unique. Xenofiction and science fiction are perfect partners, and the combination has produced some of the most imaginative and mind blowing stories in all of sci fi.
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