For a long time, filmmakers assumed that aliens would always look more or less like us. Two arms, two legs, one head (that may be extra big, but still). The Star Trek series had an explanation for this buried somewhere in Next Generation, but I suspect much of the time it had to do with how to fit an actor into the alien suit.
But that was the past. Nowadays, there’s aliens come in an array of shapes and sizes. In short, as special effects evolves, aliens have a chance to be a whole lot more… well, alien! As part of the Sci Fi track for OWS CyCon 2019, I’m going to be counting down the alien lifeforms that scare me the most, no matter their shape. If you want to check out more posts from this Top 5 themed blog hop, visit the tour page. There’s also a ton of awesome Sci Fi stuff taking place all over the web, and you can get a the full list of activities on the main Sci Fi page. (Hot tip – There’s a MEGA e-book giveaway happening, and all you have to do is follow indie authors on social media to enter!) Plus, you can find out about indie Romance, Horror/Thriller, and other genre writers on the main website.
Number 5 – Jabba the Hut
Okay, okay, I know this chubby reject from the Glo Worms probably doesn’t strike fear in the hearts of everyone. But here’s the thing. Unlike the aliens that behave more less like wild animals, Jabba and the whole Hut clan are willfully horrible. They are crime bosses with salacious appetites and the money to get more or less anything they want. I have definitely had nightmares where I am in Leia’s place and that slimy tongue is headed right for me. EEEEEEEK!
Number 4 – Armus (the Black Puddle) in Star Trek: Next Generation “Skin of Evil”
One of the striking differences between TNG and the first run of Star Trek is that there is real loss very early on. I’m not saying you don’t lose the occasional unnamed red shirt in the original Star Trek, but losing named characters was unusual.
Security Chief Tasha Yar falls victim to a remorseless lifeform in the form of a tarry puddle on the surface of a rocky, barren planet. A humanoid shape rises from the muck in order to communicate, but it’s true form is a puddle of goo. Yar’s death comes without warning and told the audience that this wasn’t going to be the same happy go lucky Star Trek they’d gotten used to. By resetting the tone of the entire franchise, not to mention tugging on the viewer’s heartstrings, this malevolent puddle deserves a mention.
Number 3 – The Unnamed Aliens from the Aliens Franchise
Though this species never receives a name, I think in some ways that actually adds to its mystique. The original Alien film is one of the best examples of “Monster in the House” ever made. Not only is there the threat within the ship, but to leave it means certain death in the vacuum of space. Though I don’t see myself going into orbit any time soon, the prospect of drifting into the void always makes my heart drop into my stomach. The parasitic nature of these creepy beasts makes them doubly scary. I would have had them higher on the list except that later installments of the franchise (I’m looking at you #3) undercut the visceral yuckiness when they switched to CG. Alien: Resurrection saved the day though, with the added benefit of Sigourney Weaver losing her unambiguous hero status and becoming as unpredictable as the aliens themselves.
Number 2 – The Silence from Doctor Who
Like the aforementioned Huts, The Silence are anything but a species reacting on instinct. These cunning aliens infiltrate the entire planet and nobody even realizes it. With their ability to make you forget them the moment you look away, they are almost impossible to detect. They use the power of suggestion to steer the human race to their own ends, and they don’t have our best interest at heart. These really are the kind of creep that could be standing RIGHT BEHIND YOU and there would be nothing you could do about it.
Number 1 – The Protomolecule from The Expanse
Back when I was working at the California Academy of Sciences, I watched a lot of nature documentaries. One scene that will stay with my until the day I die is part of Planet Earth when an ant is infected with a fungus that makes it act crazy. Aware of the danger, one of its fellow ants drags its fellow out of the nest, and the fungus drives it to climb higher and higher. Eventually, in gorgeously gross fast-motion, you see the fungus actually spring from the back of the head and grow to longer than the ant’s entire body.
The glowing blue whatchamacallit from the Expanse operates in much the same way. Seeing that poor woman encased in fungal growths on the floor of her shower will haunt me for years to come. And it’s a force of nature rather than operating with a will of its own, which somehow makes it both inexorable and even scarier to me. The organism and how the humans interact with it changes as the series continues, but in that early encounter, it freaked me out.
Now of course, there are plenty of other freaky aliens to choose from. Honorable mentions go to the Independence Day aliens, as well as the evolution-inducing bubble of evil soap called The Shimmer in Annihilation. What about you? Do you have a favorite freaky alien you’d include in your own countdown? Do the ones on my list make you shiver, too? Share it in the comments!
Other amazing Sci Fi authors are counting down their favorite books, movies, foods, locations, AI, and more over on the Top 5 tour page. Check it out.
We’ve also got three World-building Showcases for folks to tell us about the world of their novels and the process for creating them. They’re divided into Unbound to Earth (aliens/space travel), The End of the World (apocalyptic/dystopian), and Sci Fi Goes Punk (alternative timelines and punking the status quo). Plus, find out more about the Greatest Gadgets our authors have to offer.