Greetings, entity from Urrth!
We have been observing you for a long time and think you need some help with figuring out a way to know when you are associating with intelligent beings. Your so-called science fiction literature is a curious mix of correct ideas and complete lack of imagination. As you are about to try to colonize your own solar system, we will help you understand that others are moving around in the Universe ahead of you.

The picture above is a view of two of our colonies on your biggest gas giant planet. Are we individual or collective intelligences? Can you figure out which are habitations and which are alien organisms? We think not.

We also have colonies on some of your other worlds. We are not so foolish as to give you the location of our homeworld (or to let you see us as we really are). Suffice it to say we can engineer our colonies to take advantage of density differences under high gravity, magnetic fields and berserk atmospheric flow patterns which would demolish your feeble space craft. We think the weather on Jupiter is quite stimulating.

There are several ways to organize the imaginings of science fiction and science
fantasy graphic artists in any medium.
I found out after I had collected about 70 images out that there were categories of intelligent aliens which corresponded to "models" based on Urrth creatures, real, fancied or mythical. My collection has expanded to several hundred examples, and the categories have held up as my collection expanded to hundreds of examples. The basic organization of these pages follows the models which authors have used as templates for "intelligent aliens."

Why would soemthing which was supposed to be exceedingly strange turn out to be familiar? The problem with aliens is that they are not unfamiliar, or most readers would find them incomprehensible or uninteresting. On occasion, authors deliberately invert shapes or gender and social roles to make a point. The latter is particularly common in sociological science fiction.

Recurrent motifs are also discussed with each template. Generally, authors have shied away from completely alien intelligence, possibly because writing incomprehensible material would not sell books (not to mention that editors hate stuff they don't understand). One usual theme is "alien intelligence is different from human intelligence." Themes also look for emotional impact: pick a scary model and invest it with malignant purpose. A prime example of malignant model/malignant intelligence is the recent series of Alien movies. The Aliens come as a pair: a Creator Bioengineer Alien and its Created Bioweapon Alien. The bioweapon model is a hodgepodge of scary traits borrowed from terrestrial species and has sold a lot of movie tickets. But pick something cute (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Extraterrestrial) and the entities are imps, scamps or just plain nice.

Is it possible for one intelligence to accurately imagine another? Won't imaginings always have a tinge of human experience?

It also happened on the way to a sci fi literature that there was a chronological search for weirdness, beginning with familiar things with unfamiliar colors. As decades wore on, cover artists in search of deeply strange critters cracked open biology texts and cast some of the more menacing micro-life as characters of their alien bestiaries.

There is an annotated bibliography for this series of pages: it is intentionally incomplete. All images on these pages are either created by me (as is the one at the tope of the page) or credit is given in the legend of the image and its source is in the bibliography. The bibliography has links to publishers and other websites of interest to sci fi mavens.

The science implied in illustrations varies from solid to fake to imaginary (allowance made for the purposes of a story). The sandworms of Arrakis (Dune) are a cross between earthworms and hookworms (with a quantum mechanically impossible metabolism).

Further, themes from myths have found a happy home in the sci fi/fantasy literature. These pages are organized to show how model categories change through time, with space for mythic monsters of cultural fancy. Comments concerning race and gender are made in the context of the images.

Here is the list of categories. Enjoy.

Alien Chemistries and Ecologies (includes crystals)
Arthropods (Bugs in the nontechnical sense)
Brains (disembodied and floating around in space, of course)
Canines (doggies)
Cephalopods (octopus, nautilus, cuttlefish, and so forth)
Colenterates (remember the Far Point Space Medusae from Star Trek, the Next Generation?
Felines (lions, tigers and kitty kats, Oh My!)
Hoofed Critters (centaurs, goatoids)
Plants (vines and trees with the very odd flower...)
Primates (that's us)
Protozoa (amebas are popular, with a few paramecia
Reptilians (always good for a scream)
Robots and Cyborgs (these run the gamut from the World's Worst Robots to cute machines like R2D2)
Worms (round and segmented with ugly mouth parts)