Exploring SciFi Tropes: Planning An Alien Invasion by B.K. Bass - Lore Publication

Exploring SciFi Tropes

Hello and welcome to Lore Publication, a place where you can find insightful media for insightful minds. While Lore publishes short stories, writing prompts and flash fiction, we do occasionally publish articles related to the subjects of writing and books; we love all things literary! Today we have a treat for all you readers out there; the first guest article on Lore. If we could give out a medal for alien invasion books here at Lore, Bass would certainly be a winner with his wonderfully imaginative novel What Once Was Home. Without further ado, learn a bit more about the world and the book from the author himself!

Planning an Alien Invasion: A Guest Article From B.K. Bass

On Monday, Lore Publication posted a review by founder Stewart Storrar of my upcoming novel, What Once Was Home. The book is a post-apocalyptic science fiction tale that looks at what might occur during an alien invasion and the aftermath. In his review, Stewart had this to say about the invasion:

“Then we have where Bass shines; the alien antagonist. The aliens and how Bass has written them in this book is by far the most enjoyable and strongest aspect of the book. Having an alien invader that is both dangerous and fragile is a hard thing to do but Bass nailed it by having the aliens fragile as individuals but a force to be reckoned with in large groups. The conscious choice to have the aliens dehumanized in this book leads our main characters and us as readers into complex moral dilemmas later on in the book; moral dilemmas that aid in fleshing out both the protagonists and antagonists.”

From his review, I feel Stewart would agree that the “alien invasion” trope tends to lead to stories that focus more on action, are unrealistic, and eschew deep thought. I’m a fan of the genre and the trope, and have enjoyed a large number of books and films that employ them. Despite this, I must agree with Stewart.

So, how did the premise of an alien invasion turn into a story that tackled morality?

From the outset, I wanted to tackle deeper themes in this book. Often when one devises a plot, that becomes what the book is about. What Once Was Home isn’t about an alien invasion, it’s about the challenge of retaining one’s moral integrity in the face of impossible decisions. The invasion, and all that follows, is merely the setting for this exploration.

So, how does one plan an alien invasion so it might provide a vehicle to propel the deeper themes of a novel? As I mentioned, the first step was to set a focus on the theme, then build around that. I think realism is another key factor. You need to curate a certain suspension of disbelief in your reader if you want them to see past the situation presented to the themes that lie beneath. How did I accomplish this? Mostly, by not doing what Stewart says is his biggest complaint with the alien invasion trope:

“My hanging criticism of alien invasion stories is how humans still, through some miracle, win against these odds with no regard for how realistic (I use that word loosely here) winning would be.”

So, what was my answer to this? The next sentence might sound like a spoiler, but you’ll have to trust me that it isn’t. My answer to that problem was that humanity does not win. The main body of the novel takes place in a world where the aliens have occupied much of the planet, and the remnants of humanity struggle to survive this new paradigm.

Stewart has also mentioned the realism of the aliens themselves, and their dehumanization. The aliens in What Once Were Home are tough, but not invincible. They struggle with Earth’s gravity since it’s stronger than that of their own home. They have advanced technology that enables them to decimate humanity overnight, but not so powerful that they can exterminate us as easily. Just as humanity must learn to live on a world occupied by another dominant species, so too must the aliens learn to live on a world infested by humanity.

Yes, I said infested. That’s the last piece of the puzzle here: dehumanization. The aliens never attempt to communicate, and through a small interaction that does take place it’s made clear their physiology most likely eliminates the possibility of spoken dialogue. Humanity is hunted by them, and we hunt them back. We don’t know what the aliens call themselves, so we call them “twigs.” This is meant to be reminiscent of soldiers in Vietnam who fought “Charlie,” and those in Europe during the world wars who fought “krauts.” We dehumanize our human enemies to make the act of killing more palatable to the average soldier. So, it wasn’t a far leap to do the same for an alien invader.

But, I also dehumanized humanity in the novel. The aliens hunt us down, push us aside, and when we are out of the way; they ignore us. The “twigs” might have a similar derogatory term for humanity, but we may never know what that is. We see them as an infestation to be wiped from the planet, but they see us in the same light.

The real question is, when we come face to face with our foe and look them in the eye, are they really that different from us? Are they fighting for the same thing we are: a home?

About the Author: B.K. Bass

B.K. Bass is an author of science fiction, fantasy, and horror inspired by the pulp fiction magazines of the early 20th century and classic speculative fiction. He is a student of history with a particular focus on the ancient, classical, and medieval eras. He has a lifetime of experience with a specialization in business management and human relations and served in the U.S. Army. B.K. is also the Acquisitions Director for Kyanite Publishing, the Editor-in-Chief of the Kyanite Press journal of speculative fiction, and the Writing Department Chair for Worldbuilding Magazine. You can find out more about B.K. at https://bkbass.com.