Are humans necessary?

I’ve been working on some short stories recently, and interestingly (at least to me), they are coming out in very different styles and voices. The last one I completed, called ‘The Observer’ had really quite a Wellsian feel (think ‘ The Invisible Man’), because that slightly self-important, pompous first person voice fit the character the best. Some of the ones I’ve posted on here have been much darker than my usual writing.

The one I’m about to start, will probably be in the third person, and will feel quite different.ย  It’s focussed entirely on an alien world, and I’m grappling with the question of whether or not humans are necessary to the story. I’d really prefer not to have to have them, although they will be able to reflect on the social and cultural differences between the species. I’m rather hoping that people are able to draw those conclusions themselves though, without me having to point them out, and without the species in question seeming psychologically unrealistic. I suppose that human reflections may also be able to bring out some of the features of the world, in contrast to what we are used to on Earth.

So many stories are written from the point of view of human invaders / scientists / miners / traders encountering new life, and boldly going where no man has gone before, but are they really necessary?

I would genuinely be very interested to hear what others thoughts are on this issue. Do you think that having humans in a story helps us to understand contact with another species and worlds? Or are they there just to be conventional?



12 thoughts on “Are humans necessary?

  1. I’d say it really depends on what you mean. For example, there are stories like Animal Farm in which humans are not very important but the animals are meant to represent humans in some way, sometimes there’s a bunch of aliens species fighting against each other, but they too have some human characteristics. I think this is somehow natural, though, since it is easier to empathize (or sympathize) with humans or humanlike creatures and problems than anything else. It would be interesting to see a story in which humanity in general seems to be absent in every way and is an interesting challenge for every writer who is interested in this sort of things.

    • In books like Animal Farm, the animals are really metaphors for different types of people, so I suppose a science fiction story where we really get inside the thoughts of the characters could be seen in much the same way.
      It will be a challenge – you’re quite right there! But perhaps worth a go. Thanks for dropping in. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Humans come in handy for relatability to the characters, but are entirely unneccesary, in my opinion. I think some writers feel the need to include humans so that they have a hook, something the reader can grab onto and use as a guide for their journey through the story, but that’s very egocentric and closed-minded. Have you ever read Watership Down? It’s not Sci Fi, but it’s a bunch of rabbits and that’s pretty much it, and it’s one of the most emotionally compelling stories I’ve ever read. So, no, you don’t need humans – you only need readers who understand that emotions aren’t a strictly himan thing. I’d like to read the story when you’re done, if that’s okay…

    • I have read Watership Down, many years ago. As I recall, they did rather anthropomorphise the bunnies, but then that may well happen in this story too. happy to post it here when it’s finished, although it may be quite long. I’d be very happy to have your opinion of it..not my usual kind of sci-fi. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Really good question. I think human perspectives in these types of stories are important to us because, well, we like exploring different aspects of the human condition and nature, and we like stories about ourselves! It gives readers something to connect withโ€”we’re all human, after all. But I don’t think a story written without that perspective would be bad or uninteresting. I do think it’s a very basic and reliable foundation, but obviously the more creative you are with or without it, the better.

    • I’m hoping that I can draw some comparisons between the alien’s society and the way our own would operate without being too obvious about it. It is tempting to have a human view, or narrator, but then I would also have to answer a whole bunch of questions about them: what are they doing there; what is their relationship to the aliens; are they misintepreting any of the action etc etc. So I think I’ll ive it a go without and see if it works. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Definitely challenging – but hey, worth a go I think! ๐Ÿ™‚
      Most people see, to think that it would be interesting to try, so hopefully I can pull it off without it getting too odd.

  4. Pingback: A small piece of ‘Harmony’ | Writer's Block

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