Extra-Terrestrial, Extra-Tantalizing

I don’t know what it is about the unknown that keeps us enthralled. Scientists have been studying planets and other celestial bodies in hopes of answering the question on whether or not another lifeform exists in outer space. If it were impossible to send out spacecrafts until today, and no proof whatsoever of aliens visiting Earth was found, I strongly believe there would still be a lot of fiction written about them. It is in our intrinsic nature to seek company, even the company of those that very much unlike us. How you wish they were real.


Regardless of what your spiritual belief is, human as you are, you tend to have faith in something bigger than you. Or at least you want to believe that such entity exists. In ancient  Greece, they have made up gods and goddesses, which are very significant characters in their literature, to make life more meaningful and interesting. I admit, if I were born in that time and place, I would have been greatly impressed at the creativity of the minds of those who birthed these characters. From nothing, they have constructed a hierarchy of beings that don’t exist at all. Even so, not being tangible did not stop these beings from being a thing of interest up until today.


Going back to aliens, these extra-terrestrial beings – they were very popular elements in books during the Golden Age of Science Fiction. How this genre originated is actually very, put in a lesser formal expression, cool. See, in the 1930s and 1940s science fiction was only beginning to catch the attention of the public. That time, the hot topic in print and media was stories of war. Some writers who would rather not do a parallel scheme for fear that they might end up soliciting negative impressions from the masses, decide to tell stories about the World Wars using an out of this world scenario. They have pioneered the ‘Intergalactic Wars’. And somehow, these stories have formed one of the largest fan bases in the sphere of fiction. Today, grand conventions are held to celebrate the different characters of this genre and many of the attendees come wearing costumes. You have got to admit, once in your life, you wanted to play the role of any character from either Star Trek or Star Wars, two of the most popular products of science fiction.


If you have read any sci-fi novels, you will notice that although the story is set somewhere in a galaxy, far, far, away, the aliens in the story show some very human-like traits. This is because their emotions are patterned from that of ours. This is how being creative can give us god-like powers. Creativity enables you to produce something new, and part of it reflects you. It’s not exclusively Biblical to say that creation is created in the image of the creator. Many authors of fiction will agree that most of their characters identify with them, not the other way around.


Even if there really aren’t any aliens out there, I’m sure you will be able to make  a story about them. Yes, you, using nothing but your imagination. I’m encouraging you to write your own sci-fi story. It doesn’t have to be about a war. What is your idea of an alien civilization? You can use romance, comedy, or both as a theme to have an unusual take on the genre.


A philosopher once asked, ‘Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human?’ Pointless, really… ‘Do the stars gaze back?’ Now, that’s a question.” – Neil Gaiman

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It’s A Steal! (Or, Creativity Through ‘Copying’)

One of the most popular adages people cling to for reassurance is “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Depending on one’s perspective, this could be true – or it could be uncanny, or simply downright terrifying. But discussions of the uncanny and the horrific are not the point.

Imitation, however sincere and flattering, can also be limiting, especially in the creative sense. Sure, it takes some creativity to imitate – trying to be someone else isn’t exactly a walk in the park – but the very idea of imitation entails one thing: making something until you reach the level of that which you are imitating. In short, no growth, no transcendence, no full use of potential.

One could argue that imitation isn’t limiting though, by posing the idea that imitation is all anyone can do. “Originality is dead” is something people could use to justify the derivative feel of whatever they’ve made. I agree that a lot of things today are essentially derivatives of things before, and this is considering the monumental list of intellectual backlog stored in thousands and thousands of years of history and of past cultures and civilizations. It’s also probably confusing, because people’s creative energies are spurred by the very things that they are inspired by. Fanfiction is a manifestation of this.

I’m getting a little off tangent here, I think. Let’s see. Imitation is limiting, but it doesn’t have to be, if one is able to transcend the imitation and add whatever he or she has to it. The idea is to build up on an idea, compound it, not create something that’s a carbon copy of it. (Carbon copy is pushing it, I think, because that’s functional plagiarism, but the idea is there, hopefully). Instead of making something identical – to, say, a piece of literature, for example – inject a bit of yourself into the work, or take pieces off of other things. Mix and match, find whichever fits the general framework of what you need. Or, instead of imitating, create something that is the polar opposite of what has been made.

I’ve been speaking in vague terms so far, but I do have a few examples:

  • Poet Dante Alighieri, famous for his Divine Comedy. The idea of the Divine Comedy is essentially a man’s guide to get closer to God, or be virtuous, or something along those lines. What Dante did, however, was not take the Bible – basically the holy text of Christianity – and build his Comedy by following the Bible’s depictions of Heaven and Hell. What he did was create his own spaces and own structure for Heaven and Hell, and add his own Purgatory to it. Dante gets incredibly creative with his punishments in Inferno (for a good sampling, see the punishments on the Flatterers, the Seers, the Sodomites, and the Suicides). He creates spaces for different kinds of virtuous people in Dante did not lift directly out of the Bible, but instead crafted his own spaces while still keeping virtuousness in mind.
  • Neil Gaiman, though he’s not the only one who does fairy tale retellings. “Snow, Glass, and Apples” is a rather morbid but darkly satisfying retelling of Snow White. The Sleeper and the Spindle, a new release (illustrated by Chris Riddell) is also a retelling-slash-mashup of both Sleeping Beauty and Snow White (I haven’t read it yet, personally, so I’m only relying on the wonderful Internet summaries and commentary for this). In fact, fairy tale retellings are retellings of retellings, though with a new spin.

Finally, a few words. I agree that originality is dead (and this is probably going against the first ideas that Sasa presents in the previous post – sorry, Sasa!) but only to a certain extent. The execution always counts. If you manage to spin something new out of something old, or tackle it through a new viewpoint or from a new angle, then why not, right? What counts, of course, is how imaginative you can be. Just think of Dante and his contrapasso in the Inferno, and you hopefully get inspired by that.

A Few Things:

I kept mentioning Dante, and briefly mentioned the contrapasso. If you’re interested in finding out what it is, go here.

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