The Alien’s Point of View

Most of you who read this blog know that I write science fiction, and that includes short stories as well as novels.  Many of my stories involve aliens that either come to Earth or find themselves face-to-face with humans on, say, another planet.  And many times I will write the story either wholly or in part from the point of view of the alien.  That’s right, from the alien’s point of view.

This isn’t too unusual, a lot of stories present part of the story from an alien’s POV, but it does bring up some unusual challenges for the writer.  What I’m specifically referring to is, how objective does the writer have to be when it comes to describing the humans and the other animals and Earth-related objects as the alien sees them?  Suppose an earthling is wearing blue jeans.  From the alien’s POV, he/she/it probably wouldn’t know what jeans are.  But would he know what pants are?  Would he even know what clothing is?  Or would it be appropriate for the author to go into exquisite detail and describe the blue objects covering the lower half of that persons body?  An alien may not even recognize “coverings” in the sense we use the term.  The reader would certainly grasp the idea immediately, and a substantial description of “blue jeans” might be boring and superfluous.

Likewise, actions of Earthlings.  Say an earthling is digging a hole in the soil on an alien planet.  Would the author describing this scene need to describe the actions–from the point of view of an alien–in serious detail?  Again, that might be boring and superfluous.  Should the author even describe the implement (i.e., the shovel) and go into detail describing a simple object the reader already knows about?  Would the reader understand the author’s intent in this situation?  It may sound like a relatively simple and easily solved problem to a non-writer, but it requires the author to walk a fine line between over-describing and insulting the reader on the one hand, and having the alien be knowledgeable about facts that he/she/it wouldn’t actually know if, in fact, the situation were real that is, if the alien really did come from another planet.  How many aliens out there know what blue jeans are?  Or a shovel?

Anybody want to attempt a comment?

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