Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Poll

One of the many great things about this blog is its large readership, which makes it useful to me when I'm asking for outside opinions on some matter about which I've not yet made up my mind. As the publication of Thousand Suns draws near (at last!), I've been spending some time thinking about a couple of the follow-up books I want to write for it over the next year or so. One of them is a compendium of aliens, both intelligent and otherwise. I want a simple one-word title to follow the line name -- like Thousand Suns: Starships or Thousand Suns: Technology -- but I'm torn, because of the plethora of words used in sci-fi to describe the study of alien lifeforms.

So, I've set up a little poll to the left. If you have any opinion on the matter, take the time to vote for your preferred term. If you have a better term than those I put forward in the poll, feel free to make a comment about it below and let me know what term you prefer and why. Likewise, while I recognize that the three terms in the poll all have slightly different technical meanings, I'm treating them more or less interchangeably for present purposes. On the other hand, if you feel strongly that one or more of those terms is somehow inappropriate, feel free to comment about that, too.

Thanks in advance.

56 comments:

  1. So, uh, what's wrong with 'Aliens?'

    ReplyDelete
  2. Looks like the Xenos have it so far.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Nothing's "wrong" with it, except that I didn't want to call it that.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Though Xenobiology has a nice cachet, the term used by scientists is exobiology. I also like the translated meaning better: 'external biology' rather than 'biology of the stranger/foreigner'.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "Xenobiology" has a solid pedigree, being coined, I think, by Heinlein.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Yeah - Heinlein trumps academia - by a mile. :)

    - Ark

    ReplyDelete
  7. If your other supplements are going to be named stuff like "1k Suns: Starships" or "1k Suns: Technology", then this supplement should be "1k Suns: Aliens".

    That being said, within the text of the supplement you could refer to the study of alien lifeforms with a specific name. My preference is "xenobiology". I just don't think that it (or the others) makes a good title.

    Verification word: BEERAT. Now there's an interesting alien life form...

    ReplyDelete
  8. "Astrobiology" is definitely the most raygun-retro, if you want that.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Since I cross-posted, I'll add that if you *don't* want "Aliens" as the title, you really should change the other potential titles; they don't fit. Or, at least, the "starships" one doesn't. Maybe rename it to "transportation"?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Nothing's "wrong" with it, except that I didn't want to call it that.

    Well, if nothing's wrong with it, why didn't you want to call it that? : P

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'd say it depends very much on the distribution of the beings to be described, and whether they're 'alien' just because this is a useful term for us or the reader, or whether they actually will be presented as alien to one or more specific groups within the fiction. For example, if 'exo-', what are they outside? If 'xeno-', foreign to whom?

    The term 'biology' could be inappropriate too if one or more beings is not actually biological. If not for that, I'd suggest 'astrobiology' as the best of the bunch, even if it assumes in a similar way to 'exo-' that the viewpoint is not already among the stars - which even to us as planet-bound it is of course - or an omnipresence say. Nor does it extend to the possibility life could be imagined to exist in realms beyond the physical among the stars.

    I do like the simple 'lifeforms', although this isn't beyond reproach - is 'life' a relevant term? Would 'form' be suitable for some more indistinct and indeterminate beings?

    No surprise I voted 'Other'. Maybe 'others'?

    ReplyDelete
  12. "Lifeforms" is an interesting option, but I still want to hear more suggestions.

    This is good. Thanks, everyone, for the comments so far; they've proven far more helpful than you know.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'd say you don't want to use exobiology *because* that's the "correct" term and might imply you'll be all dry and realistic (for certain values of realism, of course). Xenobiology has an appropriate SF pedigree while still sounding properly scientific.

    I agree with Zak that astrobiology sounds all retro so avoid it unless you want that.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I propose "Biologies"

    At the risk of sounding PC, I'd want to avoid the implication that all life forms not native to Earth are fundamentally similar to each other, and defined first and foremost by their difference from the Earth standard.

    I was going to suggest simply "Biology," my theory being the study of living things is simply the study of living things and someone who studies birds and fungi would be the first person to ask about wookies.

    But then I thought that each instance of non-Earth life could be so different, that it would form its own discipline: Earth Biology, Martian Biology, Saturnine Biology, etc. A survey of all of these would be Biologies.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I voted "Xenobiology" just because it sounded the most fitting.

    Here's another suggestion: "Thousand Suns: Sophonts"?

    ReplyDelete
  16. I know it isn't what you want to call the book, but I think "Aliens" is right. If the other books are "Starships", "Technology", etc. "Aliens" is the natural sounding counterpart.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I was also hoping to find "lifeforms" on the poll.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Xenology can represent anything alien whether it is biological or totally alien in nature. Think about the Horta in Star Trek or all those energy beings that seem to be everywhere except here.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I know it isn't what you want to call the book, but I think "Aliens" is right. If the other books are "Starships", "Technology", etc. "Aliens" is the natural sounding counterpart.

    I am coming to be convinced of this quite rapidly.

    Thanks again, everyone.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I'm with Secret Chipmunk on "xenology," especially if you're going to cover anything more than simple biology (including ecology and/or culture/politics where appropriate.) It sounds like a more macro approach.

    Also, I suggest "xeno" as opposed to "exo" because "exo" (like Porky noted) is "outside," where the Greek root "xenos" means "foreign" or simply "strange."

    ReplyDelete
  21. Instead of "Lifeforms," why not simply "Life?" It seems both more compact and more poetic.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Full disclosure: I do not own a copy of, nor have yet played "Thousand Suns."

    I chose other, because be it xeno-, exo- or astro-, I don't think biology is the draw when it comes to using aliens in a game. From Klingons to Zhodani, Puppeteers to Tynes, what makes aliens interesting and gameable are their personalities and societies. Even if such behavioral quirks are biological in origin, its still the behaviors themselves that matter. "Xenobio" and similar makes me dread empty factoids like such-and-such race being cobalt blooded and so-and-so having a taste for mercury. But call it something like"Xenocultures" and I'd be more interested in giving it a look.

    ReplyDelete
  23. "Lifeforms" goes with "Starships" and "Technology" just as well as "Aliens" does. And it implies "both intelligent and otherwise" better than "Aliens" does, too. So it might be your best choice. But, if you want something even more SFish-sounding than that, then I second Zak's suggestion of "Xenomorphs".

    If the book will be a collection of alien lifeforms that you've designed, but won't include a system for designing alien lifeforms, then I wouldn't title it anything with the "-biology" suffix because all those words imply general coverage of the subject, not a collection of specific examples.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I forgot to add:

    If the book will cover the subject generally, then I third Secret Chipmunk's suggestion of "Xenology".

    ReplyDelete
  25. Facehuggers, and the Faces they Hug

    Since that was missing, I went for Exobiology

    ReplyDelete
  26. I voted other and definitely agree that you should keep it similar to the other two title names. I recommend Sentients since in the context of Thousand Suns, it might be hard to say what is truly "alien."

    ReplyDelete
  27. Astromorphs?

    Retro and has the useful providence of not immediately calling to mind something else, unlike...

    Xenomorphs?

    which means 'the alien from Alien' to (I'd guess) a big chunk of the target audience. It also sounds extra-90s.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Any though to Extraterrestrials? Not sure I fully like it, but thought I might throw it out there.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Building off Brian's suggestion, i like the idea of a series of guidebooks that sound like a series of college texts: 1KS: Biology, 1KS: Technology, 1KS: Geography, etc. Also, Biology would presumably be broad enough a term to encompass non-terrestrial examples of same.

    But otherwise :Aliens sounds like a guide to non-human presumably intelligent species. :Xenobiology etc sound like guides to the entire range of lifeforms available in an alien world. (:Astrobiology has the virtue of being a more old-school sounding term.)

    ReplyDelete
  30. I have to agree with LCM. "Life" seems very compact and gets the point across

    ReplyDelete
  31. Agreed with everyone above: the natural counterpart of "starships" and "technology" is either "aliens" or "lifeforms".

    Also, re "xenobiology" and "exobiology": this term only makes sense if the voice used in the game is humanocentric. I assumed this would be a game where PCs could be other species frmo non-Earth planets, which is why out of the three poll options I went with "astrobiology", which is the one option not defined from the point of view of a single planet or species.

    ReplyDelete
  32. The poll titles all sound like text books, not game books, to me. I don't find any of them compelling.

    ReplyDelete
  33. You could always make a nod to Pliny the Elder and go with "Thousand Suns: Natural History."

    Could cover anything you need regarding biology, botany, anthropology (well, xenopology or whatnot)...and be in good company with Pliny.

    Although it does make it sound much like a history text.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Are the books going to be presented as though they were written by a particular entity of the game system? If they are presented as a hitchhikers guide, I might side with naming it Aliens. If they are presented as tech manuals by an Imperium, then I might side with the more exotic terms Xenomorphs, Exobiology. The inclusion of the word biology makes me think only of the physical descriptions of creatures, and does not make me think of social interactions, planet descriptions, governments, etc...

    ReplyDelete
  35. I once took an actual course in college called "Bioastronomy". I've always liked that term.

    In its absence I went with the contrarian "astrobiology".

    ReplyDelete
  36. I'm also in the Aliens camp, though one could use quotation marks strategically. Compare Thousand Suns: Aliens with Thousand Suns: "Aliens".

    ReplyDelete
  37. What about "Taxonomy"?

    Or "Allogenology"?

    Or perhaps "Burton's Allegenology" with an unreliable narrator?

    ReplyDelete
  38. Another write-in for “Lifeforms,” here.

    ReplyDelete
  39. I voted for Xenobiology, but was thinking of twisting it to Xenocopia.

    ReplyDelete
  40. The True and Correct Explication of the CELESTIAL REALM, and the Inhabitants thereof, Together with COPIOUS ILLUSTRATED PLATES.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Serious suggestion:

    Encyclopedia Xenomorphica

    (kind of a reference to the Encyclopedia Galactica in the Foundation series).

    ReplyDelete
  42. @formerlawyer:

    Having fictional 'sources' might be a good way to give detail to the setting.

    Slime As Erotic Symbol In Callestine Poetry, Among the Winged Heathen, Barlowe's 'Guide': History of an Infamous Forgery, and so on.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Of the various suggestions so far, Lifeforms sounds best to me.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Add me to the "Aliens" write-in vote.

    It fits with the other books, and more importantly, you most probably aren't going to develop a system structure, including constructing a viable taxonomy and determining biological and ecological processes, that make exobiology or xenobiology an appropriate title.
    [Which is not to say you won't briefly touch on these matters, just that you won't be developing an organised system of study of them.]

    It will instead be a catalogue or gazeteer of aliens, so why not simply call it that?

    ReplyDelete
  45. I think that "Xenobiology" is good enough, but I suggest "Xenospecies" as another option.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Call it Abominations of the True Form, and present it as a translation of a document written by a fallen, xenophobic species.

    ReplyDelete
  47. How about ...
    Thousand Suns: the Others

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.