Most sci-fi stories depict aliens as humanoid; walking upright, having two arms and two legs, and a head on top. Sometimes the number of appendages varies, but they more or less resemble humans in overall shape.
This does not seem realistic to me
The likelihood of almost all intelligent, sapient life being humanoid strikes me as incredibly small, and is most likely put in stories for the sake of practicality and simplicity:
- Aliens should appear or be described to move in a way that seems natural, something that might be difficult to express with an alien biology that does not exist in real life.
- Humans interacting with non-humanoid aliens becomes much more complicated. For example, fighting scenes would need to be much more carefully planned.
- By making aliens humanoid in shape, they can be portrayed fairly easily in fiction by human actors wearing costumes and makeup.
For example it is much easier to design a character that is human in shape but has tentacles on his face than it is to design a squid-like character with a completely unique shape.
I believe that aliens of near-human intelligence would vary widely in size, shape, and even basic anatomical functions. Even here on Earth, the variation is very high.
How can I break down the task of designing alien commodities and items?
For example, an intelligent squid species that slithers and slimes their way across the ground would not simply be sitting in an ordinary chair. These creatures would have developed their own versions of "chairs" or "beds" or "doors" or "ovens", etc. most of which would not resemble how we know them today.
An interplanetary bar used by different alien species would almost certainly have a "bipedal" section, a "quadruped" section, and any other sections for housing the most common alien races that visit. This differs drastically from Star Wars, where literally everybody is sitting in ordinary chairs just like human beings would.
A snake-like alien with human-level intelligence wouldn't have hammers, or basic tools the way that we know them. However, an intelligence of that level would enable them to have developed their own unique and fascinating ways of doing things. This should be breathtakingly different and inspire awe, which is what I'm striving for. But a giant snake holding a hammer in its mouth would arguably look stupid or comical.
My focus here is trying to design the end-result of centuries of an alien race's ergonomic development. This is a very daunting task to me and makes me feel pretty overwhelmed.
As long as the designs appear to be specialized for a certain race, that is fine to me. It does not need to be "perfect".
- Include any tips or strategies for designing alien commodities. I want a list of steps from people that have faced this problem before, breaking down the task into manageable sections that don't look daunting by themselves
- Be detailed. Describe your approach to the problem so that not just I understand it, but other people who find this question can understand it too.
- I don't want any opinions. Use examples, tell me how you have actually resolved these issues before. I don't want "maybe you could do this" answers, I want "Having run into this problem before, here are some steps that might help you and many others with this" answers.
- Be generally well-received by the community. (will also be judged based on number of upvotes)
The best answer will:
- Have the most detail
- Be intuitively or easily understood (should not require follow-up comments asking for clarification)
- Be considered helpful (has upvotes)
Please use this helpful answer to the very well-received and helpful question How can I break down the task of creating a world into manageable chunks? as an example of what I am looking for.