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Lit Insectoid Species

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Jeff_Ferguson, Feb 13, 2018.

  1. Jeff_Ferguson

    Jeff_Ferguson Jedi Grand Master star 4

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    May 15, 2006
    Intelligent, hive-minded insectoid species are a sci-fi concept that have always interested me. They work excellently in First Contact stories like Ender's Game and Starship Troopers --- their hive mind plays as an interesting contrast with humanity, their swarm tactics can overwhelm humans and make for some cool action scenes where the heroes are in dire straits and have to come up with some unique tactics, and the whole "kill the queen and the soldiers all die" rule makes for a dependable kinda deus ex machina that also ties into the whole "they're so different from us" theme. But the fact that they're so different also lends itself well to the heroes realizing that they're not so different after all trope, as in the final chapters of Ender's Game and its sequels, and in Neil Patrick Harris's "It's afraid!" moment at the end of Starship Troopers even though it's completely lost on the Nazi-analogue characters (Paul Verhoeven is great).

    I think it's very difficult to do a story with terrifying insects as the villain in the SW galaxy, though, where most insectoid species have been living harmoniously with the rest of the galaxy for thousands of years. The main reason the Killiks were able to sustain a trilogy was that they came from the lawless Unknown Regions and had been cut off from the rest of the galaxy, which rendered them mysterious and dangerous and also explained why they could be so expansionist. I liked them as the villains, even if I was getting pretty sick of words like chitin and thorax by the end of Book Three.

    Insects fascinate me in the real world, too, and I do wish that the EU would have better-reflected the endless variety of insects that are out there instead of making 99% of them look like Praying Mantises. Although the Assassin Bug did get some love in that the Anzat were clearly inspired by them.

    What are some of your favourite insectoid species? Are they interesting, or are they an overused trope? Do they work in the SW galaxy, and would they work as a threat in a future story? Do you love ants as much as I do? Have you read the original Starship Troopers novel by Robert Heinlein and can discuss the differences with the movie? Sound off here.
     
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  2. Darth Invictus

    Darth Invictus Jedi Master star 5

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    Aug 8, 2016
    They are a fine trope and one I think sci fi has always benefited from including.

    And the Killiks were very much in this line.

    The Geonosians were insectoid as well remember.

    Same with the Verpine.

    So Star Wars has had insectoid species play a major role in its stories
     
  3. Grand Admiral Paxis

    Grand Admiral Paxis Jedi Master star 3

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    Sep 2, 2012
    One insectoid species you might find interesting is the Kari, from WEG's Galaxy Guide 6: Tramp Freighters and Alien Encounters. Their homeworld of Karideph is so heavily overpopulated due to their rapid reproduction that their skyscrapers extend into low orbit, with the upper levels having to be pressurised, and they also have populated tunnel systems reaching as deep as twelve kilometres underground. The Empire actually banned the Kari from developing space travel out of fear that their population would spread offworld to the point that they would actually usurp the colonial dominance of Humans. It's a shame that they never got picked up later, as I can't imagine the New Republic enforcing a blockade on such racist grounds, and they would have made formidable Joiners during the Swarm War.
     
  4. The Positive Fan

    The Positive Fan Jedi Master star 4

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    Jan 19, 2015
    I like insectoids - they're a quick and easy way of making an alien feel very alien yet giving them a grounding in reality to latch on to. The Verpine and Yam'rii have always been my favorites - I always loved as a kid that a praying freaking mantis was sitting there at the bar, and we never get a good luck at it because in Star Wars its no big thing to have a praying freaking mantis sitting at your bar. No idea how its supposed to drink from that cup sitting in front of it, though. Where's the Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina or From A Certain Point of View story about that?

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2018
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  5. Jeff_Ferguson

    Jeff_Ferguson Jedi Grand Master star 4

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    May 15, 2006
    An intriguing Insectoid species are the Fefze, who are individually non-sentient but who collectively form a sentient hive-mind. That's a really cool idea and it makes them more distinct and interesting than say, the Verpine, who in the EU were sometimes treated like a hive species and sometimes like a species filled with distinct individuals.

    Also I've never played Starcraft so someone let me know if the Zerg are relevant to this discussion.

    There is a species of intelligent bees in Futurama and the episode they're in is one of the show's most emotional.
     
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  6. Ackbar's Fishsticks

    Ackbar's Fishsticks Jedi Master star 4

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    Aug 25, 2013
    One of the things I found interesting in Luceno's book was one or two offhand references to "unionized insectoids." The implication being that the union is the hive mind, or at least a hive of beings subordinate to one queen or other leader. That would have interesting implications for labor relations in Star Wars - I would guess it means that you only have to convince one being to have an entire labor force at your disposal (or conversely, that if you annoy or mistreat that one being, your entire workforce will quit).
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2018
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  7. jSarek

    jSarek VIP star 4 VIP

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    Feb 18, 2005
    My favorite insectoid species is probably the Verpine. It's the only insectoid Star Wars species I've ever roleplayed (in the form of an improvisational kit-bashing Jedi named Zoeglax, though he was more commonly known by his nickname "VerpGyver").

    I like insectoid species, but like most "cross a human with an Earth animal" species, feel that it can be a bit of an overused trope, though not nearly as bad as dogfolk, catfolk, and (to a lesser extent) lizardfolk. That said, given that Star Wars possesses plenty of examples of all of those, insectoids work just fine.

    Ants are cool. But while I've enjoyed some SF approaches to "hive minds" as exemplified in the Borg and the Killiks, I think there's a lot more potential for exploration of eusocial species that don't possess the stereotypical hive mind.

    The Karideph were indeed intriguing, and you touch on a conflict that would prove challenging to write but interesting if successfully handled: the interaction between two societies with vastly different demographic pressures, with a slower-growing established society faced with a faster-growing upstart one. How can the older society survive without either being subsumed by the upstarts or resorting to violence?

    And I think exploring a take on the Verpine that reconciles this dichotomy is potentially much more interesting than a straight-up hive-minded species like the Fefze. A species that is composed of individuals with their own interests, that nonetheless are fully entrenched in the eusocial order of their kind, is a direction too infrequently explored in SF.
     
  8. SpecForce Trooper

    SpecForce Trooper Jedi Master star 4

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    Jun 19, 2016
    Where's the Brizzit love?!?
     
  9. Dr. Steve Brule

    Dr. Steve Brule Jedi Grand Master star 4

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    Sep 7, 2012
    Do Blood Carvers count as insectoid? I always liked those.

    I liked the unused idea of the Butcher of Brix from TLJ. His backstory made me wonder if, had he appeared in the film, his backstory would have been tied back into the Huk War.
     
  10. MercenaryAce

    MercenaryAce Jedi Grand Master star 5

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    Aug 10, 2005
    Though, while hive insects are very interesting and I can certainly understand being inspired by them, it does strike me as amusing that sentient insects are almost always portrayed as a hive mind even though most insect species are solitary.

    Like, where are the radical individualist insect species?

    Anyway, besides the ones mentioned already, the Xi'Dec were interesting.
     
  11. Jeff_Ferguson

    Jeff_Ferguson Jedi Grand Master star 4

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    May 15, 2006
    It's true --- the majority of insects aren't eusocial --- but when translating an Earth species to a sci-fi/space opera setting, it makes sense to pick and choose the unique and interesting traits of that species in order to distinguish your new aliens from humans & other species. A hive mind fits that to a tee and additionally works well as a grave military threat.

    If an alien insectoid species doesn't have a hive mind, I feel like they should have some other trait that's unique to their Earth analogue. Something like the Assassin Bug using proboscis to drink soup from its victims, which the (unfortunately non-Insectoid) Anzat do. Otherwise, why bother making them insects at all?
     
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  12. LelalMekha

    LelalMekha Jedi Grand Master star 5

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    Oct 29, 2012
    I always found it funny that most insectoid species don't even have the basics to be called that, i.e. three pairs of limbs, a body divided in three parts, and (most often) wings. I know, it's ridiculous, but the fact that Geonosians only have 4 limbs has always bothered me.
     
  13. Darth Invictus

    Darth Invictus Jedi Master star 5

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    Aug 8, 2016
    The Geonosians had wings though-or at least one caste of them did(IIRC).

    The Killiks do have very much the classic queen and worker class.

    And I always found their inability to understand the difference between history and fiction everything is history to them-fascinating.
     
  14. Nom von Anor

    Nom von Anor Jedi Master star 2

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    Oct 7, 2012
    Can we talk about the Charon here? Granted they are arachnoid rather than insectoid, but I've always found them fascinating and terrifying. Freaking nihilistic spiders from another dimension, seemingly interested only in the destruction of all life. They don't want anything from you, they just want you dead.

    Edit: Now that I'm reminded of them again, I'd love to see a story where the Charon meet the Yuuzhan Vong.
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2018
  15. Jeff_Ferguson

    Jeff_Ferguson Jedi Grand Master star 4

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    May 15, 2006
    Some posters here were writing an alternate NJO way back when with the Charon as the villains.

    That sounds like spiders in real life, too.
     
  16. CT-867-5309

    CT-867-5309 Force Ghost star 6

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    Jan 5, 2011
    Colicoids. Not a hive mind, but definitely alien in mindset. If you go into their space they'll eat you.

    I like Vuvrians and the lore they've been given, too. A friendly subversion to the scary alien insectoid.
     
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  17. Hamburger_Time

    Hamburger_Time Jedi Master star 2

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    Dec 13, 2010
    One of my favorite details from New Essential Guide to Alien Species is that the Kubaz, though not insectoid themselves, are so completely dependent on consuming insects they they're actually culturally unable to see sapient insectoids as people. The New Republic/GFFA refuses to let them in until the acknowledge the personhood of arthropod sentients, and it doesn't look like that's going to happen anytime soon.
     
  18. Jeff_Ferguson

    Jeff_Ferguson Jedi Grand Master star 4

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    May 15, 2006
    Ah so Garindan is a sentient anteater? Yeah I guess I would have trouble hanging out with a giant cheeseburger.

    [​IMG]
     
  19. Darth Invictus

    Darth Invictus Jedi Master star 5

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    Aug 8, 2016
    I always wondered if being a joiner was as bad as say being a borg drone?
     
  20. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

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    Sep 29, 2005
    Guys, we all know the best insectoids are the Gand.
     
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  21. jSarek

    jSarek VIP star 4 VIP

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    Feb 18, 2005
    The insect world is full of interesting things to crib, though, from extreme camouflage (walking sticks and walking leaves) to explosive jets of hot spray (bombardier beetles) to head-mounted glue guns (some termites).

    Well, keep in mind that all these aliens are aliens, with evolutionary paths that would at most superficially resemble those of true insects. Calling a bug-alien insectoid is like calling a whale icthyoid.

    I remember, when the NJO was new, feeling that they were dropping the ball by not using the Charon and Otherspace instead of this new, problematically humanoid threat from beyond the galaxy. I still kind of feel that way.
     
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  22. Dr. Steve Brule

    Dr. Steve Brule Jedi Grand Master star 4

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    Sep 7, 2012
    The Yuuzhan Vong gods were obviously Charon who wandered into the Vong galaxy in the distant past and were later deified.

    One of my absolutely favorite sequences in any Star Wars video game is in KOTOR II when you just wander through a bar full of completely silent, still Gand who turn to look at you as you move through the bar, and then on the way out have to fight through them all. That was a lot of fun on top of a very creepy, striking visual.
     
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