1. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    A Fictional, Intelligent, Humanoid Species. 'He/She' or 'It'?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by TLK, May 11, 2014.

    I'm having a bit of trouble deciding which way to go on this.

    My novel contains an invented race of creatures that are both humanoid and intelligent, i.e. they can communicate, use technology etc. They're basically humans, but different, and some of them are named characters in my novel that play significant roles.

    My question is, should I refer to these creatures as 'he/she' or as 'it'? Currently, I'm using 'it' for an unnamed, "extra" of one of these creatures, but 'he' or 'she' for any that are actually named. However, I'm starting to thing they should all be a 'he' or a 'she'. After all, they are almost human and an "extra" human would always be referred to as such.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. HelloThere
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    HelloThere Contributing Member

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    Does this race have gender? do they have *giggles* penises and *giggles some more* vaginae? (apparently that's the plural of vagina, who'd have thought?) If so I would call them by 'he' and 'she.'
     
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  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i agree with the above [sans giggles!]... if the species is dual-gendered, you have to refer to them as 'he/she' and not 'it'...
     
  4. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    They are a dual gender species (though admittedly the females play a very small role in the story), so I guess that would make them he/she. I dunno, just feels wrong though...

    But anyway, thanks for the help!
     
  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    A quick search for "pronoun for genderless alien" turned up this:

    Spivak pronouns

    Sadly it sounds like it has caught on. But apparently there is a community that recognizes it. The things one learns from Web Surfing.

    Yib's Guide to Mooing: Getting the Most from Virtual Communities on the Internet (Google eBook)

    :crazy:


    http://genderneutralpronoun.wordpress.com/links/
     
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  6. matt_kicking
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    I meant to reply earlier but had a giggle fit after @HelloThere posted. But I agree, if they're dual gendered then definitely go with he/she, even if they're a minor/unnamed character.

    That is, of course, unless we human's aren't able to discern between the male and female of the alien species, in which case depending on the narrator, perspective etc it might well be that the voice of the story has to use "it".
     
  7. HelloThere
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    HelloThere Contributing Member

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    "The player of games" by Ian M. Banks features an alien race which has three genders. I think it is likely that we would try to describe aliens in human terms but there could be times when our terms simply do not work.
     
  8. matt_kicking
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    The Gods Themselves by Asimov does too, but I can't remember how he navigated the obstacle
     
  9. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Does that make reproduction for them like rock-paper-scissors?

    If someone's seeing the alien for the first time, they don't know what's under the skirt, so to speak, or if there's anything at all. I don't think it would be strange for the POV to see them as 'it,' at least to start.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2014
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Take into account the assumptions of the observing character. For instance, most of the Star Wars characters refer to Chewbacca using masculine pronouns because of size and power, but there are strong indications Chewie is female.
     
  11. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    There were? Do you have a source for that? Just curious, if you don't it's no big deal.
     
  12. HelloThere
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    HelloThere Contributing Member

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    No it's more like rock, paper, two people have the fun while the third member gets lumped with an embryo.
     
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  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i don't see how it can 'feel wrong'... if, as you say, there are definite 'females' [and, apparently, males], then how could it make any sense to you, to call them anything but 'he/she' when we even refer to other animal species' members that way?

    don't you refer to your pets [or others' if you never had any] as 'he' or 'she' respectively?... and wouldn't you refer to a cow as 'she' and a bull as 'he'?
     
  14. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    I think it's because of the nature of these creatures. The protagonists of the story (all human), don't interact with them as such as they are, to put it loosely, the "bad guys". They're psychopathic killers, devoid of all human emotion, intent on the destruction of the human race. Calling them anything but "it" seems to take something away from that, in my opinion at least...
     
  15. mammamaia
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    it won't make sense to most [if not all] of your readers, though... if you've made it clear that some are female and some male, to call them 'it' will only confuse things and make you seem to be a poor writer...

    why don't you just make them genderless, if calling them he/she bothers you that much?
     
  16. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Fair point.

    And that's an option, actually, I hadn't thought about that. I'll give that a thought.
     
  17. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Sorry to sort of revive this thread, but I have a quick, similar question that I need answering that I don't think warrants a thread on its own.

    Essentially, even though the advice thus far has said he/she is better, surely if one of my characters was to meet one of these creatures (and didn't know what it/he/she was), would that character not automatically refer to it as an "it"? If they did so, when would you convert to "he/she" and would it be an alright thing to say, "Bob had begun to trust this creature and now thought of him more of a 'he' than an 'it'" and then subsequently use "he"?
     
  18. ToeKneeBlack
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    The character could refer to the alien as an it, before deciding later that "it" has a lot of masculine qualities, leading him to refer to the alien as "he".

    But later on, it is revealed that the alien is in fact female after a male of the species appears. Or they could be like sea-horses, where the male / female divide is blurred by the male carrying the eggs which are produced by the female.
     
  19. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think if the species are so different, and if they are very scary/abhorrent, it makes sense humans might refer to them as 'it'. If some kind of sexual reproduction is involved, but otherwise there's no indication who is what, if there are no gender biases or separations in their society, of any kind we can relate to, then humans can see them as 'it' with a peculiar quirk (which they might not figure out until later on) that one participates in reproduction as somethuing akin to male or female, as humans know it.

    All this reminds me of a Star Trek Voyager episodes with the Species 8472. If you haven't watched it, I highly recommend the 4 episodes - Scorpion Parts I and II, Prey and In the Flesh. I think you can find them on YouTube.
     
  20. ToeKneeBlack
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    Some scary monsters can have their young following them around - this often persuades the characters to refer to them as "she" instead of "it", regardless of what its gender is.

    Of course, the sentient beings could breed asexually, or all be hermaphrodites, but then I wouldn't know how to apply the terms "he" or "she" in such contexts.

    Then there are the animals which can start life as one gender, before changing as they get older. I think there are some fish that can do this.
     
  21. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would just use "it". That is the simplest, least arbitrary option.
     
  22. Mike Kobernus
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    Mike Kobernus Contributing Member

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    If you have three genders, you could have he, she and shim....

    lol..
     
  23. ToeKneeBlack
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    This is starting to sound like Fry from the Futurama adventure "The Beast with a Billion Backs", where a creature called Yivo wants to be referred to as "shklim" or "shkler".
     
  24. Mike Kobernus
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    I did not know that. I have only ever watched a couple of the episodes...
     
  25. Chaos Inc.
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    Chaos Inc. Active Member

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    I think this question is more a matter of the perspective of your story.

    1st person - Whatever they want. This is your MC's opinion or knowledge of the creature. If they're neutral on the matter, "he" or "she" is good. If they're hostile towards them then a more disassociated term of "it" seems better.

    3rd person omniscient- Easy, if it's a he, then it's a "he", she then "she". Facts are facts.

    Don't forget that its gender isn't always a reason to call it a he/she or it. It's what we know about it too.
     

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