To totally change the topic, I recently re-encountered the whole "humans are weird" trope, genre, whatever you want to call it. Specifically the "space Australia", Earth as a hellworld, and "Humanity Fuck Yeah" versions of it. Sometimes them are dumb. Massive, overpowered human military might gratuitously winning over evil but helpless aliens is boring. But some of them are very good. Many of my favorites are humans who aren't necessarily stronger, or even smarter, just a little bit crazier, a little bit wilder and more risk-taking, than anybody else is.
And then, of course, I get a plotbunny for one of those "Earth is the worst of hellworlds and humans are over-muscled killing machines that all aliens fear" settings. I find them boring as a concept, but a few good stories have been told in them, and as I was reading one, I suddenly had a thought, which was, how would a vegetarian, pacifist, mild-mannered hippie type deal with being the monstrous boogey man of the galaxy?
So guess what I'm two thousand words into now?
Also, I wrote a cute little short for one of the "Humans aren't stronger or smarter, just stranger" settings that's only 800 words long,
Akitl of the Klizkit sat on a park bench and regarded her iridescent blue offspring, who was running across the green grass not far away. Parks were hardly a human invention, though play structures that encouraged reckless behavior in one's offspring very much were. Akitl was always nervous when her son Pthiz and his human companion ended up on the play structure. Son wasn't quite the right word, of course, her offspring currently had no sex characteristics whatsoever, but in a few of the local years he would go through his first puberty molt and emerge as a male, so it approximated closely enough for now. Once molted he would likely father five or six young before then undergoing a second puberty molt and becoming female.
She glanced at the human male sitting on the park bench beside her. He was watching his own offspring, a little golden-haired girl, with a smile as she chased Akitl's son across the park. It was odd to think of a male having a caretaking role, but not as odd as it would have been to a Klizkit from a few generations past.
Humanity had a way of influencing the species about them. Akitl knew that long ago their language hadn't had a word for "Father." Males sired offspring but had nothing whatsoever to do with them afterward. Now, however, it was something like trendy for a Klizkit to be mildly involved with the children they sired. She herself still sometimes exchanged messages with her own, and sent them natal-day presents every year, another human custom that Klizkit had taken to. Klizkit males still didn't stay with their mates or engage in much child rearing, but it was nevertheless considered an appropriate thing to be supportive and at least slightly fatherly, and Akitl had to admit that doing so was quite rewarding.
Humans had infected the Klizkit with the concept of fatherhood, as they'd infected them and other species with so many other cultural concepts. They were relatively new, relatively small players on the galactic stage, but they had such ideas. Such art, such music, such entertainment, such a wealth of culture. Most species had something close to a monoculture, with perhaps three or four native languages and some small variations in ways of living. Humans, despite not even having true sub-speces, had literally hundreds of different languages, and all the different cultures and ideas to go with them.
It was hardly surprising, then, that some aspect or other of human culture should end up resonating with nearly every species in the known galaxy.
"Around and around!" The cheerful young voice interrupted Akitl's musings. Emily, the young human child, spun in a circle several times, laughing. She grabbed Pthiz's main manipulator and tugged on it. "Come on, spin. Around and around!" His antennae wiggling in faint confusion, but with a willing bob of the head—another infectious bit of human behavior—Pthiz complied, coordinating his four lower limbs to turn around. Emily kept urging, and he turned again, and again, and again, then took a stumbling step sideways and began to make clicking sounds of distress.
Akitl hurried to his side, while her human companion immediately went to his own child. Akitl soothed her offspring, steadying him while the nausea and disorientation of his dizziness eased, while Steve, the human father, gently chided Emily. "If Pthiz doesn't want to spin, he doesn't have to."
"But spinning is fun." Emily pouted, an expression that was alien but nevertheless familiar to Akitl. Pouting was a near-universal behavior among the young.
"Not everyone has the same idea of fun, sweetheart. Pthiz doesn't like spinning. Did you hear his clicks? That sound is like crying."
"Oh." Emily considered this, then looked at Pthiz. "I'm sorry."
Pthiz, still in Akitl's embrace, but no longer clicking, waved his antenna at her. "It's okay," he said.
"Why don't you have Pthiz watch while you spin some more? Maybe he can count your spins."
"Okay!" Emily bounced on her toes, then began spinning again, chanting, "Iz, ak, ob!" which Pthiz swiftly joined in, since the numbers were in his own language. The adults went back to their bench as Emily spun and Pthiz counted upwards with her.
"I have learned another strange thing about humans," said Akitl to Steve, with her antennae quirked upwards in amusement. "They don't get dizzy."
Steve laughed, a sound that had been quite strange to Akitl at first, but which she now comfortably recognized as also meaning amusement. "We do get dizzy, look." He gestured at Emily, who'd just shouted "Oblex!" which meant twenty-eight. She stumbled, wobbling and laughing, then fell over entirely, rolling to lie on her back, where she looked up at Pthiz and giggled. "You're going around now!"
"We get dizzy as easily as anybody. We just tend to like it."
"Humans," said Akitl solemnly, "are very strange."
A toddler-friendly version of the common "Humans poison themselves recreationally" trope that one sees a lot. :D We do seem to have an innate fondness for altered mental states.
This entry was originally posted at https://bladespark.dreamwidth.org/1525939.html.