Mario Acevedo is the author of the bestselling Felix Gomez vampire-detective series. He is presently at work on the next installment, Steampunk Banditos. He has recently published two short stories in Nightmares Unhinged, from Hex Publishing. Stay tuned for his forthcoming novel, University of Doom, a satire on the world of scientific research and academia. Mario’s latest novel featuring detective-vampire Felix Gomez is Rescue From Planet Pleasure.
Here’s one of my secrets. Though I write about a detective-vampire — heavy on the fantasy — I’m actually not the biggest fan of the genre. My success with the Felix Gomez series came about as a happy accident and for that I am grateful. Like most, I was exposed to fantasy through television and the cinema but I could never understand the appeal of vampires or werewolves. The fascination with zombies completely escaped me. What bothered me most were the what ifs about such supernatural creatures living among us unpredictable and dangerous humans.
But I love extraterrestrials…aliens. Them I can believe in despite their clumsy representations in schlocky movies. We can’t be the only inhabitants in this big, big universe. Not every UFO sighting can be a hoax. After all, I hail from New Mexico, home of the most famous UFO encounter of all, the 1947 Roswell crash. In my books, I have my own take on alien visitors, the smart ones anyway, the ones who pilot the flying saucers. In this context, when I refer to aliens, I don’t mean extraterrestrial life forms like bugs or monsters, but the creatures who made the spaceships, which would involve engineers, technicians, teachers, and capitalists, the culture to support such an infrastructure, and a history of technological progress from the discovery of fire to developing interstellar travel.
The Alien Years, a novel by Robert Silverberg, presented extraterrestrials the way I imagine them. Highly advanced and sophisticated, after landing on Earth they go about their mysterious business unconcerned about us humans, until we make a fuss and then they respond like Orkin would to a roach problem. One challenge is portraying aliens in ways that don’t reflect our human biases. Why would they have two hands, or two eyes, or use our slice of the electromagnetic spectrum for vision? Why would they have a head? Or an alimentary canal? Assuming they inhabit a form that seems bizarre to us, if they are capable of making machines, then they must have knowledge of science, math, engineering, metallurgy, mining, and on and on. For them, physics would obey the same laws as it does for us. But if they perceive their environment through different senses, would they still interpret the phenomenon of nature in the same way? Would their electrical equations resemble ours? Would we recognize their Periodic Table of the Elements? If they have bodies vastly different from ours, what would their lab equipment look like? Most human progress has been stoked by competition. (Mine is faster, cheaper, better.) What if the aliens evolved in a society of rigidly enforced consensus building, where one-upmanship might be consider an obscene taboo? What would have driven their need for invention?
Admittedly, I cheated in my depiction of aliens and their world in Rescue From Planet Pleasure. Despite my musings over how aliens would be different from us and yet have to abide by the same laws of nature, I sidestepped that discussion. I based my aliens on a painting the science-fiction artist Frank R. Paul created in “Golden City of Titan” for Amazing Stories back in the heyday of pulp magazines. Granted those bipedal denizens had features we recognize — an upright body, arms, hands, two eyes — his wild colors and fantastic architecture gave me something to riff on. I chose to play upon other traits a militaristic alien race and us would probably have in common: hubris, treachery, narcissism, and bureaucratic incompetence. Of course I did it for laughs, but what grounds the humor is that all intelligent creatures with their capacity for rationalism and abstract thought might find themselves perpetually detouring into the absurd. It made sense at the time!