Posted by: Fabius Bile | February 20, 2010

We Only Need Fear Ourselves, or Things that act Like us

It would seem common knowledge that humans enjoy the company of other humans. We enjoy being able to relate to those around us, to laugh and cry and feel the same as others. But beyond that we like those who look “normal”. The scariest thing to some people, are things that are humanoid, and yet completely hideous and fear inducing. That’s why we have so many stories of “boogymen”, hideous creatures of all sorts, that lie in wait to squelch out our lives.

Cthulhu rising

Scariest. Thing. Ever. Thank you Lovecraft

So what could possibly be any scarier? Well lets take the example of things that tend to be even more frightening to humans. Werewolves, vampires, necromancer, body snatchers. These stories of these creatures are even scarier, but why? It’s because they infiltrate our society, they integrate themselves into us, and this leads to set in paranoia. How are we to tell who is human and who is a monster? The idea that something can infiltrate our civilization and pose as one of us only to make us victims, is a pretty terrifying idea.

So in Butler’s Lilith’s Brood we have an alien species, that varies in looks vastly enough, from vaguely humanoid, to lovecraftian horror. So while they may not be able to infiltrate our society and undermine us that way, they have to have something else about them to make them scary. So instead, they have their own civilization, so akin to ours, that it is almost indistinguishable. But what makes this scary? Wouldn’t they then seem to be slightly disfigured but generally well meaning human-like beings?

That’s just it. Humans are innately xenophobic. We fear what looks different from us, it is an old instinct of sorts. Without which we may not have survived past our early stages of development, after all if we did not have this reptilian fear, we would possibly be attempting to make friends with dangerous predators (and that would probably not go so well). So with this xenophobia in mind, apply it to Butler’s aliens. They may be like us, but they also present the traits of all that of which we fear. Tentacles, disfigurement, the works. Even if they were the most peace loving beings, their mere appearance would be enough to strike fear into us from a mere evolutionary standpoint. Seeing this juxtaposed with traits we can identify with frightens us, as it questions our own ideas of humanity versus monstrosity.



  1. First off, I loved your picture. It did remind me of what the Oankali looked like a little, with all those tentacles and sensory arms. Your blog was interesting to read because I thought of how scary it is to think of a monster or an alien creature looking like a human and acting like a human while the true identity lies hidden. Humans are innately terrified of such a prospect, yet we are fascinated by it. Stephanie Meyer is making millions of dollars by producing stories about hunky vampires that look like humans, talk like humans, and act like humans, but hide a dark secret. Although the idea of something like that existing horrifies us, it is also intriguing that another being could pull off the façade of being human and actually get away with it. As humans, we think we are the superior beings and that of course we would know if that weird kid next to us in Physics class is really an alien. Butler’s story reflected that mix of horror and fascination and I really liked the way your blog addressed that.

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