Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Quiz: Images of Aliens in SF

Following is a quiz I wrote for an online trivia league I am in. The subject matter is aliens in SF books, movies, TV, or comic books. Each question is accompanied by an image of the alien. The quiz ran over the weekend. Some of you may know the winner, David Goldfarb, who was prominent on the great Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.sf.written back in its glory days. Tom Galloway, another prominent fan known for his trivia knowledge, also did very well.

I need to thank Steven Silver and John O'Neill (as well as several members of the trivia league) for helping me improve the question set, including some excellent proposed questions.

I will post the answers in a day or two. If you want, you can post your guesses in the comments.

1. There are many aliens depicted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This alien race may be hard to depict definitively, as they are shapeshifters, but they do have a typical form. They appeared in Captain Marvel in the MCU, and in the comics as early as an issue of Fantastic Four in 1962. What is the name of this alien raceClick here

2. What's the common name for this cowardly species featured in many of Larry Niven's Known Space stories? The name is perhaps ironic as this species doesn't seem to have the appendages normally used by the human performers known by that name. Click here

3. The aliens portrayed here are examples of the Tenctonese, or Newcomers, who were introduced in which 1988 movie that spawned a TV series along with several TV movies, and which played on the idea of aliens from another planet who are treated not-dissimilarly to "illegal aliens" once they end up on Earth. Click here

4. Many aliens in SF strongly resemble non-human Earth species. One example, illustrated here by Michael Whelan, is the species at the center of one of C. J. Cherryh's most popular book series. Though these lion-like creatures are called hani, the books in the series all feature the family (or "pride") name of the hani ship captain who is the protagonist. What name is that? Click here

5. This lovely alien, played by Jane Badler, looks much different when you peel the skin off -- indeed, her baby might look much like the alien child pictured here. She and her fellows invaded Earth in this 1980s miniseries. Click here

6. Humanoid aliens are common, but depictions of aliens who look much different are rarer, and of those who think completely differently rarer still. One of the best attempts at the latter is depicted in this scene, as humans try to decode a language that indicates the aliens have a non-linear experience of time. The images are from which 2017 film, which was based on Ted Chiang's Nebula-winning novella "Story of Your Life"? Click here

7. This 1980s TV alien lived with the Tanner family after his spaceship crashed. His name may remind you of Bruce Wayne's butler, but it was derived as an initialism for which three word phrase. (Full phrase, please.) Click here

8. This picture depicts an "oankali" with a human. The oankali are "alien", but their mission can be said to bridge gaps so that no species is alien to the others, by combining genetic material from many species. They feature in a a trilogy by MacArthur prize-winning writer Octavia Butler. The trilogy is widely known by two different names -- one a Greek-derived word roughly describing the oankali mission, the other derived from a Hebrew tradition about a demon that mated with humans. Give either collective name for this trilogy. Click here

9. Speaking of demons, this is one depiction of the Overlords, aliens whose (eventually) benevolent takeover of Earth is initially resisted partly because their appearance resembles traditional pictures of devils. They appeared in which 1953 Arthur C. Clarke novelClick here

10. Here's a depiction, from a movie poster, of another type of alien invader: a carnivorous and mobile plant. It was featured in a John Wyndham novel that is one of the earliest examples of the "cozy catastrophe" subgenre, and also in a movie released in 1962. What is this alien called, supposedly in part as a vague nod to H. G. Wells' name for the invading war machines in War of the Worlds. Click here

11. The attached image is of a Krayt Dragon as depicted in The Mandalorian, Chapter 9. However, many viewers thought it greatly resembled a huge creature from the desert world Arrakis in the 1965 Hugo- and Nebula-winning novel Dune (and its raft of sequels.) The animal in these books (and a forthcoming movie directed by Denis Villeneuve) was commonly called what? Click here

12. This is an image of an alien species, the Space Lubbers, from a comic book co-created by Nnedi Okorafor, the Hugo and Nebula-winning author of "Binti". The comics Okorafor created were a spinoff of what very popular movie that was also based on comic book material. Click here

13. This illustration, by Frank R. Paul, of a creature called Tweel comes from the original pulp magazine appearance, in Wonder Stories in 1934, of one of the earlier examples in SF of a sympathetically portrayed alien who nonetheless is very "alien" in behavior. The story ended up in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame anthology. What was its title, implying a long journey on a different planet from Earth? Click here

14. This scary alien (or robot?) was a mysterious menace in the Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons, called by this avian name which was also the title of a novel Harlan Ellison long claimed to be writing, but never finished. Click here

15. Creatures of pure energy are a favorite device of science fiction, writers, and the attached image portrays the Monster from the Id from this movie, one of the most celebrated SF movies of the 1950s. Click here

16. A different kind of alien invasion is described in the Wormwood Trilogy (Rosewater. Rosewater Insurrection, The Rosewater Redemption.) The aliens are unseen but they release fungal spores (like those pictured) that change humanity -- and ultimately aim to change all of Earth for the benefit of the aliens. The author is which writer, considered a leading light of the Afrofuturist movement. Click here

17. Sometimes aliens become popular enough to be used in toys, or candy promotions, or both at once! As in this alien, depicted as part of your smith's wife's Pez collection. What is the alliterative name given to this antagonist of Bugs Bunny in the Looney Tunes cartoon? Click here


  1. ROT13'ing my answers...

    1. Fxehyyf
    2. Cvrefba'f Chccrgrref
    3. Nyvra Angvba
    4. Punahe
    5. I
    6. Neeviny
    7. Nyvra Yvsr Sbez
    8. Krabtrarfvf/Yvyvgu'f Oebbq
    9. Puvyqubbq'f Raq
    10. Gevssvq
    11. Fnaqjbez
    12. Oynpx Cnagure
    13. N Znegvna Bqlffrl
    14. Gur Fuevxr
    15. Sbeovqqra Cynarg
    16. Gnqr Gubzcfba
    17. Zneiva gur Znegvna

    (Hey, I like "Neeviny" - that one should be a word in its own right!)

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Excellent. (I didn't read your post carefully at first, about the ROT-13, and I thought you were jokingly posting a list of answers in an alien language. So I jokingly answered "Congratulations -- first to get all 17 right!" But you actually did! (Even David Goldfarb admitted he wouldn't have gotten one of the 5 extra questions.)

    3. It probably helps that I used to set SF trivia quizzes myself, and delighted in throwing in some really obscure things! (I had to think hard about a couple of them - including number 3, where I've seen the film and the TV series, and could call to mind all sorts of odd details - the Tenctonese get drunk on milk, they're burned by sea water, and so on - but the *name* of the show just *would not come* for a while.)

  2. Question Mark indicates something I was not sure on.

    2)Cvrefba Chccrgref
    6) Neeviny
    7)Nyvra Yvsr Sbez
    9) Puvyqubbq’f Raq
    10) Gevssvq
    11) Fnaqjbezf
    12)Zra va Oynpx (?)
    13) N Znegvna Bqlffrl
    14)Fuevxr (?)
    15) Sbeovqqra Cynarg
    16) Gnqr Gubzafba
    17) Zneiva gur Znegvna

    1. 12 is wrong (Oynpx cnagure), 14 is right. Very respectable total of 14!