Designing Alien Cultures Part 1

This is the first in a series of posts on designing alien cultures for a sci-fi (or other speculative fiction) story!

I'm excited to welcome Jaleta Clegg, author of speculative fiction (and a great ally to have in social media) to my blog for part 1 of this series!  Her latest project is the sequel to her Priestess of the Eggstone series, Priestess of the Eggstone: The Fall of the Altairan Empire, due out August 10th!

Check her author bio at the bottom of this page for information on where to get your copy!

So without further delay, I turn your eyes over to Jaleta and her writing!

Alien Cultures, not so alien when you pick them apart

The best place to start your alien civilization is right at home. Study an earth culture, figure out what makes it tick. A million details go into every culture. Pare yours down to its basics. What drives your culture? Think biology, society, economics, religion, social values, food supplies, etc. What makes the foundation for your species?

In Priestess of the Eggstone, I introduce the Sessimoniss, seven-foot-tall lizard people. Their society is driven by family structure which is dictated by their biology. My inspirations were documentaries on lizards, baboons, and the Indian caste system. Clan is everything to the Sessimoniss. Without a clan, they die. The most powerful clans hold the best lands and own the most resources. Interclan marriage can help change status. Blood feuds between clans are common and last centuries.

Within a clan are different castes. The highest are the male warriors. Lesser males who are not warriors are servants. Females are split into breeding and immature. No other classifications of female exist. See the caste system idea? You are born to be what you are born to be. A lesser male cannot aspire to become a warrior. It’s unthinkable to them.

Now to complicate things. I added two competing religions. One worships Sekkitass, an ancient god of warriors. Sending surplus males, warriors and lesser, to serve Sekkitass is a mark of status for the clan. Sekkitass demands blood sacrifice. His high priest holds a seat on the Council, along with the six most powerful clan leaders and the high priestess of the Eggstone.

The Eggstone is an artifact, ancient alien computer or sentient rock, take your pick. It stores memories of the Sessimoniss. It forms a bond with one female who becomes the High Priestess. She can come from any clan but she is never a breeding female. Sending immature females and warriors to serve the Eggstone also denotes high clan status.

The Eggstone and Sekkitass have always been at odds.

The Sessimoniss have space travel, but not their own technology. They are a low-tech species in an isolated region of space. They’ve borrowed what technology they have from masters they served thousands of years ago. I tried to depict a civilization on a decline into complete barbarism and a species teetering on the edge of extinction.

The key to making it believable is to have a strong basis, then add enough details to fill out gaps. You don’t have to describe everything, just enough to hold the story together. Your readers will fill in the blanks for you, if you give them the base.

Now go invent some alien cultures!

About the Author:

Jaleta Clegg loves to play with words. She writes science fiction and silly horror, and dabbles in everything else. Priestess of the Eggstone, book 2 in her series The Fall of the Altairan Empire, releases on August 10. Pick up your copy today at


  1. Aw, thanks, Mike! I couldn't do anything without people like you. Social media is a group effort.

    What's your favorite alien culture?

  2. Thanks, Jaleta. I started writing a new novel. It's a fantasy and I've had to do a lot of world building, much like you did for your story. I've played around writing a few chapters, but I've been itching to write a story using the first person perspective. Have you read any scifi or fantasy that manage to pull off the world building and are written from the first person perspective? I believe Hunger Games is first person, and I know that Across the Universe is, but both these stories take place in familiar earth-like settings. In other words, no strange landscapes or creatures to describe. Just curious :)

  3. I think Piers Anthony's Bio of a Space Tyrant series is written in first person and takes place mainly in alien environments.

    It's hard to come up with more examples, not too many people write in first person for sci-fi. If I think of any more I'll post them.

  4. Nexus Point and Priestess of the Eggstone are both first person, Nexus is entirely and Priestess only has a handful of scenes that are third person. It wasn't easy to write. Third person is much easier because you have emotional distance between you and the characters. With first person, you not only have to limit the emotional distance, you have to describe everything through the eyes of your character and filtered through her experiences. But for the story I was writing, first person was the best way to tell the story.

    Sorry for taking so long to respond. I've been out of touch all week.


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