29 October 2016

Our Enemies: Insect Aliens

In the dead of night, they move and consume in the spaces of your house you do not see. When you notice them, you react with violent intent, attacking with rolled up newspapers, poisonous sprays, and shoes. The bug dies, and while you revel in the momentary victory....hundreds of its brethren wait in the shadows. Since the beginning of science fiction, all the way back to 1902, the insect has made for a compelling and enduring hostile alien template. Some of the most iconic military science fiction works have featured insect-based aliens species bent on conquest. From the xenomorphs from ALIENS, the Arachnoids for Starship Troopers, the Buggers from Ender's Game, they all are examples of how sci-fi creators took a commonly held fear and twisted into the creepy, crawling nightmare enemy species waiting for us out there among the stars. In this installment of FWS continual serial of "Our Enemies", we will be exploring and explaining the insectoids.

The Sci-Fi Aggressive Insectoids
There is a theme in science fiction of aggressive insect aliens that are coming to ruin your day. They are one of the most common hostile alien species types. When we examine the commonalities of these insectoids we see that most exist within a hive-mind eusociality system where labor is divided and the Queen Mother is all important. Often, the warrior insectoids of sci-fi are drones that rush in the millions at you in waves as your assault rifle barrel burns white hot. This single-mindedness of the insectoids gives them great power and unity but stabs at individuality and creativity. This was seen in Star Trek Voyager when the humans developed a strategy to counter Species 8472 that the Borg Collective union of billions of minds in a hive-collective could not. Often these insectoids are low-tech than their human foes and often use organic or captured technology. At the heart of the science fiction insectoid society is their queen and she is often the only individual character because there are rarely individual insectoids characters besides the queen. This inhumanity of the insectoids is played up in science fiction works and it is one of the reasons that make such great alien enemy templates because we humans are individuals and reveal in it.

Insectoids and Mythology 
Insects have played an important part in the mythologies of many global cultures and civilizations. In the American southwest, there is the "Ant People" of some of the  southwest Native Tribes that appears in myth and pictographs. These beings saved, protected, and care for the Hopi during some dark times along with given them knowledge to survival and prosper. Some myths point to the Grand Canyon as the home to the Ant People. Then there is Cagn, the Praying Mantis shape-shifting god of the South African San people. Not only did the Insectoid god of Cagn give important knowledge to the San people, the Praying Mantis was the originator of the entire species via a Bee implanting an egg into a Praying Mantis when the Bee helped a Praying Mantis across a river.
Nowhere is the insect more important than in mythological universe of the ancient Egyptians with the scarab beetle being a key component to their life-death cycle rituals. The creator-god Atum was associated with the beetle, and scarab beetles were woven into the fabric of their mummeries and many have been found in charm form and even one was found on the heart. This beetle was important to the resurrection myth of the ancient Egyptians. Then there was beetle-headed god of Khepri that is truly freaky in the ancient art portrayal. This god of sunrises was much like the dung beetle who rolled the sun from sunrise to sunset.
Insectoids and UFO Culture
The validity of the existence of UFO is hotly debated; however, part of the UFO culture does explore the human point-of-view on the rumored alien species. For many of these “Our Enemies” blogposts, I do include UFO culture because it does say a great deal about another element of these hostile extraterrestrial species used in fiction. While there is a long tradition of Grey aliens, reptilians, and even “Nordic” humanoids appear in UFO close encounter accounts that does not apply to insect-type aliens. This is most odd, considering that insectoid hostile aliens have been popular in sci-fi since the very early 20th century, but this has not carried over into current or past UFO culture. Some websites do classify the Grey alien species as possible insectoid given semi-mantis like features, this was also used in the X-Com games; but, they are not insect-like to our understanding. If UFO accounts are to be trusted in some fashion, then it could indicate that no exoplanett that is capable of giving rise to intelligent life has created an intelligent spacefaring insectoid civilization. This could mean that the reality of future Terran space explorers meeting intelligent insect aliens is unlikely. For course, the xenomorphs from ALIENS were not an spacefaring civilization either. That is to not say there is no insectoids seen in UFO abduction accounts. Some abductees, like Linda Porter, inform us that the Greys she had long-term contact with are being controlled by a larger Mantis-like command creature. These accounts are rare and not fully incorporated into the common lore of UFO culture. Some believe that the "Ant People"of native folklore are also members of an Grey-like alien society.   

Why Do Insect-Aliens Make Great Sci-Fi Foes?
Hostile insect aliens bent on conquest of humans is a very trope of sci-fi...but why? Insects outnumber humans by trillions, and despite our efforts to rid our homes and yards of them since the dawn of civilization, they keep coming back. This has bred the common hatred/fear/phobia of the common insect and their power to transmit disease and destruction on home and crops. There is also something to be said for their own "alienness" when compared us and other familiar animals. They possess hive mindset, the self-sacrifice of their worker class, and their seemingly endless various forms all led to most humans hating insects.
To the point that human civilization has been waging chemical warfare on insects for over 4,000 years and Americans spend about $10 billion annually on all manner of pesticides. This speaks to one of the primary reasons why insects make for great sci-fi alien enemies: they are destructive to ourselves, our pets, our homes, and our food crops. Of course, one a much more simple level, most insects are freaky looking enacting a primal fight or flight response in most of us. After all, one of the plagues visited on the Egyptians was a storm of locusts in the Old Testament. This adds up to a motivation for space marines to kill some bugs dead on off-world colonies.

Will We Fight Hostile Insect Aliens?
If we are to the point-of-view of sci-fi as a whole for the answer to this question, then the answer is nearly unanimous confirmation that we will, in fact, fight hostile alien bugs on other planets. However, reality does cast some doubt on that assertion. While terrestrial insect species can and do organize themselves in complex societies that divide labor, explore to find shelter and food, and communicate with one another, none has developed into a truly intelligent species that develops technology, art, or literature. We do not see long-term memory within the insect species and their language mechanism is far too simplistic to drive development towards complex and expressive language.
During my research, one of the central concepts of intellectual developing requires a foundation of long-term memory. With the lack of insectoids in UFO culture and here on Earth, that could be “proof” that insects lack the ability to gain the type of intelligence that could form spacefaring civilizations. This does not preclude the possibility of an encounter with hostile insectoids on exo-planets. As we have seen with the xenomorphs in the ALIENS universe, hostile insectoids could be native to an exo-planet and once Terran landing parties make contact is when the bloodshed begins.
Other aliens, like the Engineers from Prometheus, could be the means of spreading the insectoids to other worlds on accident or for a form of biological warfare. If there was a spacefaring insect species, it could mean warfare between us and them with interstellar real estate and us being classified as a threat to the hive. As I outlined in my book Endangered Species, the rate of reproduction coupled with the rivalry between queens and hives could be the genesis of space colonization, and the source of conflict between us and the space bugs. As new queens attempt to establish their own brood via new hive-colonies, they could compete with us for settleable worlds. One online article I read discussed that one some exo-planets with hostile environments could led to the evolution of insects like the hostile high-gravity, wild temperature ranges, thick atmosphere local conditions found on Gliese-832c in the Gilese-832 star system, 16.10 LYs away. Worlds like this could be an evolutionary breeding ground of ET bugs. Even if these ET bugs on Gilese-832c developed into non-spacefaring civilization, we humans would likely avoid the hostile atmosphere and prevent a war between us and the space bugs of Gilese-832c. That was close...

Insect Alien Society 
The majority of sci-fi works to feature intelligent extraterrestrial insect civilizations construct them around terrestrial insect species with a regent controlling the breeding, hive-mind, some specialized workers, legions of drones, and the entire society developed around the mindset of perseveration of the hive at all costs. Often the concept of individualism is completely foreign; along with disloyalty to the hive, and the hive-mind are hallmarks of the alien insectoid society. Another trope of the alien insect society is at most of them live in massive underground hive structures or above the ground structures that are nearly completely alien architecture. Creators of these sci-fi alien bug societies fluctuate between them possessing and using high technology, with some using directed-energy weaponry and FTL ships. Other creators have shown the insectoids using organic-based technology or even hijacking host technologies to spread their colonies to the stars, as seen with the Tyranids from 40K.

Science Fiction and the Hostile Insect Aliens
When it comes to hostile alien lifeforms that fit terrestrial models used by sci-fi creators there is none more popular than the insect, and it has been that way since the birth of science fiction. In the first science fiction film, the hostile alien species the explorers find is an insectoid and since then, they have been some of the most iconic science fiction and military SF works. As mentioned above, insectoid capitalize on a common fear that exists in a vast majority of the population, and the greater in size these hostile extraterrestrial insects are, the greater the fear response, as exemplified in the 1953 B movie gem THEM!
While giant insects made for fertile ground for the classic B-movies villains of the 1950’s and 1960’s, it was their inclusion into the founding classic of military science fiction that set the precedence: 1959’s Starship Troopers. Between those three factors, the die was cast, and insectoids became the go-to hostile alien template. While used for the enemies of humanity in classics of military SF like Armor and Ender’s GameStar Trek and Star Wars, while spawned several major traditions in sci-fi, neither featured insect aliens. It would be a 1979 film that would only reinforce the bond of science fiction and the hostile insect alien: 1979’s ALIEN. The xenomorph warrior-drone became an icon and one of the best hostile alien species ever seen on-screen, rocketing the popularity of the hostile bug alien. This only increased with the bugs vs. space marines action of 1986’s ALIENS. While it was a combination of several familiar and common insect species, the design by H.R. Giger was terrifying, yet elegantly organic with a behavior that chilled the audience to their very souls.
It soon became an archetype of a well-crafted insect alien form, being a template in its own right to be mimicked for over thirty years. This popularity is not just contained to the realm of sci-fi literature and cinema, video games, television (to a lesser degree), and RPGs fully embraced the trend of enemy insectoids in all forms. Creators have liberally mined the psychological effect of hordes of swarming drone insect warriors that soak up incoming bullets and beams and these moments have become classic encounters in sci-fi video games and RPGs. Will this trend continue? Undoubtedly and that means it is time to stock up on the bug spray.

Should You Use Insectoids in Your Sci-Fi Work?
With insectoids being so popular within science fiction, should you use them for your sci-fi work? Development of a primary foe in your fictional universe is a critical step and the better your enemy, the better your story and setting will be. For my 2015 book release, Endangered Species, I very deliberately chose the hostile alien bug template of my enemy construct due to my attempt to bring yet another “bug hunt” story to life in the vain of SST and Armor. For me, the Praying Mantis was the best model for the enemy lifeforms in the Endangered Species book and its sequel (if it is ever finished given the lack of success of my novel!). If you are going to incorporate the insectoid as an enemy, then you need to pay attention to the sci-fi traditions laid down and then see how you can take a fresh twist on the insectoids without betraying the real behavior of the insect species. A great deal depends on the how important the aggressive insect species is to your fictional universe. If they are nothing more than target practice for your space marines, than only the basics of the insectoid trope need to be obeyed. Given the vast amount of insects here on Earth, then one of the advantages of using insectoids gives you a vast well to call upon and work off of.


The Brood from the Marvel Universe
I mentioned above how influential the creature from ALIEN was to the entire sci-fi genre, and you need only examine the bloodthirsty Brood alien race from the X-Men comics to see the impact of the xenomorph. The Brood are prime representatives of the aggressive parasitic insectoid species with nasty fangs and the nasty habit of using other species to hatch their young via violent egg implantation and are the scourge of the Milky Way as the Brood roam the stars in their living starships, descending on unlucky planets.  Adding to the terror factor is that this species enjoys inflicting pain and fear on other species. In 1982, artist Dave Cockrum was given the direction by writer Chris Claremont to create a villain alien species for Deathbird in issue #155 of the Uncanny X-Men. The alien enemy that came out is very similar to the xenomorph, but several details quickly separated the Brood from the ALIEN. They ruled by a central Queen Mother and the warrior drones are more intelligent, have the ability to fly, and product a powerful sting. The Brood also utilizes technology that is either stolen or developed, and also inhabit spacefaring organism to spread their breeding wrath to the stars. In addition, the Brood being comic book villains, do talk and engage characters in witty comic dialog. Some of the art and setting of the Brood in the Marvel Universe is frightening and the Brood scared the shit out me as a kid, especially when they rode in on Starsharks.

The Formics from the Ender's Game Universe
Among the titans of military sci-fi literature is 1985’s Ender’s Game and it among the few military SF novels to get the big screen treatment and maybe the only one to arrive there with most of the original plot intact. In both versions of Ender’s Game, the Earth is attacked by a race of insect aliens called the Formics or “Buggers” and this set the stage for the Formic Wars that ended in the near extinction of the entire Formic race at the hands of the International Fleet and Ender Wiggin's brilliant strategic mind. While the bulk of their race was dead, one last hive queen larva was hidden on a conquered world and it was entrusted to Ender to save their race.
This ant-like insect species was centered around hive queens that directed their brood, and colonization that was critical to allow the Formics to grow and outpace population growth. That is the genesis of the Formic Wars: they attempted to settle a colony on Terra and ultimately sealed their fate. With the popularity of this book, it forged comics, sequels, and a major studio release that all took their own perspective on the look of the Formics. When it comes to the 2013 film adaptation, the overall design of the Formics was mesmerizing with a style that was both familiar and alien. Bravo. Given the notoriety of the film and the book series, it is likely that the Formics are one of the most iconic insect aliens in all modern science fiction. While books and comics continuing to be released, extending the Ender's Game universe, it is unlikely that a sequel to the 2013 film will be made due to a lower than expected return of the $110 million budget.

The Xenomorphs from the ALIENS Universe
One of the most frightening hostile alien species in all of fiction is the xenomorphs from the ALIENS universe. Since their first appearance in 1979’s ALIEN, they have given inspiration and nightmares to us all. Developed by the Swiss dark artist H.R. Giger from a creature in his Necronomicon art-book published in 1977, the parasitical lifeform was developed to impact any audience member with various forms of horror and terror. While not strictly an insectoid alien species, the warrior drone is a servant of his hive and his queen and is close in behavior to the worker drones found in bee and ant colonies.
The social structure of the xenomorphs seen on screen and in comics also resembles insect colonies. This was greatly expanded upon by the Dark Horse Comics ALIENS: Hive limited series from 1992. There was the Dark Comics series Genocide, where the Grant Corporation traveled to the alien homeworld to steal more “royal jelly”. Due to the abduction of the Mother Queen of the entire species previously, a power vacuum was established and two sects of xenomorphs fought each other in an inter-species civil war. While some insectoid species are advanced technologically, like the Buggers from Ender’s Game, the xenomorph species do not possess any technology, and the society serves only to support the queen and the continuation of their species/hive.
The origins of the xenomorphs are shrouded in mystery, and no “official” canon exists for their creation or place of origin. In the Dark Horse comics, in DHP# 24 printed in 1988 give us their interpretation of the backstory of the species, which is a nice narrative. According to the Dark Horse theory on the origin of the species, they were held in check by other species on the planet, they only became deadly and a menace to society when they were removed. Heavily hinted by DHP#24 is that other spacefaring aliens had been plundering the xenomorphs for applications in warfare across the cosmos, and humans and Yautja were nothing new. In the original ALIEN film script, the species was being used by the Space Jockey as a bio-weapon, and this recycled as the purpose behind the Engineers’ facility on LV-223. However, Prometheus was unclear about if the foundational organism was naturally occurring or if the Engineers complete bio-engineered them from the ground up.

The Ovion Insectoids from the Classic BSG “Sega of a Star World Pt. II/III”
The pilot of the classic 1978 Battlestar Galactica series was a three-hour television movie that covers a great deal of ground, and one of the pit-stops of the rag-tagfleet was the planet of Carillo, rich in Tylium fuel for the long journey to Earth. The planet is home to a swinging 70’s full-scale relaxation destination. This was a front for the insectoid masters of Carillo, the Ovion. The casino, nightclub, and hotel were all an elaborate trap to ensnare the human visitors and just them as food in vast underground chambers. The Ovion were only seen in the pilot three-part episode and as the most common Mattel figure line as the green four-armed insect creature (I had one). In the episodes that featured them, the Ovions were a conquered people of the Cylon Empire and they oddly observing the situation in their own club via private rooms and light-up cyclops masks to obscure their menacing insect faces. 
The plan goes all wrong when the Colonial Warriors breakup the buffet coupled with a massive explosion from Tylium mines. Some believe that the bulk of the Ovion were killed in the mine explosion. Certainly, no one is going to the resort anymore. The Ovion insectoid was designed in concept art by Ralph McQuarrie and with several others noted concept artists and several clay models were mocked up over the course of the preproduction for the pilot. The actually adventurous costume was constructed by the makeup and costume department and was worn by 5’1 stuntwoman Paula Crist. It is amazing to see just how good the full-scale monster suit was specially when examining the insectoid aliens featured in Andromeda and the 3rd season of ST:Enterprise. My memories of these insect aliens were that they were completely creepy and so was the setup. Here is a link to an in-depth article on the Ovion costume: http://www.galactica.tv/battlestar-galactica-1978-news/the-history-of-the-ovion-costume.html

The Yars from Yars Revenge
Those of us who played video games back in the early 1980’s, all know the classic 2600 cartridge Yar’s Revenge. Back in those days, ATARI packaged a mini-comic in their boxes that either filled in the backstory of the game or where connected to the ATARI Force storyline. It was kind of awesome to open a game and find a comic. The most batshit insane, in an awesome 1980’s kind of way, was the mini-comic to Yar’s Revenge
According to the mini-comic, mankind’s first interstellar expedition starship is destroyed and the ship crash lands on a world where the radiation and local conditions allow for the house flies onboard ship to mutant into an intelligent insectoid species that call themselves, “The Yar”.  Their enemy is the Qotile, and these unseen enemy have destroyed one of the Yar’s colony planets. To counter this, the Yars outfit their insect warriors with powered armor to take down the shield to the Qotile missile base and allow the Yar’s powerful Zorlon cannon to fire an destroy the enemy missile base. These may not be an example of a hostile insectoid species, but I had to totally talk about this 80’s awesome comic!

The Insect Xindi from Star Trek: Enterprise
In the 3rd Season of the unloved Star Trek: Enterprise, the Earth is attacked by the collective race known as the Xindi. Among the five sentinel Xindi races was the nasty and hostile Insectoids. These grasshopper-like humanoid creatures were a very short-lived species and suffered from impatience, directness, and rash attack. They were big supporters of the superweapon and attacking the NX-01 immediately and were closely aligned with the Sphere builders and the Reptilians. During the production of the 3rd season, it was decided rather than going with actors in costumes, they used CGI layered over an actor’s performance. Given the limited budget of the show, the CGI effect of the Insectoids was not the greatest and there was a lack of expressiveness from the Insectoids “face” that made the performance wooden…however, this is true of a great number of insectoids. A great deal of work was committed to the creation of the Insectoids and this can be in the episode “Hatchery”. With role played by the Insectoids in the Sphere Builders plot and their betrayal of the council, it is uncertain the fate of the Insectoid Xindi after those events. 

The Entire world of Sectarus: Warriors of Symbion (1985)
The 1980’s were time of experimentation by toy companies with high hopes of deliverying new toylines to all the good girls and boys of the western world and healthy profit margins. It was common practice at the time was to package the new toyline with a cartoon and comic book series, some of these toylines became icons in their field and warm childhood plastic memories. For every He-Man, GI Joes, or Transformers there was STARCOM: US Space Force, Air-Raiders, ROBOTIX, and Sectarus: Warriors of Symbion from 1985. Produced by X with a limited Marvel Comics series, and cartoon series with a short-lived run (but awesome!) in 1985, which featured human-insect hybrid warriors riding monstrous fuzzy insects battling for an old-technology mountain base on the planet of Symbion. 
This toyline was adventurous in its style and design with hand-puppetry being used for using for moving huge insect vehicles. Puppetry was also used in the monsters that guarded the three-foot tall Hive playset. I can remember the comic and the toys and they were super creepy with fuzzy flying insects and spiders and humanoid hybrid warriors. It failed due to an oddball concept that was too close in concept to the Masters of the Universe, creepy toys that were high in price. I read a few of the Sectarus comic’s back-in-the-day and they were far better than the cartoon. BTW: FWS will be discussing Air-Raiders and ROBOTIX in upcoming Military Sci-Fi Toys blogposts! 

The Geonosians from the Star Wars Prequels 
In the second film of the half-baked Star Wars Prequel series, ATOC, we are introduced to the insectoid Geonosians, one of the core members of the Confederacy. The inspiration for the Geonosians came from a termite infestation of George Lucas’ house. Much like those destructive ants, the Geonoisans are a hive-mind and live in great hive-like structures on Geonosis. There were two leaders within the hive structure. One was the queen that was the “brains” of the operation and breeder of the species, while a male was empowered to be the representative of his race, and is seemingly more “independent” than most hive-minded creatures. 
With their single-mindedness, the Geonosians had become one of the major industrial powers outside of the core systems, and were known to product the army droids for the Trade Federation. When the Clone Wars erupted, Geonosis was seen as the first battle in that long war. While only seen in one film, the insectoid Geonosians were featured in the Star Wars Clone Commando video game, where the flying aliens were a pest that needed healthy amounts of blaster rifle. One of the greatest feats of Geonosian engineering was the blueprints of the Death Star, however, this development did not lead to any loyalty by the Empire.  A bloody culling of their world felt much of the population dead. Can I just say that I hate the Geonosians? They never worked for me and their technology was all over the place, and maybe it was just the bad computer effects, but I still rank the Geonosians as one of the weakest concepts of an alien species in the Prequel films. 

The Ants on Banshee from Armor
In 1984, DAW Books published Texan John Steakley's take on Starship Troopers with his increasing the combat and the psychological horror of the wave of crazed murderous giant insectoids. Armor became a classic of military science fiction literature and sadly, Mr. Steakly died before he could finish the sequel. While the book does have a serious design flaw with the Jack Crow space pirate section that abruptly seperates the reader from the adventures of Felix on Banshee, when it works, it rocks with solid sci-fi combat sequences involving powered armor wearing Terran warriors and hordes of giant ants with weak heat blasters. The "ant" warrior drones are merciless killing machines on the hostile world of Banshee and a great deal of the Antwar itself is completely unexplored and unexplained. The ants themselves are more for a vector for the visceral close-in combat that is brutal and makes the combat scenes in the Starship Troopers book pale by comparison. By the end of the book, the ants on Banshee have taken such significant casualties that nearly hatched warrior drones and worker drones are sent against the Terran warriors. Armor was a direct influence on my 2015 military SF book Endangered Species and I reference it several times. Also, I met Mr.Steakly at convention in Dallas in 2002, and was grateful for the experience given his recent passing.

The Arachnids From the Starship Troopers Universe
The work that forged the link between military science fiction and hostile insectoids was the founding classic of military SF literature: 1959’s Starship Troopers novel by Robert Heinlein. We discuss this book a great deal here on FWS and that is with good reason, it laid the foundation for so many traditions in sci-fi and military sci-fi, and that includes hostile alien insect species. This book always influenced the creation of other visions of the Arachnids for the original text. The literal arachnids of the SST novel have been translated several times for other SST works in various media. In the original novel, the pseudo-Arachnids were not described until page 107 of the 1987 ACE paperback edition I own. In those yellowing pages, the big bad bugs are more spider-like and live within caste system society that uses technology, including starships. However, these space spiders use their warriors in massive wave attacks that overwhelm their enemy, but at a high price. This concept of the intelligent the Arachnids was carried through the 1976 Avalon Hill RPG…then the 1997 film came out. In the stripped down, balls-to-the-wall insanity that was the SST live-action film, the Arachnids were completely altered into a very aggressive, non-technological species that colonized via hardened space spores and controlled via brain bugs and the god bug. 
While the fans of the book were horrified at the portrayal of the warriors, however, I’ve always thought that the overall design of the warrior drone bugs was very effective and terrifying. This design would become more or less standard in every subsequent SST works to come after the film. Another vision of the Arachnids came from Bandai Visual OVA Uchu  no Senshi and they were more organic, jellyfish-like than insect based and are boldly hued. For the short-lived Roughnecks: the SST Chronicles American animated series that ran around 1999, there many subspecies of the overall Arachnid species featured. 
Some designs were taken from the 1997 film, but many other bugs were added to fulfill roles in their empire and hive complexes and there was to be an overall-in-charge Queen Mother, but she was never seen due to the series cancelled. These bugs had enslaved the Skinnies to serve in their war against the Terrans, but they were liberated during the run of the series. Humans first met the Arachnids on Pluto, and it was discovered they commanded a vast empire that wanted humans out of the way. The animated series presented the most diverse picture of the Arachnid Empire and society.     

The Xixchil/Thri-Kreen from the D&D and Spelljammer Universe
FWS does not include a great number of examples from the fantasy given that it is outside the purview of FWS. However, I like to throw in some examples from time-to-time since I used to be a casual D&D gamer. In the Dark Sun setting, the Thri-Kreen was a nomadic praying mantis warrior race that exists in tightly packed groups and enjoyed their Elf meat. Known for violent combat skills, living to only 35, and being difficult to get along with, they possessed no real society or culture. In the Spelljammer, Forgotten Realms, Dark Sun and D&D game settings there is a mantis insectoid species of nomadic warriors called the Thri-Kreen. These nasty buggers were also transported to the insane Spelljammer universe as the Xixchil, who were experts in the ways of body modification and enjoyed making kittens with wings…seriously.  

The Tyranids from the Warhammer 40K Universe
When it comes to the nastiest parasitic species that have insect appearance and behavior of sci-fi, the Tyranids from Warhammer 40,000 are definitely in the running. This crawling, creeping, murderous bio-mass is one of the greatest threats to the entire Milky Way galaxy, and at times, the hostile races will ban together to fight these lethal insectoid xenos. The Tyranids date back to the foundation of WH40K, with some elements of their later designs would appear in the 1987 Rogue Trader manual that established this darkgrim future where there is only war. The first element of the Tyranids would appear in the Genestealers from the Space Hulk games and the Tyranids as we know them today, would appear in Advanced Space Crusade in 1990. 
If you want to be creeped out than sit down and read the Codex about them and the great Hive Fleets inbound from another galaxy to ours. With their ability to recycle and use all bio-mass, the Tyranids can quickly overwhelm any defense and transform the dead and living into alien monsters that are devoted to the single-minded purpose of killing. There have been several major engagements between the Imperium of Man and the Tyranids where victory was not certain. It is believed that these aliens are fleeing a depleted galaxy for one with fresh victims. In the tabletop game, the Tyranids were an expensive army to amass and paint and with the recent nerfing by GW, some fans of WH40K have called the Tyranids broken. There some fans that also are waiting on the Tyranid invasion of Earth as well…     

The Uchuu Kaijuu from the Gunbuster Universe
One of the better military sci-fi anime series is 1988’s Gunbuster and the big, bad enemy is a race of “Space Monsters” or the Uchuu Kaijuuhe. Aggressive and massive in scale that has wiped out a few Terran fleets when the RX-7 Mecha and Gunbuster suits are developed to counter the space organism assault. They draw power for the sun and dislike our muscling in on resources. Many of the attack Uchuu Kaijuuhe forms are insect-like in appearance while others are more akin to sea creatures in appearance. The series focuses more on the human characters and the combat rather than exploring the motivations of these space monsters. Despite the inclusion of the Uchuu Kaijuu on the Gunbuster Science Lesson video, there is not much fleshed out about them. 

The Zerg Swarm from the Starcraft Universe
One of the most terrifying enemy in the Starcraft universe is the Zerg and their combat organic army, the Swarm. Coming in a vast array of combat forms and types, the Zerg Swarm use their rapid evolutionary adaptability to counter any threat or planetary condition to sweep across the world, pushing aside any defenders. They strike from the ground, air, and even space to dominate the worlds and military bases of the Terrans and the Protoss with overwhelming numbers in waves of Zerg rushes. 
One weakness of the Swarm is the hive-mind, as we saw when the Queen of Blades took over the broods and set the entire swarm on her personal quest. If for any reason the Zerg units are separated from their hive-mind, they are not as much as a threat and are far less intelligent. These superorganism are not strictly insectoids in appearence, but given their adaptability, they can take on many shapes given the local conditions...much like the Tyranids from 40K. They are often a odd lumping of the Xenomporhs from ALIENS and real-world insects. 
The Rachni from the Mass Effect Universe
There are three major insectoid races featured in the Mass Effect universe: the Collectors, the Keepers, and the Rachni. While all are important, the Rachni and the wars that came about altered the galactic history. Over 2,000 years before the events of the Mass Effect games and began when Salarian explorers jump into a previous unexplored system and found the hive-minded insect species known as the Rachni on the planet of Suen that took control of the ships and killed the crew. With this insect species being sparcefaring and hostile, wars erupted that nearly ripped apart the galaxy.
This was not the first time that this happened.
The Rachni had been bred and used as soldiers previously by the Prothean some 50,000 years ago, but the Protheans lost control of the insectoids, causing the Protheans to nearly wiping them out. As the Reapers waged their genocide on the Protheans, the Rachni laid low and rebuilt their civilization. After the violent introduction of the Rachni to the Citadel races, the Rachni reverse engineered the ships and accessed the Mass Relay, spreading out among the galaxy. Thus began the Rachni Wars. This fast breeding race soon overwhelmed the galaxy, and the Salarians uplifted the Korgan to deal with the Rachni. By the end of the wars, the Rachni were once again believed to be wiped out...not so. One last queen was discovered by the Terran company of Binary Helix on a lost ship with an egg in cryo. It was on the ice world of Noveria that the Rachni live again. Sadly, they are used by the Reapers in the 3rd game, and once again, you are faced with the choice of regicide or mercy. The Rachni were based on elements of the Formics and the Arachnids. 

The Yanme'e (Drones) from the HALO Universe
Appearing in HALO 2 as well-armed pest to your adventures, these flying snipers and harassers are called the Drones, due to their insectoid nature. Despite being a conquered species forcibility incorporated into the Covenant, the Yanme’e are loyal to the Covenant political system and religious dogma. So much so, that they side with the loyalists during the breakup of the Covenant. Much like many insect-based alien species, they have a breeding queen and endless legions of drones all linked via a hive-mind. On the battlefield, the Yanme’e used their power of flight and anti-gravity to float and sting, with swarms of them attacking. While they are pests and can overwhelm you, they die easily and quickly with a single burst from a Battle Rifle. The design, behavior, and sounds of the Drones in the core HALO games are quite good and can have a “creep-out” effect on the player. 

The Ohmu from The Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
This 1984 anime feature film by the legendary director/ creator Hayao Miyazaki is a cautionary tale of environmental damage that features a very different Earth one thousand years in the future. The polluted Earth is no longer dominated by mankind, and roaming the world are giant insect-larva creatures known as “the Ohmu”. Giant in scale, and easily provoked if any insect is killed, they are murderous. Similar in destructive power to the Sandworm of Arakis, the Ohmu are one of the reasons the Earth of Nausicaa is so dangerous. They are also tough buggers with their exoskeleton being like hardened armor and it is said that they were bio-engineered by long ago humans to clean the polluted world. Much like the Sandworms of DUNE, the Ohmu are misunderstood along with their destruction.

“The Blue” Insectoids from Blue Gender
This 1999-2000 26 part military sci-fi anime series was imported to the US shores around 2003 and shows a classic “bugs vs. powered armor” story, however, the enemy is not some alien invader but a by-product of the seemingly incurable B-Cell disease. Evolving from the B-Cells, was a race of monstrous insectoids that were created by humanity fooling around with the B-Cells to develop a bio-weapon similar to the Company’s motivations on LV-426 in ALIEN and ALIENS.  These various hive-minded  creatures are generally called “blues” and have overrun the planet, forcing what remains of the human race to a massive space station. This was a take on Gaia’s Revenge and the series was fairly solid until the end.

The Bee People from Starblazers Episode “Stop at Beeland”
In epsiode 16 of the original 1979 "Quest for Iscadar" series of Starblazers, we see our astronaut-soldiers of the Argo located a lush green world that the command staff agree would be ideal for resupply and shore leave given the increasing complaints from the crew about the food and the gray metal walls. The planet, known as Beemera, was to be recon'ed by Nova and IQ-9. After IQ-9 proposed marriage, Nova crashes the survey fighter, allowing them to be captured by the worker class of Beemera, when the girl and her robot foolish explore a beehive structure. The Bee People believed that Nova was a Gamilon and while captured, Nova witnessed the terrible conditions due to the massive slave labor enforced by Queen Melina, who was under the thumb of the Gamilons. Slave labor is being used by Queen to harvest the royal jelly, a favorite food of Leader Desslok, to keep herself in power. If quotas are not met and the workers' revolt, the Gamilon threated replacing Melina. Of course, IQ-9 seems to know all of this and explains the entire situation to the audience and Nova. 
As a Gamilon cargo vessel lands to pick up the cargo, some of the workers rally around an older worker bee as he calls out that the Queen sold them out to the Gamilons, this being the apex for the Queen being forced to to make a choice: shoot down the Gamilon cargo ship or face a rebellion. Instead, the Queen fires the laser towed artillery cannon, and blasts him to bits. Before the riot can begin, a rescue force from the Argo shows up and rescues Nova, as the Bee People's society collapses and Queen Melina is presumably killed as a fire rages. The mission is a failure, and the battlecruiser moves to towards Iscandar. Okay, this episode is just dumb, poorly done, and the story could have been used such a different manner than what was seen on-screen. While some of the design and animation with the Bee People is interesting, it is wasted. I found the original 1979 American airing on Youtube....and it did not change my opinion. 

Shelob from the Lord of the Rings Universe

While FWS is in no way a fantasy war blog, I do like to include a good example from time to time, and when it comes to creepy ass insect monsters, one of the most iconic is the giant female spider from The Two Towers: Shelob. She was the last of the great spiders that survived the destruction of Beleriand, and they took up in the Mirkwood Forest and Mountains of Mordor, eating those unlucky enough to cross paths with them. In 3019 of the 3rd Age of the Sun, Samwise and Frodo were forced to engage with Shelob, and she was mortally wounded by the Elven blade. She retreated and died and that disgusting place. For many of us, Shelob was one of the most terrifying creatures of Tolkien's Middle Earth, and I for one was totally creeped out when I read these parts and saw them in the films. It is odd that Shelob was not seen in the glorious 1970's animated film.  

The Invid from the ROBOTECH Universe
One interesting hybrid example from sci-fi of insectoid-like qualities comes from the Invid of the third ROBOTECH television series. In the vast backstory of the ROBOTECH universe, the Invid homeworld was the origin point for the Flower of Life that allowed for some much of the technology and warfare displayed in the series. Before Zor discovered the Invid, they were a race at one with their planet’s biosphere and did not know of warfare, hatred, and greed; all were one in the hive mind of the Invid. When the humanoid race that became known as the Robotech masters sent a science to investigate the Invid, it altered the destiny of both species via a scientist named Zor. The organic fusion that produced clean energy caused a war over the resources and twisted the Invid into a race defending themselves and they forged mecha that resumed insects. After the destruction of the Invid biosphere, they split their hive mind intelligent into a male/female leader system: the Regis and the Regent. The nature of the actual Invid bio-form is not insect form in nature, rather more in the hive mind and their style of Mecha. In actuality, the Invid are more slug-like in their biological forms.  

The Antlions from the Half-Life Universe
One of the most overwhelming enemies in the entire Half-Life game universe is the Antlions. These are not native to Earth or Xen, and they have a long history of association with the Vortigaunt. These aggressive hive-dwelling creatures were imported to Earth via portal storms after the invasion by the Combine. Vortigaunts possess Antlion husbandry skills to harvest the extract of the larva of the Antlions that can be used to heal the wounded, as seen with Alyx Vance. Antlions are a fusion of bees and ants that are mostly blind and use vibration and sense of smell. Using their namesakes tactic, the Antlions burrow into sand and other loose soil then they await their prey. These creatures are deadly in the game, and can overwhelm the player easily. When the player gets a hold of an pheropod, they can take control of the antlions and direct them to attack.

Next Time on FWS...
It is time to suit up and mind the bump...because FWS is finally discussing spaceborne/space drop/space assault soldiers! From Starship Troopers to the ODST from HALO, these space paratroopers are a fixture and a hallmark of the entire genre. This uniquely science fiction concept of upgrading the regular Airborne paratroops to not drop in from the sky, but from space. So, join FWS next time when we drop feet first into hell!


  1. Another excellent article about Sci-fi enemies.

    I look forward to what you have to say about Space Paratroopers. :)

  2. The Bug Wars by Robert Asprin features an Imperium of Lizard volk fighting the various races of the insect coalition. The bugs are the inheritors of "forerunner" tech; who were uplifted by and ultimately turned on their benefactors.

  3. An interesting article as always, William. Very insightful and gives one food for thought.

    As for the idea of an insect-like species become a sapient, technological civilization with the ability to perform interstellar travel, I don't recall where but there was a thought that such an arthropod-like creature would need a mammalian-like organ arrangement i.e. a closed circulatory system and an active respiratory system.

    Anyway before I forget, I'm not sure you're familiar with Palladium's Rifts setting, but I recall reading one of my world books about the extradimensional Xiticix ( http://rifts.wikia.com/wiki/Xiticix ) that could prove to be an interesting example as well.

  4. I find it interesting that almost exclusively eusocial (hive) insects get their sci-fi representation. Other insects are interesting models for aliens as well.

    Consider the cockroaches. Incredibly hardy, utterly opportunistic, social but anarchic. No hive-mind, neither king nor queen - but rather a swarm of these brown insects emerging at night from their sewerly warrens to forage at the detritus of humanity. Each roach has its own will; but they do enjoy sticking together.

    Now imagine an alien species inspired by cockroaches - adaptive opportunists living in an anarchic society, trading in trinkets and junk, and of course - engaging in opportunistic piracy. They can set up camp almost on any planet regardless of conditions, they do bring trade, but watch your back - when the opportunity arises they will very easily turn to thivery, robbery, and even piracy...

  5. The Bug from Men in Black was a very entertaining take on insect alien.
    "Imagine a giant cockroach, with unlimited strength, a massive inferiority complex, and a real short temper, is tear-assing around Manhattan Island in a brand-new Edgar suit. That sound like fun?"

  6. Great article. I'll forestall any angry comments by mentioning that spiders are arachnids, not insects :P

    Any thought that insect alien races are stand-ins for western democratic fears of communist Asians? Seems to me that pretty much every insectoid race echoes banzai charges, armies of virtually indistinguishable soldiers enthralled to a ruling group with little or no free will, little value on individual life (as opposed to heroic self sacrifice, I guess), etc.

    1. Think that was more writers looking for parallels in real world wars such as WWII and Korea, no secret Cameron's Aliens was based one part on Starship Troop and one part 'Vietnam in Spaaace!' Still see it today, a bunch of Starship Trooper fans love drawing parallels between Verhoeven 1997 b-film and the the war on terror.

  7. An excellent blog on yet another alien menace. You might have not realized about yet another that is worthy of the list The Grex from the alternate history story the Swarm On the Somme. They're terrifying and unholy, the whole story is grim dark enough to be on par with 40K. While some scenes might be reminiscent of SST it's justified by the setting of the setting. Unfortunately you have to be a member of the alternate history website, I only got to read the sample pages from Sribd website.

  8. Great article, but one thing I'd like to mention ate the Thranx from Alan Dean Fosters Humanx Commonwealth series. Worth a read ad they are a benevolent insect species.

  9. And don’t forget the Traash from “The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers” (1986). In a neat twist, the human telepath discovered that both the insects and the humans were afraid of each other, and both sides had to overcome their mutual revulsion to make peace. An alien pirate who was a humanoid bird was able to mimic the ultrasonic whistle that the Queen used to command her drones, enabling the humans to walk around the insects’ ships safely.

    I like that it starts out with a “Starship Troopers”-like situation where the insect aliens are a threat to civilisation, but then takes a left turn.

  10. NOVA Legacy is a game where you have to kill aliens. Haha. Similar with this article in some ways. Check it out https://games.lol/nova-legacy/