Mysterious Island, 1961 I grew up with Mysterious Island. In those pre-Betamax dark ages, you had to keep a keen eye on the TV Guide if you wanted to watch your favorite movie again and again. Then, inevitably, you'd have to run out of the room to go pee just as your favorite giant-animal-monster was about to terrorize the buxom heroine. Oh, DAMN! I missed the first thirty seconds of the giant bees! Watching it nowadays, my finger is never too far from the fast forward button. Ray Harryhausen's good stuff (note giant crab, bee, and chickenish thing in the poster above -- and that's not all!) is intercut with long, boring bits of dialog as our castaways struggle to survive on (badummm!) the Mysterious Island. I have no patience for this as an adult. As a kid, the talkie stuff functioned as foreplay, raising tension in anticipation of the orgiastic monster scenes. When I set about the process of world-building for my novel, I think Mysterious Island must have been lurking through my unconscious mind, diddling my muse. My aliens are little more than giant Harryhausen-style critters. Big birds, dogs, pigs, spiders, and so forth. Sure, they have their little quirks that make them alien, but I wanted my creatures to be immediately imaginable by the reader. I dislike extraterrestrials which demand much from me in the 'inner eye' department. Moties? Feh. Niven's puppeteer? Uh. I'll take Niven's Kzin (giant cats), thank you very much. I suppose many readers are just the opposite. They crave the strange. Show me something I've never seen before. Yeah, I know there are SF fans out there who think that way. I cracked the problem in a different (and, I hope, equally satisfactory) way, by giving my readers situations they might never have imagined possible. Like, say, a giant fly going down on a giant spider. When was the last time Niven gave you that, huh? D.