Tweet of the Day: A Solution for Long-Term Living on Low-Gravity Planets
In the sliding scale of “How Alien are your Aliens?” the Intelligent Gerbil falls next to Rubber-Forehead Aliens (you know the ones from Star Trek with extra ridges on their forehead or a few spots on their necks). The Intelligent Gerbil takes one or more terrestrial species (often mammals, reptilian or insect) and turns them into an intelligent and (often) bi-pedal race. They have the benefit of being alien, since animals are not humans, but still familiar. Want an aloof yet caring creature? Model your alien after after a domesticated cat. Need an unstoppable alien horde that knows no rhyme or reason and devours everything in its path? Insects will do nicely.
Of course there is a downside to this trope and can be found in the very familiarity that it uses to hook in the reader. After all, why must all forms of life in the galaxy, let alone the universe, conform to Earth’s standard? It seems bizarre that a universe filled with worlds with different gravity gradients, stars of different luminosity and planets with exotic atmosphere all or most alien life would invariably look like your neighbor’s dog walking on two legs. The one sure fix to this situation is to ruthlessly apply evolutionary science to entire planetary ecosystems involving millions if not billions of years adaption to their environment.
Or you can say that some ancient race meddled with the process of evolution in Sigma Alpha V and that is why the dominant species are a bunch of cute anime cat-girls.