The Rabbit Problem

Today as I was working on the second space opera novel, EVIL TIMES, I was faced with the perennial science fiction problem.  What do you do about animals on alien worlds?  Or in a fantasy novel?  In my universe Old Earth is a climate change decimated hell hole.  The capital of the Solar League is on a planet called Ouranos, capital city Hisselek.  Naturally Earth animals have been brought with the settlers, but there are local fauna as well.

The problem isn’t that there are going to be native fauna, the problem is what the fuck to call them?  Do you make up an annoying name — rabbithorn — or do we assume the human settlers will just use familiar word to describe the critters?  If it fills the spot that rabbits fill on Earth why not just call it a rabbit?  Or use a foreign word — lapin or conejo or a older word like coney or hare.

I was thinking about C.J. Cherryh’s FOREIGNER series where the riding animals aren’t called horses, she uses the alien’s word mechieta for the critters.  (Except she admits she’s misspelled the word in her own novels.  Maybe just saying horse is easier).  The difference in my books is that there wasn’t an evolved race living on Ouranos before the humans arrived so I guess the humans get to call the native animals whatever they’d like.

This does mean when the books move to the worlds native to various aliens I’m going to have to come up with the Hajin, Isanjo, Tiponi Flute, Sidones words for rabbit.


5 Responses to The Rabbit Problem

  • Wolf Lahti says:


  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    The problem with making up silly names is, at last for me, it bounces me right out of the book. I think if you’re on an alien planet where aliens live and have a language then you call the local fauna by the alien word. I suppose humans might give the critters new names, but I’m trying to keep the reading experience smooth.

  • Rebecca Hewett says:

    If it looks like a rabbit, hops like a rabbit, shits like a rabbit, and most importantly/annoyingly, EATS YOUR GARDEN like a rabbit, it’s a “damn critter.” Okay. Probably not helpful.

    If there are (xeno)biologists involved, I imagine that they would try and start categorizing the flora and fauna of a planet using the same system that’s used on Earth with formal Latin names based on characteristics and behavior with related items having names to show relationships. Then there might be the general nickname for everyday use such as “damn critters” or “Ouranos rabbit” or “(insert discover’s name here) bunny” based on how it fits into the human’s concept of its similarity with an Old Earth animal.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      I like the idea of incorporating the planet name into the critter’s name. I’m going to look at that. Thanks.

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