It seems to me that every time humans are mentioned in fantasy or science fiction settings that include other races, humans are average. This applies to most games that give a choice of races to play, or to science-fiction settings that include a whole gallery of aliens.
That gave me the idea for a setting where humans are decidedly non-average in some way. The story, which I have neither plot nor characters for, would take place in modern times. But the backstory would go back about 1,000 years, to when aliens landed on Earth. These particular aliens were explorers, seeking only to catalog the local flora and fauna on the planet. They landed in Northern Europe, and were dismayed when their studies turned up a version of the bubonic plague that had not yet evolved to attack humans. According to their calculations, there was a 98.2% chance that this plague would evolve into a superbug and cause a planet-wide die-off of humans and other animal species. These explorers didn’t have the medical technology to avert the crisis, so they decided to rescue as many humans as they could with their spaceship, and take them back to civilized space to start anew, with alien technology to help them adapt.
Nine hundred years later, the descendents of those original humans who were “saved” are now an equal part of a interplanetary federation of sentient species, far away from the presumed ruined world of Earth. Another explorer ship travels to Earth to investigate strange radio transmissions, and discovers humans still on Earth, quietly building an impressive society of their own. The aliens decide not to open contact with Earth yet, merely to observe for the time being.
Now, I do have a couple of plot ideas, but I’ll post those later. Suffice it to say that it involves Earth humans finally meeting space humans. For now, I want to talk about the important bit about this setting: Humans Are Not Average. I said humans were an equal part of the federation, but what role do they fill? Are they, perhaps, the Wookiees of the universe? It would be an interesting experience for the Earth human characters to realize this. Most aliens can out-think them, but are so fragile that even a fairly weak human can pull their arms out of their sockets. The Earth humans would learn quickly that they don’t get a lot of respect from the aliens, but can frighten them just by looking angry.
Drawing inspiration from the Wookiees, the plot could even focus on an alien attempt to start carting off humans as slaves. The good guys would probably be trying to contact the space humans to come and save their homeworld. I think it sounds kind of cool, but it also reminds me of the plot of Animorphs, which isn’t really the intention.
To take it in another direction, what if humans are the Tolkienesque elves of the universe? Humans are smart, long lived (aliens have lifespans much shorter than ours), have superior senses, and are relatively in tune with nature (we build houses out of wood and put quaint parks in our cities). The space humans are also considered by the other races to be aloof and frail-bodied, and may even be leaders in technological advancement in the federation, since they were caught up scientifically 1,000 years ago. I’m not sure what plot would go along with this setting.
My last big idea about humanity’s role amongst the alien species involves what works that insist on categorizing humans usually say: That humans are adaptable, dynamic, quick learners. So what if humanity is actually a very slow moving, inflexible, but stoic race? The aliens, upon learning that the plague didn’t wipe us all out, are surprised that we are only now developing global computing, having had 1,000 years to work at the task. When the Earth humans learn of the existence of aliens, it takes them a long time to get used to the idea. On the other hand, the aliens have a habit of going to pieces whenever anything goes wrong, and the original aliens who came to Earth all those years ago have since been wiped out, while humans have survived no matter what has happened, their good humor intact.
This setting / idea is a part of a larger story I am trying to put together. If and when I think of characters, plots, or other elements of the story, I’ll make separate posts for them. This is one of the main things I wanted to do with this blog: Share the bits and pieces I have that aren’t yet developed into full stories but that I think are cool and worth expanding. I welcome feedback.