What is Xenofiction:
Xenofiction is a subgenre where we see the story told from the perspective of someone or something non-human. In fantasy it tends to come from the form of an animal or other fantasy creature that has never been human. In science fiction this can take many other forms such as aliens and individuals with Artificial Intelligence, such as spaceships, robots, etc. It can also come from the perspective of something that has taken over a human’s body.
What Isn’t Xenofiction:
Typically if you can easily replace the characters with humans, or superpowered humans, it is not Xenofiction. Which rules out a lot of vampire and werewolf stories. Some say that Beast Fables, which are stories where an author says something about human society by replacing it with animals, aren’t Xenofiction, while others do.
Genres For Xenofiction:
While you might expect Xenofiction to stick to speculative fiction, this isn’t the case. While it is predominantly a phenomenon of Fantasy and Science Fiction, some popular examples aren’t SFF at all. Take The Jungle Book, for example, with perspectives of the animals. There are plenty of famous examples outside of Science Fiction and Fantasy. It is also popular in books written for children.
A Note on Anthropomorphism:
While Xenofiction and Anthropomorphism are often lumped together, they are often not the same thing. “Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities.” (From Wikipedia). Examples of this can take the form of Good or Evil, Chaos, Death, or any of a range of emotions like Fear. While this can potentially be Xenofiction, it more often isn’t.
Xenofiction isn’t a very well-populated subgenre. And I certainly haven’t read much of it. Lots of examples do not have entirely non-human perspectives, and a lot of examples have just a Token non-human perspective that shows up occasionally. From what I’ve seen while researching this, there hasn’t really been a time when it has been especially popular, with a lot of books coming out in only a few years, before dropping away again. It has always had a steady release of books.
That said, I do have a few Xenofiction I would like to point out.
I read and loved Foreigner by C.J. Cherryh. It is a borderline case because the first seven or so books in the series have only a human as the narrator character, though he tries very hard to understand, think, and act like the aliens in the series. Around book eight in the series, an alien narrator character is added.
I’m looking forward to reading the Xenogenesis Trilogy by Octavia E. Butler, a series that features aliens who take humans and merging them into themselves.
Animorphs by K.A. Applegate is perhaps the first science fiction introduction some people have had to the Xenofiction subgenre, as a few of the books are written from the perspective of the aliens.
Murderbot by Martha Wells is an amazing example of an humanoid AI that isn’t actually human.
For more, just go through the sources at the top of the page, dozens are listed.
A Few Personal Thoughts:
I would love to see more Xenofiction in both Science Fiction and Fantasy. I also think that Xenofiction is an underutilized term. I think there are plenty more examples out there than I can find, because the term isn’t used often applied. I think we should bring this term into use more often when it applies. Xenofiction is an interesting subsection of the SFF genres that should be explored more.