Worldbuilding Wednesday 10/6/21: Insects

In fantasy worldbuilding, insects get the short end of the (walking) stick. What’s the last imaginary one you can remember? For me, it’s the odd bread-and-butterfly of Alice in Wonderland.

The intelligent insect races of science fiction are more memorable. The Bugs of Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, and the Buggers (Formics) of Orson Scott Card’s Ender series are two of the more memorable. Spindly, black, hairy, and multilegged, they are depicted as ruthless, avaricious adversaries without emotion and individuality. The same is true of the Tandu, a race from David Brin’s Uplift series who oppose the hubris of humankind for creating their own client races in intelligent dolphins and chimpanzees. (There is, incidentally, a whole encyclopedia of Uplift races and their relationships here, and it’s complicated.)

Alan Dean Foster is the only writer I know who bucked the tide and created an insect race friendly towards humanity. Known as the Thranx, his charming creatures are mantis-like and have an attractive odor. The same concept of mantid- or grasshopper-like insect men was adopted by TSR (now Wizards of the Coast) for their race of insect men known as the Thri-Keen which players may choose as a character.

Want to stick in some insects of your own to round out a world or two?

(NOTE: I’m including spiders and scorpions in the list even though, technically, they do not belong to the insect family.)



Chicken Cabbage Spider

Coffer Fly

Blue Oil Wasp

Monk Spider

Gilded Tigerfly

Heath Darter



Ox Tick

Sultan Kisser

Copper-Backed Millipede

Dune Mite

Goblin Bug

Harewhip Spider

Goodwife Flea

Zebra Beetle

Cattle Crawler

Jupiter Beetle

Spinster Fly

Patron Hornet

Empress Barrel Cricket

Valparaiso Barrel Cricket

Amber-eyed Mantis

Pudding Mite

White Slipper Butterfly

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