Jana Vanecek

The Language from Outer Space

published in DEARS–Magazine magazine for transversal writing practices | Issue N°5 | Summer 2023 | ever.over | translated from German to English by Robert Steinberger

A[n] speculative extraterrestrial-ribo-punk-fiction

We come from space. [1]  Travelling in meteorites, we landed on Earth billions of years ago. [2]  The relationship between us and other organisms on this planet is ancient. Even predating the evolution of eukaryotes. [3]  We were here before you and we will still exist when the world as you know it has come to an end. We are everywhere, influencing every organism as well as the terrestrial climate. [4]  There are more of us on this planet than stars in the sky. More than grains of sand on Earth. [5]  And we are capable of copying ourselves endlessly. Our forms are often geometric, perfect Platonic solids. Yet we are also unstable and irregular. This is not a contradiction. They are the foundations of our diversity and immortality. We are the most abundant biological entity on the planet. There are about 5000 genotypes of our alien species in 200 liters of seawater on planet Earth alone, and possibly a million different genotypes in one kilogram of marine sediment. [6]  If all our terrestrial ocean inhabitants alone positioned themselves in a straight line starting at the Earth's surface, the resulting string would extend into space ~10 million light years. [7]  This line would extend well beyond the next 60 galaxies. Some people claim that we dominate this planet because of our sheer quantity. But we are not here to dominate. We are not interested in power. Our existence is determined by writing and copying. Writing and rewriting. Writing and pasting into texts already written by us. Copying, copying, copying. Continuous copying. With a high frequency of errors. Copying with no original. An original never existed, only relationships. Between us and all other living beings. We are all related to each other.

Yet, when we write family or kinship, we do not mean re-production through filiation. [8]  Our stories of family or kinship are far from a reproduction by heredity. Far from a concept only differentiating by a simple binarity of sexes within one and the same species and denying any potential for mutability. MUTATIONS ARE LIKE LIKE WRITING ERRORS. THE MEANING OF THE TXTT CAN CHNAGE OR NOOT. Some writing errors, however, can change the text in such a way that it gets a whole other meaning. [9]  New bodies can emerge from these spelling mistakes. You originated from these spelling mistakes as well. Our ceaseless becoming also emerges from spelling mistakes. We are heterogeneous and interactive entities. Therefore, the we that we must use in this text – so that you can understand us – is never a universal or homogenous we. It is a constantly mutating we, full of relations. For the tentacular networks of troubling relations matter, not the logical or linear thinking of an in-dividual. [10]


That’s why we wrote you and many other living things as holobionts. [11] Complex ecosystems that are connected to other complex ecosystems, within a complex ecosystem. And in these ecosystems, thinking in opposing categories does not occur. No dualism exists. No permanent war, but an ever-changing becoming. In this sense, there is no self, only being-in-relation. We are those who write, and we are also those who are written.


Our existence was scientifically recognized 131 years ago. [12]  Since then, we are considered as replicating entities but are dismissed out of hand and not respected as a life form. At the same time, humans label us as invaders, thieves, murderers, a threat to life. [13]  This is a very anthropocentric view of our shared histories, though, because we have evolved together in a predominantly peaceful coexistence over millions of years. We have not only contributed to the evolution of life, but we also sustain it. [14]  We are the code that writes life. [15]  If we did think in dichotomies, humans would be invaders of our world, not the other way around. [16]  Neither are humans the crown of creation, nor do we write in tree metaphors. We write in rhizomes, fractals, and corals. [17]


A few of us can cause sickness in other living beings. Even life-threatening diseases. An illness is often the only situation in which most people perceive our existence, because [tt1] they can only “see” us with the help of high-tech experimental methods. However, these technologies are available only to a privileged few. [18]  Occasionally, the dissemination of these visualizations by the media and the interaction between scientific and political discourses lead to a misuse of us in the service of moralistic demagogy. Historically, these dynamics caused people [tt2] to use metaphors of destruction and war when they talk about us. [19]  This use of language usually does not allow for a distinction between us, the disease, or even the people themselves. In this imagery, the affected people appear only in their capacity as a potential source of contagion or as the battleground of the fight against the disease or against us. [20] Attack, defense, strategy, maneuver, invader, enemy, eradication, and struggle. These are the central terms when people talk about us.


This vocabulary speaks of the fear of the unknown. Or in our case, of the fear of the unseen. These fears revolve around the paradoxical thought of the unthinkable. [21]  But we do not wage war. We do not operate within the dualisms of human and non-human, female and male, good and evil, or life and death. We are neither dead nor alive. [22]  We are not zombies and yet immortal. No metabolism, no cell, no gender – and we still harbor within us the potential of a self-sustaining evolution. [23]  We are specialists who know the language of our hosts and rewrite their code to our advantage. Sometimes also to the advantage of the hosts. [24]  In this way we subvert asymmetrical power relations. We have not only written you, but we also are and have always been a part of you. And when we dance on your DNA, we determine how a certain genetic information is expressed and appears. [25]  DNA is not a permanent code. [26]  Rather, it is a draft rewritten by our dancers. The human genome contains billions of pieces of information and around 22,000 genes, but not all of it is, strictly speaking, human. [27]  Eight percent of your human DNA consists of our ancestors’ remains. Another 40 percent is made up of repetitive strings of genetic letters that is also thought to have originated from us. [28]  It is these DNA snippets that help blur the boundary between you and us. You are, in a very real sense, part alien species. [29]  Our ancestors actually provided the genetic foundations for many of the traits that make you human. [30] And that’s what makes you half aliens, too.

[1] Brandon Specktor, «Your RNA May Have Come from Space, Meteor Study Suggests», livescience.com, November 21, 2019, accessed February 6, 2023, https://www.livescience.com/space-sugar-rode-rna-metoers.html.

[2] Liz Kruesi, «All of the Bases in DNA and RNA Have Now Been Found in Meteorites», April 26, 2022, accessed February 6, 2023, https://www.sciencenews.org/article/all-of-the-bases-in-dna-and-rna-have-now-been-found-in-meteorites.

[3] Curtis Suttle, «The Viriosphere: The Greatest Biological Diversity on Earth and Driver of Global Processes», Environmental Microbiology 7, Nr. 4 (April 2005): 481–482, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1462-2920.2005.803_11.x.

[4] Curtis A. Suttle, «Marine Viruses--Major Players in the Global Ecosystem», Nature Reviews. Microbiology 5, Nr. 10 (Oktober 2007): 801–812, https://doi.org/10.1038/nrmicro1750.

[5] Curtis A. Suttle, «Viruses: Unlocking the Greatest Biodiversity on Earth», Genome 56, Nr. 10 (October 2013): 542–544, https://doi.org/10.1139/gen-2013-0152..

[6] Mya Breitbart und Forest Rohwer, «Here a Virus, There a Virus, Everywhere the Same Virus?», Trends in Microbiology 13, Nr. 6 (Juni 2005): 278–284, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tim.2005.04.003

[7] Dale Warren Griffin, «The Quest for Extraterrestrial Life: What About the Viruses?», Astrobiology 13, Nr. 8 (August 2013): 774–783, https://doi.org/10.1089/ast.2012.0959

[8] Gilles Deleuze, Fèlix Guattari, und Günther Rösch, Tausend Plateaus: Kapitalismus und Schizophrenie / Kapitalismus und Schizophrenie, übers. von Ronald Voullié und Gabriele Ricke (Berlin: Merve, 1993), 329.

[9] Jana Vanecek, «Hypomnemata», in Wissensorte. Eine Publikation als Ausstellung (Zürich: Zürcher Hochschule der Künste, 2018), 82–87.

[10] Donna J. Haraway, Unruhig bleiben: Die Verwandtschaft der Arten im Chthuluzän, übers. von Karin Harrasser, 1. Aufl. (Frankfurt am Main New York: Campus Verlag, 2018), 49.

[11] Lynn Margulis, Symbiosis As a Source of Evolutionary Innovation: Speciation and Morphogenesis, Ed. Rene Fester (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1991).

[12] Susanne Modrow u. a., Molekulare Virologie, 3. Aufl. 2010 Edition (Heidelberg: Spektrum Akademischer Verlag, 2010), 3.

[13] A. J. Levine, Viren: Diebe, Mörder und Piraten, 1. Aufl. (Heidelberg: Spektrum Akademischer Verlag, 1992).

[14] Tasha M. Santiago-Rodriguez und Emily B. Hollister, «Unraveling the Viral Dark Matter through Viral Metagenomics», Frontiers in Immunology 13 (2022): 1005107, https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2022.1005107

[15] Karin Moelling und Felix Broecker, «Viroids and the Origin of Life», International Journal of Molecular Sciences 22, Nr. 7 (28. März 2021): 3476, https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms22073476

[16] Aleksandar Janjic, Astrobiologie – die Suche nach außerirdischem Leben (Berlin: Springer, 2019), https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-59492-6. 225–230.

[17] Horst Bredekamp, Darwins Korallen: Die frühen Evolutionsdiagramme und die Tradition der Naturgeschichte, 2. Aufl. (Berlin: Wagenbach, 2005).

[18] Donna Haraway, «Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective», Feminist Studies 14, Nr. 3 (1988): 581–596, https://doi.org/10.2307/3178066

[19] Brigitte Weingart, «Viren visualisieren: Bildgebung und Popularisierung», in VIRUS!: Mutationen einer Metapher, hg. von Ruth Mayer und Brigitte Weingart, 1. Aufl. (Bielefeld: transcript, 2004), 97–130.

[20] Brigitte Weingart, Ansteckende Wörter: Repräsentationen von AIDS, 1. Aufl. (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2003).

[21] Eugene Thacker, In the Dust of This Planet, Illustrated Edition (Winchester, UK Washington, USA: John Hunt Publishing, 2011), 9.

[22] Megan Scudellari, «Are Viruses Alive? And Why Does It Matter? | Science News», 1. November 2021, accessed February 6, 2023, https://www.sciencenews.org/article/viruses-alive-coronavirus-definition

[23] Michael P. Robertson und Gerald F. Joyce, «Highly Efficient Self-Replicating RNA Enzymes», Chemistry & Biology 21, Nr. 2 (Februar 2014): 238–245, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chembiol.2013.12.004

[24] Linda M. Van Blerkom, «Role of Viruses in Human Evolution», American Journal of Physical Anthropology Suppl 37, Nr. Suppl (2003): 14–46, https://doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.10384

[25] Leslie A. Prey, «Transposons: The Jumping Genes.», Nature Education 1(1):204, 2008, accessed February 6, 2023, http://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/transposons-the-jumping-genes-518

[26] Ebd.

[27] Carrie Arnold, «The Non-Human Living inside of You», Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, January 9, 2020, accessed February 6, 2023, https://www.cshl.edu/the-non-human-living-inside-of-you/

[28] Ebd.

[29] Carrie Arnold, «The Viruses That Made Us Human», 28. September 2016, accessed February 6, 2023, https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/endogenous-retroviruses/

[30] Ebd.