When asked about my biography, I usually make some sort of comment about living in outer space. While obviously and entirely untrue, it does point to the fact that I've always found this planet Earth limiting. Too much gravity. Too much normal. There has to be something bigger than laundry and elections and who gets voted off the island.
When writing fiction, I like to leave this planet, which most people have already seen, to discover what else, what more, is out there. Conveniently, it's easy to simply make things up since there isn't anyone around to dispute my findings. The law of physics can usually be circumvented in some fashion and people can come together in interesting and exciting ways not possible here on Earth.
My harshest review comment was one that accused my aliens of being too human. Harsh, but true and entirely on purpose. Gene Roddenberry had it right when he insisted that his Star Trek aliens have eyes and mouths. No matter how exotic, if a reader/viewer cannot relate to an alien on some human level I may as well be writing about amoebas. On Earth.
So then why not write fantasy? Simple. I'm a skeptic.I don't read horoscopes and I wasn't worried on December 21st, 2012. I need to keep one foot nailed to the ground, which means that there has to be some sort of explanation for the things that I'm describing. I cannot just say: "because it's magic". Too easy! I say: "What if..." but then the answer to that has to be at least marginally grounded in plausibility.
And so you will find "humanoid" aliens in my stories (well, there is a case of tentacles, just to thumb my nose at the critics) and their sensibilities also echo human conventions. In the Trans-Targon series, a number of "species" living on very separate planets are genetically linked, hinting at a common ancestor. In Flight To Exile, I transplanted humans to a distant planet and let them continue to evolve there. All of them still relatable, and their actions and reactions still accessible and logical, if not always reasonable.
But this isn't Star Wars. There are no Whitehats and there are no Browncoats. In the Targon Tales, we see a galactic empire based on commercial interests pitted against those who rebel against that sort of control. Both sides, at times, are equally heinous in their actions and can rise above such things when called for. And it's up to the characters to live with the choices they made when choosing sides.
My characters are flawed, not super heros, and they make mistakes. Bad guys rarely think of themselves as bad guys and they need to have a personal reason for doing harmful things. I think it's a good thing to have empathy for an antagonist - it's just too easy to loathe Jabba the Hutt if all he ever does is throw people to his pet monsters. My favourite bad guy is more like Q of Star Trek, whose motives are largely self serving and he doesn't much care if his actions cause harm or if they benefit anyone. He's likable even when he's being a tool but you don't mind much if he got run over by a bus.
In the end, I have to again agree with Gene Roddenberry that it's not about the planets and the tentacles and the guns that go "pew pew". It's about the people and their stories. I just happen to think that they're much more fun in outer space.