Capitalization question.

Okay, I did a search that answered most of my capitalization uncertainties, but this one remains unresolved.

Normally, one captializes nationalities, right? “I know a little German, he’s sitting over there.” or “Where’s he from? Oh, he’s English.”

Now, in, say, your average SF novel, you might have several different intelligent species, so when you refer to them, do you captialize them? It doesn’t seem to be appropriate, since you wouldn’t capitalize “human.”

“What is that ugly thing?”

“Oh, that’s a human.”

And of course, I consulted Foreigner to see what Cherryh did, and she doesn’t capitalize “atevi” or “human,” and that makes sense to me. But I’ve seen it done:

“Who’d have thought Klingons would be such noisy neighbors. I wish our room was next to the Vulcans. Hey, could you pour me another Romulan ale?”
So lets say, hypothetically of course, that I’m working on a draft of a science fiction novel. Should I captialize my non-human species names, or not?

If you are referring to these species as species or as adjectives, capitalize ie “English,” “Australian,” “Earthling.” If you are specifying race, as in “human,” “reptile,” “humanoid,” there is no need to capitalize.

Thusly, “Correlian wine” is capitalized, while “human” is not (Han Solo)

“Nubian ship” is capitalized, while “reptile (assuming that’s what they are)” is not. (JJBinks)

See where I’m going?

Banky: What’s a Nubian?

But what if the species name is the same as the world of origin? Martians are from Mars, and, lets say, are their own species unlike anything on any other planet. So do you say, “Captain, there’s a martian ship off the starboard bow”? (Assuming you don’t have any specific information on the ethnicity or whatever of the martians involved, the ship just appears to have been manufactured by a specific species as far as you can tell.) And then, if some martians colonize Venus, you’d say, “Nobody builds a ship like the Venusian martians.” And if humans colonized Mars, you could say, “Captain, there’s a human ship off the starboard bow.” and the captain could reply, “Would that be Earthlings or Martians?” and the answer would come back, “Niether, Sir–they appear to be Venusians.” Would that be right?

I guess what’s causing my uncertainties is the way that some writers treat different species as just a more exotic form of different ethnicities–which would explain the captializations I’ve seen that don’t seem to match the rules as I understand them. I want to avoid that, if at all possible.

Nubian = Jar Jar Binks’ culture, one from the planet of Naboo.

Bren, you’ve got it exactly right.

The word “human,” properly used, is an adjective as in human beings. Its abreviated use as a noun has become common.

You don’t captialize human but you do captialize Earthling.

Adjectives formed from proper nouns are capitalized, with very limited exceptions. And nouns designating “people from…” formed from proper nouns are therefore proper nouns. For example, Mars is the proper name of a planet, so “Martians” is capitalized. Armenia is the name of a country, so “Armenians” is capitalized. If the dominant race of the planet Chireedur are hamsters, hamsters is lowercased, but if you referred to them as Chireedurians, you’d capitalize it.

Geographic terms used as regional names are capitalized, and the terms for people from them also take capitals. I now live in the South, and I’m a transplanted Southerner. If I lived on a dumbbell-shaped island and wanted to specify that I lived on the south half of it, that’s not (at least in this hypothetical example) a formal regional name, so I’d be from the south (of the island) and a southerner. Coldfire is from the Lowlands, the English term for the three Benelux nations, but somebody living on a coastal plain as opposed to a plateau would be from the lowlands.

Note that Tolkien capitalized Men when referring to humans as a race distinct from Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves, and Orcs. There was an occasion or two when he described an adult male of one of those other races as a “man,” lowercase m, even though that was figuratively speaking, since it wasn’t a human Man, capital M. There he was just using “man” as a shorthand way of saying an adult male member of such-and-such race. This necessitated the capital M form of “Man” for talking about humans.