Just a while back, there has been a question concerning GMing a setting the players know better than the GM. Now, let me ask you sort of an inverse of that question. I.e. how to introduce and integrate the players into a setting they have no clue about?
Let me be more specific here: the setting is pretty much otherworldly. There are no humans, no elves, no dwarves, no orcs, etc. Furthermore, there are no common trees, herbs, animals, etc. And let's not forget, no gods, no middle-age-ish inspired theme, but an original history, specific to this unique world. To rephrase that, it's an alien world on an alien planet with its own alien ecosystems, inhabited by both animal-ish and sentient aliens. The sentient aliens have their own, unique histories and cultures.
The thing I've noticed while GMing or playing in the generic fantasy settings is that these standard settings have certain "hooks", or stereotypes, if you will. Everyone knows that elves are unpractical snobs, gods grant magic powers, humans are all greedy merchants living in corrupt kingdoms and orcs are filthy, malicious beasts. This set of stereotypes is a "standard" the players expect; it is also usually enough of a starting point for the players to orientate themselves in the setting.
I could go on and on about how I despise these stereotypes (since I've heard them soooo many times before, since they're naive and unrealistic, etc.), but that's not a very productive stance on its own.
So I dislike the stereotypes and want to get rid of them by playing in a different, otherworldly setting. The idea seems fair enough, but the players would be stepping into the unknown and there would be no stereotypical "hooks" for them to hang onto. They'd get intimidated by the complexity of an unknown world ... and as a result, they wouldn't want to play in such a setting ... much.
There must be some successful, humane way of introducing the players to a setting they have no clue about. It's all about making that kind of translation a smooth and gentle.
I'm open to your suggestions.