Wednesday, May 16, 2012

If aliens made first contact, which SF authors should be part of the welcoming committe?

 In the novel Footfall, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, unfriendly aliens attack the Earth, and science fiction writers are asked to join scientists to provide some insight into alien behavior and technology.

The latest Mind Meld over at SF Signal  asks if that were a real situation, which science fiction folks should be included in an advisory or welcoming committee if aliens did make First Contact with Earth.

 Ideally there would be a wide range of skills and philosophies represented on such a committee, since, let's face it, no one on Earth has direct experience in first contact with extraterrestrials.  It's a common trope in science fiction that only SF authors (or avid SF readers) can fully understand what's happening when an extraterrestrial or time traveler arrives.

There is clearly wish fulfillment involved in that assertion, that I'm not immune to myself. I read and watch lots of SF, and I think I would do an excellent job advising the UN on how to treat with aliens. I would do at least as good a job as most politicians anyway.

That said, I do think there are some SF writers who would bring special skills to the table in the case of an alien arrival.  Go read the whole Mind Meld to see who I and the other participants suggested.


  1. My immediate thought was, "Which of my writer friends is the most edible?" Which means I'd probably be a terrible choice.

  2. Wouldn't it be better to suggest someone who wouldn't be very tasty, so the aliens decide we aren't worth munching on?

  3. I would choose several of my favorites, including Robert Sawyer, Charles Stross, John Ringo and Tanya Huff. Robert because he is so good at looking at different perspectives and has a positive attitude. Charles because he is utterly brilliant and would probably see things that others wouldn't. John because he has a military perspective and a suspicious mind. And Tanya because she would look for the evil they might be hiding while also providing a female perspective. Could probably come up with some more, such as Greg Bear, Arthur C Clarke and the aforementioned Larry Niven. Definitely wouldn't want a bunch of mundane intellectuals and politicians messing everything up.

  4. I agree with you about Robert Sawyer, both that he seems to look at SF-related issues from different angles and that he has a positive attitude.

    Larry Niven just seemed too obvious a choice to me, which doesn't mean he would be a bad selection, just not an interesting one to discuss. And unfortunately Arthur C. Clarke missed his chance to meet extraterrestrials in this life.


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