Aliens.  Too many questions.  No answers.  Who better to look at the issue than a science fiction author?  People tend to ask me if I believe in aliens just because I write scifi.  They seem disappointed when I say no, so I quickly add, “but if there are alien species out there, I hope they’re friendly.”  That’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?  There have been so many fictional stories written about potential ‘close encounters,’ but every single one asks or tries to answer the question, ‘friend or foe?’  My own ‘Martian Symbiont’ series leans towards friend, but hints that’s not always the case.  Or, as Jerod’s interviewer queries, “a bit too friendly, are they?”  (Martian Blues, pg 125)

Some of our greatest fears range from ‘they only want the planet, so we’re dispensible,’ to those immortal words, ‘it’s a cookbook,’ referring to the aliens’ blueprint for humanity.  In other scenarios, we’re the monsters, driven by our own fear and prejudice to decimate peaceful beings.  Often ‘the child’ is thrown into the fiction mix, a human/alien hybrid created to prove to both species that they should be able to coexist and treat each other with equality.  (Usually the hybrid turns out to be more alien than human, much to the horror of its human parent.)

I watched the movie, Sphere, a little while ago.  In it, the main character had been paid to come up with a list of who should be the first among mankind to make contact if alien beings were ever found.  I found the idea fascinating.  Do we really want the inhabitants of planet Earth to be represented by politicians, lawyers, wealthy businessmen, the elite of society, or royalty?  Political and financial ‘movers and shakers’ tend to viewed as greedier than the rest of us (although greed and all other vices are spread fairly evenly throughout mankind.)  And if we send ‘the very best,’ are we guilty of misrepresenting the rest of us?  It’s at least better than sending them our worst…

Common ground might be a bit tricky to find, never mind stand on.  It would depend on how similar or different we were.  There are so many languages and ethnic groups on Earth.  What if there are just as many or more when it comes to an alien species?  Imagine ET with a Scottish accent.  Perhaps they’ve invented a translator for just this occassion…we certainly haven’t.  The idea of mathematical concepts as a common language may be valid, assuming mathematics is a constant in the universe.  We tend to think it is, since no-one has shown us different, but what if it’s not?  We know far less than there is to know.

If we were the aliens, landing on what we considered a primitive planet, how would we be received?  Would we have mastered our own prejudices by then?  Or would we simply carry all of humanity’s problems to a new planet?  That would be a terrible human tragedy, and possibly one for other beings as well.  This idea has also been explored in fiction, from the alien point of view–the alien community wishing to use humanity to help it survive in one way or another.  Where does one draw the distinction between assistance and exploitation?  I tend to think it must be located at the level of free will.  Compensation may or may not be part of the deal.

Thanks for reading.  🙂

Phyllis K Twombly


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