Would Science Fiction survive should we meet aliens??
In many respects, Science Fiction can take most knocks. It’s a flexible genre. Changes in what we know about the universe? Yep! The early SF where the rest of the Solar System has life? Seen as childish today bur now only as acts of the imagination. After all, it’s SF. We’re supposed to be imaginative. It’s not supposed to be real. Well, not completely. We adapt to the new discoveries about us and show the consequences. We move on because so does the readership. A lot of the general public can’t tell the difference, especially when it’s discovered that they don’t even know they’re actually living on a planet. The mind truly boggles at those people. What are we supposed to be living on?
As our reality is converging into Science Fiction, we’re seen more as the soothsayers of our own future and what it entails as some of the imagined things become real. Not perfect but we aren’t seen as geeks with an odd cause any more because so many people are embracing it now. Of course, there is a downside in that we’re reached something of a summit at the moment and no fresh ideas generally across the horizon but that can change, assuming the ideas originate here, however…
There is however that ‘however’, isn’t there? One of the cornerstones of Science Fiction is first contact with aliens. Are they going to be our friends or enemies? Will they come bearing gifts or crush us without seeing us as something worth brothering with? Science Fiction has bordered the fence either side, demonstrating the consequences. Whichever the outcome, no one is going to say we were wrong. However, meeting real extra-terrestrials is going to complete the circle as it’s a major area of Science Fiction. Far more than the means to time travel. Far more than our own means to travel to the stars and even meet aliens on our own terms. The real difference would be if they came here first. At that point, we’ll discover whether they are friends or foes. The end of the guessing and one of the final things to be ticked off our list that will happen. Reality sets in. Science Fiction becomes reality and which template is followed. Friends or foes?
Assuming they or we mastered communicating with each other first, what’s the first thing we as Science Fiction fans would be interested? Their physiology or culture? Probably both but we would be especially interested in their fiction, assuming they had any. No doubt their travels would be the equivalent to our own travelogues except would they be? After all, we know that unless they have the benefits of faster-than-light travel and possibly even then, because it takes some years to accelerate and decelerate, travel between the stars is going to be pretty boring. They might well do what we would do in similar circumstances and create their own fiction based on the many discoveries they would have met alone the way. They would be like us to have the imagination to see what is out there or why not just stay at home? From there, they are bound to incorporate what they discover into their fiction. Plus having a different framework and perception then we might well find that terrestrial Science Fiction will look tame in comparison because we would have a truly alien perspective. Whether we could understand their mindset is a different matter. We might copy some of their differences but we would never be able to compete and might well see the loss of our own genre to the real thing or at least the alien version of the real thing. Even if they don’t have an SF bent, their travelogues alone, assuming they let us see them, will give us a new framework or prove that the old tropes can’t compete. Our Golden Age of Science Fiction will be very rusty in comparison.
Where we are reaching our own Science Fiction reality, any alien species reaching our shores will already have the SF tropes at their disposal already. They would probably find our own Science Fiction quaint, whereas we would be glamorised by their version. Even if we clone and ghost into our own version, we are likely to come off as second best. Ergo, first contact would probably mean the end of our genre.
Well, at least for a time. Its recovery might well depend on how long aliens stayed here or in contact, let alone how much of their fiction would we be allowed to read. It would certainly end up changing how we write our own Science Fiction, even if we discovered they had no equivalent and just had access to see the planets with life they’ve visited. That alone would change how we would write and interpret our genre. That leaves a ten per cent chance of Science Fiction surviving.
That’s all very well from the writing point of view but would we have any readers left if our material survived? I mean, how do we compete with real life aliens and their fantastic adventures? Think of the celebrity culture now but focused instead on beings from the stars. We could end up being a genre with no readers although I do wonder how many SF writers would turn into soothsayers and political commentators as outside of scientists, we’re probably the most likely people to quickly make sense of it all.
If we did that, how would we view our first contact? Aliens who want to take over the Earth, enslave and steal our resources? Would we perhaps think them being totally benevolent visitors before they move on? Would our views be seen as tainted by other humans since we would be considered the least xenophobic? Equally, would we trust other humans because they would be least expected to know how to cope. Undoubtedly, we’ve been through the first contact protocols in Science Fiction enough to know that our entire culture will change with it. The only thing we haven’t addressed is the effect on our own genre and as pointed out above, this is certainly a blind spot.
Should we prepare? Now that is a tough question because it should always be accompanied with the question: For when? Short of spotting a starship taking several years to decelerate from something even close to light speed, there is no way to answer that question. Of course, they could be using something we have no familiarity with and just appear but even that is no real answer. Having said that, some discussion on the subject would certainly not go amiss. Proper first contact is likely to unsettle some people as well as bring out the devotees who are just as likely to see aliens as gods to worship. Something we definitely need to consider is how does it affect people like us with an interest in our Science Fiction genre? Will we see it as all our dreams coming true or wonder about the extra-terrestrial motivation? Certainly that is worthy of some thoughts from all of you.
How can we prepare? I doubt if a bevy of SF stories on the subject would likely to help much. It isn’t as though we haven’t had some decent fiction on the subject in the past. We could certainly do with some on how it would affect our current culture which is accepting a lot more Science Fictional aspects into society and that would open up a full spectrum of choice. Whether it is for or against such contact is hard to say. One thing for sure is that unless we get a message saying asking permission to land first, an alien spacecraft is far more likely to land than just go on its way. When that happens, we might well see the signal to the end of Science Fiction as it moves ever more into being Science Fact.
Thank you, take care, good night and keeping watching the skies.
December 2012, even though I hadn’t left an active link to my email address, it got solidly attacked and then blocked from everyone, including myself. By necessity, having a form of open contact to me comes as part of the editor’s job. I’m still seeking reviewers and new material so follow the paths through the website and go where no spam-bot dares. I’ve yet to see them write anything. Humans and aliens can apply, providing they live in the UK. Monsters need to prove they can read and write. We could do with some reviewers who like fantasy right now. Don’t be scared of the instructions, you’d be surprised how easy it is to learn. So, if you want to contact me, build these words into an email address: gfwillmetts at hotmail dot com
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A Zen thought: All books are new until they are read.