First Contact Book Group

Posted by Sulkyblue (5th May 2005, 10:50)

The book group discussion meeting never really happened, so lets see if we can get it going in here. The theme is the ethics of first contact and the books were The Sparrow, Left Hand of Darkness, Nor the Crystal Tears and The Mote in God's Eye, but you don't have to have read any/all of them to participate.

The 4 core books all present different scenarios for humans making first contact with aliens and the results are equally mixed. So which method is 'right'? Which decisions could/should have been made differently? How realistic do you think the scenarios were? What other books bring in similar ideas?

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read biography for - Sulkyblue

 Sulkyblue ( 5th May 2005, 13:02, Rank: Nazgul )  reply

Of all the methods for contact Left Hand of Darkness seemed to be the one that was most carefully thought about and developed. The Contacters went to huge lengths to try and do things the right way and went out of their way to show the contactees that they were not a threat. They gathered intelligence secretly first and then sent in a single ambassador with strict guidelines to prevent him becoming a threat. They either did not see, did not care about, or couldn't avoid the problem of their ambassador being used as a catalyst by factions amongst the contactees.

In The Sparrow the intentions of the Contacters were good and they did their best, but they did not have the patience to go through the various pre-contact investigations to prevent disaster. In The Sparrow the loss of the the mission is caused by a lack of knowledge and a naivety at how alien the aliens are. In the sequel Children of God the mistakes are a lot more obvious as all concept of non-interference goes out the window and human values are applied indiscriminately.

Nor Crystal Tears is interesting in that the contact was accidental and seems poised on the edge of disaster, but actually ends up ok. Despite physical differences the races are actually quite similar and establishing a dialogue is relatively simple. Using young children as points of contact works well to overcome the instinctual revulsion of the adults.

The Mote in God's Eye is rather more a train wreck from the get-go, with politics, economics, science and paranoia all colliding head on. Disaster is mostly avoided by the presence of the Mediator class, evolved to settle disputes, but perfectly suited to forming a bridge between the two races. With secrets and lies on both sides I'm not sure there was any way for the contact to go any better than it did.

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