Literature / They're Made Out of Meat

A short story about two space explorers happening upon a new alien race. However, much to their disgust, they find that they're... meaty. Three guesses as to what this race is.

Written by Terry Bisson and nominated for a Nebula Award. Can be read here. Enjoy a short film adaptation of it here.

This short story provides examples of:

  • Energy Beings: The "meaties" are literally the only race that die as meat. One race starts as meat, but eventually "ascend".
  • Fantastic Racism: In the end, the explorers decide to strike the record of encountering the meaties and declare this sector empty, believing that first contact would be extremely awkward and of little worth. As one of them puts it, "What are we going to say to them? 'Hey, meat, how's it going?'?"
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Meat cannot do that, because it's confined to C - space and therefore limited by the speed of light.
  • Humans Are Special: Humanity is apparently the only sentient race known that is entirely corporeal for their entire existence.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: And they think we're disgusting.
  • Insignificant Little Blue Planet: And just plain weird, to boot.
  • Invisible Aliens: They've done some abductions, but wiped the abductees' memory.
  • Irony: The viewpoint characters discuss what they should do about a planet of meat-based intelligences (humans). They decide to ignore the "meat", and then talk about how lonely the universe would be if you couldn’t find alien life.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: "How strangely appropriate, that we should be meat's dream."
  • No Intelligent Life Here: The explorers ultimately decide to just write-off this sector of space as "uninhabited" and move on.
    • Hypocrite: The two explorers talk about how a "rather shy but sweet hydrogen core cluster intelligence" wants to get back in contact with them, because "Imagine how unbearably, how unutterably cold the universe would be if one were all alone." This little exchange happens not a paragraph after the above decision.
  • Squick: In-universe: the explorers are completely weirded out and more than a little disgusted at the fact there is sentient, living meat doing stuff.
  • Starfish Aliens: Apparently, all known aliens are Energy Beings: there is one race that undergoes a "meat" stage, but ascends late in life, and another that is partially meat with a plasma-based brain. The explorers certainly consider the meat this: meat communicate and entertain themselves by squirting air through their meat and flapping their meat at each other, which meat shouldn't be doing because it's meat.
  • Xenofiction