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First Contact / Literature

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  • In Angel Station, human protagonists make a First Contact with a race of Living Ships and promptly start to trade with them.
  • Mikhail Akhmanov's Arrivals from the Dark: Invasion describes first contact with the Bino Faata, whose starship has arrived to the Solar System in search of new races to conquer and integrate into the Faata hierarchy. The novel's title and The Teaser (before cutting back to how it started) are clear examples of the bad kind of first contact. Humanity barely survives the assault with tens of millions of dead all over the world. On the bright side, the Faata starship remains mostly intact. From it, humans reverse-engineer the contour drive, Deflector Shields, and Anti Matter weapons. The second novel takes place 37 years later and involves a newly-created battlegroup taking the fight back to the Faata. Also, in-between the novels, a proper First Contact takes place with the peaceful Lo'ona Aeo, who wish to trade with humans.
    • The Faata do attempt at faking the good kind of First Contact by disengaging their stealth systems at the approach of a human flotilla and offering various technological boons, including longevity treatments, cures for all known diseases, FTL technology, Artificial Gravity, etc. Naturally, this huge list of boons only serves to make the admiral, who's tasked by the UN Security Council to negotiate with them and keep them away from Earth, suspicious of their motives. The alien representative then points out that they know from intercepting transmissions that Earth is not unified and threatens to accept one of the non-Western nations' offer of landing. After a few days of not getting anywhere, the Faata decide to drop the charade and just wipe out the flotilla.
  • Blindsight by Peter Watts invokes this. The ship Theseus Earth sends out is manned because they have reason to suspect that the event know as Firefall was initiated by aliens, who...for some reason took a picture of all of Earth. It's then subverted when what the crew of the Theseus finds isn't quite the intelligent life forms they expected to find and brought a linguist to communicate with, though. The alien scramblers which inhabit the Rorschach turn out to be hyperintelligent but not conscious or self-aware, and can only parse human languages as space-wasting cognitive viruses designed to hurt them. As the narrator puts it:
    "How do you say 'We come in peace' when the words themselves are an act of war?"
  • Timothy Zahn's The Conquerors Trilogy kicks off when an already interstellar humanity makes first contact with a new alien race, who respond to the standard "we come in peace" greeting by opening fire, wiping out the entire expeditionary force and finally Blasting the Escape Pods, leading them to be known as the "Conquerors Without Reason". Yet during their interrogations of the sole survivor of this task force, the Conquerors insist that it was the humans who shot first, and the books revolve around reconciling these conflicting reports of what happened during their disastrous first meeting.
  • The core of Constellation Games is the tale of what happens when modern day Earth encounters a vastly superior alien civilization, and whether everything will go horribly wrong or not. The key difference from most such tales is that the main character isn't an ambassador, or a badass; he just wants to play their video games.
  • The novel Contact by Carl Sagan deals with first contact in a relatively "hard" manner. Aliens in a system twenty-six light years distant send a radio signal to Earth - a long sequence of prime numbers. It's a palimpsest, and under it is a second message that turns out to be an audio/video signal, a repeat of the first few minutes of the first television signal broadcast strongly enough to traverse out to Vega - which, unfortunately, turns out to be Adolf Hitler's Olympic commencement broadcast. This, too, is a palimpsest, and under that is the blueprints to a machine. Even this is a palimpsest, for there's a primer buried in there telling Earth how to build it.
  • Ivan Yefremov's novella Cor Serpentis is essentially a one big Take That! at Leinster's spin on the theme. Both Yefremov and his characters take it as extremely distasteful and, believing that no spacefaring civilization might be hostile, meet the aliens with open hands, in one of the most touching description of contact ever written.
  • Iain M. Banks's The Culture: The Contact section of the Culture, described as the "good works" agency of that society, apart from Contact's "Special Circumstances" division, who interfere in other civilisations if it looks like they'll be trouble to the Culture. A kind of Reverse Alien Non-Interference Clause.
  • Justified in The Algebraist, another of Iain Banks' sci-fi novels. It is mentioned that humanity (or perhaps just human genetic material) was transplanted from Earth to a number of nearby worlds in 4051 BC. These humans were raised in an interstellar culture while Earth itself was declared off-limits. Result; by the time Earth discovered interstellar travel, aHumans outnumbered the remaining humans or rHumans by an order of magnitude.
    Encyclopedia Exposita: Prepping. A very long-established practice, used lately by the Culmina amongst others, is to take a few examples of a pre-civilised species from their home world (usually in clonoclastic or embryonic form) and make them subject species/slaves/mercenaries/mentored. So that when the people from their home world finally assume the Galactic stage, they are not the most civilised/advanced of their kind (often they're not even the most numerous grouping of their kind). Species so treated are expected to feel an obligation to their so-called mentors (who will also generally claim to have diverted comets or otherwise prevented catastrophes in the interim, whether they have or not). This practice has been banned in the past when pan-Galactic laws (see Galactic Council) have been upheld but tends to reappear in less civilised times. Practice variously referred to as Prepping, Lifting or Aggressive Mentoring. Local-relevant terminology: aHuman & rHuman (advanced and remainder Human).
  • In Vladimir Vasiliev's Death or Glory, humanity's first contact with The Alliance takes place after the discovery of FTL travel. A Svaigh ship lands in the middle of a British city and incinerates a Special Forces team sent to it. They demand a few tons of beryllium and take off. This repeats a few times, but, for the most part, they leave humans alone. Could've been worse, as at least some of The Alliance races are known to have conquered younger races and kept them as slaves. This becomes a major plot point in the later books of the series.
  • The first contact that accidentally happens in McCaffrey's Decision at Doona isn't technically mankind's first first contact, but the fact that that first-ever alien culture encountered committed mass suicide in response drives much of the novel's plot by informing the human policies established afterwards to prevent anything like that from ever happening again. One of these is "non-coinhabitation"; humans aren't allowed to live on the same planets as intelligent alien lifeforms, period. Which creates a problem when the first human settlers on the new colony world of Doona run smack into just such an intelligent alien lifeform that the initial surveyors somehow managed to miss... Because the "natives" are actually new colonists from another planet, who find themselves in the same boat!
  • In the Doom novels, humanity's First Contact with the aliens on the other end of Mars' teleportation network was an Imp throwing a flaming ball of snot into the crowd. It went downhill from there.
  • Dungeon Crawler Carl: The interstellar Syndicate has rules about First Contact, but unfortunately, those rules are mostly there to be exploited. Specifically, after first contact happens, a species has fifty years to file a claim for the mineral rights to their own planet, or else it's up for grabs. And the criteria for first contact only require that the planet has something that can reasonably be called a civilisation; it doesn't have to be globally interconnected or understand anything about space flight. Earth was apparently contacted during ancient Egypt, leading to the current situation.
    Per Syndicate rules, subsection 543 of the Precious Elemental Reserves Code, having failed to file a proper appeal for the mineral and elemental rights within 50 Solars of first contact, your planet has been successfully seized and is currently being mined of all requested elemental deposits by the assigned planetary regent.
    Every interior of your world has been crushed and all raw materials—organic and inanimate—are in the process of being mined for the requested elements.
  • In Earth Girl, planets are settled with a human-deployed Portal Network. Planet First military forces first make sure no sentient aliens live there, then commence settling. So far they have found none, only neo-intelligent species on two planets they subsequently put under quarantine. In the sequel Earth Star, a mysterious unmanned, but armed alien probe travels to earth orbit and is an ambiguous threat through the book, causing evacuations of the Earth population when it does not answer any communication.
  • In Stanisław Lem's novel Eden the protagonists are ship-wrecked on the titular planet and, after many attempts, manage to meet two of its inhabitants. There's some First Contact Maths involved, but while science is universal, the aliens are otherwise rather alien and no civilisation-level contact occurs.
  • Expeditionary Force begins with an alien battle fleet dropping out of the sky, destroying any and all human infrastructure they can find, only to be immediately followed by a second alien battle fleet who promptly kicks out the first fleet, and makes humanity a client species. Turns out Earth isn't all that important anyway to either side. The only reason they bothered was the first species (the Ruhar) was trying to deny the second (the Kristang) from gaining a new base of operations in their Forever War.
  • Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, although in this case the contact occurred in the backstory when the insectoid aliens (colloquially termed "Buggers") sent an invasion fleet to Earth's solar system. The only interactions anyone has with them in the first novel are violent. In the epilogue and subsequent novels, it's up to Ender to make a true First Contact by being the first of his species to successfully communicate with a Hive Queen.
    • The prequel comic Formic Wars (and the Formic Wars novels expanding on the comic) describe the arrival of the Formics (nobody uses the term "Bugger" now) into the Solar System and the devastating First Invasion. 44 million Chinese are killed, and a large chunk of China is covered by a deadly acidic gas. And that was just a single mothership that was barely defeated. The final shot of the comic shows a whole fleet of these on the way, with the humans creating the Hegemony and the International Fleet to prepare for the second arrival, using the mothership to reverse-engineer Formic tech.
  • Poul Anderson's novelette The Enemy Stars deals with an accidental First Contact between a human and the aliens that save his life, and the sequel The Ways of Love deals with how humans handle the first alien beings on Earth (not well, in some cases).
    • In his novelette The High Crusade first contact occurs during the crusades, when the aliens send an armed scouting force to Earth and try to intimidate the locals. The medieval English turn the tables on their invaders and capture their ship. When they try to use the ship to go to the crusades they end up in space instead, and begin a crusade against the alien's galactic empire.
  • Fiasco by Stanisław Lem is about an expedition to contact an alien civilisation - which proves way too alien, not to mention completely uninterested. As to how it ends - the hint is in the title.
  • First Contact by Murray Leinster is, unsurprisingly, about exactly this. Interesting because it takes place a long way from home for either species and both of them are worried that the other might be powerful and warlike, so neither wants to give away any information about the location of their home planet... which also means they're both stuck there, since they can't be sure the other ship can't fly faster or track better than theirs can.
  • Giants Series: This is the core plot of the second book, when living Ganymeans are first encountered. And the third book, when the Ganymeans' descendants, the Thuriens, are encountered. And the fourth book, then the mental entities called the Ents are encountered.
  • Halfway Human: The Capellan legal system requires first contact to be done carefully, because intellectual property is considered the universe's most valuable commodity. First Contact Team scientists work for infocompanies that monetize their research.
  • Halo: Contact Harvest details the UNSC's first contact with the Covenant from the perspective of both human and alien characters. When the Covenant's Hierarchs discover from a Forerunner AI that Humans Are Special and not them, they decide to wipe humanity out in order to preserve their religion (and thus their power). That said, the shooting only begins in earnest after one nervous and Trigger-Happy Grunt attacks a human during a negotiation.
  • Several Harry Harrison novels deal with first encounters with aliens:
    • In Plague from Space, a ship sent to explore Jupiter returns, releasing a deadly disease that rapidly mutates and kills people. Eventually, a special forces group makes its way aboard the ship and watches the videologs, which reveal that the solid core of Jupiter is inhabited by a Hive Mind race whose hat is Organic Technology. The crew of the ship learned to communicate with the Jovians, but the Jovians eventually moved on to dissections. The remaining crewmember was sent back along with a Jovian passenger, infected with a disease engineered for humans. It turns out that the whole plague thing is nothing more than an attempt by the Jovian Hive Mind to study humanity, whom it perceives as also likely a Hive Mind. After the end of the "experiment", the Jovian passenger transmits the results to Jupiter, gives the humans the cure, and dies.
    • In Invasion: Earth, a spaceship crash-lands in New York's Central Park. Since the book was written during the Cold War, the Soviets send a representative (a female linguist) to join the First Contact Team that enters the craft, mostly composed of American soldiers. Inside, they are attacked by a Wookie-like creature, which they riddle with bullets. They find a chained-up white-skinned Human Alien who speaks English and Russian from aliens intercepting the most common radio-broadcasts. The alien explains that Earth has been targeted for invasion by their bitter rivals Blettr (the hairy aliens). The Oinn, the alien's people, offer to help by setting up a base in the Antarctic to defend Earth using their advanced weaponry. The Blettr fleet arrives, and the Oinn battle them. They manage to fight off the first wave, but several human cities are wiped out by Orbital Bombardment. The authorities begin to doubt the truth when the Oinn refuse to let humans anywhere near their base and forbid them from attempting to communicate with the Blettr. In the end, it's revealed that the Blettr and the Oinn are Planet Looters who are working together to get as much radioactive material from Earth as possible before moving on, looking for their lost homeworlds. The humans manage to fight them off and bluff them into leaving the system, while keeping a small ship to reverse-engineer.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy parodies this, of course. Humanity's ostensible First Contact with Galactic civilization is with the Vogons, who are here not for chitchat but to destroy Earth to make way for a hyperspace bypass. It's subsequently subverted in at least four separate ways, which ought to be It Was His Sled by now:
    • Earth's been visited by aliens for ages, we just never realized it.
    • The Earth is actually a giant supercomputer built to calculate the Question to the Ultimate Answer of Life, the Universe, and Everything.
    • Humans are themselves Ancient Astronauts and not the originally planned sapient inhabitants of the planet.
    • Due to a temporal anomaly, Earth had a First Contact event prior to the Vogon demolition of Earth: an alien war fleet attacked Earth but due to a miscalculation Earth - or at least Humans - never noticed as the warfleet was swallowed by a dog.
  • In the backstory of Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth universe, humans and Thranx both have first contact with the violently xenophobic AAnn shortly before coming into contact with each other, taking what might otherwise have become a violent war and turning it into an Enemy Mine situation that evolves into the two species becoming close allies.
  • In The Killing Star, first contact with the aliens consists of them slamming relativistic missiles into the Earth, nearly wiping out humanity.
  • In the short novel The Librarian (2015) the protagonist alien accidentally falls prisoner to the military. He explains he was not intending to make First Contact per se, but since they already know he's not human, he better explain the rules of how this is usually done.
  • The Listeners by James E. Gunn is about a very slow first contact made via slower-than-light radio. The story covers the lives of several men, years apart, who are involved in the very slow process.
  • The prequel novel to Mass Effect, Mass Effect: Revelation deals with the start of the First Contact War mentioned below in its prologue. Interestingly, even this novel doesn't really describe the first contact or the subsequent conflict. Anderson is merely told by his superior about the attack on human ships and the retaliation on the turians. Of course, the existence of aliens isn't really news, since the exploration of the Prothean ruins on Mars is what allows humans to develop FTL travel.
  • Jack McDevitt:
    • Infinity Beach begins on a human colony world making a final attempt to communicate with any possible life Out There, but the conclusion appears to be that mankind is alone. Unknown to all concerned there had been a First Contact some years before but it was bungled, with all the aliens and several humans killed; ashamed of their error the survivors covered things up. When the protagonist discovers this the government decides the best thing is for humanity to lay low, for if the aliens weren't hostile before, they undoubtedly will be now! Against orders, a group of scientists decide to risk another Contact. Fortunately the aliens accept their explanation that it was all a mistake, and peaceful relations are established.
    • In Omega (part of the Priscilla Hutchins series), an intelligent species is discovered directly in the path of an interstellar catastrophe. The species has begun to develop technology, but is still at a pre-spaceflight stage of development. Researchers determine that the technology they have may be enough to save most of their population if they can be persuaded to apply it properly, but the Alien Non-Interference Clause makes the first-contact team's job difficult. Disaster is approaching rapidly, and the team needs to learn as much as they can about the language and culture of the Goompahs, starting from zero. But how do you persuade some alien creatures to cooperate in saving their species if you can't even reveal your own existence?
    • The Hercules Text, published almost simultaneously with Carl Sagan's Contact, has a very similar premise: signals are received by Earth via a radio telescope which contain mathematical information that turn out to be the key to a later transmission containing a great deal of scientific information. The effect of all this on the peoples of Earth is dramatic.
  • Mindscape: The Barrier that appears is actually an alien life-form. Both the Vermittlers and the Ghost Dancers communicate with it by singing.
  • Moon Base Alpha: The secret that got Dr. Holtz killed in the first book is that an alien contacted him through an interstellar radio message and wanted to establish diplomatic ties with humanity.
  • The Mote in God's Eye, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Inverted in that humans have the star-spanning empire, while the aliens are trapped on one single world.
  • In the Kir Bulychev novel The Mystery of Urulgan, first contact occurs when a small band of adventurers finds a spaceship that crashed in Siberia. The alien assumes the humans will be civilized, and shows them his technology, but all that ensues is conflict between the adventurers and attacks on the alien, who finally escapes.
  • Raymond Z. Gallun's "Old Faithful" (1934) is one of the earliest science-fiction novels to deal in detail with the difficulties of making long-range signal contact with ''very'' alien aliens. The in-story solution, which begins with basic mathematics, is the method which was also chosen by most SETI scientists from the 1950's on.
  • In one of the short stories in the companion volume to Penn & Teller's Cruel Tricks For Dear Friends, humanity is set to be eradicated by an alien empire whose hat is destroying redundancy. It seems that everything that (we naively believe) makes humans unique is actually duplicated somewhere else in the galaxy, and the aliens see no sense wasting a prime habitable planet on such a bog-standard redundant species. The main character saves the human race with a magic trick, implying that deceiving one another by sleight-of-hand for amusement is the one uniquely human art form.
  • Seen from a nonhuman perspective in one of the Infodump chapters of The Romulan Way. The Vulcans' first contact was disastrous, as it took place with the predecessors of the Orion Pirates. The Vulcans fought them off but the aftereffects were one of the triggers for the Sundering between the Vulcans and the Rihannsu (everyone else calls them Romulans). A couple thousand years later the Rihannsu, not warp-capable but who had shipbuilding capacity to support trade between ch'Rihan and ch'Havran detected a ship in orbit and linked it in their minds to the pirates of millennia earlier, and reacted accordingly. Unfortunately for all involved, the ship belonged to the Federation.
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's The Stars Are Cold Toys, First Contact happened during the first extrasolar jump, which coincidentally put the space shuttle near a Conclave ship. One of the crewmembers is interrogated by the aliens, and she reveals the location of Earth. She is later tried for treason but acquitted, as the defense claimed the aliens Mind Raped her. Thus humanity becomes just another cog in the ruthless Conclave regime. Slightly subverted due to humans being descendants of the colonists from the Shadow.
  • In Andre Norton's Storm Over Warlock, the human survivors manage to make contact with the hidden aliens of the world.
  • Cherry Wilder's Torin trilogy concerns the first contact between the Moruians of Torin and visitors from the alien planet Earth, told almost entirely from the viewpoint of the Moruians.
  • Anne McCaffrey's Tower and the Hive series depicts humanity's first encounters with two separate alien species - the first is an insectoid race trying to exterminate humans; the second is a compatibly sentient species impressed by our ability to defeat the first and trying to ally with us against them.
  • John Ringo's Troy Rising kicks off with aliens bringing a gate for a Portal Network near Earth.
  • Subverted with extreme prejudice in the Harry Turtledove story "The Road Not Taken," in which Earth has first contact in the form of an alien invasion.... by Aliens that are less advanced technologically than Humanity in every single aspect other than space travel. They literally attack with flintlocks and swords. It turns out that basically Anti-Gravity is ridiculously simple and most species discover it during roughly the Age of Sail. Although the ending of the story makes it appear that Humans are too OP, a sequel subverts the premise by having Humanity be the less advanced one.
  • Isaac Asimov
    • "Living Space": Alec Mishnoff is relieved when the people he encounters on Rimbro's home (one house to every dead planet earth) are actually humans from another timeline. He, alone in the story, has been fearing that Starfish Aliens will show up because in an infinity of universes, they will. He's horrified to be proven right at the end of the story.
    • "Victory Unintentional": The humans on Ganymede and the alien Jovians have been communicating via radio-waves. Remote contact had been going well, until the Jovians realized that the people they were talking to weren't Jovian. Angry at the unintentional deception, the Jovians declared war against the beings of Ganymede. The humans designed the ZZ robots (our Protagonists) to land on Jupiter to talk with the aliens directly, and establish if they're able to create spaceships.
    • "The Watery Place": The aliens chose to land in a remote town, notable for its lack of crime, and speak with the Sheriff. Unfortunately, first contact between humans and aliens goes badly because the Sheriff thinks the aliens are from Italy, and are just being annoying.
  • The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells takes the pessimistic view that our first aliens would be just like us. Or rather, just like the British Empire was in India; eager to set up a colony and not too fussed about the locals.
  • We Are Legion (We Are Bob): Bob is forced to reach out to the primitive inhabitants of Delta Eridani when more subtle means of encouraging them to move camps fail.
  • In the world of Wild Cards, aliens sent a mutagenic virus to our world, which arrived shortly after the end of World War II. Our first contact was with a rogue Takisian who tried and failed to stop an outbreak. He did stick around to clean up as best as he could, though.
  • Xandri Corelel follows the head of Xeno-Liaisons on the starship Carpathia, communicating with new species to bring them into the Starsystems Alliance.
  • The novelette "Peek! I See You!" by Poul Anderson (Analog, February 1968) has Earth as a waystation & supply depot for lots of alien races, but they only deal with Native American tribes. If any other Terrans found out about them, they'd be required to admit Earth into the Federation and spend zillions educating and assisting Earth's people. However, the aliens aren't counting on a stubborn Irish-Swedish pilot who just happens to have seen a Flying Saucer.