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Literature / Homo Sol

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First published in Astounding Science Fiction (September 1940 issue) by Isaac Asimov. This Science Fiction Short Story presents a Xenofictional story where First Contact with Earth occurs from the aliens' perspective. Two sequels were written, "The Imaginary" and "The Hazing".

A galactic senate meeting announces that the humans from Sol have reached Alpha Centauri through Faster-Than-Light Travel, making them candidates for induction into the galactic government of two hundred eighty-eight species/homeworlds of humanity.

Our main character, Tan Porus, is too busy working on figuring out why a squid from Beta Draconis IV is falls into a coma when exposed to a precise stimulus, and only that squid is affected. Studying this unusual physiological process is much more interesting than greeting the two hundred eighty-ninth society of humans to the galactic government, so Porus sends a minor flunky to do the job instead.

The flunky returns with news of disaster; the humans of Sol are refusing entry! There's something wrong with their psychology. Tan Porus takes it seriously, and leads a large group of psychologists to Earth so that they can analyze the race that defies long-standing psychological laws.

This story has been reprinted three times; Omnibus Of Science Fiction (1952), The Early Asimov (1972), and Urania (issue #626, September 1973).

"Homo Sol" provides examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Despite the absence of any human calendar, we can safely conclude this story takes place in the future because Earth has created a central global government and built Faster-Than-Light Travel spaceships.
  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: The galactic government maintains rules where communication and travel into systems where Humanoid Aliens (including Earth humans) don't have Faster-Than-Light Travel is forbidden. Once we get to Alpha Centautri, however, the ban is lifted, and they send representatives to invite the Solarian System to join the Galactic Superpower. In this story, however, the representatives become convinced of Earth's insanity, and start arguing to isolate this species of humans from the rest of the galaxy.
    Inar Tubal of Sirius: The Solar System is to be left to itself. It is a plague spot and we want none of it. As far as the Galaxy is concerned, Homo Sol will be placed in strict quarantine. That is final!
  • Angelic Aliens: With over two hundred different Humanoid Aliens in the galaxy, some are beautiful to the people of Earth. The alien psychologists recognise the similarities between our mythological deities and utilize this to facilitate a God Guise.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: When the story begins, Tan Porus is investigating the unusual biology of a squid from Beta Draconis IV. He's discovered that a highly specific sequence of lights and sounds puts the squid into a coma, with no clear reason why this would happen.
    "If you shift the wavelength of any of the light units by fifty angstroms either way - any one of them - it doesn't sleep. Shift the length of duration of a light unit two seconds either way - it doesn't sleep. Shift the pitch of the tone at the end an eighth of an octave either way - it doesn't sleep. But get the right combination, and it goes straight into a coma."
  • Bizarre Alien Psychology: The alien humans completely lack the mob psychology of the humans of Sol, making them individually emotional, but not very empathic. They’ve formed detailed mathematics around psychology in order to take advantage of the emotional reactions from humanoid life as they know it. Discovering how we react in groups and proving our mob psychology frightens the political representatives.
  • Brown Note: When the story begins, Tan Porus is investigating the unusual biology of a squid from Beta Draconis IV. He's discovered that a highly specific sequence of lights and sounds puts the squid into a coma, with no clear reason why this would happen.
  • Esperanto, the Universal Language: The welcome message from the alien diplomats is delivered in Esperanto.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: The Galactic Superpower maintains a ban on travel and communication until a system develops FTL travel. First Contact with Earth occurs when they travel to Alpha Centauri. Galactic representatives are sent to Terrapolis, the capital city of Earth, to invite us to their Galactic Federation.
  • First Contact: This story opens with the announcement of the aliens meeting Solarians (humans from the Sol system) for the first time. The council of 288 aliens vote to send representatives to invite the Solarians into their government.
    "[T]he official report from Alpha Centauri, on whose fifth planet the Humanoids of Sol have landed. The report is entirely satisfactory and so the ban upon travel into and communication with the Solarian System is lifted. Sol is free, and open to the ships of the Federation. Even now, there is in preparation an expedition to Sol, under the leadership of Joselin Arn of Alpha Centauri, to tender that System the formal invitation into the Federation."
  • Featureless Plane of Disembodied Dialogue: While the aliens are described with unusually coloured/shaped appendages, almost none of the setting itself is, taking place only in rooms of the audience's imagination.
  • The Federation: The aliens have a civilization that spans more than two hundred species, with no mention of enemies to fight. The humans of Earth are invited to join their society purely on the basis of demonstrating Faster-Than-Light Travel.
  • Fictional Field of Science: The alien humans have numerous scientific and technological advances. Even their psychology is far in advance of ours, with mathematical notation and rules such as Kraut's Law and Karolean tensors. Of course, the humans of Sol are completely strange, being considered mad scientists as well as fierce fighters, requiring the invention of a new mathematical notation system to represent our mob psychology.
  • God Guise: This story features a galaxy-spanning civilization comprising all humanoid alien species, which learns of Earth humans, but First Contact is complicated by the fact that humans are the only species susceptible to demagoguery, and also have a knack for rigging any technology into a weapon. They cannot be left alone, either, because Humans Advance Swiftly. The solution? The aliens send emissaries looking like the gods of Classical Mythology, reasoning that the words of Zeus and Demeter will convince Homo Sol to accept the other aliens as equals. The sequels show that this actually works perfectly.
    "If a hundred Zeuses and a hundred Demeters were to land on Earth as part of a 'trade mission,' and turned out to be trained psychologists - Now do you see?"
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs: The aliens use stellar terms for their cursing, saying "comet gas" and "space!"
  • Humanity Is Insane: The Humanoid Aliens are frightened by the Humans of Sol because they are the first species known to demonstrate "mob mentality", allowing the group's emotions to influence their own. The aliens are so frightened, some of them want to isolate the Homo Sol to their own solar system.
  • Humanoid Aliens: The Galactic Federation is made up of two hundred and eighty-eight oxygen-atmosphere, water-chemistry homeworlds. Each world gave rise to a sapient humanoid species, from the tall and skinny to the short and stumpy. Some were thickly furred, and others completely bald. Ears and eyes varied in size and colour. Vega is called out as the home of Little Green Men.
  • Humans Advance Swiftly: Joselin Arn of Alpha Centauri, representative of the galactic military, admits that the humans of Earth are already a dangerous warlike race, and giving them two centuries to develop their technology would likely end in the annexation of the galactic government by the Earth's government.
    "They're all I'd care to tackle right now. Two hundred years of exploring the new tracks suggested by their brief contact with us and they'd be doing things I can't imagine. Wait two hundred years and there won't be a battle; there'll be an annexation." — Joseph Arn of Alpha Centauri
  • Humans Are Special: The humans of Earth are the only intelligent humans in the galaxy known to violate Kraut's Law, allowing large groups of humans to be panicked. The two hundred and eighty-eight Humanoid Aliens of the galaxy estimate that they are a thousand years ahead of Earth in technology and science. One of their soldiers estimates that this makes them just about able to fight Earth to a draw. If they delay for two hundred years, we will surpass their technology and war would become a Curb-Stomp Battle.
  • Humans Are Warriors: Several factors make the soldiers of the galactic government afraid of us; they describe our ability to coordinate as a form of functional "mass panic", we can turn dozens of outdated museum tools into cutting-edge weaponry, and we develop new technology quickly.
    "Furthermore, this world's a mass of mad geniuses. They have, to my certain knowledge, taken no less than twenty-two interesting but useless gadgets they saw in the Thalsoon Museum when they visited us, turned 'em inside out and produced from them some of the most unpleasant military devices I've seen."
  • Humans by Any Other Name:
    • This is an Inverted Trope example because the over two hundred Humanoid Aliens of the galactic Federation are considered members of "mankind", and are "humans".
    • This story has a straight example of this trope because each intelligent species is given the genus designation Homo and species designation of the star system they evolved in. There is Homo Arcturus, Homo Alpha Centauri, and, in our case, Homo Sol. Each species can also be called by their system name; Arcturians, Centaurians, and Solarians.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: The story takes place from the perspective of alien humans during First Contact with the humans from Earth, with emphasis on how warlike and unpredictable they find us.
    "There's something wrong with the Solarians themselves. They're not normal."
  • I Come in Peace: When the Solarians (humans from Earth) meet sentient aliens for the first time, they are welcomed in peace. These aliens find it unusual that the Solarians choose to keep their weapons ready during their entire stay, rather than putting the weapons away once it was clear the aliens were peaceful.
  • Misplaced a Decimal Point: There's a meeting of (alien) psychologists who assume Tan Porus, the main character, has made a mathematical mistake rather than believing his conclusions. Another taunts him with a story of a student whose result was 10000000000 times too large because of their misplaced decimal.
    "I remember," gasped Inar Tubal of Sirius, his round face streaked with tears of pure joy, "a student of mine who once claimed to have discovered a stimulus that would induce worldwide panic. When I checked his results, I came across an exponent with a misplaced decimal point. He was only ten orders of magnitude out of the way. How many decimal points have you misplaced, Colleague Porus?"
  • The Namesake: In this story, all known sentient life is Humanoid. The various species are called Homo (for human) and then designated by the star system they evolved from. The title refers to mankind from our solar system; Humans of Sol.
  • No Focus on Humans: The entire story is told from an alien viewpoint, mostly in the Third Person narration following Tan Porus around as the galactic government establishes First Contact with the Solarians (humans from Earth's solar system).
  • One World Order:
    • It is implied that the humans of Sol have formed a single unified government by the existence of Terrapolis, known as the capital city of Earth.
    • It is stated several times that the only known forms of intelligent life in the galaxy are Humanoid Aliens. Over two hundred species have joined the Galactic Superpower so far.
  • Xeno Fiction: The entire story is told from an alien viewpoint, mostly in Third Person narration following Tan Porus around as representatives of the galactic Federation of Planets establishes First Contact with the Solarians (humans from Earth's solar system).