Friday, August 3, 2007

Stories about first human contact with aliens

Note 13 December 2013: It's been years since I updated this list, & I don't think I'll be doing it any time soon. Here is the up to date list of first contact fiction I've read.

I list here the First Contact stories I have posted on, in order of their quality - best stories first. Only stories where First Contact is a major theme are listed. Rating follows in brackets.

In some cases, A rated stories come after B rated ones. This is usually because of old reviews of Arthur Clarke's stories when I was still experimenting with rating system, & occasionally because looking at a story months later tends to invoke reactions different from original. I think the order below is good enough ordering on quality of these stories.

Since this list is updated manually & infrequently, it will always be behind actual posts. Last updated 27 August 2007. Many (but not all) posts on the subject after this date are available via "First Contact" tag, but only in the form of long reviews.
  1. [novel] Arthur Clarke's "2001 A Space Odyssey" (A): Helpful aliens aid transformation of apes to men - in early part of novel. Rest of novel is quite mundane.
  2. [novel] Pierre Boulle's "Planet of the Apes" (A): A look at human nature my making a human party visit an alien world ruled by Chimpanzees, Orangutans, & Gorillas who consider humans animals.
  3. [novel] Hal Clement's "Mission of Gravity" (A): First contact with humans from the point of view of aliens of a world with weird & very high gravity.
  4. [ss] Henry Kuttner & C L Moore's "Mimsy Were the Borogoves" (A): Not a human contact with aliens, but with certain alien artifacts sent to earth by an alien experimenter. Main story is primarily about the difference between the workings of adults & children.
  5. [novel] Arthur Clarke's "Rendezvous with Rama" (B): A beautiful & harmless alien spaceship is passing through our solar system. May be I should revise its rating to A? Was among the first books I reviewed - may be had set expectations too high!
  6. [novel] Hal Clement's "Iceworld" (A): First contact between two sentient races with very different sensitivity to temperature.
  7. [ss] H Beam Piper's "Omnilingual" (A): Human visitors to Mars find relics of a long dead native civilization. How are they going to decode the vast libraries of books & documents the aliens left behind?
  8. [ss] Arthur Clarke's "Crusade" (A): First contact from the point of view of electrically powered sentient beings from outside of Milky Way. And no actual contact either; they are out to destroy all non-electronic sentients from galaxy.
  9. [ss] Ted Chiang's "Story of Your Life" (A): Aliens are actually used as a story teller's aid here - to look at an alternate to human cognitive processes. Aliens mysteriously appear & then disappear from earth & let human researchers interview them frequently to figure out how these aliens think.
  10. [ss] Arthur Clarke's "Castaway" (A): Humans end up killing an alien visitor to earth just by looking at him!
  11. [ss] Arthur Clarke's "Publicity Campaign" (A); humor: Alien colonist visitors to earth don't even get a chance to talk to earth's leaders. They are forced to destroy earth because of extremely hostile human mobs, made paranoid because of the publicity campaign of a Hollywood movie!
  12. [ss] Robert Reed's "Eight Episodes" (A): An ancient alien observation sentinel is found on earth, in the tradition of Arthur Clarke's "2001 A Space Odyssey". With some variation. Beautifully told.
  13. [ss] Arthur Clarke's "Encounter at Down" (B): Aliens land on earths with intention to advance early humans technologically. But have to leave in a hurry, without helping.
  14. [ss] Ray Bradbury's "Mars is Heaven" (A): Hostile Martians don't want human visitors.
  15. [ss] Arthur Clarke's "Jupiter Five" (B): A shorter version of "Rendezvous with Rama".
  16. [ss] Arthur Clarke's "Trouble with the Natives" (B): Humor. When aliens visited a little English village.
  17. [ss] Arthur Clarke's "The Star" (B): Star of an alien world explodes, killing local intelligent beings. But something survives.
  18. [ss] Larry Niven's "The Warriors" (A): Very advanced aliens decide to attack an early human interstellar ship, but they are in for a surprise.
  19. [ss] Eric Frank Russell's "Mesmerica" (B): Human adventurers on an alien planet face very hostile talepathic natives.
  20. [ss] Adam-Troy Castro's "Sunday Night Yams at Minnie & Earl's" (B): Humans are helpless in figuring out enigmatic but very friendly aliens.
  21. [novel] Robert Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land" (B): Malevolent martian aliens are actually minor in this story, & stay in the background.
  22. [ss] Mike Resnick's "All Things You Are" (A): Very lovable aliens acting as a sort of galactic red cross, but causing some unintended harm.
  23. [ss] Eric Frank Russell's "Symbiotica" (B): Human visitor's unintentionally annoy powerful natives with strange weapons on an alien world.
  24. [ss] Arthur Clarke's "Guardian Angel" (B): Prelude to Clarke's much better known novel "Childhood's End". This story is may be first third of novel - godlike aliens appear on earth, & quickly become the rulers of humanity.
  25. [ss] Charles Stross' "MAXO Signals" (A); humor: First signals from aliens are received. And they are spam!
  26. [ss] Arthur Clarke's "Love That Universe" (B): Humans need to initiate first contact with very advanced aliens because of a rather extreme threat to humanity and all life on earth.
  27. [novel] Eric Frank Russell's "Sinister Barrier" (B): Humans are not earth's natives, but alien cattle imported & now owned by native super-beings!
  28. [ss] Larry Niven's "There is a Tide" (B): A lone human star farer has noticed an ancient treasure in space, but his claim is immediately challenged by some aliens.
  29. [ss] Arthur Clarke's "Reunion" (B): Long lost cousins of humanity are coming to earth for a reunion.
  30. [ss] Larry Niven's "Eye of an Octopus" (B): Human visitors to Mars stumble upon a native's grave that suggests sentient natives must be around. But they don't actually meet a living native.
  31. [ss] Eric Frank Russell's "Mechanistria" (B): Human visitors to an alien world encounter extremely hostile alien robots.
  32. [novel] Michael Flynn's "Eifelheim" (B): A group of alien researchers & holiday makers accidentally crashed on earth, near a German village - in fourteenth century.
  33. [ss] Neil Gaiman's "How to Talk to Girls at Parties?" (B): Aliens that can take over your mind.
  34. [ss] Arthur Clarke's "The Sentinel" (B): Aliens watching the development of intelligent life on earth have left a beacon on moon.
  35. [ss] Arthur Clarke's "The Fires Within" (B): A man begins exploring interior of earth. And dooms humanity's future.
  36. [novel] Arthur Clarke's "Childhood's End" (C): A second rate story about the ultimate purpose of life! Mostly based on Hindu mythology. Aliens as substitutes for gods.
  37. [ss] Larry Niven's "Smut Talk" (C): Sentient alien bacteria want hosts they can control!
  38. [novel] Peter Watts' "Blindsight" (C): How do you handle first contact with aliens? You hit them, because they may be hostile!
  39. [ss] David Brin's "Reality Check" (C): No aliens here, but an explanation of why there is never going to any first contact.
Legend: ss = short story