Alien Nation

So tonight we all went to a public talk on the subject of the search for alien life.  Yes, Tabby’s planet was mentioned.  And another 11 (or was it thirteen) odd “objects” that might be alien life.

The talk itself was pretty good, though I confess that while at one time I had Seti@home on my computer, and of course I keep an ear out for such things (being a geek) aliens are something “I don’t believe in.”

This begs explaining, of course.  I mean, rationally I’ll concede it’s possible there’s tons of alien life.  It is perhaps likely.  It’s even likely there’s tons of sentient life.

I’ll admit, rationally, too, that the chances are that alien life is way too distant from us in space or time to make any difference.  Of all the billions and billions (eh) of planets in the universe, the chances are that if there are sentient civilizations they’re too far away from us to make contact in our lifetime or indeed in the lifetime of our civilization even if we last for thousands of years more.

Now, this doesn’t mean I should have this blank spot in my inner compass that says “Aliens, nothing there.”

After all I routinely write about things that objectively don’t exist, such as dragons and mermaids.  And about half the things that I write about aren’t supposed to exist even in my great great great grandkids’ lifetime.

So WHY is there a blank space under aliens?  A “I don’t believe in them enough to even play along” spot?

I don’t know.  It’s probably some quirk of how I’m put together.  Curiously and bizarrely, if we landed on Mars tomorrow and found men just like us living in underground cities, either colonists from our own world or some other, I”d just go “Oh, okay.”  It’s more the non-human extra terrestrials that I find weird.  And no, don’t tell me that non-human extra-terrestrials are likely, while human ones, without a time machine, are well nigh impossible.  I know that.  It’s my subconscious that doesn’t and subconscious(es) are weird beasties who make no sense whatsoever.

Anyway, accounting for the fact I find the whole thing very unlikely at a gut level, it was an interesting talk and all.  And of course I’d be interested if we did find aliens, because at a rational level it would answer tons of questions, like, you know, is there a pathway that life might follow at a basic molecular level?  Is life perhaps all related, as Hoyle suspected, etc.

But after the talk the audience got to ask questions.

There was the question about what do we think it would do to society if watchers/listeners found unmistakable signs of alien life.  I confess I didn’t even GET that.  And Laura Montgomery, who sat nest to me whispered “We’d all go maaaaaad Maaaad.”

This was probably payback for my having told her earlier that the only message we should send to the stars was “Only hoomans allowed here, no aliens.  Stay off our lawn.  Go away.  This means you.”  Which had made her laugh.

But at the same time she’s right.  So imagine that astronomers or whatever detected unmistakable signs of intelligent alien life…  Why should it do anything to our society?

If it was 100 light years or so way, maybe my grandkids might make contact, maybe.  BUT if it was — as is more probable — 10k or more light years away… well… we wouldn’t even know if whatever sent those signals would still be there.  I mean, ten thousand years ago, humans’ most civilized activity was digging in the dirt.  And you know what?  we might be doing that again in ten thousand years.

The presenter seemed rather puzzled by the question too and said something like “Well, we’d have more funding.”

I suspect the question was an attempt at “gotcha”.  There is a very silly type of atheist who thinks that people of faith would lose all faith if we found He had also create aliens.

This always seemed rather odd to me.  I mean, sure, He created us in his image and semblance, but that’s assumed to be our spirit, right?  Why shouldn’t His infinite spirit have other images and semblances?  Who are we to tell Him who He can create or even who He can adopt?

I don’t FEEL we’ll find aliens, but honestly, it will be more suspicious if we don’t find them.  Then we’d sort of have to start quirking an eyebrow and try to figure out what is going on here.  Is this a joke?  Is it aimed at us?

If I were writing this, we’d find humans.  They’d have been flung back in time by accidental time travel, or they’d have evolved in parallel or they and us would be seeds of an ancient, ancient race.

I’m not going to ask.  I might write it someday, mind.  But it’s possible that Himself doesn’t have my twisted sense of humor.  After all, I’m the plucky comic relief.

Oh, I’d also plump for little green aliens with a twisted sense of humor (Read Martians Go Home.)

But I confess most of all, as much as finding aliens would be interesting, because it would allow us to know ourselves better by comparison, it disturbs me how some people (thank heavens no one at this talk, but some famous tv-scientists, and you know exactly who I mean) look to potential aliens as a source of ethical guidance.

This I don’t get, even if they are more technologically advanced than us.  Aliens would still be aliens, and while they might not have the same blind spots we do (perhaps, after all, you know, it might be baked into sentient species) they will have blind spots.  It strikes me as the same as taking ethical and spiritual guidance from your cat.  “Partaketh thou of the Tuna”  “Chase the mousie.”  Seriously?

In that sense, the idea of finding aliens worries me.  Doubtless it’s saner to seek guidance from aliens than from crystals (at least assuming the crystals aren’t aliens) but it’s still insane.  It would be another thing for some number of humans to hang all their world view upon, which doubtless would irk me.

Fortunately it’s unlikely to happen, as I’m thinking as hard as I can “Only hoomans allowed.  Get off our lawn.  Go home.  This means you.”












274 thoughts on “Alien Nation

    1. Nah, the message that SETI will finally find will turn out to be (once it’s been decoded from Squidese):

      “Only Squids allowed. Get off our seabed. Go home. This means you.”

  1. I’m beginning to think that alien life is right here with us. Cats, dogs, dolphins and elephants. 🙂 We just haven’t admitted their intelligence levels yet. And why have a civilization when cats and dogs use ours?

    1. Hmm. Dogs are more a symbiotic species, having coevolved with humans over the past 10,000+ years. We’re their brains, they’re our extended senses and protection, as well as cleaners-up-of-whatever-drops-on-the-floor-that’s-edible. Cats on the other hand, are just stuck up opportunists; although an argument could be made that THEY are the only real intelligence on the planet since they domesticated US. Chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans ARE intelligent species. They’re hunter-gatherers at the bottom of the intelligence scale; tool but not fire using, communicative but only just barely pre-language, with a glimmering sense of self, and barely able to think abstractly.

      1. Dogs are plenty smart. What they will tend to do when faced with a problem is get a human instead of trying to do it themselves.

        That’s how we wound up with a dog once. The neighbors had a dog who had puppies, and she was tired of her owners giving them away, so she found them homes, all nearby. And she kept a watch on them.

        1. We have two dogs just now, both quite bright. Both solve problems by coming to get me. Dog number one does so politely and gets what she wants more than half the time. She’d get it more often but for dog number two who is a nervous nellie and a bit of a poopy head. He fusses. He whines, he complains, he dances around and barks. To which my knee jerk reaction is something like “when Hell freezes over, ya doofus.”

          Unfortunately, he is sometimes joined by other dog, who walks up, toy in her mouth and sits, then makes eye contact. Or gives two sharp barks, then waits. So I end up reinforcing Mr. Poopy Head’s behaviour in order not to penalize Miss Sweetie.

          We may have a metaphor here.

      2. > Dogs are more a symbiotic species

        Some paleoanthropologists claim that the reason the modern human branch beat out the Neanderthals was that we hooked up with dogs, and have co-evolved.

        Cats are okay pets, but dogs will go with you into the dark places where bad things wait. K-9 FTW…

        1. Memo: make sure I include dogs as part of the protagonists group going up against the bad guys/monsters. (And not some dinky shiztu – unless it’s a swarm of shiztus!)

          1. You need the most terrifying, vicious breed of dogs, ones that were bred to dig their way into badgers’ lairs and drag out these fiercest of weasels. You need a pack of wiener dogs.

            Although the top twelve strongest dog bites includes the chow-chow.

            1. The AKC has been breeding them into the usual nervous imbecility, but dachshunds still have most of their original traits. And when you see one yawn, you realize they’re just furry crocodiles…

                1. My Dalmation breeder friend blames Disney. Hers are still hunting dogs. She does some horseback hunting competition with hers, I don’t remember the name, but her horse has to not freak when she shoots.

          2. Murray Leinster did a story where the colonists on a particularly nasty planet concluded the native wildlife was too nasty for dogs. Instead of trying to breed/engineer a giant dog, they looked for an appropriately-sized animal and bred/engineered them for the proper, um, attitude.

            A century later, on another planet, we meet one of those men–and his faithful Kodiak bears…

            Personally, I’m not sure it would work. I’m told we domesticated dogs by installing ourselves as pack leaders and breeding alpha tendencies out of the subspecies. A friend of mine had to put down a beloved young Rottweiler because he *was* an alpha. She was told she *might* be able to keep him properly submissive, with lots of training and lots of care in her own body language–but other adults might be in trouble. And as for children…

    2. Actually, (and this usually causes giggles), watching animals interact may give a good indication of how aliens could interact despite being different species. At one time we had a dog who was friends with a mockingbird, and a cat who was friends with the dog and would get along with the mockingbird, and all three interacted with us. Now why? What the common denominator? Is it because humans, dogs, and cats are gregarious species, and birds like to flock? Is it because, at least among humans, dogs, and cats, there are roughly similar hierarchical structures? And what of the cats that adopted the pig, or the dog that did the pig and the cats? When you watch animals interact, it can be interesting, and perhaps, to some, a little unsettling.

      Also interesting are the limits. There was once a mockingbird hanging around that would whistle for dogs when a cat was near, which is pretty bright. But the same bird was convinced the cat was a danger to us just like she was to her. And regardless of how smart a dog or cat is; they remain dogs and cats and have different triggers and instincts.

      1. I’m guessing that a lot of inter-species friendships rely on the animals in question being well fed. If they got really hungry (not just missing a meal or two, but really hungry), that might change.

      2. Even within a species. I suppose there’s some hierarchy or such, but it’s still fascinating to see a horse approach another and then, in reverse-parallel, they scratch each other’s backs. I’m fairly sure the approacher ahs an itch and the message to other is more “no, over here… ahhhh.. thanks” or such.

    3. Larry Niven once wrote that we’d have a head start dealing with aliens. Men and women have been co-existing for many millenia.

        1. Women are easy to understand.

          Just think of a man, and take away reason and accountability.

  2. Well, hopefully hostile aliens prove to be rather… inept.
    “‘Prepare to die, Earth scum! Prepare to die, Earth scum!’ I’m gonna have that written on your tombstone!” “SHUT UP!”

    1. From a .sig (not mine) once upon a time:

      “People of Mars, Surrender! Your puny weapons are no match for-”
      “Psst. Buddy, this is Earth.”
      “Earth? Earth with nuclear weapons Earth?”
      “Uh huh.” “Hello, Friend!!”

      1. One Marvel (X-Men) comic had an alien starship chasing a fugitive to Earth.

        The Captain was hearing the info on this “back-ward” planet until he heard the part where this planet had survived visits by the “planet-eating” Galactus.

        After ordering a long-distance “shot” to destroy the fugitive’s ship, he immediately ordered his ship to “get out of here”. 👿

        1. Another one had a wannabe invader ready to scout out the primitives. One of his crew was reading up on the planet while he stormed out the airlock [The Skrull Empire, the Kree Empire, the Shi’ar Empire, Thanos, Galactus, the Living EtCetera…] and tried to warn them, but they were already gone.

          They attacked a house in the Australian Outback, under construction by X-Men associates who’d moved out there to find some peace and quiet.

          That’s not a blaster–
          (disintegrates armored vehicle with a dramatic gesture)
          THIS is a blaster!

          1. Shades of the tale (truth coefficient: I dunno) who supposedly saw Bad Things coming to mainlands so decided to move to some lonely little, out of the way island… Midway. Oh crap.

            1. There once was a man named William McLean. When the first Battle of Manasses took place on his farm, he went “Forget this,” and moved to a nice, quiet place far from war: Appomattox, Virginia.

              Lee surrendered to Grant in his parlor.

          2. I think I remember that comic. It was a parody of DC’s “Invasion” series that was out around that time too.

        2. I while ago I ran across a parody of a Chick Tract about the Marvel Universe, and the best exchange from it was when a bunch of kids walked up to Reed Richards in the park to answer a question they had.
          Billy: “Dr. Richards, is it true that there’s a huge man in space who wants to kill us all?”
          Reed: “Ho ho. Not at all, Billy. There are huge MEN in space who want to kill us. There are lots more than just the one.” And then he proceeded to list all the cosmic menaces lined up to destroy our significant little planet.

    2. Oh give me a home / Where the asteroids roam
      And the gleebs and the buzzy mugs play / Where gravity’s low / And the water is snow / And the desert winds blow you away / Mars, Mars is my home / Where everyone’s short just like me / I wish I was where / There is not so much air / And two moons to shine down upon me.

  3. Thinking about the “gotcha”, won’t it be “interesting” if some of the aliens had versions of Christianity. [Very Big Grin]

    I really don’t know what I think about real intelligent life out there (especially when I wonder about intelligent life here).

    In terms of fictional aliens, if we meet/find aliens that could walk down the street in Earth clothing and nobody would notice anything “strange”, my reaction would be “is somebody meddling?” Especially if the aliens could interbreed with humans. That’s a situation where we could wonder if the aliens are “misplaced humans” (or we are the misplaced ones) 😉

    I get annoyed if somebody claims as fact that any aliens we might met would be like gods compared to us. Some of these people aren’t the ones who believe in the “alien angels who will teach us so much” but believe that the alien gods would just ignore us (if we’re lucky).

    In my reading, I prefer aliens who look different than us (even if the basic body shape is similar) and the major differences from us are cultural not “their minds are so alien that we can’t understand them”.

    Going back to the “god-like aliens”, in one of my unwritten story universes, the multi-species “Empire” knows of a species(?) that they call the Enigmatic Ones.

    The Empire doesn’t know much about them (not even sure if they are a single species) but knows that they are very powerful, are somewhat friendly while not meddling too much in the affairs of other species, but hate genocide.

    As for the Enigmatic Ones being gods (or even angels), the Empire knows of short-lived cults that attempted to worship the Enigmatic Ones.

    It’s hard to worship beings that cause rain-storms inside your “church”. 😉

      1. The first transmission from another world translates to “Hello, do you have time to talk about the Book of Mormon?”

        1. I’ve actually written that one: The Last Prophet. It’s a silly short story that popped into my head one day. If anyone wants to read it, I’d be thrilled to get feedback. Drop me a line at tigersizer on the gmail thing.

        2. Joseph Smith, the founder of the LDS Church, did say that there was intelligent life on other worlds. However, he never provided any details about said intelligent life.

    1. Thinking about the “gotcha”, won’t it be “interesting” if some of the aliens had versions of Christianity. [Very Big Grin]

      Mike Resnick and Tina Gower covered that in INCI:

    2. James Alan Gardener has a series where there are aliens that are like gods compared to us—and most of the other species in the universe. And they basically have one rule: No dangerous non-sapients—where “non-sapient” is a being that kills sapient beings on purpose. So you can have self-defense (since by definition, someone trying to kill you is non-sapient), and you can have death through error, but you can’t have murderers. And the way they enforce this is that anyone who is traveling through space and crosses the line out of a system and fails their test dies. Just dies. Nobody knows how or how they know.

      Since these are good books, that means there’s all sorts of new challenges such a prohibition brings up, and it doesn’t solve interference by a long shot. And the “gods” basically leave the rest of the folk alone aside from that.

    3. Referencing my comment way down the page, because of the available time frames, any aliens nearby are likely to either be godlike, or else incredibly low on the technological scale. I agree with many others that if a race is more than 100-200 years ahead of us technologically (though I gave a thousand year window in my other comment), they are likely to not want to have anything to do with us, unless we have resources they want to take, or else they have an equivalent to missionaries, and even then, there’s likely to be a point at which it’s simply not worth the trouble.

    4. I think a more interesting version of that is that we meet aliens and they don’t have Christianity because they don’t need it. They haven’t fallen… yet. C.S. Lewis wrote such, but I can’t think of any others.

      1. Those might exist but I suspect that (unlike Lewis’s ones) that they could be mistaken for gods/angels.

        Of course, they likely wouldn’t spend much time with Fallen Species like us and would discourage Fallen Species from worshiping them.

        Oh, that’s what (in my mind) the Enigmatic Ones are. 😉

        1. We’re the intelligent yet fallen species? Wouldn’t that make us Lucifer, or at least, demons? No Shi! they wouldn’t spend much time with us.

          1. Getting into theology (:wink:) but no, demons are Fallen Angels, non-physical beings, that apparently can’t be redeemed.

            We’re Fallen physical beings who can be redeemed.

            In my story universe, the Enigmatic Ones aren’t in the Redemption business but are allowed to help out from time to time.

            Of course, if I ever get a story written in their story universe, I’m not planning to write anything from the POV of one of them.

            As Mary points out, it is almost impossible for imperfect people to write about truly perfect people.

      2. That would be difficult. Seeing as it’s a not perfect human trying to write a perfect alien.

      3. I think it was Arthur C. Clarke who wrote of a follower chasing down Jesus, but always arriving at a planet after he left…

    5. And then there is also the Terrible Scenerio.. the one where earth-creatures ARE the superior/more advanced/most lucky/whatever race/species/beings…

      And how to avoid having THAT go to at least some folks “pointy widdle heads”? As if it does, well the entry is Disaster, Recipes for. As to how the disaster manifests and for whom… well, there are many variation that can be played upon that theme.

      As for themes to vary upon, I still would like to see the results of “The Last Straw” or such… but someone, somewhere, is a dirty rotten father of a glitch. Or so I presume. I could be wrong. Actually, it would probably be best if I were wrong.

      And *COMPLETELY* OFF (this) TOPIC: Is there a trick to actually *using* a Kindle? Sure, I have one (Kindle Fire.. low end, but inexpensive and moreso with a coupon so… there it is). I even keep it opeon(-ish, cloth as a dust cover) on the desk. Do I use it? Rarely. I find the Kindleor Audible app on the phone is more likely to get used – and yes my eyes are… not textbook (alright they are, but under “severe myopia” – sans corrective lenses it is painfully obvious my name would be something more like “$PREDATOR Chow” rather than “Oh, him?” or such). I’ve come the conclusion that if I find myself in need of replacing the device, I will get a “generic” tablet and use the Kindle & Audible apps on it rather than deal with Amazon’s garden of semi-permeable walls. It might cost a bit more, but the savings in cussing (and that’s withOUT a ‘swear jar’ mind you) alone is apt to be worth it.

      And just to be complete: Moo.

        1. And so many other species throughout the universe… all living in dread fear of The Old One, those tentacle-less monsters…. so absurdly crazy they ingest metabolic poisons… for fun.

  4. I think the big thing about aliens & ethics is that it would give us a different perspective on the whole thing, rather than they’d give us The Answers. Now, if they had *mathematics* to back it up, that’d be a whole new ball of wax. Especially if said mathematics used axioms/postulates that we agreed with, but showed some conclusion that we considered utterly anathema, such as “children should kill their parents”, by absolutely clear logical steps (on the order of the proofs we use in HS geometry to prove the Side-Angle-Side result).

    1. You are assuming that ethics are not species specific. Different fundamental needs might mean different ethics. Intelligences that produced energy from photosynthesis vs. obligate carnivores for example.

      1. No, I consider ethics as those things that transcend even species and other such things. Those things that are *right* – no matter what. Or at least a proper description of what situations and what actions are right in those situations. Ethics should cover what is right for a carnivore, an herbivore, and even intelligent shades of the color blue.

        1. Correct IMO.

          An ethical intelligent carnivore and an ethical intelligent herbivore could likely agree that it isn’t ethical for the intelligent carnivore to eat the intelligent herbivore. 😉

            1. *snicker* I wrote a story that included a resort restaurant that has omnivore, carnivore, and herbivore seating because of a “gustatory misunderstanding” that occurred not long after the place opened.

                1. “No, no. You fail to understand. Sure, I’d rather NOT be eaten, but I know I won’t live much longer anyway and it’d be a waste to just be burned or buried. So… surely there are some folks in need? There always are. So… here I am. Now, shall we get on with this already?”

                  NOTE: I plan to live quite a while longer, despite what some might prefer. Alright, BECAUSE of what some might prefer. To them: So there!

      1. Meh – there’s a story in *EVERYTHING*. The hard part is actually writing the story. I get tired of people saying “I’ve got this idea… if you build it/write it out/whatever, I’ll cut you in for half.” Ideas are the *EASY* part – implementing the idea is the hard part!

        1. Very much so. If you scribble, and other people know it, then this comes up. A lot. It’s like folks think that these ideas (story ideas) are so very rare that they simply *must* be protected and that they’re incredibly valuable even in their nascent and completely unformed state…


          Note, I do *not* scribble. Nope. Just a reader, so there! *sticks tongue firmly in cheek*

          1. Then may you never have 100 unfinished novels on hand.

            Which is also good motivation to finish a few when you start edging up to that figure. 😉

          2. Wasn’t that a short story by Clarke… “The Nine Billion Unfinished Novels of Sarah”?

            1. …and when finished, the stars will, without much fuss, start going out one by one?

                1. With even lesser fuss than in the Clarke story.

                  Plus eventually there won’t be enough hydrogen lying around to create new stars. Oh noes… Peak Hydrogen!

                  *runs around in a blind panic*

        2. It’s just as bad in the programming world. I can’t tell you how many times I meet someone and as soon as they hear that I’m a computer programmer, they pitch “this awesome idea for a program” that they think I should write for them. SURE… We can split the proceeds 50/50… yea… your idea is SO GOOD that I’ll happily do ALL the work and give over 50% of the profit.

          1. And there’s at least three impossible things before the initial routines even finish…

            “Hey, I really a need a DWIM instruction.”

            DWIM: Do What I Mean.

          2. Hey, if *I* come up with a computer program that is all that wonderful, but I am not willing to be part of the development team, I’ll settle for 2% plus my name in the credits.

            1. Thing is, the experience necessary to participate in the development team seems like a prerequisite for reliably being able to come up with a verifiable good idea. Part of an idea’s useful quality is in how well it explains what needs to happen in the necessary detail.

            2. Hmmm…. guy comes up with an idea off the top of his head (3 minutes maybe? and that’s giving a lot of credit given the pitches I’ve heard) vs weeks (if not months) of research, coding, and testing, Then endless bug fixing and updating that has to be done if one is selling a software product (all work that would have to be done by the programmer).

              I’m not sure 2% is really fair.

              1. Ah, perhaps you’re not considering the part that requires the developers to agree that is’ a good enough idea to work on (or else why would they work on it, unless the idea guy paid them?).

    2. I doubt you could ever prove ethics via mathematics. Mathematics doesn’t have the language (despite Asimov’s writings) to describe metaphysics, just as science can’t come up with the answers to it.

      1. But mathematically minded people can be persuaded to be ethical.
        “Because Libresco is one of the somewhat small group of people who change their minds when encountering facts that contradict their previously-held opinions, I became curious about her. I discovered when I did a little research that this is not her first change experience. She’s written a book on her conversion from atheist to Catholic. That’s different of course, because she didn’t base it on the numbers—although in a strange way she did. This is one highly mathematical person. Here she talks about her experience:”

  5. So WHY is there a blank space under aliens? A “I don’t believe in them enough to even play along” spot?

    I’m in the same (blank) space. I think in my case it arises from John Brunner’s First Law of Decent Fiction:

    The raw material of fiction is people.

    Brunner never went into detail about what he meant by “people,” but to me it looks this way:
    — They must be sentient — i.e., conscious and self-aware;
    — They must have unmet needs and/or desires;
    — They must be limited, such that the attainment of their needs and desires requires effort and can be obstructed by events, circumstances, or other people.

    But I already have a race of those to write about. Therefore, I’d only consider writing about some nonhuman race of “people” if something about them were inherently interesting and distant from the “people” you and I know well.

    It might eventually be worth the effort, but for the moment, Homo sapiens terrestrialis will suffice.

    1. Which is why I find Cherryh’s writings to be so good – she writes aliens as actually alien, even if only a bit. Which gives that different perspective for examining our own selves.

  6. All I can think about aliens is that if we do discover some, we won’t even have a chance to understand what they are thinking…

      1. John Ringo had an alien that was a projective telepath setting up shop on Earth.

        Any human coming within range of its telepathy was driven insane. 👿

          1. Into the Looking Glass I think. It was one of many aliens that popped up when a science experiment went wrong. First book in the series with Doc Taylor.

          2. Yes, in his book “Into the Looking Glass” something appeared in Boca Raton and anybody who goes in doesn’t come out sane.

      2. Like Bradbury’s Martians?

        The crew of one of the early expeditions from Earth to Mars in that collection had the misfortune to discover how the insane are treated in a society in which you can literally project your insane hallucinations into someone elses’ head.

  7. There was the question about what do we think it would do to society if watchers/listeners found unmistakable signs of alien life.

    That was the concept in Sagan’s Contact, of course. But I think Jack McDevitt did it far better in The Hercules Text:

    (And I say that as a pretty big fan of Contact.)

      1. e-book: $8.99. 23 used hard-covers available at $2.49 (NOT a slipped decimal point). Sigh. It looks good, but I have no desire for hard-covers.

  8. My big question here is – why is it so imperative to *discount* the possibility that it might be aliens? Why is this an “extraordinary claim” that requires “extraordinary evidence”? I look at the efforts scientists seem to go to explain away things, and I find myself wondering “Seriously? You’re going to break your back bending over that far to fit the evidence to your conclusion!”

    1. Because the scientists don’t want “egg on their face” if they’re wrong, especially with something so “far out as intelligent life”.

      For that matter, SETA (may not be correct name) got stung when they thought they had an intelligent signal but it turned out to be the first pulsar found.

    2. Because science is about what can be proven.
      The existence of alien life, isn’t.

      When you put an alien critter on the slab for scientists to dissect, that is when scientists should start opining about aliens existing.
      (And I’m only exaggerating very slightly.)

      1. Because science is about what can be proven.

        Where on Earth did you get that idea?
        Science is exactly and only the scientific method: a technique for forming hypotheses from objective data and composing and conducting experiments to test them.

        In all of human discourse, there are only three kinds of proposition:
        Mathematical: Can be proved or disproved.
        Scientific: Can be disproved but never proved.
        Religious: Can neither be proved nor disproved.

        A scientific hypothesis cannot be proved. Only mathematical propositions, which exist within a completely defined, completely formal framework, can be proved. However, while a single experimental result that fails to conform to the hypothesis can disprove it, no accumulation of conforming results can prove it beyond all possibility of error. There’s always the possibility that the next experiment will disprove it.

        1. It’s a fair cop.
          I was over-generalizing to make the point, and you busted me.

          Karl Popper would be so disappointed in me.

        2. Is there an entry for “can be proved but not disproved”?
          Inquiring minds want to know.

    3. Extraordinary claim because there’s no accepted proof it’s ever happened before, or that it could happen. And one of the criteria I usually don’t see when they talk about extraordinary evidence is how wide spread that evidence is given. 100% proof to only 1 or 2 people doesn’t cut it. 100% proof to thousands, okay, now we’re talking believability.

    4. Most legitimate scientists admit that, say, Mexicans exist. 🙂

      If you are talking about terrestrial origin non-human intelligences, where did they come from, and how big of a breeding population do they have?

      If you are talking about extraterrestrial origin non-human intelligences on Earth, where did they come from and how did they get here? ‘How did they get here’ is of personal interest because it tends to have implications for the amount of uncharacterized physics left to study in the universe. A scientist may well have committed to a pet position about the latter question. (Personally, rather than consider the possibility of thermodynamics violation, I’m going to assume that someone who makes a plan that depends on such is a madman.)

      If you are talking about extraterrestrial non-human intelligences far far far away from Earth, why should I care? I have enough on my plate trying to figure out ways to deal with Mexicans, Chinese, Indians, Russians, et cetera.

    5. why is it so imperative to *discount* the possibility that it might be aliens? Why is this an “extraordinary claim” that requires “extraordinary evidence”?

      It’s an extraordinary claim because of the distances involved. If it were easy to travel those distances in a reasonable amount of time, we would already know how. If it’s not easy, then why would they bother with us, when they would HAVE to be so far more technologically advanced?

      I look at the efforts scientists seem to go to explain away things, and I find myself wondering “Seriously? You’re going to break your back bending over that far to fit the evidence to your conclusion!”

      Can you give a couple of examples here? I don’t really know of any backbreaking bending going on.

  9. I don’t FEEL we’ll find aliens, but honestly, it will be more suspicious if we don’t find them. Then we’d sort of have to start quirking an eyebrow and try to figure out what is going on here. Is this a joke? Is it aimed at us?

    At this point, I’m convinced: If there’s not some sort of life out there, it’s proof of the existence of some sort of deity.

    Once we could plausibly make the argument: “But maybe our conditions are just too unique to happen anywhere else.” But with all our discoveries of galaxies and stars and exoplanets, I no longer believe that we’re that unique. The necessary conditions have to have occurred countless times — unless the necessary condition is divine intervention.

    Is it as advanced as us? Will we ever meet it? Impossible to say. But it’s out there.

    1. “Bad news, maybe. Good news, perhaps. And some… rather weird news.”

      “Alright, spill.”

      “It’s a dead planet. Not a living thing. Probes didn’t even find virus-like molecules, let alone germs.”

      “Alright… if that was the bad news, what’s the rest? And is what you just said really bad?”

      “Might not be. We can’t mess up a non-existent ecosystem – and it can’t mess up ours. But that’s now. There was a life on the planet we orbit. What look like artificial structures.. are. And there is a fossil record – not just statues, which can be fantastic… but..”

      “The weird part, next, huh? What, spiders? Aquatics and the oceans dried? Nightmare fuel anatomy?”

      “I’d almost rather have any of those. All those fantastic creatures of legends and tales of old? This place actually had them. Well, at least every large fossil the probes have found so far, are.. things we no longer think of being real, if we ever really did.”

      “Alright, make the report as dry as you can. And nobody talks to press. This will be screwy enough without immediate splash proclaiming it Bullfinch’s World or some nonsense.”

      “Yes, sir.”

    2. That was my initial response.
      The story of an atheist facing a brutal reality of us being completely alone in the universe seems much more interesting to me.

      1. As an Atheist I can say with all the authority that comes from me speaking only for myself, that it will be entirely up to the individual.
        I don’t see it as brutal, or even as sad, but more as just another piece in the cool puzzle that is all of existence.
        As an opportunist I think “All dem resources!!”

        1. It gets more interesting if Earth is the only place in we find with life, as that would imply life isn’t a “just add water” event.

          There are two reasons I suggested looking to identify sister suns of ours, birthed in the same stellar nursery. One is the likelihood of similar proportions of chemicals. The other is that, if it takes more than one stellar lifetime for life to form, then our sun’s siblings are more likely to harbor life due to the fact that our’s does.

          1. Yet Earth seems a rara avis among planetary objects, our large “moon” (more of a binary planet, really) having apparently stripped much of our atmospheric mass down to a tolerable surface pressure.

      2. C. S. Lewis noted, rather drily, that “we are almost certainly alone in the universe” and “life must be rather commonplace” have *both* been touted as proof that there is no God. The chain of logic is difference in each case, but the conclusion is much the same

  10. This I don’t get, even if they are more technologically advanced than us.
    It’s the progressive mindset… “evolution”. If everything is evolving, then everything is constantly getting better. Hence, if their tech is better, so is everything else.
    Along with a flawed view of humanity (that we can be ‘perfected’), it’s the primary worldview problem with progressivism.

    1. Well, 1945 technology was a quite a bit more advanced than 1935 tech, so those ten years must have been socially wonderful. Oh, we wonder about them alright…. but not that way. More, “How the HELL did we let THAT happen?!” I fear we (or they, yes) will have a similar wonder about our time or the time coming right up. No, I am NOT at all happy about that.

    2. This is part of my indifference to “aliens” — I look at the people enthusiastic about them and find myself … indifferent. Not my crowd, not the kinds of folk with whom I want to associate.

      It isn’t the concept of aliens; there are many fictional aliens I find enjoyable, entertaining, even fascinating. Heinlein’s written too many to count, Hal Clement’s are terrific, as are Pipers and those of many other authors. I was largely uninterested in ST:NG until they started building the anthropological culture of the Klingon Empire and found the exploration of ST:DS9’s Kardashian Empire my favorite element in that series.

      But put me among any contemporary cargo pants wearing cult of aliens nowadays and I am bored beyond tolerance. They aren’t interested in aliens, they’re just looking for new gods to worship. Their goal has more to do with downgrading man, with denial of human exceptionalism than it does any other purpose.

      1. “ST:DS9’s Kardashian Empire”

        Damn autocorrect, or a Freudian slip describing your true feelings about the Cardassians?

      2. Every time someone calls the Cardassians “Kardashians”, Garak kills a tribble.

      3. The Kardashian Empire

        Which has sent their ambassadors Khym and Klo’e to live among us . . .

          1. The way some of their outfits stay concealing (for some level of concealing), I have to wonder . . .

    3. And a key betrayal of the movement’s philosophically Gnostic roots: knowledge, and its corollary power, are seen as the key to salvation both individual and species-wide.

      The idea that knowledge does not necessarily correlate to wisdom — that a species could have the knowledge and capacity to bridge the gulf between stars, without necessarily having gained (or, more precisely, practically adopted on a broad cultural basis) the wisdom to know what it is right to do when its outrangers get there — just seems incomprehensible.

      1. And yet, the empirical evidence surrounds us daily that the two are NOT directly correlated.

      2. The setting for the boardgame Starfleet Battles includes a group called the Interstellar Concordium (or ISC, for short), who believed that the abundance of resources available with the discovery of warp travel would negate any interest in warfare.

        And then a survey vessel detected the energy discharges from a distant battle between the Gorn and the Romulans. This caused… problems… for the collective ISC psyche.

        1. Yup. And they promptly started building mighty fleets to subdue their neightbors while they taught them that war was unnecessary and wrong…

  11. I mean, ten thousand years ago, humans’ most civilized activity was digging in the dirt. And you know what? we might be doing that again in ten thousand years.

    Looks at Venezuela. Looks at Sandersnista movement.

    Oh sweetie, you are such an optimist!

  12. Get off my lawn… or move in and stay forever. Choose!

    She didn’t know the technical terms, or the concept of a self-replicating machine and what something like that could accomplish. But she could perceive the truth of what Nammu was saying. She understood that Nammu was the end of the world, averted by one human being in the distant past. A being who could destroy everything, and chose not to.
    “Why don’t you take what you want?” she asked. “Why don’t you have a big house and servants? Why don’t you have lovers and slaves and every damn thing you want all the time? That’s what I would do! I would take everything!”
    Nammu smiled sadly. “You see, Horst? I told you she would recover in a few minutes. Siska, I will tell you the answer, but you will not understand right now. If you decide to stay with us, and if you work hard, perhaps later you will understand. Is that acceptable?”
    “Why?” demanded Siska. “Tell me!”
    “It is because if I try to take what I want, I do not get what I want,” said Nammu, reaching out to her. “Give me your hand.” Siska held Nammu’s hand, and felt the warmth of it. “You see? Some things can only be given, they cannot be taken. Once I have enough to eat and a place to live, the only things that matter are those things which are given. I am more than ten thousand years old, little one. I am mighty beyond the dreams of the ancient Gods themselves. I wield the thunderbolts of Zeus. There is nothing I cannot make, no place I cannot go, no feat I cannot accomplish. I have had houses and servants, lovers and families uncountable. My children could fill the world. What do I want, Siska?”
    Siska saw the light in Nammu’s eyes, and stood transfixed. “Me?”
    “Yes. I want you.” Nammu’s eyes filled with tears as that astounding realization thundered through Siska’s mind. “That’s all. Just you.”
    “But I’m horrible,” whispered Siska, as Nammu rose and held her tight.
    “I don’t care!” Nammu whispered back ferociously. “You are what I desire! All you damned monkeys, you mortals who come to me, and love me, and then DIE and leave me behind! You are what I want!”
    “But why?” asked Siska, utterly stunned by the truth of it. “We are all awful!”
    “I warned you that you would not understand,” said Nammu, now openly crying and sniffling on Siska’s jacket. “You must become worthy in your own eyes, before you can see what I see.”
    “How can you be so big and so old, and then cry because you want stupid me?” demanded Siska. “That is ridiculous!”
    “I am a bit ridiculous at times,” admitted Nammu, wiping her eyes.

  13. It only really matters if we assume that there is some means to violate the universal speed limit. We can be fairly certain that no other sentient life exists within our own solar system, at least short of actual boots on the ground exploration at least. So, the vastness of interstellar space is our de facto border wall.
    But if FTL is possible by whatever means then it’s only a matter of time before we visit them or they visit us. Assuming of course that we do not destroy all life on Earth our own selves. And that itself would be a durned good reason for contact with a superior race, the answer to how once their technology reached a level where they could create their own extinction event they somehow managed to avoid it.
    So, if alien sentient races exist, have not managed to destroy themselves, and have the ability to travel between the stars, then where the heck are they? Three possible answers: one of the enabling factors is false, space is vast and they haven’t gotten around to us as of yet, or they have already been here and being ethical beings placed us under quarantine until we either grow up or kill ourselves off.

    1. Ponder a world just barely to detect… us… intently listening in.. hoping we’ve solved that problem.. and going utterly bonkers as they listen to the idea of MAD… and then, do they…
      .. recoil in horror and stop listening?
      .. keep listening, but find Another Way?
      .. have a Fatal(istic) Realization?
      .. keep listening AS they work through other things and go,
      _ _ _ “That WORKED?!?” Those lucky sons o’…”

      1. I have a story that exists mostly in my head, though I’ve typed out the first couple of paragraphs, where explorers from Earth (specifically the U.S. with some allies on board) finally discover a technological civilization.

        It’s roughly at the level of Earth in the mid-sixties, and they’re receiving radio and TV signals of the Cuban Missile Crisis at the same time they’re going through a similar geo-political crisis.

        The Americans are in orbit debating whether to initiate first contact, and if they should used their defensive weapons to shoot down any ISBMs and stop the aliens from destroying themselves.

        1. Is there any reason t assume aliens would develop the EM spectrum? Here on Earth the “big brain” species seem to be ocean-dwellers, such as the >Cetaceans, who might develop their science in a wholly different manner, say hydraulics and sonar. Surely they would have some means of identifying current flows to which we are wholly blind?

          Other sub-aquatic creatures might as readily develop, possibly establishing Martian squid farms?

          1. You can have an aquatic civilization; I’d even be willing to grant that to the cetaceans. Its been documented that orcas develop different hunting styles in different parts of the world and some “tribes” of orcas overlap and will hunt different species in the same local.

            That being said, it’s hard to have an aquatic technological civilization; very difficult to keep the forge burning at 6 fathoms.

            (In the story the aliens’ closest terrestrial analog is the river otter, which at one point causes one of the “let them kill themselves” faction on the America ship to accuse the Captain of the survey ship that she only wants to save this species because they’re “cute.”)

            1. The believable ones I’ve seen involve domestication, selective breeding, and (sometimes, eventually) genetic engineering.

    2. I can’t recall which author(s) wrote with the supposition that most alien races didn’t have that brush with extinction and survive. The ones that were space-faring didn’t encounter it, except we were one of the very few that did, and survived it.
      I recall it made us dangerous. And useful.

      1. [I]t made us dangerous. And useful

        It made us highly prized as a sport-hunting animal, enjoyed the way the English once were wont to enjoy foxes.

    3. We can avoid any relatively soon extinction event by dispersing ourselves throughout the galaxy, and the universe. Don’t know what we’ll do about the heat death of the universe, but that’s not likely to be of concern even to an effectively immortal being.

    4. Even without ftl, space colonization is possible. It just takes a really really long time compared to our (current at least) lifespans and attention spans.

      1. Yup. For interstellar civilization, and possibly colonization, you need either FTL or LONG lives.

  14. “This always seemed rather odd to me. I mean, sure, He created us in his image and semblance, but that’s assumed to be our spirit, right? Why shouldn’t His infinite spirit have other images and semblances? Who are we to tell Him who He can create or even who He can adopt?”

    C.S. Lewis dealt with this question in an interesting way with his Space trilogy. But long story short, the physical form of Jesus is REALLY, /REALLY/ IMPORTANT and thus the physical aspect of humanity itself.

    That being said, who knows what we might find in the cosmos, until then, this will all remain hypotheticals.

  15. An excerpt from a manuscript of my own on the problem of really alien aliens:

    Siiyugo only asked after the status of non-Siiyugo organisms when that organism’s physical ability to perform a necessary function was in doubt. They never asked about another organism’s psychological or emotional state; they never indicated a willingness to make concessions in organizing their actions; they never suggested that unique external factors might be just cause for changing normal procedure. In the space of fifteen seconds Sthurin 339 had done all of that.

    Like the rest of the Directors, Mara had always known Sthurin was something of an aberration; Siiyugo had difficulty dealing with any species not cyberneticized to the point of near-hivemind, save as raw material for upgrade projects. Those few units who could even recognize, let alone begin to understand, the individuality of other races seemed to be treated as something halfway between mutant and savant. Mara had reviewed the speculations of a few xenopsychologists willing to work under Presidential black-book security, and more than one of them had theorized that the aberration went further – that any Siiyugo even remotely capable of political diplomacy, as other races understood it, would have to be functionally insane.

    Suspecting that was one thing. Having it bluntly proven to you – and to the other Directors – that one of the five beings responsible for governing the Earth was as good as mad was something else.

  16. Huh. I always figured there aren’t any aliens, or any other life out there, though of course it would be neat if there were. No one ever agrees with me, though, it seems to be a matter of faith that aliens exist.

    Well, I suppose humans are hardwired to have faith.

  17. My nightmare is that an alien species finds a Voyager spacecraft with the nude images of a man and a woman and thinks it’s either a dating service or take-out menu.

    1. That was Pioneer. Voyager had the records. And one of the more memorable takes on the plaque was an alien family finding a Pioneer… “Give it to Junior. he collects stamps.”

  18. A friend of mine used to argue that there are no Intelligent aliens out there, and even if there were (which there are not), that we would never meet them because it is impossible for us to go to wherever they are, and equally impossible for them to come to us. He based this impossibility on the idea that (according to him) it is impossible to travel faster than light (or even approach the speed of light) because of now time and matter reacts to traveling at those speeds. Apparently, time slows down or something and matter increases in density? I never could understand the science he spewed as “proof” (cus I is dum), but it all sounded a little off to me.

    It always ticked him off when I would point out that mankind used to think the exact same thing about the speed of sound. “THAT’S DIFFERENT” he would cry. Of course, I also always loved questioning “gravity” (since science still don’t really understand HOW it works). Which would send him into absolute fits! He claimed that “Science” was his religion, and the way he proselytized the “settled science” of “Anthropogenic Global Warming!” perhaps “religion” was the right way to describe it.

    1. Others have claimed that it’s more likely that humanity itself won’t go into space, but instead we’ll send AI probes that are essentially human brains controlling deep space probes. FTL won’t be necessary in that case, as the brain controlling the probe (hopefully) won’t die of old age before reaching its destination even at sub-light speeds.

      Curiously, a year or so before reading this theory for the first time, I happened to encounter a short story that was essentially about a collection of such probes – all from different extra-terrestrial cultures – hiding out in our asteroid belt, They’d formed alliances between themselves based on the cultures that they’d originated from, and how the ethics and desires of those cultures caused the probes to want to influence humanity’s development.

    2. Well, time dilation, length contraction, and relativistic mass increase are side effects of high relative velocities, but those are hardly cause to declare that interstellar travel are impossible. There are already several methods that are likely to work, even though they would be expensive and VERY difficult engineering-wise.

      On the other hand, he does have a point that the speed of light as a limit is of a different nature than the speed of sound as a limit, in that approaching the speed of light carries with it actual changes in the properties of the object which is traveling at high velocity (when viewed from the outside – from the inside, you won’t notice a difference). But what it boils down to is that, unless you have an entirely different way of crossing spacetime, the speed of light is, indeed, going to be an unreachable limit.

      1. “the speed of light is, indeed, going to be an unreachable limit.”

        My biggest problem with that attitude is that it is absolutist. Science is awesome until it becomes absolutist. Then it’s just another idiot on a street corner with a sign that says “We have reached THE END!”

        Science works best when it questions everything. Who knows, some sci-fi addicted Uber Nerd might figure out a loop-hole that would allow us to travel ten times the speed of light. Maybe they’ll bounce a graviton particle beam of the main deflector dish! Today’s technology would look like freakin magic just 50 or 100 years ago. Smart phones? Microwave ovens? If we convince that Uber Nerd that the idea is impossible, maybe they won’t try. Maybe they’ll work on yet another penis enhancement instead (sure, there’s money to be made, but does the world really NEED more penis enhancement technology?)

        1. Don’t discount the first part of my sentence. I carefully included a loophole, “an entirely different way of crossing spacetime”.

          Some people believe that there may be a way to “tunnel” past the barrier without actually reaching it, and then continue to increase velocity, then “tunnel” past it again on the way back down, velocity-wise. The Alcubierre drive qualifies as “an entirely different way of crossing spacetime, in that is compressed spacetime to make the travel distance shorter. Chuck Gannon describes one in his Caine Riordan series which is similar in effect to the Alderson drive from Pournelle’s CoDominium and Empire of Man stories, and sounds to me like a potentially viable result of some versions of the current attempts to produce a Unified Field Theory.

          All I was saying was that your friend, while it sounds like he may not have a good solid grasp of (or simply is not good at explaining) the subject, is actually correct that the speed of light barrier is a whole different kettle of fish from the speed of sound barrier.

        2. The speed of light is an illusion of the Sequentialist Heresy. Viewed from the perspective of the Simultaneous Universe it is a meaningless term.

          As for penis enhancement, the greater structural flaw is not the penis but the prick connected to it.

  19. I don’t mind SETI looking for signs of aliens. They’re providing a public service by doing so.

    What I object to is the idiots trying to make US visible to aliens, in some naive belief that a star-faring race must have magically become peaceful (after dominating their good chain, solar system, etc.)

    1. That’s DadRed’s take on things: anything that can track our signals back is bigger, probably meaner, and might not be friendly. Why advertise?*

      *Which is one of several ways I fudged history in the Cat Among Dragons series. You’ll notice that there are references to hunter-killer systems in orbit, but not to a moon landing or a space station in 2016…

    1. A very interesting passage that somehow never got pruned by the Vatican. Especially as it could imply that the RCC isn’t the end-all be-all of Christianity.

      1. It could be read in such a way. It could also just be another reference to a great multitude, which no man could count.

  20. It sounds to me, Sarah, like you’re caught in a paradox I’ve seen elsewhere in different forms; the problem with attempting to imagine the truly alien is that the truly alien is that which by definition we cannot imagine. Even something as broad as “exists as an animated material substrate with environmental requirements for maintaining viability” puts certain things in common between ex-brachiator primates of Terran savannahs and the hydrogen gasbag airfloaters of the Jovian skies.

    One of my absolute favourite passages in all of H.P. Lovecraft’s corpus is the following excerpt from At the Mountains of Madness:

    “Poor devils! After all, they were not evil things of their kind. They were the men of another age and another order of being. Nature had played a hellish jest on them—as it will on any others that human madness, callousness, or cruelty may hereafter drag up in that hideously dead or sleeping polar waste—and this was their tragic homecoming.

    They had not been even savages—for what indeed had they done? That awful awakening in the cold of an unknown epoch—perhaps an attack by the furry, frantically barking quadrupeds, and a dazed defence against them and the equally frantic white simians with the queer wrappings and paraphernalia . . . poor Lake, poor Gedney . . . and poor Old Ones! Scientists to the last—what had they done that we would not have done in their place? God, what intelligence and persistence! What a facing of the incredible, just as those carven kinsmen and forbears had faced things only a little less incredible! Radiates, vegetables, monstrosities, star-spawn—whatever they had been, they were men!”

    If there are aliens out there, our differences will matter tremendously, but our commonalities will matter tremendously more.

    1. More likely California will embrace their culture and become Little Epsionirianitown on the West Coast.
      “Pardon me, why are you dressed like an alien?”
      “Hey man, everyone is doing it. You some kind of square. ultra-conservative human firster?”

      1. They won’t if the aliens have more in common with Earth Rednecks than them. 😈

        1. “I thank you for this offered refreshment, Earthling, but what is the purpose of the activity you propose? That vehicle is fragile and its security-safety measures nonexistent, and the gap you desire to leap aerially can be ambulated in only a fraction more time. For what reason do you seek this ‘extreme’ experience?”

          “Uh . . . .”

          “I believe, Jagarag, that the physical stimulus induces a highly pleasurable hormonal feedback experience, like that which we use as a reward mechanism in training our protopolyps.”

          “Oh! Well, then, Greeblox, if you don’t mind — what did you call this liquid again, Earthling? — ah yes. Hold my ‘beer’.”

            1. Within ten cycles, a new entertainment had swept the Arglubian homeworld and transformed its culture: the holo of extreme Arglubian stunts, named for the delightfully exotic and mysterious alien term that had inspired it and for its billion-token host — JAGARASS.

          1. Greeblox, eh? And Greeblox wouldn’t happen to be a felinoform alien now, would he?

            1. Actually I had a vague image of creatures like a cross between Kang and Kodoss and the Blob. But a certain feline name did come to mind, yes.

      2. “You can’t appropriate Epsionirian culture and dress like that.”

        … I was going to attempt to continue that thought with the old “your mode of dress indicates that you’re a middle-aged basket-weaver on your second sex-morph, and you’ve had three successful brood-warps”… but given the setting of “California”, no parody is bizarre enough….


        1. Ooooohhhhhhh… What if the aliens are so amazed and puzzled by California that they want to take the whole pack of Sacramento-Bay Area-LA home with them to study and use in their zoo? *happy kitty dance*

          1. Arizona, Nevada, and Oregon were wracked by massive earth tremors today as gigantic circular areas of California mysteriously disappeared. Military overflights indicate all metropolitan areas of the state have vanished, leaving what appear to be spherical chunks bitten out of the planet’s crust. The Pacific Ocean has flooded into many of these holes, causing multiple tsunamis around the Pacific Basin. Several of the holes have uncovered magma reservoirs resulting in many areas being covered with floods of lava; while a couple of locations have Rhode Island sized clouds of steam and ash from where the ocean is meeting the lava. The leaders of the nation remain baffled.

        2. “sex-morph” would only encourage them. But imagine if the aliens were fanatical about dressing appropriately for your biological sex.

  21. Well, if we do find intelligent life…
    A sizeable portion of our population will embrace their culture to fill the void left by our own decadent, self-obsessed educational and faith systems…

    Another sizeable portion will use the aliens as a club to beat their political opponents with…

    Another other sizeable portion will identify the aliens as the secret power behind whatever racial or religious group they view as the root of all our problems, to further Other them…

    Still another faction will yell, “Hold my beer!” and want to know where they can buy their own TIE fighter or Firefly transport.

    And of course California will be utterly ****ed…

  22. I’m less in the camp of there not being intelligent alien life than I am that the timeline is simply too large to have much chance of overlap with nearby races during a period where we could talk to each other.

    While I’m not up on the latest evolutionary biochemistry, with my current knowledge, I can see no reason why multi-cell life could not have evolved here as much as a billion years earlier than it did, and if that had happened, where would we be now?

    If you take a ten-meter sheet of paper and mark out a line to represent a billion years, then assume a whole thousand years that races would communicate with each other (I presume that higher-tech races COULD communicate with lower, but why would they bother?), that makes the communication segment for a civilization ten microns long. If you scatter 10,000 markers that are ten microns long each randomly on that paper, how many will overlap? That would be how many potential civilizations would have been around if life were extremely plentiful, out to quite a distance (Maybe 500-1000 LY? Not sure). Not too surprising that we haven’t found anyone nearby.

  23. I really think the aliens blindspots is an interesting idea.

    As for me, I think there are aliens out there, I just doubt we’ll ever meet them. Because as you say, the time and space differential is flipping huge. Once we get to other star systems I think we’ll find life. I just don’t think it’ll be sentient life.

  24. I’m not picky when it comes to fiction.

    Non-fiction? I’ll care when it intersects with my interests. I have a copy of Taylor’s planetary defense book somewhere, but at the moment I’m more interested in human military threats.

    1. My copy’s on the first shelf, left side of the bedroom desk, beside the WWII stamp books and WWII aircraft and battle histories.

    1. We intend to have all the presentation videos available on YouTube, as well. I can’t tell you just how soon they’ll all be up, but they’re definitely going up as soon as possible. In addition, all the presentations will be put in a Proceedings publication in a short while–whether it will be immediately available for download, I don’t know.

    1. I rarely hunt the dawn. It usually comes on its own, creeping through the window and tickling my eyelids each morning.

    2. I lie in my foxhole in my camo pjs, ready to shoot when it tries creeping up on me. Heh, heh, heh. Fresh-killed dawn is sooooooooooooo tasty!

  25. I think I’m with the majority here: It’s certainly possible, but – given what we now know – the odds of encountering them are infinitesimal.

    It will be interesting to see if we find any life in the solar system. There are several promising candidates. I don’t think it would change much about aliens though. It would increase the probability of them existing, but do nothing to our chances of contacting them.

    It’s entirely possible that we’ll discover that FTL is easy. I think I got this from Doc Smith, but you can’t fully exploit level X until you understand levels X+1 and X-1. For example, you can’t fully exploit electricity until you understand quantum mechanics (see LEDs – those things are super-weird).

    There’s something not-understood about quantum stuff, gravity, and dark energy (which sounds as made up as aether to me). Once someone cracks it, it could be that FTL is not so difficult. That changes the odds, a lot.

  26. Oh, and on the “aliens would be so much smarter than us” front, I highly recommend A Learning Experience. Aliens kidnap some Marines out camping. The Marines promptly take over the ship. That’s the first chapter or two.

    1. Well… To be “fair” the aliens involved didn’t build their starship.

      They were a bunch of primitives (less advanced than Earth) who had been sold their starships.

      They were also looked down upon (with good reasons) by most of the star-traveling species in that story-universe.

      On the other hand, the most advanced species (known) in the galaxy were intelligent but spent most of their time looking down on (for less good reasons) everybody else in that story-universe. 😀

    2. Poul Anderson’s The High Crusade:

      In the year of grace 1345, as Sir Roger Baron de Tourneville is gathering an army to join King Edward III in the war against France, a most astonishing event occurs: a huge silver ship descends through the sky and lands in a pasture beside the little village of Ansby in North East Lincolnshire. The Wersgorix, whose scouting ship it is, are quite expert at taking over planets, and having determined from orbit that this one was suitable, they initiate standard world-conquering procedure. But this time it’s no mere primitives the Wersgorix seek to enslave – they’ve launched their invasion against Englishmen! In the end, only one alien is left alive – and Sir Roger’s grand vision is born. He intends for the creature to fly the ship first to France to aid his King, then on to the Holy Land to vanquish the infidel!

      Published 1960.

      Hugo nominees for best novel published in 1960:
      A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. [J. B. Lippincott, 1959]
      The High Crusade by Poul Anderson [Astounding Jul,Aug,Sep 1960]
      Rogue Moon by Algis Budrys [F&SF Dec 1960]
      Deathworld by Harry Harrison [Astounding Jan,Feb,Mar 1960]
      Venus Plus X by Theodore Sturgeon [Pyramid, 1960]

  27. One theory about the absence of alien contact so far is that once a species reaches a certain level of advancement, they blow themselves up. But there is….

    “a different, even darker solution to the Paradox. Basically, I think the aliens don’t blow themselves up; they just get addicted to computer games. They forget to send radio signals or colonize space because they’re too busy with runaway consumerism and virtual-reality narcissism. They don’t need Sentinels to enslave them in a Matrix; they do it to themselves, just as we are doing today. Once they turn inwards to chase their shiny pennies of pleasure, they lose the cosmic plot. They become like a self-stimulating rat, pressing a bar to deliver electricity to its brain’s ventral tegmental area, which stimulates its nucleus accumbens to release dopamine, which feels…ever so good.”

    1. So space would finally get conquered by some form of lapsed Amish? FTL ok. Nintendo bad.

    2. On the flip side, I’ve also read stories that basically say that once the Singularity happens, races effectively disappear because they join together into some sort of godlike supercolony and no longer need to spread themselves across the universe.

      1. People I’ve encountered who believe in “the Singularity” to solve all human problems are usually those who believe humanity is perfectible, and discount the notion that it’s going to take a few eons (or the Second Coming) to evolve a better human

      2. Singularity bros are akin to a member of Aryan Nations discussing the Holy Race War with his sock. Bunch of mystics making assumptions about the future based on ‘facts’ not in evidence.

  28. You may not be interested in aliens, but aliens may be interested in you.

  29. The other problem besides species spatiotemporal intersection is we don’t see any artifacts. No old moon base from the aliens that cruised through the system a million years ago. None of the giant constructs an advanced civilization could build. Zip. Although if aliens ever did come through the solar system, you’d think they’d strip it of asteroids.

    Pretty much with Ms Hoyt about aliens. Would be cool, but not too concerned. My friend started to go on a tear about how “Alien life would destroy the faiths of those damn theists.” I laughed and said, “No, we have people for that.” His wife was standing behind me and she may have signed him to back off, because the conversation changed directions after that.

    Kind of wonder what we’d do if the aliens showed up and were peaceful. “You’re planet is close to what we like, but still very cold. We might be interested in a few thousand sq miles in the Sahara though. We have a cool sublight drive we could sell you. Go to Mars in a day, check out Venus. But attempt no landing on Europa (we licked it).”

    1. No old moon base from the aliens? How do we know that the moon isn’t the base, cleverly disguised with a veneer of rock and dust as protection from cosmic radiation?

      We might be interested in a few thousand sq miles in the Sahara though.

      Read Hal Clement’s Iceworld.

      Heck, read anything by Hal Clement. ‘sall good.

    2. “Although if aliens ever did come through the solar system, you’d think they’d strip it of asteroids.”

      Assuming the asteroid belt isn’t the remnants of the last time they came through.

      1. Alas, not enough asteroids to make up a decent-sized planet.

        Unless the aliens stole the rest a long time ago . . .

  30. I agree, I just don’t do aliens well. That is why it takes a superior author to write aliens into their science fiction and still have me like it. Well I might like it, but I almost always feel I would have liked it better without the aliens.

  31. Weirdly enough, the Japanese seem to have the same imaginitive “blind-spot”. Their science-fiction, which can be very interesting in its own right, seems to have an utter lack of non-human aliens (or at least, it seems to far more rare than in western sci-fi). All intelligent aliens always seem to end up being some offshoot or variant of humanity. Might be tied to some sort of cultural thing that I haven’t figured out yet.

    (Considering their mythology is stuffed full of nonhuman intelligent thingies, it’s a weird absence.)

    1. Maybe because some of it is more metaphor for contact with them furrin’ devils than hard science fiction in its own right? 🙂

    2. Well, if it’s not human and it’s not shaped like a human, it’s more like a Shinto god of a locale (instead of being a Shinto god living in a locale). And that can give things a serious tone.

      Also, there are space kaiju as well as earthborn kaiju.

      Also, there are things like mysterious sapient space trees that can also act as spaceship drives. But if they want them to be relatable, they usually turn out to have some kind of illusory human form for chatting with humans.

      1. But what about the spaceship that turns into a cat-bunny creature that loves carrots?

        1. The hidden symbolism of that is that anyone who talks about it is racist.

          Just find a twenty year old anti-racist and ask them. XP

          1. I just reread what I could find of Sic Semper Morituri inside the past year. Including Pilots in Nerima, which has a fairly significant Tenchi Muyo component. (I eventually traced the author to FimFiction, where he is now fairly active.)

          2. I think I have the VCR subbed releases from AnimEigo(?) somewhere. Sadly, I don’t have a working VCR anymore and haven’t replaced it.

      2. But if they want them to be relatable, they usually turn out to have some kind of illusory human form for chatting with humans.

        Canal Volfield

        Voiced by: Megumi Hayashibara (Japanese); Jessica Schwartz (English)

        Canal Volfeld (キャナル・ヴォルフィード Kyanaru Vorufiido) is a female human-like hologram that serves as the Sword-Breaker ship’s computer. She has green hair styled in two long braids. She has a distinctive personality, emotions and reasoning abilities. Her usual form is a teenage girl, but if necessary, and she can morph her form into a baby, a noble lady or other objects, whatever is needed to help Kain in his missions. Her motto is “carry out any difficult assignment to the end, as long as it shows a profit!” In this respect she is much like Lina Inverse, from the series Slayers. Ironically they are voiced by the same actress. Canal’s mind functions as a computer, and she is very practical, analytical and logical. On the other hand, she sometimes shows her emotions when she teases Kain for his mistakes or has a quarrel with Millie. She is a bit selfish, doing a lot of negative actions for the Sword-Breaker owner (Kain Blueriver), like turning off Life System only for getting a job that Kain did not want.

        /otaku moment

Comments are closed.