Posted on by Ryan Gauvreau

This post originally appeared at The Oak Wheel on July 17th, 2014.

Second Contact? Near-First Contact?

I don’t really know what the best term would be, but what we’re talking about is that time after the first contact has been made between two alien civilizations, but not so long after that they’re well-acclimated to each other. In other words, early enough that even the xenophiles are experiencing culture shock.

As before, humans can play either side of the field in the options presented.

1 Murder Mystery/Crime Story

“In the criminal justice system, offenses involving members of the Race contain inherent diplomatic concerns. In New York City, the dedicated detectives who investigate these special cases are members of an elite squad known as the Race Affairs Unit. These are their stories. {Dun-Dun}” Law & Order: Race Affairs Unit, by Geekhis Khan

The mystery story is a favorite of the alternate history writer (and the historical fiction writer in general). It gives the protagonist as excuse to investigate as many corners of society as the author wishes, all part of the protagonist’s work to get to the bottom of whatever mysterious mysteries are the subject of tonight’s plot.

This is no less true for alien societies. Legal entanglements may be doubly complex to work out, too, if they’re given special dispensation to have at least a few different laws.

2 Reporters

Aliens are fantastic! And amazing! And several other superlatives! What they are, most of all, is a good story!

Even mundane crap like cooking at a restaurant is seven kinds of interesting when it’s about aliens, and whether they’re investigating a murder, writing a story about the Detroit Alien Zone, or being posted at an alien space station for a long-running feature, journalists can easily bump into aliens left and right in the early days after first contact.

3 Ambassadorial Duty

No matter the situation, someone has to be a political representative to the aliens. Whether the nations of the world are together or not, any power with the capability to send someone to negotiate for its interests and ensure a political relationship will do so. This option can easily overlap with others, such as the crime story or reconstruction scenario. Missionary work, of a political type, is also an easy fit.

4 Missionary Work

“People who’ve never met a dino tended to romanticize them: the wise and noble reptiles who had mastered superluminal physics and introduced Earth to the wonders of galactic civilization. I doubt Kamala had ever seen a dino play poker or gobble down a screaming rabbit. And she had never argued with Linna, who still wasn’t convinced that humans were psychologically ready to go to the stars.” Think Like a Dinosaur, by James Patrick Kelly

Yes, this was just mentioned in the last post. It applies still, and differently. Here after the dust has settled, the doctrines they are a-changing. Whether it’s a religion, a philosophy, or a scientific theory, the other guys are going to look at it with all new eyes and see things there that you never did. Not to mention, the old guard may be getting stressed by the changes in thought that are being introduced.

Again, this option entails more than just religious approaches, and I hope that you click on that link to see a cultural/scientific example.

5 Business Representative

Aliens are good for business. They’re new people, with new stuff and new ideas. You can buy stuff from them to sell back home, and you can bring stuff from home to sell to them. If you hit it off with them and play your cards right, anyway.

Any company with the resources to do it is going to send some of its people to where the aliens are living, in order to set up a post to oversee the local branch that has been or will be formed and to establish good trading relations with the locals.

6 Alien Zone

In District 9, Law and Order: Race Affairs Unit, Alternian Nation, and any number of other stories, aliens tend to stick to their own area. This can be for any number of reasons: forced settlement, a desire to stick with others of their kind, quarantine, etc.

7 Exchange Program

“Eight years of life among the Rihannsu has dispelled some of the ghosts for me, but not all. Even thinking in their language is not enough to completely subsume the observer into that fierce, swift, incredibly alien mindset, born of a species bred to war, seemingly destined to peace, and then self-exiled to develop a bizarre synthesis of the two. It may be that only our children, exchanged with theirs in their old custom of rrh-thanai, hostage-fostering, will come home to us knowing not only their foster families’ minds, but their hearts.” The Romulan Way, by Diane Duane

Some of ours have been swapped with some of theirs. This may have been part of the treaty to end a previous war, either to gain hostages or spur acculturation (especially if one can expect for the exchangees to become politically influential at some point). It could be something analogous to a police exchange program.

8 Reconstruction

A possible follow-up to last post’s Rescue Mission option, something bad has happened. There’s no chance of averting it because it already came and went. Now it’s time to go in and fix the damage that was wrought.

The foreign party may be helping the natives by giving technical expertise, raw manpower, or a combination of the two.

Your turn: How would you use one of these options in a story? Are there any others that you’d like to add to the list?

R. Donald James Gauvreau works an assortment of odd jobs, most involving batteries. He has recently finished a guide to comparative mythology for worldbuilders, available here for free. He also maintains a blog at White Marble Block, where he regularly posts story ideas, free fiction, and other writing resources, and is a contributor for Odin Lied, where he writes primarily on the latest news on Fenrir’s illegal incarceration. 

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