First Contact Day has been and gone without any bloodshed. We missed it, here at SciFi Ideas, and we hope that doesn’t cause an international incident. For future reference, First Contact Day is celebrated on April 5th annually. Set a reminder on your phone (or like the Facebook page), ready your UN and Groznblasx flags, and brush up on your Groznblasx throat-warbling in preparation for the traditional butchering of the Ch’bon Chi. (And please remember that Groznblasx flags should be flown at half-mast in remembrance of Ambassador Frlygrl’s mother-in-law.)
OK, so I’m clearly nonsense. We haven’t made first contact with the giant tetra-monsters of Groznblor… yet. First Contact Day instead marks the fictional day in Star Trek lore when the fictional Vulcans first shook fictional hands with a fictional post-apocalyptic physicist.
As fictional first dates go, this one was pretty successful. It was made easier by the fact that both species had vocal chords, faces, ears, and hands (even if they didn’t both have a tradition of shaking them). They both evolved from apes, and that gave them something in common.
Real-life first contact situations are likely to be must more difficult. The likelihood that any aliens we meet will have a vastly different biology and brain chemistry to our own could cause not only problems, but also dangers. Say the wrong thing, make the wrong move, or sneeze, and you could start an interstellar war.
So, just how do you communicate your peaceful intentions to an alien? If you find yourself representing the entire human species in just such an awkward situation, this handy guide could save your neck:
If you’re looking for a science fiction story that demonstrates just how difficult a meeting with a previously unknown alien species could be, I recommend reading Learning Curve by Dan Palacios, in which an ill-prepared astronaut makes first contact with a race of monopodal Ionian squids – the bizarrely named Pok Krrzzz. The full story is available for download here.
Infographic by firstname.lastname@example.org