First contact (science fiction)

First Contact (Science Fiction)

First contact (science fiction)

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First contact is a common science fiction theme about the first meeting between humans and extraterrestrial life, or of any sentient race's first encounter with another one.

The theme allows authors to explore such topics such as xenophobia, transcendentalism, and basic linguistic by adapting the anthropological topic of first contact to extraterrestrial cultures. Though beyond the scope of this article, the concept of 'first contact' extends into philosophical realms, particularly when discussing how the human race would react to such events.


Murray Leinster's 1945 novelette "First Contact" established the term "first contact" in science fiction, although the theme had previously appeared in e.g. H. G. Wells' The Time Machine (1895), The War of the Worlds (1898) and The First Men in the Moon (1901).

There have been entire series devoted to this theme. One classic series is the "interstellar trader" series by Andre Norton. More modern treatments, using radio rather than spaceships, include The Hercules Text by Jack McDevitt, Life on Another Planet by Will Eisner, and Contact by Carl Sagan. Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's The Mote in God's Eye was written to be, in Niven's words, "the epitome of first contact novels.". Here it is humanity that plays the role of visiting aliens, as the religious, technological, political, psychological, military, cultural, and biological implications of first contact are explored.

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