First Contact

I recently read the short story "First Contact" by Murray Leinster.

It is about the first contact between a human spaceship exploring the Crab Nebula and an alien spaceship doing the same.

You might expect a cautious story about miscommunication and cultural faux pas. However, there was no ambiguity about the mindset, or concern about misunderstanding - the tone was pure distrust and paranoia.

The essential argument was that while it would be great to establish trade and communication with the other race, they could not be trusted. Neither spaceship was willing to let the other leave in case it should follow it home or learn of its origin - since the next logical step would be for the other to launch a military campaign.

The premise is that you could not have two equals negotiating. One has to be dominant, the other subservient. And since no race would willingly besubservient, it was necessary to make it subservient through force.

The story revolved around both ships pointed at each other, ready to destroy the other, exchanging information while being careful not to give any useful information away.

There is a character who works out how to end this Mexican standoff and let everyone go home without the need for destruction.

This sort of mentality is alien to me. I naturally expect people to want to work cooperatively with one another as peers rather than against one another or as master-slave.

However, human history is replete with examples of "Hit first. Hit hard. Negotiate with what remains." school of diplomacy.

Image nabbed from here. It is a non-tradition image of the Crab Nebula.


Barbara said…
Which leads to the question of whether we are born GOOD and learn EVIL, or if EVIL is inherent in certain people. I, like you, would be looking for a compromise position, throwing out some sort of olive branch. But not everyone is of that mind.
ghee said…
maybe you would be a great negotiator,Richard.

but i still wonder,is it really possible for such a thing?
I'm with you...symbiotic relationships occur in nature all the time and in personal relationships but I guess this is not true in the big picture when people think of their own gain and not the good of all. It's been happening since the beginning of time.
I'm a Switzerland at heart.I like smooth waters.
Richard said…
barbara: as I Have grown older, I have learned to be more cautious of people, but my gut instinct is to want to accept people at face value and not assume subterfuge or deception.

ghee: is it possible to encounter alien life? I don't think so, not unless there is a radical change in the way we understand physics.

MOI: people have tribal association and think only of their tribe - everything else is seen as potentially hostile. I Don't know if that is instinctive or learned. Certainly, my instinct is to trust and caution has been learned.
You're right..that is the reality, sad as it is.

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