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First Contact Science Fiction

What is First Contact Science Fiction?

First Contact Science Fiction has a simple definition, it is a story about the initial meeting between humans and an alien species. These meetings fall somewhere along a scale from a violent invasion to a benevolent meeting where there is mutual sharing of technology and culture.

First Contact Sci Fi stories are not always set on Earth; they can be set on other planets or in the depths of space.

You can view the crowd-ranked "Popular" First Contact books list and vote and/submit entries to it.

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Other Features of First Contact Science Fiction

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  • Level of Real Science

    Moderate. Science and technology are important to how humans and aliens meet and often to how they understand one another. However, the realness of alien biology is often (not always) a weak point in story development. In addition, the alienness of technology can require the reader to suspend disbelief to make the story feasible.

  • Level of Grand Ideas/Social Implications

    High. There are many issues that can arise when humans first encounter extraterrestrial life and this territory is ripe with literary exploration. Ideas of linguistics, communication, technological developments, the role of the military, politics, the limits of comprehension, assimilation, identity, philosophy and theology--the opportunities are endless.

  • Level of Characterization

    High. First Contact requires someone to meet the alien(s). While characters may take a backseat to the exploration of various ideas, characters are nonetheless necessary to the development of the story. Indeed, without well developed characters, a First Contact story can fall flat.

  • Level of Plot Complexity

    High. Plot is important to building a First Contact story because there are clear events that lead to the initial contact with an alien species and events are set in motion as a result of the meeting.

  • Level of Violence

    Variable. Violence can be severe--as when an alien species invades Earth to consume its resources and eliminate the nuisance of humanity. Violence can be non-existent--as when an alien explorer comes to Earth and engages in a knowledge exchange.

Related Science Fiction subgenres

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    Alternate History. What if aliens really did land at Roswell? Alternate Histories can sometimes be about how an encounter with an alien species changed the course of human history. Alien Invasion. A high portion of Alien Invasion stories are also the story of humanity's first contact with an alien species.

  • Near-Future. First Contact is very often a story set in the near-future, in a world very similar to our own.

  • Space Opera. Space Operas are big stories and First Contact can be a very big story indeed. Many space opera stories feature a First Contact experience followed by some sort of hummanity vs. alien war.

  • Alien Invasion. This subgenre has Earth (or human controlled territory) invaded by alien entities. This is a common mainstay of many science fiction tales. Often, first contact with an alien is occurs when the aliens simply show up (say War of the Worlds) or may be proceeded by an invasion after a certain amount of time.

  • Alien Conspiracy. Like the alien invasion subgenre, it has to do with aliens, except there is a conspiracy to cover up alien contact. Think X-Files.

First Contact Science Fiction isn't for you if...

If the existence of extraterrestrial life would challenge your worldview or otherwise make you uncomfortable.

Popular First Contact Books
  • 1 War of the Worlds


    By H.G. Wells. An example of the first contact between humanity and an alien race on the violent end of spectrum and crossing genres with Alien Invasion.

  • 2 The Mote In God's Eye


    By Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. A far future story of first contact after human societies already span hundreds of star systems. This story explores alien biology, society, art and impacts on humanity's economics, politics, and religions.

  • 3 Contact


    By Carl Sagan. Scientists discover a message from an intelligent source and must travel deep into space to meet it.

  • 4 Learning the World


    By Ken MacLeod. A Novel of First Contact. The point of view shifts in this novel between bat-like aliens on another world and a human ship approaching the world with the intent to colonize it.

  • 5 2001: A Space Odyssey


    By Arthur C. Clarke. The background of this well-known novel and movie is that an alien race explores and investigates worlds throughout the galaxy and encourages the development of intelligent life.

  • 6 Majestic


    By Whitley Strieber. Before Roswell was a common household word, Strieber tells a "What if?" story about an alien spacecraft and that crashed near Roswell in 1947.

  • 7 Blind Lake


    By Robert Charles Wilson A Near-Future story when scientific breakthroughs allow humans to eavesdrop on an alien planet and makes readers think about humanity's role in the universe.

  • 8 Memoirs of a Spacewoman


    By Naomi Mitchison. A novel that centers on a female protagonist whose goal is to communicate with other worlds.

  • 9 Sector General sequence


    By James White. This sequence of stories describes several first contacts, most of which are initiated by providing medical assistance.

  • 10 Solaris


    By Stainslaw Lem. An example of a more cynical take on First Contact. A planet's ocean is the alien life form and the characters have a difficult time relating to its sheer alienness. A story of big questions--not all of which are answered--memory, and mystery.