Technofiction Writing Tips – Part 1 of 4 – First Contact Stories

Technofiction Writing Tips – Part 1 of 4 – First Contact Stories

First contact stories are the meat-and-potatoes of much science fiction writing. First contact was at it most popular and innovative in the Golden Age of pulp science fiction — the 1930’s and 40’s. This is because rocket-based space travel was then a new and exciting concept and it sure beat its predecessor! — prior to the 30’s, space travelers were going to be shot from cannons. (Ironically, the cannon’s high tech successor, the rail gun, does offer interesting contemporary possibilities for launching from places with no atmosphere, such as the moon.)

The 30’s and 40’s were also when planetary science had determined that planets were like Earth, in the sense of all being massive and rocky objects that orbited the sun, but the details of the environments of each planet were still not well determined. This was the era when it was considered a real possibility that there could be alien-made canals on Mars, and Venus could be a jungle planet under all its clouds 분당스웨디시.

It was a rich time for first contact stories.

By the 1960’s the Golden Age era had come to a close. With what we learned from the American/Soviet Space Race, it became clear that boost-and-coast rocket technology (the kind we use today) also put hard limits on practical space traveling just as cannon shooting had — the stars were still a really, really long way away if you had to use a rocket ship that coasted for 99.9% of the journey. Even Mars was still far, far away. We also learned through advancing planetary science that Mars, Venus and the other solar system planets were not alien civilized life-friendly.

In response to this better understanding, first contact stories were displaced from the center of SF mainstream, by more introspective ideas such as cyberpunk and VR adventuring. Popular space travel stories transformed from first contact stories into warp-drive equipped space opera stories of which the Star Trek and Star Wars formats became iconic.

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