When ET finally arrives, he'll carry the fruits of an advanced civilization with him. What will he think of our primitive superstitions? How should we approach first contact with him? I've wrestled with this question in writing Dead Astronauts. Faced with first contact, the protagonists disagree. Air Force Colonel and true believer Rex Stone debates the issue with NASA scientist and nonbeliever Dawn Thomas. Here's how they start.

“We’re there,” [Rex] cheered, “it’s time to go aboard.”
“And do what,” [Dawn] scoffed, “…barge in, commit some sort of faux pas, and start who-knows-what? Maybe the president should send a diplomat.”
“The military always goes in first. I can handle it.”
“How would you approach it?”
“I don’t know, I’d probably offer them a gift.”
“Like what…beads and trinkets?” she laughed.
“No, I think I’d give them my Bible.”
“Oh, please,” Dawn almost spit her words, “a quaint book of folklore they could never translate—“
“The Bible is the word of God, not some ‘quaint book of folklore.’ It’s the center of human culture, so it’s—“
Dawn reached out and stroked his arm. “Put your Bible away, dear,” she told him. “We’ll have to do better than that here—we need something representative of our world as it is today.”
“What do you suggest…their own wireless Internet account?”
“Not a bad idea.”

Religion and reason clash. Follow their argument in the pagers of Dead Astronauts. How do you think we should approach first contact with a more advanced civilization?

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Comment by Peter Gamache on September 1, 2010 at 4:24pm
What if the extraterrestrials were here on their own religious crusade and it ended up being rather like, err, the Crusades?


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