Let’s assume some extraterrestrial civilization has embarked on a SETI-like quest for intelligent life on other planets. How would they communicate with us? How could they possibly cross such vast distances? After all, Sol’s nearest star is 4.2 light-years distant. That’s 24.7 trillion miles—when we’ve only recently mastered long-distance telephone calls on Earth. And even assuming they could somehow overcome this daunting roadblock, how might they understand us, or us them? Australian science fiction author Peter Cawdron has an intriguing answer to these questions in his charming novella about First Contact with alien intelligence, Starship Mine.
The novella is the ninth in Cawdron’s ongoing series of standalone First Contact tales. The eighteenth is on the way. And in this monumental effort to examine the theme of humanity’s first encounter with extraterrestrial intelligence from every conceivable angle, he surprises at almost every turn. That’s certainly the case in Starship Mine.
A LITTLE STORY FULL OF SURPRISES
Cawdron opens the story with a synopsis that reads in full: “James Patterson is a gay accountant living in Keyes, Oklahoma—deep in the Bible Belt—the religious heartland of America. He’s also the first person to make contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence seeking to understand our world, and that makes him the most important person on the planet.”
But don’t think you’ve been cheated. The synopsis is misleading. It gives little hint of what actually happens. So, brace yourself.
THIS FIRST CONTACT WITH ALIEN INTELLIGENCE IS VERY, VERY STRANGE
James Patterson’s world starts coming apart when reports of The Dream begin surfacing on the media. All over the world, people are reporting a strange dream in which they find themselves falling through space in orbit around a giant blue planet with rings like Saturn’s. Everyone James knows, including his partner and their two young foster children, has had The Dream. But not James. His otherworldly experience begins when he collapses at the church where he’s delivering the children for a rehearsal of a nativity pageant. Unlike everyone else, James experiences a fall through space by the blue planet, not when he’s sleeping but, we learn later, when he’s in a coma having suffered what doctors characterize as a seizure.
And what James sees and feels lasts far longer and takes him much further into the story . . . and into an eerie encounter with aliens of obvious intelligence and far advanced technology. Cawdron relates the tale with great skill. Dialogue carries much of the story, and beautifully so. It’s natural and all too believable.
If you think I’ve disclosed too much of the story, don’t worry. There are plenty of surprises in store for you.