Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Zeroth Contact, by Joshua Cole


(First Contact) An astronomer spots multiple alien spacecraft in the asteroid belt, where they seem to be eating the asteroids. (3,659 words; Time: 12m)

"Zeroth Contact," by (edited by Trevor Quachri), appeared in issue 03-04|20, published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Review: 2020.108 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: It’s a cute account of a visit by aliens whose motivations are mysterious and whose interests seem to be so far from ours that we can’t even attract their attention when we want to.

Con: Really bad science sinks this story. Probably the worst is the rerouting of a space probe with an asteroid flyby, and the narrator can see the space probe through a telescope on Earth. The object is so black it doesn’t radiate in any wavelength, which is nonsense since black objects radiate based on their temperature (blackbody radiation). And, of course, the energy the aliens have spent visiting the asteroids is colossal compared to the tiny benefit they’d get from an Earth flyby. There’s a gross error every few paragraphs.

The whole plot idea that the world panics when the aliens are coming is a tired clichΓ© that doesn’t match reality. Most people would just go on doing what they usually do.

Likewise, the idea that people would call the government before they shared this sort of information with colleagues around the world is hard to credit. Contrast the modern example of cross-border cooperation on the Coronavirus.

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