Meet the neighbours: Is the search for aliens such a good idea?, an article in the online edition of The Independent, kicks off with this question: “We’ve been trying to make contact with aliens for years. Now the day is fast approaching when we might finally succeed. But will our extraterrestrial friends come in peace? Or will they want to eat us?”
It’s a fun question, and one that’s come up before, but there are a couple of things that set this article apart. For starters, you’ve got this: “Jared Diamond, professor of evolutionary biology and Pulitzer Prize winner, says: ‘Those astronomers now preparing again to beam radio signals out to hoped-for extraterrestrials are naive, even dangerous.'” When the author of Guns, Germs, and Steel weighs in, it’s worth taking notice.
From a GMing standpoint, this is a fascinating concept for a modern-era campaign. You could run it fairly straight, with aliens attacking Earth; you could play that same idea for laughs; the PCs could be conspiracy wonks, a la The X-Files; the “aliens” could really be Lovecraftian horrors from beyond space and time — it’s a wide-open field.
And this is where the article really shines: It includes a bibliography summarizing six books and 10 movies that involve first contact scenarios, from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to Predator, all of which illustrate directions in which you could take this concept. I’d add Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama II to that list — it’s my all-time favorite first contact story, and it approaches the idea from a very different angle. (Via kottke.)