First Contact in SF

First Contact. The day we get to meet them, or when they meet us. A trope, right? We just whip out a universal translator, or plunk a babelfish into our ear, and off we go discussing Plato or agreeing on Rules of Engagement–or capitulating to our alien overlords.

That is what the TV and movie people would want you to believe (apologies to Douglas Adams) but the truth is going to be stranger than fiction. The late Murray Leinster (William F. Jenkins) explored the myriad ways to have First Contact during the Golden Age of Science Fiction, but he was not the only one. What follows is an incomplete list of Science Fiction stories and novels where First Contact is a major, if not the main component. Personally, I am with Arthur C. Clarke, who put it into words better than any I would be able to improve upon: Even if we never reach the stars by our own efforts, in the millions of years that lie ahead it is almost certain that the stars will come to us. Isolationism is neither a practical policy on the national or the cosmic scale. And when the first contact with the outer space is made, one would like to think that Mankind played an active, and not merely a passive rôle—that we were the discoverers, not the discovered. Arthur C. Clarke, The Exploration of Space (1951) Reviews of the works below are works in progress that I will be updating as I go along, in addition to adding more first contact themed stories as I find them. Enjoy!



Anderson, Poul

The Enemy Stars

Asimov, Isaac

Found Nothing for Nothing Victory Unintentional


Bear, Greg

Anvil of Stars

Blish, James

A Case of Conscience

Bradbury, Ray

Here There Be Tygers


Campbell, John W.

Who Goes There?

Card, Orson Scott

Ender’s Game

Clarke, Arthur C.

Before Eden Childhood’s End Expedition to Earth Loophole No Morning After Publicity Campaign Rendez-vous with Rama

Clement, Hal

Cycle Of Fire Mission Of Gravity Needle


Del Rey, Lester

Outpost Of Jupiter

Dickson, Gordon R.

Dolphin’s Way In The Bone The Alien Way


Foster, Alan Dean

Nor Crystal Tears


Gunn, James E.

The Listeners


Hamilton, Peter F.

The Nano Flower


Klass, Morton

Earthman’s Burden


Leiber, Fritz

The Wanderer

Leinster, Murray

De Profundis First Contact Nobody Saw The Ship Propagandist Proxima Centauri The Castaway This Star Shall Be Free

Lewis, C.S.

Out of The Silent Planet


MacLean, Katherine

Pictures Don’t Lie

McDonald, Ian


McKenna, Richard

Mine Own Ways


Niven, Larry & Jerry Pournelle

Footfall The Mote In God’s Eye


Pierce, Hayford

Mail Supremacy


Sagan, Carl


Silverberg, Robert

Collision Course Tower of Glass

Simak, Clifford D.

Way Station

Sturgeon, Theodore

Affair With A Green Monkey Killdozer To Marry Medusa


Weinbaum, Stanley G.

A Martian Odyssey

Williams, Ralph

Pax Galactica