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Red Planet Blues
End of an Era
SFWRITER.COM > Futurism > 2020 Vision > First Contact
First aired 28 November 1997
(A chair faces a monitor screen. We see Robert J. Sawyer sitting in the chair, but from behind. He turns in the chair, looking over his shoulder at the camera, and speaks in somewhat hushed tones, as if quickly bringing someone who has just arrived up-to-date on what's going on. As he talks, the date "January 16, A.D. 2020" is superimposed on the screen.)
Oh, it's you good. Glad you could make it. Well, time flies, doesn't it? It's precisely eight years and seven months since we sent our reply to the aliens the "Centaurs," as the tabloids call them. And since the Alpha Centauri star system is 4.3 light-years away, right now today is the soonest any reply to our message could arrive back here.
Remember all the international consultation before we sent our reply? Still, it seemed safe enough. After all, there was no doubt that the Centaurs already knew about us. They would have been able to detect our commercial radio signals, and we've been broadcasting those for over a century.
Still, it's funny: we'd never picked up any artificial radio from Alpha Centauri before that message they aimed at us. Guess they don't use radio anymore amongst themselves. Probably everything is done with fibre optics or some other system that doesn't leak information into space. Of course, there's that cult in Manitoba that says the Centaurs must be telepathic, but I don't believe that for a second . . .
Anyway, their first message, you'll remember, contained all sorts of wonderful information, including the plans for the cold-fusion system that has all but eliminated hunger here on Earth. Basically, they seemed to be saying, hey, here's a sample of what we know do you want to trade information?
So we encoded a lot of our science blueprints and diagrams are easy; we'll doubtless swap art and culture later. Our technology probably isn't as sophisticated as theirs, but we sent them everything we knew about superstring theory the physicists say that the most advanced thing we've got.
And now, we wait. They said in their first signal that they had a second message all set to go, and would transmit it as soon as they received our reply. If they're true to their word, well, it could come any time now. Who knows what wonders it might contain? Why, it could
(The monitor screen starts flashing the words "Incoming Signal Detected," accompanied by an alarm beeping. Rob turns around to face the monitor.)
Ah, here it comes let's see what they've got to say this time . . .
More Good Reading
Rob's speculations about the Fermi paradox
Other "2020 Vision" scenarios