Who could we use as our 'Dreaming Fithp'?

In Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s Footfall (1985), a group of science fiction writers are gathered up by the US government to act as advisers in dealing with contacting (at first) and then the subsequent war with the Fithp. IIRC, they called themselves the Dreaming Fithp after an alien is captured and turned over to them for study (but it soon becomes a colleague).

In the book, some of the writers are based on actual writers from the day, such as Niven, Pournelle and Robert Heinlein, although they of course have different names in the the story.

So thirty years later, astronomers find an object coming into the solar system that is obviously under intelligent control. [In our world today, not in a continuation of Footfall.] Who do you think we should put on a new team of writers to help communicate with them, and possible act as technical advisers in the unfortunate event that they prove unfriendly?

My choices for active authors now are the Three Bs : Steven Baxter, David Brin and Gregory Benford. They seem to have all developed plausible alien societies in their own books. And add C J Cherryh, because I still think that her Foreigner series has the most believable alien/human interactions ever written.

I think you kinda have to have Niven and Pournelle.

Having Pournelle on the team guarantees that somebody will be considering the “nuke them first” option.

Moving to Cafe Society. It’s the only way to be sure.

Weren’t there two teams of sci-fi writers in the book? The, “Yay! Aliens! they’ll have so much to teach us!” team, and the “Si vis pacem, para bellum” team. But you’ve got to put David Drake and John Ringo on the war team. Maybe David Weber too, but he can only join remotely and anyone can mute his line at any time.

Wasn’t C.J. Cherryh already part of the first Dreaming Fithp, as “Sherry Atkinson?” I thought that was the author that Niven/Pournelle intended, and this FAQ I just Googled up seems to agree. I don’t know how tall Ms. Cherryh is, but aren’t the aliens she’s best known for around 7-8 feet tall?

Not listed in the FAQ, but I also thought that “Bob Burnham” was meant to be Robert Forward, and “Joe Ransom” was meant to be Joe Haldeman.

Do they have to be Americans? Otherwise, I’m nominating ex-ESA scientist Alastair Reynolds to the team, along with Charlie Stross for the lulz. I’d think Greg Egan needs to be somewhere in the mix too.

There possibly could have been two teams - it sounds familiar. It’s been such a long time since I read it. I just finished Stephen Baxter’s Galactic Center series, and that lead to the question of the OP.

I think you’re right. I only remembered the Niven, Pournelle and Heinlein counterparts. And that one of the civilian characters (Harry Red?) is a musician that all of those guys knew from conventions.

Also, not restricted to US writers. But I think it should be restricted to science/speculative fiction writers. My thoughts are that they should have created some alien society that interacts in some way with humanity that’s more than the green bugged-eyed monster kidnaps busty blondes stuff from the mid-20th century pulps. But make your case. Convince me who to bring onboard.

If you want to communicate, better grab Frank Herbert. From my Goodreads review of Whipping Star:

"Here’s just one example of Herbert’s genius: One thing that was shocking to me, in reading Whipping Star, is how deeply Herbert approached the idea of communication between humans and aliens. Extraterrestrial contact is such a basic staple of science fiction that it’s amazing how little some SF authors seem to think it through. On the shallow end of the depth continuum you have the Star Trek and Star Wars universes, where the vast majority of aliens are just humans with weird bumps on their heads, and most of them happen to speak English as a second language for your convenience. Certainly there are cultural disconnects as humans deal with Klingons and Wookiees, but they’re roughly on a par with “Crocodile Dundee making his way through New York City” in their severity. Slightly better thought through than those examples might be Larry Niven’s aliens in Known Space: clearly, they think differently than humans, and understanding is rarely perfect, but everyone seems to have magic translator boxes and once again, the real problem of interspecies communication is hand-waved away. Closer yet to a realistic treatment would be Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, where the Mars-raised human, Valentine Michael Smith, knew the words and syntax of English, but that was no guarantee of clear communication because his whole way of thinking and set of experiences was so vastly different than an Earthling’s.

Heinlein is the first SF author who appears to have honestly thought the thing through, and Herbert takes it to a whole different level in Whipping Star. As the protagonist, Jorj X. McKie, attempts to communicate with the mysterious Caleban, the basic breakdown in understanding is evident, and the characters’ frustration is palpable and believable. Herbert makes the reader think of what it would be like to deal with a creature that’s as intelligent as a human, maybe more so, but not at all human."

Charles Stross?

Yoshiyuki Tomino, even?

Can we resuscitate Iain Banks?

OneCent I hadn’t even considered asking Frank Herbert to join because of him being dead for nearly 30 years. But that is exactly what I’m looking for - someone who has thought about how hard it would be to actually communicate with sentients from completely outside of our frame of reference. What you said about universal translators is very applicable if this should really happen to us IRL - they just don’t exist.

Sorry, man. We’re talking about communicating with aliens here - keep it realistic. :wink:

Rancoth I’ve never read either of those two, but I’ll do some investigating this week. Thanks for the input.

Yeah, I glossed over the teensy word active in your OP. Details, details… :smack: :smiley:

Rancoth Tomino seems to be a director, adapting other works to film. Has he written or made a movie that deals with first contact?

And while I don’t think that Stross’s works fit here, I’m definitely interested in taking a look at some of his stuff that was highlighted in your Wiki link. So thanks for that. (I’ve pretty much run out of new things to read).

I picked Tomino primarily because of his experience writing space-based hardish science fiction, although he has written and directed some alien contact related works (most of which I haven’t seen, though).

Likewise, Stross got picked for his written works with almost unfathomly advanced technology, settings, and transhumanist themes, which might come in handy when dealing with an extraterrestrial contact. He has done at least a few stories with extraterrestrials, though, which were memorably hideously Alien—not a bad perspective to at least keep in mind when dealing with unknowns.

The anime Yukikaze might be a good resource for scrounging authors—the series, which deals with the contact/air combat with an (impressively) alien race, was based on a novel by an author sometimes compared to Phillip K. Dick, and the OVA heavily consulted with the JASDF for technical aspects.

Eh, possibilities, anyway. At least they’re all still alive. :wink: