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First Contact
edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Larry Segriff
DAW Books, 316 pages

First Contact

Martin H. Greenberg & Larry Segriff
Martin H. Greenberg lives in Green Bay where he is a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin. He has edited more anthologies than anybody else.

Martin H. Greenberg anthologies - 1st of 4 pages

Larry Segriff is the editor of a number of anthologies and he's the author of The Four Magics and Spacer Dreams.

Spacer Dreams - Cover

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver


One of the problems with many theme anthologies being published today is the inability of the authors writing for them to publish serious stories on the topics. Over the years many examinations of first contact have tried to look seriously at what humanity's reaction to aliens might be, whether in short story form (Murray Leinster's "First Contact") or novel length (Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End). Unfortunately, the majority of stories in Greenberg & Segriff's anthology First Contact, are light fare even when they examine the issue of first contact with a serious attitude.

Perhaps this is to be expected from a book whose cover blurb bills that the book is being published to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of Roswell, the Mecca for UFO and conspiracy theorists alike. In fact, although the stories may not be serious, they are, for the most part well-written. The anthology opens with Kristine Kathryn Rusch's story of a low-key alien invasion in a remote Oregonian coastal town, one of the more serious stories, although it only lightly touches on the issue of how a non-tabloid journalist, in this case a New York Times reporter, would deal with knowledge of aliens on earth.

Josepha Sherman's "A Game of Mehan" explains the existence of the pyramids. Although Sherman's Imhotep, vizier to Pharoah Djoser, is a relatively interesting and intelligent character, Azarak, the alien is so hopelessly inept, the story comes off as a simple demonstration of why humans are more intelligent than aliens. Gary Braunbeck's "Kite People" is only a borderline first contact story and tends to ramble, quite a feat for a 7-page short story. Dean Wesley Smith's entry seems almost to be more about the illicit thrills of looking up a neigbor's skirt than actually meeting aliens.

Unfortunately, with company like these, the good stories, such as Rusch's or Marc Bilgrey's "Random Acts" tend to get lost among the chaff. This is unfortunate because by the time the reader reaches these more serious stories, they have come to expect the light-hearted escapism of stories like Gordon Eklund's "Flying Objects (Unidentified)."

There is nothing wrong with writing light stories. Escapism certainly has its place. I would, perhaps suggest, that a steady diet of escapism, even a diet as short as 316 pages is a little too much at one time. Dip into anthologies like First Contact, but use them as punctuation for stories, both novels and short stories, which have a little more substance to them.

Copyright © 1997 by Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is one of the founders and judges for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. He sits on concoms for Windycon, Chicon 2000 and Clavius in 2001 and is co-chair of Picnicon 1998. Steven will be serving as the Programming Chairman for Chicon 2000. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is trying to get his short stories published and has recently finished his first novel. He lives at home with his wife and 3200 books. He is available for convention panels.

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