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"The Encounter" ... A Writing Challenge

Updated on July 27, 2018


From page to film, stories of extraterrestrial encounters have thrilled our imaginations, while addressing a question humans have been asking for thousands of years: Are we alone in our universe? For decades, alien visitors to our planet have captured readers and audiences, causing them to reflect on real-world crises and what they reveal about humanity. These stories are often a product of the era in which they were created. Some encounters are beautiful and inspirational; others, malevolent and terrifying:


Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) Richard Dreyfuss & Francois Truffaut

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Starman (1984) Jeff Bridges & Karen Allen

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Predator (1987) Arnold Schwarzenegger

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The Abyss (The Rescue) (1989) Ed Harris

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Independence Day (1996) Will Smith

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Signs (2002) Mel Gibson & Joaquin Phoenix

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Arrival (2016) Amy Adams & Jeremy Renner


The Writing Challenge

How would you perceive an encounter with extraterrestrials coming to earth? Would their intent be peace, discovery and enlightenment, or conquest and annihilation? How would we receive them and attempt to communicate? Do you agree with physicist, Stephen Hawking, that the METI project (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) involved in sending signals into space so that extra-terrestrials can receive them might endanger us? The challenge -- should you decide to accept it -- is to write a story about such an alien-encounter.

Rules of the Challenge

1. You can create a short story; a flash fiction short; an installment series; fantasy comic strips or illustrations with free verse poetry; a treatment for a screenplay. Write your story from any perspective; for example, as characters within the story-line; as a journalist, etc. Please feel free to use videos, newspaper headline visuals, or other creative elements. You can team up with other hubbers, or write this project on your own.

2. Your story or presentation must follow the Story Background outlined below in order to establish a common denominator and a point in which to begin the story. Be as detailed in your story-line/writing (which can lead into dozens of different directions), or as general as you wish.

3. Have fun!

Story Background

The year on earth is 2025. METI has been sending unsolicited messages to other worlds for several years. Scientists from across the globe are excited over the launch of the powerful James Webb telescope, an enormous leap forward in our quest to understand the Universe and our origins.

Astronomers are also thrilled to discover a "super earth" located three light years from our solar system. Rather than a lifeless rock or something resembling the fiery gates of hell, "Jate 22c" is an exo-planet which appears to have a similar terrestrial atmosphere, gravity and water, and Earth-like temperatures, albeit with unpredictable, massive shifts.

What is not known is that the mega-civilization of bipedal humanoids inhabiting Jate were facing a crisis. Over time, their C02 emissions had reached critical mass. The remains of their strange cities were encased in giant sea walls. Their oceans had become so acidic, marine life was destroyed, giving way to smaller, poisonous creatures that fed on massive beds of ocean algae throughout the natural selection process. Rain forests took hold in frigid zones as new species of trees evolved, then decomposed on a rapidly dying planet. Natural food sources became scarce; synthetic alternatives were no longer capable of sustaining life.

The Jatites' Surviving Ark
The Jatites' Surviving Ark

In desperation, the Jatites launched a fleet of interstellar arks to seek out potentially habitable planets beyond their own system. In doing so, they followed the origins of our METI signals. By using exotic matter, they were able to alter the speed of light surrounding the spacecraft, thereby avoiding light/speed barriers. Despite possessing technology vastly superior to our own, all, save one, perished in the journey.

The surviving Ark now orbits our planet. The spacecraft is massive in size, measuring over ten miles in diameter. The world is in panic mode, with military defense systems across the globe on full alert. Probes have yielded little information. The spacecraft leaves no footprint in terms of its power source or emissions. Earth scientists are scrambling to determine if any failures in the ship's support mechanisms destroyed points of the Jatites' collective intelligence, or had somehow created mutations.

All attempts in communicating with the ark's occupants have failed. Until now.

[Your story begins.]

A Closing Note on Ideas for a Story

Please don't feel as though you need a strong science background to develop a story. This is why I provided video examples, such as Starman and Signs. Also, "bipedal humanoid" or resembling human doesn't mean that they have to look exactly like us. They could be seven feet tall, with broad features, and three fingers on each hand. Or, as the background includes, possible "mutations" could have occurred during their trip. In other words, we never know. That's part of the fun. :-)

One idea out of many might be to begin with one of Jatites appearing in the backwoods of a secluded, rural area. He and several others have been conveyed to earth in different parts of the world through a teleportation technology utilizing the transfer of matter and energy. Their purpose is to conduct a kind of covert reconnaissance while communicating with the ark. These Jatites have sacrificed themselves in the sense that this a one-way trip; they cannot return to the ark.

For example:

Grateful for the cover of darkness, the lone Jatite gulped water from a woodland stream. The taste of the fluid was sweet, causing rivulets of acidic saliva to seep from the corners of his mouth. He continued to drink until a sudden cast of moonlight caught his reflection. The pale image staring up from the rippled surface was humanoid yet alien to him. Studying the strange figure in the water, he lifted a hand to his face. Only hours before on the Ark, laser surgery had removed layers of his normally ruddish and coarse skin. Eyelids, once hooded and thick, were now slender bands of flesh, setting off his startling, almond-shaped eyes.

Hearing a noise in the brush, his head twitched to the side. High levels of oxygen in the atmosphere had a dizzying effect when he tried to stand. Earth's gravitational pull, stronger than Jate's, tugged at his limbs. The rustling sounds in the brush grew louder as a rabbit darted through an opening. It skittered across his feet, then retreated back into hiding. Emitting a whistling echo from the back of his throat, the Jatite leaned against a tree to marvel at the unexpected beauty that surrounded him. A sudden breeze in the night air caused him to shiver. Trembling, he drew the earth-style clothing closer about his arms and chest.

Good luck, and I hope you enjoy the challenge. :-)


Those who have responded to the challenge thus far are:

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