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"The Encounter" ... A Writing Challenge

Updated on March 22, 2017


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 was exhilarating and sweet. A cast of moonlight caught his reflection. The pale image staring up from the rippling surface was humanoid, yet alien to him. Studying the strange figure in the water, he lifted a hand to his face. 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 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. Rustling sounds in the brush grew louder as a rabbit darted out 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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    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 2 months ago from Southern Illinois

      Wow! This is an exciting challenge. Have I got enough cosmic knowhow to write a story, I do not know? I love the idea, and I know our planet Earth will prevail. Perhaps they are so advanced they will teach us to love more and respect all humanity...

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 2 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Wow, that is some amazing background, Genna. Thirty days? That gives me some time to sit on this and think a bit. I've only done a couple of alien scifi stories, but I did learn a lot doing those. This is interesting and challenging. Well, I'll see you in thirty days. :)

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 2 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Genna - SiFi yikes. Nice to see you publish. This challenge may stir a fire under hubville.

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 2 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Always Exploring: Hi Ruby. Thank you. Please don't worry about the cosmos. I tried to give some background wherein this wouldn't be necessary, and a starting point from which hubbers can begin or expand upon. It's an individual choice. For example, your presentation can run along the lines of Signs or Starman (in the above videos); wherein the encounter is not as complex from the perspective of science or the rules governing the cosmos. With your innate sense of creativity, I think you would write something remarkable, my friend. :-)

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 2 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Cam8510: Hi Chris. Thank you. It's a blank canvass. You can take this story in dozens of different directions, and be as detailed or as general as you wish. I can't wait to read yours. :-)

    • Genna East profile image
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      Genna East 2 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Mckbirdbks: Hello Mike. Sci-Fi Yikes? Lol. Thank you, my friend. Who knows...it's an intriguing premise because the Jatites' crises and reason for abandoning their planet may begin to mirror our own in the coming decades.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 2 months ago from southern USA

      Wow, Genna, your story background is indeed intriguing to say the least! I can't wait to read all the creative stories that result from your interesting challenge.

      I wonder why HP removed the share button. This challenge needs to get out there!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Wow! What a challenge, Genna. You set up such a great scenario, but although I love reading science fiction I haven't written anything other than a couple of poems in the genre. I'll think on it awhile..maybe I can come up with something as I love these challenges. We'll see. Great job by you though.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 2 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Genna, other than this post by me, 4 out of 5 begin with the word, Wow. I think this will turn out to be a big deal on HP. I hope it does. I'm already making notes.

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 2 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Faith Reaper: Hi Faith. Thanks so much for the visit and comment. I wonder why HP removed the HP Share Button; that is one feature I miss. I hope others will participate in the challenge. :-)

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 2 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Jodah: Hi John. Thank you. Actually, I included the comic strip or illustrations with you in mind. I know you've done some sci-fi illustrations the past that I just loved. If you want to write free verse poems with the illustrations, that would be great. Whatever you decide.

    • Genna East profile image
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      Genna East 2 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Cam8510: That sounds terrific, Chris. Thank you. :-)

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 2 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Jodah: I added "free verse poems" to the illustrations in the rules of the challenge.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Great challenge, Genna. I'm just going to have to pass, my friend. I've got far too many projects already, and several have deadlines. I do look forward to seeing what the other talented writers do with this.

      blessings always

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Thanks Genna, you make it hard for me to refuse don't you? :)

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 2 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Jodah: Lol. I hope so, John. :-)

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 2 months ago from Southern Illinois

      I just wrote my response. I hope you laugh!!!

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 2 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Lol!! I just read your cool and humorous response and left a comment. Now see...I knew you could do this, and very well. Thank you, my friend. Hugs.

      I also left a link to your response to the challenge above. I will add others when (and if) anyone else joins in the challenge. Thank you!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 2 months ago from Southern Illinois

      Genna, I tried multiple times to highlight your hub on my response, but each time the word " loading came up, finally a note came up notifying me that something went wrong and I might want to notify HP of the error. I guess it was just a glitch. I see you added mine above. Thank you. I'm thrilled that you got a kick out of this crazy satire. You see where my mind takes me to the political arena. LOL . Hugs.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This sounds like a great challenge, Genna. It should get some very interesting responses!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 months ago from USA

      I look forward to all of the creative responses. You certainly are creative for coming up with the details of this prompt.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 months ago from SW England

      Interesting challenge, Genna. I'd love to respond but time is really tight at the moment. I might have a go later but sadly not within the time limit, purely to follow up the idea. Thanks for setting this though; it's always good to have a challenge and responses often take us out of our comfort zone which is never a bad thing!

      Ann

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 2 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

      A little 'fiction' is just what the doctor ordered these days - thanks, dear Genna.

      Ruby's contribution sets the bar - looking forward to others' work as well.

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 2 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Always Exploring: Thank you, Ruby! Your contribution is wonderful, dear friend. :-)

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 2 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Alicia C: Thank you, Alicia. I hope so. :-)

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 2 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Flourish Anyway: Thanks so much. I had fun writing this. And as Maria wrote below, we need a little more fiction right now.

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 2 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Annart: Hi Ann. Thank you. I don't watch a lot of movies, so it was challenging to provide visuals that show many diverse story-lines involving alien encounters. My favorites are Signs (M. Night Shyamalan) because this encounter restored the faith of an extraordinary man following the death of his wife and helped to heal the devastation to his family. Arrival blew my mind...it is wonderful.

      After giving it some thought, I removed the time limit. :-)

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Hi Genna. here is a link to my contribution: https://hubpages.com/literature/Contact-With-the-J...

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 2 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Marcoujor: Thank you, Maria! I could hug you for that comment. Yes, indeed, we need some fiction right now. What I like about HP is the wonderfully supportive community of writers and artists, and how the written word stirs our imaginations as we learn more about ourselves, and so often combines with photos, illustrations, visuals and music, representing a confluence of art and creativity...the miracle of humanity.

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 2 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Jodah: John, I just read your contribution and commented on your hub. I just loved it! :-) Thank you!

      I added yours to the list in the hub so that readers could link to it.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 months ago from SW England

      Oh, ok, that's good! Will let you know if and when I manage to write a response.

      Ann

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 2 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Thank you, Ann. I look forward to reading it! :-)

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 2 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Genna, I've just posted installment 1 of 3. Here is the short URL. http://hub.me/al0Lm Title, The Eagle's Gaze.

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 2 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Hi Chris...I'm on my way to read it right now. Thank you!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 2 months ago from England

      Ooh love it! lol! I look forward to reading the other stories continuing this one!

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 2 months ago from southern USA

      Hi Genna,

      Just popping in to see who has submitted a response to your interesting challenge. Oh, Mike and Chris! I am off to read.

      Peace always

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 8 weeks ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Genna, Here is part two of my story http://hub.me/al1mA

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 8 weeks ago from Massachusetts, USA

      @Nell Rose: Hi Nell. Thanks for the visit. I think the contributions have been awesome. We have such a talented community with HP.

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 8 weeks ago from Massachusetts, USA

      FaithReaper: Good morning, Faith. I'm so impressed with the responses to this challenge...just wonderful! :-)

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 8 weeks ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Cam8510: Hi Chris. Wonderful! Thank you. I'm on my way to read the 2nd installment.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 8 weeks ago from California

      Well this looks like fun! Will a poem suffice under the rules???

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 8 weeks ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Genna, I just posted the conclusion to The Eagle's Gaze.

      https://hubpages.com/literature/The-Eagles-Gaze-Ca...

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 8 weeks ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Audrey: Absolutely! I look forward to reading yours, and thank you. :-)

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 8 weeks ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Cam: Thank you, Chris. I can't wait to read it!

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 7 weeks ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Genna

      I've a few ideas for this, might come back to the challenge in a few weeks.

      Great idea though.

      Lawrence

    • rebelogilbert profile image

      Gilbert Arevalo 7 weeks ago from Hacienda Heights, California

      Genna, I think you included intriguing concepts for a thrilling science fiction story, but I can't accept the challenge. I like to write my own situations from scratch and I feel your set-up belongs to you, however, I look forward to reading other hubs you've written, and I'll comment on them time to time.

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 7 weeks ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Hi Lawrence. Thanks so much for reading the challenge. I welcome your contribution. Please take whatever time you need.

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 7 weeks ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Hi Gilbert. I understand perfectly. Good to see you, and I'm glad you stopped by to comment. :-)

    • bodylevive profile image

      BODYLEVIVE 6 weeks ago from Alabama, USA

      I have never experienced an encounter but think I'd welcome it as long as it was peaceful and no probing into the brain, lol. Nicely done and thank you. Be blessed in all that you do.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 6 weeks ago from USA

      I've read Shyron's already but look forward to checking some other stories out. It will be interesting to see where different people take this prompt.

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 6 weeks ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Bodylevine: I know what you mean...I would as well. Thaks for the visit and comment. Have a great weekend.

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 6 weeks ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Flourish Anyway

      Thank you. There are so many different directions one can take this; it's been such a pleasure reading the diverse and talented contributions. Happy Saturday. :-)

    • RandaHandler profile image

      Randa Awn Handler 6 weeks ago from USA

      Interesting challenge! I wrote an early reader children's book, Cubbie Blue & his Dot Dot, and elementary school teachers are using it in the classrooms to talk diversity. Kids like to explain their world to them as if they were aliens! I always wonder what that first encounter will be like!! I think it's really a question of time especially with NASA discovering another world out there! And, why should we believe we're alone?

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 6 weeks ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Hi Randa. Your book sounds wonderful. I agree with you in that it truly is just a matter of time. And who knows -- perhaps we are the aliens. Thanks for the visit and interesting comment. :-)

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 6 weeks ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Genna, I thought I'd write something for your challenge that is a little more accessible than my other monstrosity. This is called Unexpected Encounters at https://hubpages.com/literature/Unexpected-Encount... .

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 6 weeks ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Thank you, Chris! But I really liked your previous story -- it was great. I am off to read your new contribution.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 5 weeks ago from Central Florida

      I look forward to reading the challenges. I'm afraid the science of this challenge is outside my muse's realm, but will definitely check out the creative responses to your challenge, Genna.

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 5 weeks ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Hi Shauna...

      As I mentioned to Ruby in the above post, you don't need a strong science background to develop the story, which is why I gave a couple of 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. :-)

      If I were writing this, I might begin with one of them in the backwoods of a small New England town, gulping water from a stream. He is quite tall, with ruddish skin and eyes that are wide set. (He and several others have been conveyed to earth in different parts of the world through a teleportation technology that utilizes the transfer of matter and energy. They are here to conduct a kind of reconnaissance, while communicating with the ark. Only one problem: it's a one-way trip and they cannot return.)

      "Hearing a noise in the brush, his head twitched to the side."

      Thanks so much for reading the challenge. I think the contributions were wonderful, and I hope you have as much enjoyment reading them as did I. Good to see you.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 5 weeks ago from England

      Hi, I have written quite a few stories and even a poem on here about Aliens space etc, maybe I can cheat? LOL! great idea, is it too late to have a go?

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 5 weeks ago from USA

      I'm back just to see who else has responded to this challenge.

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 5 weeks ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Hi Nell. Absolutely, take all the time you need. I look forward to reading your contribution.

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 5 weeks ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Hi Flourish. Any time! You are always welcome.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 5 weeks ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      I have to bookmark your hub so I can read it over again, but you have already inspired me to join your challenge. Thanks and I will come back later.

    • Genna East profile image
      Author

      Genna East 5 weeks ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Thank you, Nadine. I look forward to reading it, as I know we all will. :-)

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