Nature Future Conditional

The story behind the story: Hello, Hello

In this week’s Futures Jeff Hecht puts us in touch with extraterrestrial life in Hello, Hello. Regular readers will recognize Jeff: he has written multiple stories for Futures over the years (you can see a full list at the foot of this post). When not penning science fiction, Jeff writes about lasers, dinosaurs and other science and technology. You can find out more about his work at his website or by following hm on Twitter. Here, Jeff reveals what inspired his latest tale — as ever, it pays to read the story first.

Writing Hello, Hello

Hello, Hello came from pondering one of the ‘big questions’ in both science and science fiction: where are all the little green beings, or whatever other creatures we might imagine inhabit other parts of the Universe. Space is big, it’s full of stars and planets, and the Universe was around for over nine billion years before the Sun and Earth formed. It took us only about 10,000 years to go from banging on the rocks to walking on the Moon. Shouldn’t that have been more than long enough for some of those beings to develop the technology needed to drop in for a visit? Either the little green beings must be running very late, or we must be the most technologically advanced civilization in the Galaxy.

Or so we like to think.

We live in an era of astounding technology development, where we carry tiny computers in our pockets that are far more powerful than the much larger computers that got us to the Moon. Yet our technology does have limits. It’s now nearly half a century since a human walked on the Moon, although we have plans to do so again in just a few years that seem within reason. We also have plans to send people all the way to Mars in the not too distant future. Of course, in the 1950s Wernher von Braun had plans for sending people to Mars in the not too distant future, and that seemed like a good idea at that time.

We also have a few other troublesome little problems, particularly in keeping the climate of our native planet in the reasonably habitable range we are accustomed to.

Those thoughts led me to ask the question that has launched countless science-fiction stories: what if? I wondered if the reason no little green beings have dropped in for a cup of tea might be that interstellar travel is impossible, at least for organic life. What if only machines could survive the trip. Then ‘Oumuamua cruised through the Solar System as quickly and quietly as a derelict interstellar spacecraft.

Read more Futures stories by Jeff Hecht

A slice of timeWhen last I saw the starsThe Internet of [Expletive Deleted] ThingsThe speed of dark energyWaiting for ChronomaticEvent horizonClear proofThe Neanderthal correlationQuantum entanglementsDirected energyOperation Tesla

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