For details on the previous sixteen stories, including the complete text for five of them (so far), please begin here.
"To Go Boldly"
by Cory Doctorow
by Cory Doctorow
This story was originally published in The New Space Opera 2, edited by Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan (HarperCollins/EOS, 2009), and is approximately 7,000 words in length. [Note, too, that the author did not split the infinitive in the story title! Kudos, Cory!]
I first emailed Cory Doctorow toward the end of August 2008 about including a story of his in this anthology. The only alien contact story of his that I was familiar with at the time was "Craphound." When Cory responded, he informed me that he had just completed a draft of a new story, "To Go Boldly," which he attached to the email, that would be included in a forthcoming Dozois and Strahan anthology. One caveat: the book was scheduled for publication in July 2009, and the story could not be reprinted for six months. So I would be clear to use the story beginning in 2010. I told Cory that shouldn't be a problem, that it would probably be at least a year before my anthology was published. Well, here we are, three years later from that original email communication! Though, to be honest, I've already received a copy of the Alien Contact Advance Uncorrected Proof, and I hope to be showcasing the final cover art here "real soon now" -- seriously. And, of course, the anthology is still on schedule (as far as I know) for a November publication.
After reading only a few pages, I realized that "To Go Boldly" was a contemporary reboot (actually, I hate that term but what else is there?) of the "Arena" episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. The two main characters are Captain Reynold J. Tsubishi, commander of the APP ship Colossus II, and his B-string [second shift] commander, First Lieutenant !Mota, a member of the non-human race Wobblie -- "not a flattering name for an entire advanced starfaring race, but an accurate one, and no one with humanoid mouth-parts could pronounce the word in Wobbliese." Here is the scene in which the crew first encounters their adversary:
"Hail the yufo, Ms. De Fuca-Williamson."
The comms officer's hands moved over her panels, then she nodded back at Tsubishi.
"This is Captain Reynold J. Tsubishi of the Alliance of Peaceful Planets ship Colossus II. In the name of the Alliance and its forty-two member-species, I offer you greetings in the spirit of galactic cooperation and peace." It was canned, that line, but he'd practiced it in the holo in his quarters so that he could sell it fresh every time.
The silence stretched. A soft chime marked an incoming message. A succession of progress bars filled the holotank as it was decoded, demuxed and remuxed. Another, more emphatic chime.
"Do it," Tsubishi said to the comms officer, and First Contact was made anew.
The form that filled the tank was recognizably a head. It was wreathed in writhing tentacles, each tipped with organs that the computer identified with high confidence as sensory—visual, olfactory, temperature.
The tentacles whipped around as the bladder at the thing's throat inflated, then blatted out something in its own language, which made Wobbliese seem mellifluous. The computer translated: "Oh, for god's sake—role-players? You've got to be kidding me."