Before we get to James' Top Five though, here's a little bit of information about The Blasted Lands and James!
About the Book
Author: James A. Moore
Publication Date: June 24, 2014 (US/CAN)
3 July 2014 (UK)
Cover Art: Alejandro Colucci
Synopsis: The Empire of Fellein is in mourning. The Emperor is dead, and the armies of the empire have grown soft. Merros Dulver, their newly-appointed – and somewhat reluctant – commander, has been tasked with preparing them to fight the most savage enemy the world has yet seen.
Meanwhile, a perpetual storm ravages the Blasted Lands, and a new threat is about to arise – the Broken are coming, and with them only Death.
Buy the book!UK Print & Ebook
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Global DRM-Free Epub & Mobi Ebook
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About the Author
James A Moore is the author of over twenty novels, including the critically acclaimed Fireworks, Under The Overtree, Blood Red, Deeper, the Serenity Falls trilogy (featuring his recurring anti-hero, Jonathan Crowley) and his most recent novels Blind Shadows as well as Seven Forges and the forthcoming sequel The Blasted Lands.
He has twice been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award and spent three years as an officer in the Horror Writers Association, first as Secretary and later as Vice President.
The author cut his teeth in the industry writing for Marvel Comics and authoring over twenty role-playing supplements for White Wolf Games, including Berlin by Night, Land of 1,000,000 Dreams and The Get of Fenris tribe. He also penned the White Wolf novels Vampire: House of Secrets and Werewolf: Hellstorm.
Moore’s first short story collection, Slices, sold out before ever seeing print.
He currently lives in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. Meet him on his blog.
Article ‘A Nuclear Winter in a Fantasy Realm’ at a Fantastical Librarian
Top Five First Contact Stories
by: James A. Moore
I love a good question that I’ve never run across before and this one qualifies.
What are my top five favorite First Contact stories? Heh, heh, heh.
Have you noticed that most first contact tales don’t end well? It’s true. If they did, the story would get boring very fast. Think about that for a moment and you’ll understand why few of mine have a happy ending—and I need to clarify here that those words do not mean they have a sad ending, either. Just different. Of course there’s more to it, isn’t there? The tales are often meant to be thought provoking, whether or not the authors were aware of it. I believe a lot of writers, most fiction writers, really, absorb what is going on in the world and then unconsciously allow it to filter into their stories. The world we live in impacts us in a thousand small ways on a daily basis. How could it not have an influence on the stories we tell?
The best example I can give off the top of my head in INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS by Jack Finney. His tale was written and set in his modern day setting, which at that particular point was the height of the Cold War tensions. The rumors of spies among us were prevalent in stories and in the news and the threat of nuclear holocaust was real and very prevalent in everyone’s minds. But as Stephen King pointed out in his pop culture exploration DANSE MACABRE, one of the largest reasons that Finney’s novel was a resounding success was because it fed on a paranoia that was already there. The enemy wasn’t someone in a uniform with a weapon. The enemy could be anyone walking down the street, from your closest neighbor, to a member of your family, to the grocer who ran your local deli. Paranoia personified. What a delicious, chilling concept.
Several of my choices will likely qualify more accurately as “Invasion” tales. They are first contact, but again, they don’t always end in a happy place.
Currently at the top of my list is the ten part television series called ALIEN ENCOUNTERS, which is an interesting blend of hypothetical situation and current state-of-the-art discussion. The concept is simple: a ten part series that shows exactly one potential first contact scenario and how we might react to it. The twist is that the one scenario is very carefully designed to not look like an attack and to, rather, leave the potential for a friendly first contact wide open.
I say currently, by the way, because I am notorious for changing my mind.
The series isn’t even finished yet and we already have genetic mutations, super-computers changing the way we can function in the universe and the possibility of solving all of the world’s problems. It’s an interesting twist.
More interesting to the science geek in me is that a lot of the guest speakers on the show are scientists working in advanced theory and working with new technologies that, by God, seem to border on the impossible. It’s nice to get an overview of how much the scientific community is changing and a chance to guess at what lies ahead for us.
For the second choice of first contact movies, I’ll have to go with ALIEN, the movie by Ridley Scott. It’s a twisted little affair, isn’t it? It’s also a perfect example of merging horror and science fiction. Somewhere in the vast darkness of outer space a ship hauling ore to a mining colony is intercepted and sent to answer a distress call. The call, rather than coming from another mining ship or a commercial freighter, comes from a ship abandoned a long time ago and neither the original inhabitants or the things left behind are human.
And what they encounter is not interested in being friendly. Taboos are shattered all over the place with that movie. You have what amounts to a rape scene, but instead of dealing with the standard sequence for the first time in my experience (and possibly the first time in a Hollywood movie) you deal with not only the symbolic act of rape but the impregnation and delivery of a nightmare given birth by a male of the species. Add in the gorgeous cinematography and the directorial skills of Ridley Scott and you have a masterpiece of a movie.
One that I think I have to include simply because it was a phenomenal piece is CHILDHOOD’S END by Arthur C. Clarke. It may not actually be first contact, but it is definitely a defining moment in the history of mankind. Several movies have taken advantage of the design of the ships, the scale of the ships and the way the gigantic vessels showed themselves in CHILDHOOD’S END, which starts with truly enormous spacecraft moving into position over several major cities and then simply staying there for many years before anything at all happens other than the attempts by human beings to communicate with or deter the invaders.
When the aliens do speak, they don’t tell us that they are here to take over the world or that they are here to help us, they simply explain that the rules are changing and that anyone who fails to follow the new rules will suffer for their transgressions.
An amazing book and very highly recommended.
Historically speaking there are, of course, several tales to be told, but one of the best of them all is H.G. Wells’ amazing WAR OF THE WORLDS. It’s been told, retold and reimagined a zillion times but any way you cut it, the story is a brilliant example of what happens when a technologically advanced race comes along and decides to take what they want.
THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, based on the short story “Farewell to the Master” by sci-fi author Harry Bates is a scary and potentially amazing tale. Just when we, the human race, have decided we are big enough and bad enough to claim the stars, other races from the stars come down and warn us off acting so damnably human.
Honorable mention in the science fiction department, goes to MONKEY PLANET by Pierre Boulle. It’s better known to most people by the movie title Planet of the Apes. Why I liked the book so much is because it does a wonderful job of showing the horror that the astronauts encounter on what they presume is another world, a place where apes evolved intelligence and where humans are little more than lab animals for experimentation. The irony is there and so, frankly, is a hearty dose of horror.
Raymond E. Feist absolutely caught my attention when I was ready to burn out on fantasy books completely with his RIFTWAR series. What a brilliant notion! An inter-dimensional invasion in a fantasy series! And he made it work so very well. My biggest argument with the books is that they are currently unavailable on the Kindle as it has been years since I read them and I’d love to have copies that were easily accessible.
ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND is a fine example of a first contact with a different twist. We all know the story well enough, I expect, but consider the sense of wonder and the absurd. Again and again Alice is confronted not just by animals and animated items, but by creatures that have, at best, a dubious concept of sanity. Small wonder the tale has lasted as long as it has and been told so many countless times.
Another story that always sticks with me is L. Frank Baum’s THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ. Seriously. Laugh if you will but the stories are designed around a sense of wonder. Dorothy finds herself in a new world with some of the most unusual and outlandish characters ever created and if you have never actually read the origin of the Tin Woodsman, you might well realize that some seriously dark stuff goes on in those books. They’re delicious.
Alan Dean Foster could probably get dozen first contact credits in science fiction, but one of my favorites of his always been SPELLSINGER. In the story a would-be musician finds himself transported to a world where animals evolved sentience and opposable thumbs and humans don’t exist. A society of humanoid animals exists and its rules are often very different. God help the fool who gets into trouble with the equivalent of riot police. They know how to end a fight without ever drawing a sword. The setting is familiar and completely knocked off kilter and that would be enough, but to add to the fun our resident deadbeat musician finds that if he can sing it, he can make magic with it. He has a gift that few others have: his songs are sorceries. The adventures are fun and frightening and heart-wrenching. Highly recommended.
One more suggestion for you: Robert Aspirin’s MYTH SERIES, starting with ANOTHER FINE MYTH. A sorcerer’s apprentice finds himself face to face with the demon his master just summoned at the same time that his master is murdered, leaving him without a teacher and the demon without a way to get home. What starts off as a light-hearted fantasy takes a half twist into science fiction and, oddly enough, has some of the scariest moments I’ve ever read involving a sorcerer.
Anyway you look at it, first encounters are fun to deal with. They can be approached with a completely serious face as they are in Larry Niven’s RINGWORLD, or they can be a bit more on the humorous side as they often are in Fred Saberhagen’s BERZERKER series. They can deal with the political climate of a world and the realization that all is not as it seems, which was very much the case with H.Beam Piper’s excellent LITTLE FUZZY, or they can be a slow descent into madness and the impossible as they were with H.P. Lovecraft’s stories of the Elder Gods, such as THE CALL OF CTHULHU and A SHADOW OVER INNSMOUTH. The notion of running into something new and alien can stretch into mind-altering experiences and slapstick alike. That’s part of the fun, really.
First Contact stories fascinate me. Think about it for a moment, you wander through your life with a certain sense, especially in this modern day and age, that it has all been done and all been seen. Now imagine what it must be like to run across something or someone so completely different from anything you’ve ever experienced before that you are staggered by the contact.
It must be like being a child all over again. What do I mean? Children see the world with eyes that are constantly awestruck. Look at a toddler looking at the world and you’ll see what I mean. Everything is new. Everything is either going to be wondrous or horrifying because mundane comes later. Everything is magical, unless it is sinister, and even then there’s still that chance.
I’ve always said the best stories reflect on and consider life in all of its aspects. We have, all of us, run across almost every type of first encounter, from the first time we saw a puppy to the first time we ran across a swarm of bees or that most wondrous and terrifying first encounter: running across a member of the opposite (or same) sex, finding a never-before-experienced attraction and setting out to explore the myriad possibilities.
Thank you to James for stopping by to discuss his Top Five First Contacts, and to you for taking the time to read about them! Don't forget to get your copies of Seven Forges and The Blasted Lands, as you will definitely want to read them ASAP!
--Ashley & Paul