One of my favorite science fiction stories is R.A. Lafferty’s “Primary Education of the Camiroi.” I remember reading it in the Issac Asimov-edited anthology Extraterrestrials at the old Charleston Heights library in the late 1980’s. I loved how weird and silly it was–I’d never read anything quite like it.
Reading it again now on Google Books, I see it as a pretty biting satire of an American education system that even by the late 60’s, when the story was first published, was already showing cracks. I especially loved the schema for the alien curriculum near the end, which I’ve copied below. In fact, I think this story helped influence young me in my decision to become a teacher.
I really think we should consider some of the “modest proposals” in this story. I would have loved having a class in “laser religion” as a high school freshmen.
My grade for this story now, nearly 30 years after first reading it?
Every story I know about aliens coming to Earth has one of two basic plots: they’re bad guys who want to invade and kill/enslave us, or they’re good guys who want to explore Earth/enlighten us. Couldn’t this paradigm be expanded a bit?
Here’s a little idea I had for a story: an alien race—advanced, peaceful, and already rich in Earth’s natural resources, like water and oxygen—starts colonizing and mining another planet in our solar system for substances that they need, and which we neither have in abundance nor need, say Venus, for sulfuric acid, or liquid hydrogen on Saturn, or some other element of which we’re currently unaware.
Who would contact whom first? Would the new race say, “Hello! We’re moving in to Mars, which we see you’re not using, and just wanted to introduce ourselves. We’ll stay out of your way.”
Or would we notice them at work over there, freak out, and then later start wondering why they’re not doing anything to us? Might we send a message like, “Why aren’t you contacting with us?” And they might reply, “Why would we?”