Talkin’ About Me

contact canon (n.): (also contact ‘chive) The collection of documents and multimedia resources, stored uncompressed and in simplest-possible encoding, kept for transmission in first contact situations – once basic-level communications have been established – to enable one’s interlocutors to derive a comprehensive linguistic and cultural corpus for their translation software.

To achieve this as fully as possible, a good contact canon begins with the simplest educational materials, and extends through a variety of scientific and engineering references  (for a common frame of reference, although carefully selected to avoid giving away advanced technologies), historical and cultural data, mythology, art, literature, and even contemporary popular culture (to avoid accidental mistranslations of slang and references).

The practice of the contact canon has been invented independently by many of the species with whom first contact has been made over the Worlds’ history, including several of those known for their xenophobia and/or isolationism. The irony of giving away a millennium of one’s cultural products in order to say “go away” more effectively has not been lost on anyone.

No-one outside speculative fiction writers, fortunately, has yet confronted the case in which all that art and culture is merely the communications preamble to “surrender or die”…

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary