T Nation

They're Made Out of Meat



by Terry Bisson

"They're made out of meat."


"Meat. They're made out of meat."


"There's no doubt about it. We picked up several from different parts of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, and probed them all the way through. They're completely meat."

"That's impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars?"

"They use the radio waves to talk, but the signals don't come from them. The signals come from machines."

"So who made the machines? That's who we want to contact."

"They made the machines. That's what I'm trying to tell you. Meat made the machines."

"That's ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You're asking me to believe in sentient meat."

"I'm not asking you, I'm telling you. These creatures are the only sentient race in that sector and they're made out of meat."

"Maybe they're like the orfolei. You know, a carbon-based intelligence that goes through a meat stage."

"Nope. They're born meat and they die meat. We studied them for several of their life spans, which didn't take long. Do you have any idea what's the life span of meat?"

"Spare me. Okay, maybe they're only part meat. You know, like the weddilei. A meat head with an electron plasma brain inside."

"Nope. We thought of that, since they do have meat heads, like the weddilei. But I told you, we probed them. They're meat all the way through."

"No brain?"

"Oh, there's a brain all right. It's just that the brain is made out of meat! That's what I've been trying to tell you."

"So ... what does the thinking?"

"You're not understanding, are you? You're refusing to deal with what I'm telling you. The brain does the thinking. The meat."

"Thinking meat! You're asking me to believe in thinking meat!"

"Yes, thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat. The meat is the whole deal! Are you beginning to get the picture or do I have to start all over?"

"Omigod. You're serious then. They're made out of meat."

"Thank you. Finally. Yes. They are indeed made out of meat. And they've been trying to get in touch with us for almost a hundred of their years."

"Omigod. So what does this meat have in mind?"

"First it wants to talk to us. Then I imagine it wants to explore the Universe, contact other sentiences, swap ideas and information. The usual."

"We're supposed to talk to meat."

"That's the idea. That's the message they're sending out by radio. 'Hello. Anyone out there. Anybody home.' That sort of thing."

"They actually do talk, then. They use words, ideas, concepts?"
"Oh, yes. Except they do it with meat."

"I thought you just told me they used radio."

"They do, but what do you think is on the radio? Meat sounds. You know how when you slap or flap meat, it makes a noise? They talk by flapping their meat at each other. They can even sing by squirting air through their meat."

"Omigod. Singing meat. This is altogether too much. So what do you advise?"

"Officially or unofficially?"


"Officially, we are required to contact, welcome and log in any and all sentient races or multibeings in this quadrant of the Universe, without prejudice, fear or favor. Unofficially, I advise that we erase the records and forget the whole thing."

"I was hoping you would say that."

"It seems harsh, but there is a limit. Do we really want to make contact with meat?"

"I agree one hundred percent. What's there to say? 'Hello, meat. How's it going?' But will this work? How many planets are we dealing with here?"

"Just one. They can travel to other planets in special meat containers, but they can't live on them. And being meat, they can only travel through C space. Which limits them to the speed of light and makes the possibility of their ever making contact pretty slim. Infinitesimal, in fact."

"So we just pretend there's no one home in the Universe."

"That's it."

"Cruel. But you said it yourself, who wants to meet meat? And the ones who have been aboard our vessels, the ones you probed? You're sure they won't remember?"

"They'll be considered crackpots if they do. We went into their heads and smoothed out their meat so that we're just a dream to them."

"A dream to meat! How strangely appropriate, that we should be meat's dream."

"And we marked the entire sector unoccupied."

"Good. Agreed, officially and unofficially. Case closed. Any others? Anyone interesting on that side of the galaxy?"

"Yes, a rather shy but sweet hydrogen core cluster intelligence in a class nine star in G445 zone. Was in contact two galactic rotations ago, wants to be friendly again."

"They always come around."

"And why not? Imagine how unbearably, how unutterably cold the Universe would be if one were all alone ..."


They also think they are the center of the universe.


Terry Bisson is great... the collection I first saw that in was entitled "Bears Discover Fire." Check it out.


Not only are they made of meat but they struggle endlessly to appear "above" others of themselves.


Gee, you guys are pretty hard on those poor meats.


Just beating their meat.


I agree. What makes the irony of this story even more ironyey is the fact that the meat who wrote this (and several of the meats who posted in this very thread) would take such a dim view of our simple nature, when in fact we have more forgiveness and courage than the arrogant alien intelligences who would wash their hands of us.

Would we reject the aliens if the situations were reversed? One of my favorite TV shows features a talking piece of poo, for cryin' out loud!

The thing to say to these aliens is:

"Fine, we don't wanna talk to your sorry asses anyway. Oh, and by the way... we AREN'T alone. We have each other. So go fuck yourselves."

Good and funny story, anyway. :slightly_smiling:


I think you misunderstood some of the responses. This doesn't surprise me as you have claimed many times that you are an atheist. I have never believed that we are alone in the universe. I also don't consider "us" as the quite so dominant species considering I believe in a creator. I understand that we are not the epitome of being so, therefore, the concept held by many that we are all there is happens to be what I was referring to.


I'm more pissed off by the "good news and bad news" part of the story. The good news? It is possible to travel faster than light. The bad news? Not for meat, it ain't. Fuck, that would suck.

I like this story because of it's unusual twist on the classic man-meets-alien theme. No contact (well, we get probed a little...), no wars, nothing except "Meat? Ewwwww, gross."


Yeah. I've seen this same twist before, though. There was an old Star Trek where Captain Kirk and gang encounter a crystalline species and it constantly refers to them as "ugly bags of mostly water". :slightly_smiling:


That's a pretty unusual combination. Do you believe the creator intended us to be, or did he just create a universe that had a potential for intelligent life and we (and maybe others) just happened?


Oh, and I thought that how they referred to our spaceships as "special meat containers" was pretty clever. Like the space shuttle is just a flying can of spam. Which it is... kinda.

Oh and don't worry about the whole FTL travel thing. If we can't go as fast as light, we'll just slow the speed of light down:


Too bad it was France that did it. How lame is that? Where's our geeks when we need them the most?!?! We're getting shown up by a bunch of Frogs here! C'mon guys, get the lead out!


I dunno. That seems to be a pretty accurate description of William Shatner.

Anyway, in Star Trek, we've already got the warp drives and we've met a bunch of other civilizations, so getting blown off by a few crystals is not that big of a deal.


That doesn't really help when the goal is crossing hundreds or thousands of light years in a reasonable time frame.

The Europeans are also building the Large Hadron Collider, scheduled to come online in 2007; so you might want to get used to depending on them for your science. Your own "Supercollider" was cancelled. I think you can find the remnants somewhere in Texas.

France will be getting the 10 billion Euro nuclear fusion reactor that will be financed and developed by many countries. It was a close race with... Japan.

Arguing that the U.S. is the most technologically advanced nation in the world is getting harder each year.

Many countries are now ahead in internet connectivity and wireless deployment. Japan cellular technology is generations ahead. Japan also leads the world in hybrid engine technology and robotics. India is producing engineers in nearly ten times the amount you are.

Meanwhile, it seems that your president is pretty keen on getting Intelligent Design taught alongside evolution in your schools.

Hell, some of your physics teachers can't tell the difference between conventional and nuclear weapons. :slight_smile:


I don't believe anything "just happens".



That hurt, man. Didn't I tell you to stop picking on poor mertdawg already? :slight_smile:

You make some good points about the tech race, pooks. We are kinda backwater in some areas, but you have to keep in mind that a lot of those cell phone technologies, et al, take a little longer to develop in such a spread out nation such as mine. We have a shitload more real estate to serve than Norway, for example, when it comes to digital cell phone service. I think we're doing just fine.

What we are the undisputed masters of is weaponry. Both in advancement and sheer quantity. My brother is in R&D for the defense department, and some of the shizzle he recently told me about without compromising the almighty "operational security" was pretty bad-ass.


Errr... Is this meant to be a positive comment, Lothario?


Something tells me they don't do much fucking where they're from...


Absolutely. Try to keep your nation safe with knives when everyone else has guns, and you will find the truth of this.

"He who can destroy a thing, controls a thing." -Paul Atreides from the book Dune, by Frank Herbert


Control is an illusion...