Dangers of near approach — nevertheless our own ships that dare not venture close onto a rocky shore can send rowboats ashore —
Why not diplomatic relations established between the United States and Cyclorea — which, in our advanced astronomy, is the name of a remarkable wheel-shaped world or super-construction? Why not missionaries sent here openly to convert us from our barbarous prohibitions and other taboos, and to prepare the way for a good trade in ultra-bibles and super-whiskeys; fortunes made in [155/156] selling us cast-off super-fineries, which we’d take to like an African chief to some one’s old silk hat from New York or London?
The answer that occurs to me is so simple that it seems immediately acceptable, if we accept that the obvious is the solution of all problems, or if most of our perplexities consist in laboriously and painfully conceiving of the unanswerable, and then looking for answers — using such words as “obvious” and “solution” conventionally —
Would we, if we could, educate and sophisticate pigs, geese, cattle?
Would it be wise to establish diplomatic relation with the hen that now functions, satisfied with mere sense of achievement by way of compensation?
I think we’re property.
I should say we belong to something:
That once upon a time, this earth was No-man’s Land, that other worlds explored and colonized here, and fought among themselves for possession, but that now it’s owned by something:
That something owns this earth — all others warned off.
Nothing in our own times — perhaps — because I am thinking of certain notes I have — has ever appeared upon this earth, from somewhere else, so openly as Columbus landed upon San Salvador, or as Hudson sailed up his river. But as to surreptitious visits to this earth, in recent times, or as to emissaries, perhaps, from other worlds, or voyagers who have shown every indication of intent to evade or avoid, we shall have data as convincing as our data of oil or coal-burning aerial super-constructions.
—Book of the Damned (1919), ch. 12, by Charles Fort
Eerily repeated in a lot of science fiction. Ironically, H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds” is nearly a “we’re property” story, but Wells irrationally hated Charles Fort. Likes repel, I suppose.
A few obvious ones, but there are dozens more (put them in comments if you like; archive.org links preferred!):
- The Earth-Owners, by Edmund Hamilton: 1931. The black clouds are as godlike and unbeatable as any of Lovecraft’s creations, but Hamilton always wussed out with happy endings.
- The Whisperer in Darkness, by Howard Philips Lovecraft: 1931 — published in the same issue as The Earth-Owners! The Fungi from Yuggoth ( see also ) farm Humanity for minds kept alive in brain-cylinders. Zero happy endings from our founder, Howie.
- The Sinister Barrier, by Eric Frank Russell: 1950. Invisible “Vitan” orbs farm us for our “energies”, until a mix of iodine, mescal, and methylene blue allows us to see them. World War III ensues.
- Eight O’Clock in the Morning, by Ray Nelson: 1963. Basis of They Live.
- The Arrival: 1996. David Twohy’s made a lot of great pulp movies, and this one is Charlie Sheen’s only good movie.