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Dear Fictional Military,

You’ve got a tough job, I know. Your presence in any story is inescapably political. You are either a condemnation of our instinct for violence or a celebration of our defense of Freedom, with little opportunity to exist somewhere in between. You have to balance your duty to propel an artificial narrative with your duty to realistically portray the actual military, two things that are often at odds with each other. So I understand how a scenario involving classified information could seem like an easy win: the real-life military’s talent for safeguarding secrecy is a handy narrative device for keeping the details of a significant event under wraps until it’s time for the big reveal.

However, should you find yourself inviting civilians to bring their expertise to bear on making contact with extraterrestrials for the first time – even if those civilians are a proxy for the audience you are tasked with affecting – it would behoove you to properly brief them. The audience doesn’t have to be privy to the whole briefing! But if, for example, one of the civilians asks what the aliens look like, and you say, “You’ll see for yourself soon enough,” that… is not helpful. Or if, say, the spacecraft they’ll be entering has its own laws of gravity, your mission will not benefit from the civilians having to discover that as they are experiencing it. A little “Oh, hey, gravity in there is gonna be fuuucked uuup” goes a long way. I mean, at least show them that scene from Inception.

I know you want this moment to be as awe-inspiring for your audience as it can be. But I also know you can find a way to do that without sending woefully ill-prepared civilians into an unprecedented and potentially catastrophic encounter.

Thank you for your consideration.