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The Prester Effect

“This isn’t like that Twilight Zone episode where aliens come and turn our planet into a utopia and then invite earthlings to their planet, only for the humans to discover en route that the aliens intend to cook and eat them?”

“Could be. Though earth hasn’t become a utopia, and I don’t think you can consider the transmission we received an invitation.”

“What else would you call it?”

“A slap in the face.”

“Come again?”

“It feels a whole lot more like a galactic put down insinuating that we’ll never be as good as them. I mean, look at the opening of the transmission:

Greetings fellow sentients. We who send this missive wish you well. It is unlikely that time and space will align for us to meet, but we must tell you of us and our world. It is a world of peace and plenty, of wealth and well-being. We have blossomed as sentients and only seek to learn what there is to learn. All this we owe to our great and gracious Opinoko who has made our world a splendor unsurpassed. We sing the praises of Opinoko and wish the galaxy to know of the glory we have gained through Opinoko. Let us name these glories…

And then what follows is a long, long list of all the wonders Opinoko has brought them. It’s akin to sending us a sales brochure for an upscale and exclusive gated community we can’t possibly move into. Why send it?”

“Maybe they just want us to know they’re out there and that things can work out well for a planet.”

“I don’t know. It sounds like they’re thumbing their Opinoko noses at us—if they have noses. Instead of forwarding us a laundry list of their greatness, maybe they could have sent something practical like a process for cold fusion or a strategic plan for avoiding international conflict and war.”

“Could be they don’t want to bootstrap us. Maybe they want to encourage us to find our own way and not interfere with how we do it.”

“Ha! Just by sending the transmission, they’re interfering. I call it the Prester Effect.”


“Prester John. A mysterious letter began circulating in the twelfth century from a so-called Prester John trumpeting the might and wealth of his kingdom located vaguely and variously in India, Asia and Africa. The letter spoke of wonders like the fountain of youth and paradise on earth. It got the medieval world worked up, jumpstarting a quest mentality. Many folks went blindly in search of Prester John’s kingdom. Though it was never officially found, it didn’t stop some nuts from claiming they discovered it.”

“So, you think this Opinoko transmission is a scam?”

“A clever one that’s got three quarters of earth believing it’s real. Ruse or not, there will be fools who’ll go in search of this alien Prester John.”

“It’s light years away.”

“Yup. Just like journeying from England to Africa in the Middle Ages. People went then. They’ll try now.”


“The grass is always greener.”

“Does that mean you wouldn’t go?”

“I told you. The transmission was a slap in the face.”

“Maybe it was to wake us up.”

“Or keep us down.”

“That’s hard to say.”

“Trust me. It’s a colossal waste of time.”

“But, not of the imagination.”

“Be sensible.”

“That will only get us so far.”

“Are you really planning to set out for the land of Opinoko?

“Already halfway there.”

“A typically rash and unreasoned human response.”

“Well, imagination has that effect.”

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