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 ..."

(This story is licensed under Creative Commons and was written by Terry Bisson.)


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red pill junkie's picture
Member since:
12 April 2007
Last activity:
7 hours 32 min

A superb piece of Sci-Fi.

In fact, we should make a permanent Sci-Fi section around here. That was one of the best things about OMNI magazine.

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

Red Pill Junkie

dustincole's picture
Member since:
7 August 2004
Last activity:
6 years 5 weeks

I agree completely. So, uh...use some of that red pill power and get Greg to setup a Sci-Fi section here on the grail. On a site that likes to contemplate the very limits of reality, good science fiction would be the perfect addition.

The acceptance that all that is solid has melted into the air, that reality and morality are not givens but imperfect human constructs, is the point from which fiction begins--Salman Rushdie

red pill junkie's picture
Member since:
12 April 2007
Last activity:
7 hours 32 min

Red pill power? Dude... Greg is like, The Source! ;)

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

Red Pill Junkie

manyteachers's picture
Member since:
6 January 2006
Last activity:
1 day 8 hours

See video

terry1094's picture
Member since:
20 April 2005
Last activity:
1 hour 28 min

Hey, that's Ben Baily from Cash Cab!



Thought I'd something more to say.

Greg's picture
Member since:
30 April 2004
Last activity:
3 min 7 sec

Thanks, added the video to the end of the text! Excellent rendering of the story I think, gives it that slightly off-kilter vibe that it needs. :)

Kind regards,
You monkeys only think you're running things

LastLoup's picture
Member since:
6 April 2010
Last activity:
56 min 30 sec

very funny, ben as an alien is hilarious, and thanx for including the video with this. somewhere there is an angry vegetarian scoffing at a chain smoking alien race.

...I forgot how I got here but everyone seems to be heading off in that direction. I hope someone brought food. I have a feeling this is going to be a long journey................

Mystic Al Your Metaphysical Pal's picture
Member since:
6 February 2010
Last activity:
6 years 40 weeks

The only thing I'd add is no doubt there'd be some amongst their kind who'd - given the chance - find sentient meat absolutely fascinating to study, much in the same way people some people say if there ARE advanced civilisations out there we'd be like ants to them; but many members of our species find ants absolutely fascinating to study.

indu's picture
Member since:
15 March 2011
Last activity:
6 years 27 weeks

Nice short and comedy story by Terry Bisson. Thanks to the OMNI-a science fiction magazine wholesale printing company for publishing this short story. Moreover it is interesting to watch the film of this story directed by Stephen O'Regan. It too won the Jury prize award in 2006.