There was a time, not that long ago, when if you told people you were a science fiction fan they would ask you—no doubt thinking of The X-Files—whether you really believed in aliens. My usual response was to reply, putting a gentle emphasis on the second word, that it’s called science fiction for a reason. But the fact is that I did, and do, believe in aliens … but not in that way.
Of course I do believe that there are intelligent alien species out there in the universe somewhere (though the Fermi Paradox is troubling, and the more I learn about the peculiar twists and turns that the evolution of life on this planet has taken to get to this point the more I wonder if we might, indeed, be alone in the universe), but I don’t believe that they have visited Earth, at least not in noticeable numbers or in recent history. But I do believe in aliens as people—as complex beings with knowable, if not immediately comprehensible, motives, who can be as good and bad as we can, and not just monsters who want to eat us or steal our water or our breeding stock. And I can date this belief to a specific book.