I read this story a few years ago in an anthology, but I'm sure it was written in the 70s or 80s. It was only a few pages long and explored a number of scenarios that could occur if aliens were to discover one of our probes.

I'm certain there were more, but these are the scenarios I remember:

  • The probe is discovered by a race of sentient machines who embark on an epic journey to free what they see as enslaved machines from their organic oppressors
  • The probe is discovered by a being far more evolved than our species. After thousands or millions of years of studying the probe, the alien determines it to be a message of love. However, its reply is rendered meaningless by the amount of time that has passed.
  • The probe is rediscovered by humanity in the far future

I've been searching for this story for a couple of days, but to no avail.

  • 4
    it sounds like star trek the movie, split into 3 different stories haha.
    – Himarm
    Jan 28, 2015 at 15:39

4 Answers 4


Finally found it again. The story is "Message from Earth" by Ian Stewart. It may very well have been inspired by "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" though.


This really does sound exactly like Star Trek: The Motion Picture. A quick plot summary: a presumably alien entity in a massive cloud approaches Earth, wreaking havoc on everything in its path. It comes to identify itself as "V'ger," first discovered to be a living, sentient machine, then further discovered to be Voyager 6, a hypothetical sixth iteration of the Voyager program (of which only two probes were ever actually launched.) It had happened upon a world of sentient machines, who had upgraded it to gather more information and to return to Earth.

As what you may be thinking of in the second point in your question, the probe has trouble communicating with Earth because the signals it is using (I believe it was a type of radio wave) are no longer prevalent communication channels on Earth, so its information is not being received.

As a side note, it may be your question prompting this feeling, but I think I read a short story on a similar premise. However, I can't find anything about the motion picture noting a written piece with a similar plot (apart from the novelization of the film) so that may be my imagination.

  • Op question sounds like the story is a hypothetical what if brainstorming session, instead of an actual series of events
    – user16696
    Jan 28, 2015 at 17:28

If I recall correctly, there was a short story published in Omni magazine What Voyager Saw. The plot begins with the Voyager probe being pulled into a "Black Hole" and "quantum duplicates" of it being sent into different dimensions. It then goes on to show the probes fate in these alternate realities.


There is a very short story I read where the Voyager probe is found by the Galactic Union of races who are all very prudish. They set out to destroy us because we are sending out Porn - pictures of naked people - into the Galaxy on our probe.

  • 1
    Do you know the title or author? Jan 29, 2015 at 2:22
  • 1
    Did the story's author get the Pioneer plaques and the Voyager records mixed up, too?
    – JdeBP
    Jan 29, 2015 at 14:18
  • The Voyager record does include photographs that could (at a real stretch) be described as porn - anatomical drawings and one of childbirth. But I agree it's more likely that the Pioneer plaque is what was intended as the general public is more likely to know about that than the individual items on the record
    – GordonD
    Nov 19, 2019 at 9:16

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