When the aliens first arrived (in New York, naturally–I mean, where else were they going to make first contact, Toronto?), they seemed like an affable bunch.
They were somewhat human-looking, sort of like Frankenstein’s monsters (the movie and TV versions, not the original book version): greenish skin and flat-topped heads with combed-down greasy black hair that partially covered their pronounced foreheads (but no neck bolts). And they favored casual clothes: a lot of rayon bowling shirts and cargo shorts. They kind of looked like a cross between Herman Munster and Charlie Harper.
Despite this, most people were immediately suspicious, probably conditioned by years of exposure to science fiction works which portrayed aliens as supposedly benevolent but secretly nefarious. So when the aliens stepped off their mother ship, and a book fell out of the messenger bag one of them had slung over its shoulder, landing at its be-Croc-ed feet, it was immediately confiscated and taken away for translation and analysis (as was the messenger bag itself, although it turned out the only other item in the bag appeared to be some alien version of Toblerone).
“No biggie,” it memorably said (in English, even though the book was written in their alien language, which was weird and inconsistent, but whatever), as it and its companions were herded away to an undisclosed location “for their safety”.
But a few days later, when the title of the book was translated as To Barbecue Man, the reaction to the new, supposedly chill visitors–who apparently wanted to EAT us–was swift and violent. The SEAL team dispatched to the visitors’ undisclosed location carried out their orders with ruthless efficiency; the aliens were all terminated without a struggle.
Except one, who survived the initial shots fired long enough to murmur to the soldier who went in close to finish the job, “You got it wrong, man…the book…title…you’re missing the…comma.”
It turned out the book was actually entitled To Barbecue, Man, a collection of the aliens’ favorite grilling recipes, techniques, and ideas for hosting casual grilling parties and get-togethers. It was a pretty handsome book, with some really nice photography.
So: Our bad, aliens.
*With apologies to the classic Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man”, as well as the original short story of the same name by Damon Knight on which it was based.*