I apologize in advance that I don't have a lot of details about a story or novellla that I'm looking for. It's from a few decades ago, probably 1960s, and I read it in the late 70s or early 80s. The only major details I can remember are that humanity is divided into groups, one are enlightened humans and the other group are mutants who are slaves and have no rights. I can't remember what the mutations were.

There is a revolt and all the mutants are killed except for one who is burned at the stake. This makes the last one into a martyr and causes a new religion to be founded, which is significant because religion has left earth by this point.

Does anyone know whose story this is? I was thinking Harlan Ellison or one of his collections, but can't find anything.


This sounds awfully like Cordwainer Smith's 1964 short story, "The Dead Lady of Clown Town".

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If this is correct, then the "mutants" of which you speak are actually underpeople, which were not humans originally but rather animals that had been experimented on, with the end goal of giving them an intelligence and ability similar to that of humans (but not the rights afforded to humans).

Not all of the underpeople are exterminated — just a particular group of rebels living in abandoned service corridors that are named "Clown Town". They are led by an underperson — originally a dog — named d'Joan. (This is a clear Joan of Arc reference, of course.) After a march, d'Joan's followers are killed en masse for rebelling and for professing their equality with humankind, but d'Joan herself is put on trial. She is sentenced to be burnt to death. Her death inspires humans to begin respecting the underpeople, and a new religion is formed, as you recall.

The story is part of a series by Smith called The Instrumentality of Mankind. Also, the story doesn't take place on Earth, but rather on the planet "Formalhaut III". The planet itself is not so important to the story, and I imagine this is another minor detail that may have mutated in your memory over time...

  • That's it. I've been looking for this for a long time and so many thanks. – Raymond S. Aug 25 '15 at 3:17
  • 2
    @RaymondS. : Excellent; glad to be of service. Since you seem to be certain that my answer is correct, please feel free to click the grey checkmark to the immediate left of my answer. This will mark the answer as "accepted" by you. – Praxis Aug 25 '15 at 3:43
  • Sure, will do that. Thanks again. – Raymond S. Aug 25 '15 at 4:38

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