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I've been looking for this for ages. It was out of a sci-fi short story anthology I read probably about eight years ago, but it could have been published anytime between 1970 and then, since it was out of a library.

What I remember was a genderless shapeshifter (used a nonbinary pronoun like Xe or Ze, but I don't remember exactly what) that needed to ingest the DNA of something to shapeshift into it. A giant naked ogre kept showing up and killing the residents, so the government (?) asked the shapeshifter to use a particularly powerful creature's DNA to kill the ogre.

The creature could teleport across dimensions and dragged the ogre through a bunch of worlds and killed one of the really, really inbred rulers. In the end, it turns out that the ogre was a man dreaming about being an ogre and killing people. The shapeshifter puked up the DNA because the government laced it with stuff to make them puke, so they couldn't keep that powerful of a form.

The main character also had a companion that helped them, and liked sleeping on piles of furs and cloths because they liked the way the different textures felt. I know the author had a website with mention of wanting to make more stories.

Thanks!

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  • Wait, was the shapeshifter part of the dream, or was the dreaming man manifesting an ogre in real life somehow?
    – Paul
    Sep 16, 2015 at 20:00
  • The dreaming man was manifesting an ogre into a different universe more or less, which was the one the shapeshifter lived in.
    – Draayder
    Sep 16, 2015 at 20:16
  • While this is definitely not it, Alfred Bester has some parallels in his novel Golem 100 (golem to the power 100), which reminds me of this. The plot sounds a bit Bester-like. Might possibly one of his short stories.
    – Gnudiff
    Oct 23, 2017 at 7:32

1 Answer 1

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I can't remember what email I used to create my old account, but to finally resolve this question: the short story was Dream Engine by Tim Pratt.

I read it in Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show anthology. The pronouns were zie/zir, so I was close haha.

You can read the full story here.

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