Please help if you can... I think this might be the best story I ever read but it has been so long since I first read it. I have thought of it often over the years. I hope that someone out there may have a clue about the author.

It is a short story, unknown author, unknown title.

Known to be published in a series of softcover of Sci-Fi books known as Analog.

Date of publishing probably close to the 1970's, but unsure.

The plot: It begins with an old man telling a war story to a young man who glorifies the days of old, when there were battles to be fought and won. The old man tells a tale about what war is really like.

The pivotal point in the story that moved me emotionally had to do with these creatures called 'nul(l)s' or 'nils'. They were genetic mutations, humans really, but engineered to be slaves. They were supposed to have no intelligence = -unable to see, speak, and perhaps hear. The creature spent their lives in factories toiling as computers of some sort, never seeing the light of day.

I believe the man telling the story did something as he was battling his way through the factories to save one of these 'nils', unhooking it from the machines and wires. Later, the man is fighting out in the harsh conditions of the planet. He lies dying (he thinks) unable to move himself into a place of shelter to escape the harsh and lethal rays of the sun as it rises.

The 'nul' or 'nil' creature (that he assumed was unaware of its surroundings) has made its way after him somehow and saves him by protecting his body from the sun with its own fragile pale skin. When the man regains consciousness he realizes their shared humanity and that this man/creature died an agonizing death to spare him.

Many of the details of this story are missing. I only remember the opening and the ending. Some facts may be misconstrued.

I will love you forever if you can tell me the name of this story!


1 Answer 1


A Special Kind of Morning by Gardner Dozois published in 1971. I read it in the anthology Future War edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois.

The genetically engineered characters are nulls (they don't even get an uppercase name!). The bit where the null saves the narrator is:

I awoke briefly to agony, the world a solid, blank red. Very, very far away, I could hear someone screaming. It was me.

I awoke again. The pain had lessened. I could see. It was day, and the night plants had died. The sun was dazzling on bare rock. The null was standing over me, seeming to stretch up for miles into the sky. I screamed in preternatural terror. The world vanished.


I didn’t die because the null stood over me during the hours when the sun was rising and frying the rocks, and his shadow shielded me from the sun. I’m not saying that he consciously figured that out, deliberately shielded me (though who knows), but I had given him the only warmth he’d known in a long nightmare of pain, and so he remained by me when there was nothing stopping him from running away—and it came to the same result.

  • OH MY GOD!!! Thank you so wonderful, wonderful man. I will love you forever. I can't tell you how excited I am by this discovery. :) You have made my day bright and glorious!
    – GreyGamin
    Jan 22, 2016 at 18:03

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