I don't remember many of the details, but I have this recollection of a short story set on another planet with an indigenous floating balloon-like plant species, which is being harvested or farmed by humans. There's a conflict between two characters that results in a large number of the plants being destroyed, possibly by being shot with a shotgun, or set on fire (they may be filled with a flammable gas?).

I think it's at least 15 years old, possibly older. It may have been part of an anthology (not specifically sci-fi) of short stories by "young authors."

2 Answers 2


Something very like this happens in the beginning of the novel Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold.

Some aerial varieties [of radial-shaped insectoid creatures] like gas-filled jellyfishes floated in iridescent clouds above the stream like flocks of delicate soap bubbles, delighting Cordelia's eye.

Later some scavengers are threatening Cordelia and her companions. Some radials float nearby, and she has an idea.

"....What do you think holds those things up?"
"Hadn't thought about it. But of course it would almost have to be--"

And they poke it with a torch.

The radial exploded in a ball of blinding flame that singed her eyebrows, with a great bass whoom and an astonishing stench.

The parts that don't match your description are:
a) it's a novel, not a short story
b) Nobody's farming them, they just appear there

Shards of Honor is copyright 1986, so more than 15 years ago.

  • Some anthologies do contain excerpts from longer works, so this could be fair game. And this does hit a bunch of the right points—but some of that may be due to "living gasbag" being a common trope. I don't think this is the story I remember, though: I'm pretty sure that the plants were tethered and inactive, not mobile or vampiric, and as I recall they were pretty central to the plot rather than being a minor element of the setting. Thanks for the good answer though!
    – Miles
    Feb 16, 2016 at 7:33

This vaguely remind me of the tale "The Howling Bounders" from "The Many World of Magnus Ridolph" by Jack Vance. A long shot but maybe this is it.

See http://www.amazon.com/The-Many-Worlds-Magnus-Ridolph/dp/0879975318

  • Hmm, the story does hit a number of the points, but I'm pretty sure about the floating balloons which this story lacks. It does make me think that I should check out more Jack Vance, though! Thanks for the answer!
    – Miles
    Feb 16, 2016 at 7:12

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