I'm trying to remember a short story about a mind reading predator of humans on a planet other than Earth. When his telepathy proves nobody believes in him, he ceases to exist.

It was in a collection of other stories. I read the book (maybe 200 pages total) in the early 80's.

  • Why was his existence predicated on the belief of others? – Valorum May 17 '16 at 22:44
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    @Richard I believe he when he read their minds, he believed what the humans believed and thought himself out of existance. – Major Stackings May 17 '16 at 22:50
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    lol. If you guys ask me enough questions, I'll probably remember what the story was called before you can answer. – Major Stackings May 17 '16 at 23:33
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    .... and thirty seconds later: it's The Nonesuch, by Larry Niven (though details seem to be elusive, and I've not got time to add a decent answer right now, so if anyone else wants to do the honours....) news.larryniven.net/biblio/display.asp?key=97 – andrewsi May 18 '16 at 0:51
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    @MajorStackings If you are the top user of the story-id tag, WHY DO WE HAVE TO ASK YOU ALL THESE QUESTIONS?? Maybe you should read this. :-) – user14111 May 18 '16 at 2:12

When people have correctly identified the story in comments there is a perverse incentive not to actually answer, for fear of appearing to be a purloiner of reputation that properly belongs to others.

But since the original questioner presumably still does want an answer, and because I genuinely did know this one as soon as I looked at the heading, here it is:

The story is "The Nonesuch" by Larry Niven, which appears in his short story collection Convergent Series.

From memory, it starts with a paragraph or two of backstory saying that a human colony on another planet had appeared to be doomed. A deadly, invisible predator killed one or two members of every party that ventured out of their base, and a colony cannot go on forever cowering behind barricades. Then, it says without elaboration, "a solution was found". The rest of the story describes in a much lighter vein how that solution worked in practice.

The story then jumps forward a decade or two. The next scene opens with a teenage girl walking out in the countryside of this planet going to visit someone. Evidently the colonists can now go for walks in the countryside. The viewpoint switches to that of the intelligent (but not very) telepathic predator who spies this juicy morsel. It attacks. The girl sees it coming towards her for a moment - I think it is described as looking like an ugly but somehow vaguely comic parody of a human yokel - then she shakes her head in disbelief and laughs at herself. For a moment something or other had looked like that old wives' tale of "the Nonesuch" but everyone knows they don't exist.

The poor old predator had been zapped into temporary nonexistence by telepathic feedback. The effect wore off after a while, but it decided not to attack any more humans.

  • +1 I looked up the story and read it after andrewsi named it in his comment. You remember it well, or at least your memory matches mine from 10 hours ago. – user14111 May 18 '16 at 11:31
  • Thanks! I remembered the story well because of its entertaining semi-joking premise, but also because I did wonder about the practicalities of putting their solution into practice. Presumably it had been discovered by accident but it would have required great acting skills to raise your children to think the Nonesuches don't exist when these same predators had killed some of your friends, and great faith in your solution to gamble your children's lives on its efficacy. Presumably the first generation of colonists never could leave their base. Yes, I know I am taking this waaay too seriously. – Lostinfrance May 18 '16 at 11:44
  • @Lostinfrance They could always get more kids. Smarter. Faster. Stronger. – Major Stackings May 19 '16 at 1:54
  • @Lostinfrance - Thanks for writing up a much better answer than I suspect I could have managed! There doesn't seem to be much information online about it, and my memory is much too vague about the actual details. – andrewsi May 19 '16 at 13:21

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