A friend recently described a science fiction short story on one of our walks. The story was about an army on a toxic planet killing what they thought were monsters. However the helmets they wore displayed humanoids as monsters. They were tricked because it was easier to kill a monster than a creature similar to a human.

Would anyone know the name of this short story? My friend over the years has forgotten the title.

  • It's giving me horrid flashbacks, but this is remarkably similar to one of the "pseudo-video" backgrounds in Lips, a Karaoke game for the Xbox. Two cartoonish armies battle each other in (I'm guessing) Scotland; only through an accident (two opposing creatures swap helmets after a melee knocks their's both off) do we find that what the demons they saw through their own helmets are transformed to magical rainbow-unicorn avatars through the opposing team's helmets. – gowenfawr Dec 15 '16 at 3:31
  • It also shows up as a theme in Haze. – FuzzyBoots Dec 15 '16 at 15:52
  • The general idea is also used in the movie The Fifth Wave. – Joe L. Dec 15 '16 at 16:10
  • Too recent, but this is similar to the plot to the Black Mirror episode, "Men Against Fire", which was recently-ish released on Netflix. – indigochild Jan 13 '17 at 2:49

Check out The Liberators by Scott William Carter. It's about a soldier slowly discovering that the environment suits he and his men wear are being used to trick them into conquering worlds that they believe they're liberating.

At first I thought that the 'toxic planet' part wasn't in there, but when I re-read it there is indeed a segment where soldiers are told to keep their suits sealed at all times because of a toxic hazard. It seems to fit your description perfectly.

  • Hey Werrf, thanks for the lead. I emailed my friend and he said the story was older than 2004, however I will try to read The Liberators and find out. Thanks again – Filbert Dec 16 '16 at 5:46

It sounds very similar to the episode Hearts and Minds of the 4th season of the outer limits however I cant find if the episode in question is based on a short story or not.

  • By coincidence I watched that episode yesterday. In that case it was drugs, not special helmets, but it's very similar... – Valorum Dec 15 '16 at 19:06

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