Can somebody name a short story about a small group of human explorers in the Saturnian system that find an ice statue of an alien?

The statue is taller than a human, has wings, tall thin legs, long thin arms, and is facing Saturn. (Saturn never moves from its position in the sky because the moon is tidally locked with it.) It was built by an alien who visited (was stranded?) on the moon tens of thousands of years ago. The human explorers also find claw prints in the snow on Iapetus from when the alien walked around the moon. The claw prints form a several kilometers wide circle around the statue.

One of the humans imagines the alien was stranded alone on the moon and made a statue of itself to tell any later visitors about its loneliness.

The story was published in the early 1980's.

1 Answer 1


Possibly the (1983) short story "Melville on Iapetus" by Jack McDevitt. Later expanded into the novel "The Engines of God".

  • Close, but The Engines of God is not a short story. It counts over 400 pages, while the story I read is just a few pages long. And The Engines of God was published in the 1990's, but the one I am trying to remember was published a decade before that.
    – RichS
    Apr 10, 2017 at 3:36
  • Think it was based on a 1983 short story "Mellville on Iapetus", sound closer? Apr 10, 2017 at 3:41
  • There are 4 stories about humans finding alien artifacts on Iapetus. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Iapetus_(moon)_in_fiction Makes me wonder why fictional aliens like that little moon.
    – RichS
    Apr 10, 2017 at 3:43
  • Melville on Iapetus sounds like it. I can't +1 or approve this answer based on a comment. If you want credit for it, you'd have to make a separate answer.
    – RichS
    Apr 10, 2017 at 3:45
  • Thanks for the edit @Gallifreyan. Answered last night on a horrible device, was just coming by to fix it up. Apr 10, 2017 at 13:52

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