The short story is about humans turning up on an alien world to mine/settle/whatever and the culture of the aliens is such that there is no actual leadership or collectivism or anything like that but rather each walk/live according to their own ways but merely appear to act collectively when a situation arises that provokes the kind of response whereby more of the individuals have the same view.

The aliens are taller than humans and carry a stave/spear as their main tool/weapon/whatever along with a knife (not sure about the knife).

The situation that causes them to gather collectively is the challenge the arriving humans present with their mines or reactors or something like that.

**One of the alien individuals challenges the arrival and establishment of mines or reactors or whatever it was by basically using its stave to dig a hole down to bedrock, embed the spear in it, and working on discovering the resonant frequency of the ground in order to cause earthquakes to destroy the human machinery/settlement/reactors, whatever.

The alien starts to succeed at this but the humans counter by using the mining gear to interfere with the resonant frequency.**

The battle of standing waves goes on for a while, with the collectively gathered alien individuals not interferring or helping either way (ie, a battle between just ONE alien and the humans ... all they do is prevent, by their presence, humans physically attacking the alien doing the resonant frequency thang) and when that alien finally realises it can't win, it throws itself at the main human character and they do the old rough and tumble which results with both of them ending up at the bottom of the hill with the alien dead.

It is assumed by all onlookers (both humans and aliens) that the human defeated the alien in a fair fight and the alien collective of individuals disperses and the humans get on with their settling/mining/whatever.

However, the main human characters knows full well that he didn't actually win the rough and tumble with the main alien but rather that alien chose to basically fall on its own knife during the close quarters fighting. That it chose to see its loss with stopping the humans with its induced earthquakes a reason to let the humans continue with their goals ... that they should be permitted to flourish and the aliens own kind would have to adapt to that or choose to challenge it in their own way.

That it basically chose to check out rather than be part of the new paradigm.

Anyone familiar with the short story and can provide the author/title ?

  • Reminds me of a Gordon Dickson story, I think, but not all the details match. I'll go and find it.
    – user56
    Commented May 3, 2012 at 0:57

1 Answer 1


"The Bleak and Barren Land" by G.R.Dickson. Collected in Ancient, my Enemy

what I remember of it:

The main character is a sort of "colonial rep" from Earth....the aliens have 'adopted' some of the colonists.... and that the problem arises when a new colonist ship comes - filled with people that have nowhere to go. The aliens and their 'adopted' humans don't want them, and at first the colonial rep is against their settlement... but he then changes his mind...


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