The story goes more or less like this:

A spaceship arrives in the solar system and a small crew of astronauts is sent to investigate. Inside, they find something that resembles a flower. All of the astronauts except for the protagonist are overcome with temptation and rush to touch the flower as soon as they see it. The astronauts that touch the flower become passive and lethargic to the point where they lose the will to live and they eventually perish because they don't care about eating, drinking or anything else anymore.

The protagonist manages to barely resist the overwhelming temptation to touch the flower, and eventually comes to the conclusion that the whole point of humanity (and its evolution) was to evolve and reach the point of being able to come touch the flower and fertilize it. Now that it is done, humanity's purpose is fulfilled and there is no point in anything else.

The story was supposedly written by a woman (whose name I can't remember) who later took both her own life and that of her disabled husband's, though I am not entirely sure whether this is true.

1 Answer 1


That’s “A Momentary Taste of Being” (see also) by ”James Tiptree Jr” (a pseudonym for Alice Sheldon, whose death was as you describe).

Overcrowded Earth sends out an expedition searching for a habitable planet. They discover one but are uncertain if they should send back a green or a red signal which determines if a fleet of colonists would be sent out. But the aliens they found are in fact the "eggs" which the human "sperm" must fertilize, a momentary taste that forms "some kind of holy … zygote" which has a "ghostly life among the stars". What happens to humanity after that remains unsure but the last remaining crew member, psychiatrist Dr. Aaron Kaye, speculates that it will be drained of all purpose: "We’re left … empty … What happens to a sperm’s tail … afterwards?"

  • The last paragraph of the question was the obvious clue. Well sleuthed!
    – a4android
    Commented Oct 22, 2017 at 3:00

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