I vaguely but persistently recall a short story that I read while growing up about a group of people who try to stop a powerful alien consciousness from attacking Earth by forming some sort of group telepathy session and threatening it. Other details I recall:

  • It didn't go well -- the alien figured out how to trap them, and then.. I dunno. Maybe a cliffhanger? Not sure.
  • Specifically I remember them giving it "60 seconds" to leave, and it realized "if this period of time is meaningful to you, you must be pretty slow-thinking creatures".
  • I think it wasn't a standalone story? Probably one in a series using the same characters?
  • I probably read it in my dad's old copies of Analog (circa 70s).
  • It's one of Spider Robinson's Crosstime Saloon stories; but my google-fu is weak right now. – andrewsi Oct 22 '17 at 1:12
  • if @andrewsi is correct then it would be "Callahan's Legacy" – ivanivan Oct 22 '17 at 3:05
  • I think it might be 'Stardance', also by Robinson. It started as a short story, and was expanded into a book."Shara Drummond was a gifted dancer and a brilliant choreographer, but could not pursue her dream of dancing on the Earth, so she went to space, creating a new art form in three dimensions. Then the aliens arrived, and there was only one way to prove that the human race deserved not just to survive, but to reach the stars. The only hope was Shara, with her stardance." – sueelleker Oct 22 '17 at 8:10

This could well be "The Mick of Time" by Spider Robinson. It was first published in Analog, May 1986 and subsequently anthologized in Callahan's Secret.

It's not a perfect fit, it's about a decade later than your guess, but the crowd at Callahan's form a group mind to meet and fight off Mickey Finn's alien master who has come to Earth to reclaim him.

The risk was horrible. A Master is not defended as well as a scout either. It was a mad gamble, and The Beast knew it, but it was a pervert and doomed. Desperate and raging, it had followed the trail of Txffu Mpwfs across the big empty spaces to the place where he was known as Mickey Finn, hoping to find some terror weapon it could use to avenge itself, and found a bunch of barflies, a few time traveling Micks, two telepathic psychiatrists and a talking dog. Callahan's Bar on New Year's Eve.

They do bluff it with a time limit:

This time period (*) is a second, we bellowed calmly. You have thirty of them in which to bargain for your life.

But the Beast thinks much faster than they do, and has out-planned and overpowered them:

In the instant of opening communication we had told The Beast the rate at which we processed information-by establishing a second as a significant interval for us-and it had been outthinking us ever since. It had had plenty of time to spot Paul stumbling around in the back of its brain, without alerting him. It had learned a great deal about telepathy from him, and then had hidden in his pocket, as it were, and been brought back home by him. His databroadcast had opened us all up, allowed The Beast to access our files and study us. Our cover was blown sky-high. Jim and Paul MacDonald were effectively dead, their minds torn out, their personalities annihilated, their bodies and brains kept alive to serve The Beast as a telepathic transceiver.

I was caught. Swallowed by The Beast. Damn it, it was just like being swallowed by a Beast, the size of the one that got Pinocchio. My surroundings went away, my telepathic companions went away, my eyes and my mind found black nothingness in all directions-I tried to cast around with my arms and discovered that I could not find my body anymore. The audible screams, including my own, were now inaudible; so were the mental ones. There was just the Master and me. All my strings were cut.

It's not a cliffhanger ending though, Mike Callahan time travels out of the Beast's reach, frees the others and they nuke it.

And of course this is part of Robinson's Callahan series.

  • Yes! This all lines up with my vague memories. Thanks! – Plutor Sep 4 '20 at 0:53

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