There was a story about a space traveler who ran out of fuel and got stranded on a strange planet. The fuel he needed was a roll of copper wire, which he eventually took from the laboratory of an indeterminate living being who created other beautiful life forms.

As our mythical spaceman escaped, the "creator" went to the equivalent of a file cabinet and noted something on the order of "... the experiment on sol 3 was moderately successful...".

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    Related: In the Skylark stories by E.E. "Doc" Smith, ships are fueled by copper mixed with element "X": en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Skylark_of_Space. Definitely not the same story: In that series, Dick Seaton discovers the use of element x, designs a spaceship, but is unable to complete it before his rival Marc Duquesne builds his own ship from stolen designs, kidnaps Seaton's girlfriend and accidentally launches into deep space, where Seaton shortly follows. Though they eventually get stranded and seek help from aliens... Jan 15, 2018 at 19:20

1 Answer 1


This is "Hobbyist" (1947) by Eric Frank Russell, as per Need to identitify a short story about an astronaut stranded alone on a planet that houses a strange museum.

Within ten minutes he'd found a great coil of the coppery metal, a huge ovoid, intricately wound, lying beside a disassembled machine... ...His hands were trembling slightly but his hawklike face was firm, phlegmatic as he carefully threaded the wire's end through the automatic injector and into the feed hole of the Kingston-Kanes.

It's available on the Internet Archive.

From there, I verified that you remembered the ending correctly:

Down on Oron, deep in the monster workshop, the golden giant paused blindly as if listening. Then it slid stealthily along the immense aisles, reached the filing system. A compartment opened, two glassy plates came out.

For a moment the plates contacted the Oron's strange, sparkling substance, became etched with an array of tiny dots. They were returned to the compartment, and the door closed. The golden glory with its imprisoned stars then glided quietly back to the machine section.

Something nearer to the gods had scribbled its notes. Nothing lower in the scale of life could have translated them or deduced their full purport.

In simplest sense, one plate may have been inscribed, "Biped, erect, pink, homo intelligens type P.739, planted on Sol III, Condensation Arm BDB — moderately successful."

Similarly, the other plate may have recorded, "Flapwing, large, hook-beaked, vari-colored, periquito macao type K.8, planted on Sol III, Condensation Arm BDB — moderately successful."

But already the sparkling hobbyist had forgotten his passing notes. He was breathing his essence upon a jeweled moth.

  • I just happened to remember this one being answered before. :)
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jan 15, 2018 at 18:37

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