I'm almost certain this is a Larry Niven short-story but I don't know how to identify it.

It's set in the equivalent of a NASA project station and they are receiving the telemetry from an interstellar probe as it encounters a star and contact is about to fade as the probe goes around the far side of the star. The alien in the audience apologetically explains that telemetry won't resume because they shot and destroyed the probe.

The alien explains that his race is deeply impressed by the humans' ability to create technology that can still work after the journey but the humans are depressed because the alien used ftl technology to easily achieve what was a monumental project for humans.


You're right, it's by Niven. It's called "Like Banquo's Ghost", referring to how the alien is the proverbial ghost at the feast.

Your summary is spot-on, it was probably just hard to locate the story because of the Shakespearian title.

  • I was wrong about only one thing, the aliens shot the probe down when it was at perihelion of the planet, not the star. Thanks for the identification. – Haydon Berrow Mar 9 '18 at 12:31
  • 1
    I couldn't remember the title either - I just remembered it was in "Convergent Series" and looked in there. – Organic Marble Mar 9 '18 at 12:36

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.