This was a short story, written in English. I read it in a hardback anthology I checked out from a library in Indiana no later than 1986 (and I suspect it was a couple of years earlier). I think the stories in that book were each by a different author, but I don't remember what any of the other stories were about. I remember this one's plot fairly well, so let me describe what has stuck in my head all these years.

Plot Points

  1. The main viewpoint character is a military officer in some sort of interstellar organization. I am thinking that it may have been stated or implied to be something along the lines of "the military arm of the government which controls all of the worlds colonized by humans," but I don't swear to that.

  2. The main problem is the behavior of another, junior officer. Or serviceman, at any rate — I'm not absolutely sure about the "commissioned officer" part — but just for the sake of argument, let's call this youngster "the Ensign." (Since I have no inkling of what his name was, and I'm only guessing at his rank.)

  3. "The Ensign" has, in an odd sort of way, become emotionally involved with a native female in the city where certain human military personnel are stationed. Now he wants to resign from the military and stay here with this female for the rest of his life. His superiors are opposed to this plan, and think it's a terrible idea, but they recognize that he has the legal right to go through with it if he insists. (Perhaps his term of enlistment is about to expire, or some such thing, and he is not legally required to re-enlist if he doesn't want to?)

  4. At first glance, that sounds like the sort of thing which has happened many, many times in Earth's own history, with a soldier from one culture becoming enamored of a young woman from a different racial and cultural background (often one viewed as "inferior" by the great power which has stationed troops in that exotic locale), but there are some unusual aspects in this case. The local female is a member of a truly alien race which does not closely resemble humanity. (In other words, she couldn't easily be played in a movie by a beautiful human actress who had simply tinted her skin green, or anything along those lines.) And the activities tied to the "emotional attachment" do not include anything of a blatantly sexual nature. Instead, as the viewpoint character discovers when he visits the home of this female to see what is going on between her and the Ensign, she somehow makes the Ensign feel very good about himself by doing something which I can't clearly recall, but I think it resembled hugging him. Perhaps wrapping her limbs (arms, tentacles, or whatever) around his body? Perhaps his entire body went into a pouch or something in her body and then just lay there, motionless, for a few hours? I have the strong impression that this alien female, in addition to not looking human in her general shape, was a great deal larger than the Ensign was, so whatever happened probably was more like "an adult holding a small child" than anything else.

  5. The viewpoint character is disgusted by what he has seen, and feels it necessary to save the Ensign from himself. (And/or prevent an embarassment for their military service -- I'm not sure which motive is dominant; it could all fit together neatly in his head.) So he pulls strings and arranges for their futuristic version of mental health professionals to get the bottom of this. In some way, they are able to insist upon crawling through the Ensign's childhood memories -- possibly with the help of hypnotic drugs or mechanical aids -- and find the ancient trauma which makes him so susceptible to this alien female. In the best Freudian tradition, it all turns out to have something to do with the Ensign not getting enough affection from his mother when he was just a little boy. (I don't remember the details of what his mother had done wrong, or had failed to do right, but it was quite sad.)

  6. The protagonist is able to insist that the relevant memories be re-awakened in the Ensign's mind so that he now vividly remembers some things he had largely suppressed from his formative years. The protagonist's plan is for the Ensign, as a grown man, to consciously realize that his fascination with the alien female is rooted in deep-seated mother issues. This should cause the Ensign to realize he doesn't really need or want the alien female's comfort; it's only a long-after-the-fact substitute for what he was denied as a child.

  7. I think the plan only half-works. The Ensign, after being compelled to remember the aforementioned trauma, agrees that he no longer feels as intensely about the alien female as he did before. But this does not mean that he suddenly feels happy about the military outfit he has been serving, nor the way it rummaged around in his mind to stir up painful old memories, and he still has no intention of spending a long career in uniform. I can't recall if he's still planning to quit the service right here on this planet, or if he figures he'll wait a little longer (such as, after he's back in human space where most people will be of his own species when he settles down as a civilian.)

All in all, it was a rather depressing tale. But, as you can see, the general outline of it stuck with me, and I find myself curious about who wrote it, and whether or not it was part of a larger series describing a certain futuristic human culture, and so forth. Does anyone think this sounds extremely familiar?

  • I remember the story. I'm pretty sure it was a standalone story although I also read it in a collection. I remember the alien as bovine, but I might be misremembering.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 1:29
  • Bears some similarities to James Tiptree Jr's '"And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill's Side"- possibly not an exact match but worth a look. Commented May 2, 2018 at 10:52
  • @FuzzyBoots Probably the same story, then. I can't remember if the female alien was compared to any particular terrestrial lifeform; I only have a vague impression that she was much bigger than the Ensign, and not at all shaped like a woman. I doubt the protagonist of that story starred in any others, but the tale might still be part of a series of loosely connected stories all exploring one possible future. (Similar to the way Heinlein's "Future History" didn't just use the same few characters over and over as the stars of the show.)
    – Lorendiac
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 22:30
  • 1
    @TheAurochs I found a copy of that Tiptree story online. Definitely not the one I was remembering. Although I suppose it's at least possible that Tiptree also could have written that one. Come to think of it, I've never really gotten into Tiptree's work; never bought any of her story collections. I just remember "The Screwfly Solution" and "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?" and maybe one or two others that have been anthologized elsewhere.
    – Lorendiac
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 22:33
  • I know for darn sure I've read this story - I thought it might be by Theodore Sturgeon, but if so I can't recall the title. I'll look around.
    – Viergacht
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 1:58

2 Answers 2


One-Way Journey by Robert Silverberg

Google-translated summary from the French Wikipedia article:

The land expedition that has just landed on the planet Kollidor is led by Commander Leon Warshow.

But this one has a "problem of human resource": one of his men, the Falk astronaut, decided to resign and stay on the planet to live with an autochthonous extraterrestrial named Thetona which he is, he says, fallen in love .

The commander has a discussion with Falk, who explains his motives and says nothing and no one will change his mind.

Then the commander, after this interview, decides to meet Thetona outside the presence of Falk. He chats with her and learns that she met him while Falk, in the street, cried like a child and seemed very unhappy.

Finding this weird, the commander summons Falk again and orders the ship's doctor to drug him so that Falk's unconscious can be analyzed.

We learn then that Falk was an orphan and that he was raised since his childhood by an uncle who did not love him. He entered the body of astronauts young, and he always sought the love of his mother. When he met Thetona, he was in emotional distress, and Thetona psychically replaced the absent mother. So he did not really fall in love with the Kollidorienne but found in her a maternal substitute he had been looking for since childhood.

Thetona is searched and appears in front of the commander, while Falk is awake and purged of the poisonous product. They are then presented with the video recording that was done. Falk discovers then the truth about his unconscious and the fact that Thetona represented a maternal substitute.

Particularly shaken, Falk announces to Thetona that he will not stay with her and that he will return to Earth with the other members of the ship.

In a brutal tone, Falk told the captain that even though he had psychic problems with Kollidorian, he was ultimately happy with the condition and did not know why he was happy. Now, by his investigation operation of his unconscious, the commander "screwed up all this, irreparably".

Thetona returns home alone, infinitely sad.

  • I'm pretty sure that's the one I remember. Good work!
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 13:34
  • 1
    That sounds like it, all right! I just "Accepted" your answer, and then learned I still need to wait an hour before I can give you the bounty. Funny thing: I now believe that the story-id question I most recently posted on this site was, in fact, another Silverberg story in the same book -- World of a Thousand Colors. Apparently I remembered the plots of both stories pretty well (even if they popped into my head at different times), but did not remember they were in a single-author story collection instead of a typical anthology.
    – Lorendiac
    Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 23:10
  • There are serious issues with either this summary or the translation; "Thetona is searched" is simply wrong; she is asked to attend them on the ship. The "poisonous product" must refer to Falk's neurosis and delusion, but it's a poor word choice for English. "Unconscious" should be "subconscious." And so on; to correct this would be to largely rewrite it.
    – DavidW
    Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 13:22
  • @davidw it's a Google translation, I believe it cannot be expected to be 100% accurate. I'm not that familiar with the story or French to attempt to correct it, feel free to do so, if you wish.
    – Ayshe
    Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 18:36

Thanks to my other question spawned by Ayshe's answer, thank you, by the way.

We can now also pin down the alien appearance thanks to this archive link of the story from @user14111:

the sphincter-like mouth rippled

pungent rankness of concentrated Kollidorian odor assaulted his olfactories

her skin was drab and thick, looking more like hide than skin;

her charms scarcely seemed likely to arouse much desire in a normal Earthman.

This answer is intended as a supplement so we have the full information on the details asked.

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