As the title says, this would have been pre-1990. A short story in which a space probe from Earth, presumably NASA, lands on a world like Titan and is found by a female member of the local species. I seem to recall some back and forth with her curiously examining the probe and the Earth control crew curiously examining her, and ultimately the probe is enlisted to help her oppose what I think was her sister who was some sort of tyrant? I also seem to recall that the probe had some sort of powerful electric defense mechanism that came into play.

  • Welcome to SFF! Can you take a look at this guide and edit in anything else you may remember?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Jun 26, 2018 at 21:07
  • In what way was the planet "like Titan"? Was it a moon of a gas giant planet in our solar system? Is the local species humanoid?
    – user14111
    Jun 26, 2018 at 21:14
  • Did you read the story in a hardcover or paperback anthology, or was it in a magazine such as Analog or Asimov's?
    – user14111
    Jun 26, 2018 at 21:16
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    I said it was 'like Titan' because something in the vague back corners of my memory keeps making me think of Titan when I think of the setting, even though I can't remember a specific indicator. Just an impression that it may have been a moon with an environment toxic to humans but relatively precipitous, and the local species may have been some variety of amphibian. The impressions were vague enough that I feared including them might just confuse the matter. This is reeeeaaally pushing the envelope of recollection.
    – Chris
    Jun 26, 2018 at 21:22
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    Also, this would have been in an anthology book at the local library, either public or university where I spent a lot of afternoons in my adolescence devouring sci-fi short fiction. I can't recall if it was hardcover or paperback, but it was definitely not a magazine.
    – Chris
    Jun 26, 2018 at 21:25

1 Answer 1


This is Eyes of Amber by Joan D. Vinge.

As you say, it takes place on Titan. The indigenous person finds a space probe from Earth and uses it as a sort of totem. The indigenous person can communicate with the scientists from Earth using the probe.

It got the cover for its magazine appearance. It's actually the probe's camera that has the "amber eyes" which makes me wonder how closely the artist read the story. The indigenous person does have wings though, so the artist got that right.

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It also won the Hugo Award, so it was in the Hugo anthologies that used to come out back then. It was also in at least one of the "year's best" anthologies, which is where I first read it.

The society on Titan is similar to Earth's medieval time period. The indigenous person is involved in a struggle for position that she was unfairly removed from.

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