This short story involves a group of scientists that visit a planet where much of the surface is covered with life forms that are something like hexagonal tiles with insect-like or crab-like legs. The scientists discover they communicate by the way their edges interact with one another.

Eventually, they discover that the planet as a whole is sending out a pulse of energy to a distant part of the galaxy/universe. The story ends with the line something like “This was the first time humans glimpsed the true nature of the universe.” Leading the reader to imagine that the planet as a whole was just possibly one neuron in a huge super brain, etc.

I am fairly sure it was included in an anthology titled something like Far Futures...maybe.

  • 1
    Intriguing. I'd like to read that story. Commented Oct 26, 2018 at 7:50
  • 2
    I'm pretty sure I've read this one. Some additional details that I recall from the same story: 1) Hexagons move in "pulses" every half-second or so. 2) An away team from the ship goes down to the surface but is somehow taken over by the planetary intelligence. 3) Away team returns to the ship briefly for an attempt at discussion, they now move with the same pulse pattern. 4) There is a large sea that is discovered to be hanging in mid-air near the planet surface, for reasons never explained. Do any of these sound familiar?
    – Otis
    Commented Oct 26, 2018 at 13:52
  • Some of this does sound familiar. Do you remember the title and/or author? Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 16:33
  • Michael, no. I was hoping the extra details would assist others to identify it. I will post back if I ever do figure it out, but, in the mean time, you may want to add any of the details you recognize to the question, as this will bring it back to the top of the active queue and may encourage a fresh look. FYI -- I want to say that this was by a relatively well-known author (Silverberg?), but I'm not certain and haven't spotted anything promising. Any hint of the author on your end? Even tidbits like male/female, new/old, first letter of name or synonyms of title words can be useful.
    – Otis
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 14:40
  • Also, it looks like a couple of other people may have recognized the same story based on upvotes to my comment above. if so, perhaps they will chime in with any other details they can recall? Also, if you can recall the approximate year that you read it, you should add that detail to the question.
    – Otis
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 14:42

2 Answers 2


This is "A Dance to Strange Musics" by Gregory Benford. It was published in the anthology Explorers: SF Adventures to Far Horizons, which might be what you're remembering.

There's a brief plot summary on sfsite.com:

While surveying the planet Shiva, the crew of the starship Adventurer discovers a massive lake that appears to be suspended in mid-air. Their investigation leads them to a bizarre race of crab-like polygon-shaped creatures, whose hive-like society defies interpretation. Benford tells this tale with a merciless eye toward his premise and its conclusions. He willfully disregards any attempt at characterization, refusing the reader any comfort derived from likable, sympathetic characters. Here the scientists not only grow embittered by their inability to understand the ecology of Shiva, but become jaded by the existential horror of confronting an alien race that may be as vastly superior to us as we are to amoebas.

The last paragraph of the story matches your description:

This was the first contact humanity had with the true nature of the galaxy. It would not be the last. But the sense of utter and complete diminishment never left the species, in all the strange millennia that rolled on thereafter.


This is at best only a partial match, but I'll mention it in case you've misremembered the story or conflated it with another story. Anyhow, my suggestion is Hallucination by Isaac Asimov. I read it in his anthology Gold.

A young scientist called Sam Chase is sent to a planet (simply called Energy Planet in the story) to investigate hallucinations being experienced by staff on the planet. He finds insect like creatures that are hexagonal as you describe:

One of them landed on his finger and Sam looked at it curiously. It was very small and, therefore, hard to see in detail, but it seemed hexagonal, bulging above and concave below. There were many short, small legs so that when it moved it almost seemed to do so on tiny wheels. There were no signs of wings till it suddenly took off, and then four tiny, feathery objects unfurled.

Sam discovers the insects link together as you describe to form a hive mind:

“Not an individual insect by itself, but they fit together when they want to, like little jigsaw pieces. They can do it in any way they want. And when they do, their nervous systems fit together, too, and build up. A lot of them together are intelligent."

But the planet is not sending out pulses of energy. It's called energy planet because it is in orbit around a neutron star and humans wish to use it to generate energy. This would destroy the insects' hive mind hence the insects are generating the hallucinations in an attempt to communicate with humans.

The stort also does not end with a quote of the type you describe and there is no suggestion that the planet is part of any galactic mind.

  • Thanks! That is not the story I am trying to remember but I’m definitely going to read it! It sounds very good! Commented Oct 26, 2018 at 13:05

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