In the story, the flatulence from the alien's sphincter is an integral part of its language (it used both orifices to communicate, and the noises it made with either orifice were incomprensible without the context of the noises made by the other).

The humans (or human) attempting to establish communication with it don't understand this, and dismiss any noises that don't issue from its mouth (or the orifice in its head) as irrelevant when trying to learn its language. This leads them to doubt its species is even sentient (iirc it may not have had clothes or tools they recognized as such either which would also have been part of it).

It may have been a short story rather than a novel.

I think I recall reading it either in the 90's or 80's (it most certainly wasn't written in the 00's).

It was definitely set on an alien planet rather than on earth.

I've a vague idea there might have been birds with four wings on the planet it was set in.

It may have been written at least in part from the aliens perspective.

Does anyone have any idea what the story I'm trying to remember is?

  • I would swear we've had this one before...
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Dec 8, 2018 at 0:09
  • @FuzzyBoots : If you can remember where point me at it.
    – Pelinore
    Commented Dec 8, 2018 at 0:10
  • 2
    @FuzzyBoots were you thinking of La Soupe aux Choux? OP - any chance you read that in French? As far as I know the movie is based on a novel which wasn't translated.
    – Jenayah
    Commented Dec 8, 2018 at 0:13
  • That was another one that came to mind.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Dec 8, 2018 at 0:16
  • ^ @FuzzyBoots if you were thinking of La Soupe aux Choux I found that that one on my initial spin through the site & it's definately not that.
    – Pelinore
    Commented Dec 8, 2018 at 0:17

3 Answers 3


Probably not the right one, but Kurt Vonnegut's "The Dancing Fool" from "Breakfast of Champions" has an alien that communicates with flatulence.

A flying saucer creature named Zog arrived on Earth to explain how wars could be prevented and how cancer could be cured. He brought the information from Margo, a planet where the natives conversed by means of farts and tap dancing.

Zog landed at night in Connectitut. He had no sooner touched down than he saw a house on fire. He rushed into the house, farting and tap dancing, warning the people about the terrible danger they were in. The head of the house brained Zog with a golf club.

  • nope it was set on an alien planet & the alien was being held in a pen or some such so not that one.
    – Pelinore
    Commented Dec 8, 2018 at 0:19
  • 1
    This also flew into my mind immediately when I read the part 'communicates with farts'. I never thought any sane person would ever use this concept in a 'real' story...! Commented Jan 28, 2020 at 19:56

Since you mention four-winged birds, this might be very well be Brian Aldiss' "The Dark Light Years" (1964).

The ammp trees were evergreen, unlike the rest of the trees in Ainson's enclosure. Resting in the foliage on the crest of them were big four-winged white birds, which decided to take off as Ainson looked at them, fluttering up like immense butter-flies and splashing their shadows across the house as they passed.

The alien Udot are indeed described (if only at one occasion) as communicating with fart noises.

Brebner glanced apologetically at Mrs. Warhoon as he blew a series of damp farts with his mouth, culminating with an open-mouthed groan.

The birds and the farts are somewhat incidental, however. While they are technology advanced, humans have doubts about their intelligence, since they tend to wallow in their own excrement, and because they show no particular emotional responses to traumatic experiences (such as humans killing and dissecting members of the species).

It's not an exact match for your question, but giving that there are some distinctive details that match I think it is a good candidate.

  • Those excerpts are ringing some very loud bells, either this is it or its something else I've read 🤔 or perhaps it's something I've read that's contributed to a composite memory of a book that never was 😁 .. will have to check it out but this sounds promising 👍 the wallowing is ringing a particularly large bell.
    – Pelinore
    Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 10:14

Androids Dream by John Scalzi is what you’re looking for! An amazingly hilarious book.


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