The protagonist was working on an alien world where the natives lived only a matter of days, but despite the inevitable tragedy she allowed herself to enter into a relationship with one.

I seem to recall the aliens worked around the problem of their ephemeral lifetime by somehow each transferring all their knowledge to their offspring, perhaps as part of their death process.

It was likely a short story that I read between 1980 and 1995 in New Zealand (in English).


"Petals of Rose" (1981), by Marc Stiegler

The short-lived aliens' lifecycle is as you described, with biochemical transfer of learned skills (but not of full identities) to future generations. Several close inter-species relationships develop, always ending in sorrow as the humans outlive their alien friends. To these aliens, human lifespans are comparable to historical eras, and for a time the aliens are violently jealous of humans.

The story ends with a twist:

Humans are similarly short-lived compared to a third species that hoped the events of this story would moderate humans' own violent jealousy.

"Petals of Rose" is included in Aliens from Analog (1983). You can borrow this ebook from the Internet Archive.

  • Thanks! I've borrowed it to verify. BTW, it might be worth using the spoiler markdown for that ending note. May 8 '19 at 1:57
  • 1
    @NickWestgate - Okay, I've put that part in a spoiler block. It's kind of a side issue to the main story — relevant, and neat, but not really part of the main plot — so I think that reading it won't get in the way of enjoying the rest of the story.
    – Gaultheria
    May 8 '19 at 2:12
  • Confirmed, and many thanks. It was lovely to read this clever story again, even though what I remembered was so incidental to the main plot. It really is a nice piece; such original and interesting ideas worked into a surprisingly compelling whole for "just" a novella. May 12 '19 at 9:26

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