The story involves a number of high-powered espers / telekenetics / etc., all having decided to leave Earth to start their own world.

One way or another, they acquire a spaceship, and take off, only to encounter some much more evolved beings in space who point out that the same thing happened in their culture many centuries ago, and take them to a planet to view the results. The planet the go to has bunches of beings that have effectively devolved to little more than animals, to the horror of our Heroes.

While they are talking about the immorality of leaving regular humans behind if that would be what happens to them, they aliens interrupt to explain that what they are seeing is NOT the 'left-behinds', but rather those who left. The psychic powers made things too easy for them, and they never had the drive to discover / invent / etc., that the less gifted did, so their culture quickly reached it's rather low pinnacle and fell. Our heroes decide to go back to Earth.

I wanted to say it was one of Anne McCaffrey's 'Talent' stories, but haven't been able to find it; it was just a short story, as I recall, as well.

Anyone recognize it?

  • 1
    I've encountered this story in an old collection of short stories. Unfortunately, the book that it is in is in storage for a year so I can't be any more precise than that (hence a comment rather than an answer). Moreover, the collection is named something like the "Hugo Gold" collection and so searching for it on the internet is tricky. I think it was in collection 3 or 4. Aug 6, 2012 at 13:46

1 Answer 1


Found it. It's in the Third Galaxy Reader (amazon link) edited by H.L. Gold. The story is the Limiting Factor and it is by Theodore Cogswell.

(I'm 90% sure that's the one but I've yet to find a description of the story to be absolutely sure since, as I said in my comment, the book itself is currently in storage. But if it's not in that book then it's in the Fourth Galaxy Reader as those are the only two books of that series that I have and it is definitely in one of them.)

Your description is exactly as I remember the story save in one detail: there's only one alien.

  • Bingo! Found a scanned copy online and was able to verify it. Many thanks!
    – K-H-W
    Aug 6, 2012 at 15:00

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