Early 70s Sci-Fi book, I believe it was 2 humans (man and woman) on an alien planet... (I don't think they were stranded, I think they were there to explore.) There may have been a few more people with them. But I mostly recall just the two.

I believe the man was doing something and to keep the woman from distracting him or disturbing him while he was doing it, Taught her about Conway's solitaire game "life"

This "game" had just been described in Scientific American magazine (October 1970 issue) So the story must have come out withing a year or two of that.

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I recall the each chapters had an image of different small "Life" patterns, with more complex pattern as the chapters progressed.

So while she is "learning" and "exploring" the aspects of the "Life" game, we the readers are getting a thorough intro to the game also. Pretty sure there were many images similar to the ones above showing the patterns and permutations as she learns how the "game" can progress. Mostly simple ones that either die or become stable in a few generations.

I think the man discovers they are being spied on, (either by aliens, or the other humans on the exploration team with them) who want to obstruct their mission.

So the man takes the woman to a pool of water, (Swimming pool? Pond? creak? Lake?) and they start having sex. WHILE doing so, they start communicating through Morse code, by him "throbbing" his "member" to inside her, and her replying by "clenching" back on his "member" while its inside her.

Its possible I might be me confusing 2 stories in the same series (i.e. the "Life" game was in 1st book and the Morse Code was in the second book in series.) But I am sure they are linked. (Same book or same series)

Link to a text version of the article in Scientific American


2 Answers 2


This is a bit of a two-fer. Martin is right that Piers Anthony's OX features Conway's Game of Life.

She looked at him suspiciously. "You mean this has been done before?"
"This is a once-popular game invented by a mathematician, John Conway, back in 1970. He called it 'Life.' I have often whiled away dull hours working out atypical configurations."

However, it is Anthony's Biography of a Space Tyrant that has the morse code sex:

It does have a hilarious scene where a couple having sex communicates secretly by twitching their genitals in Morse code... for pages and pages. But I don't think it was intended as hilarious by the author.

Looking through my PDFs, it might be book 3 that they're referring to where there's a lengthy segment with the protagonist communicating truth or falsehood through squeezes that grow more amorous. Codes in general are a theme in that volume, although they don't specifically mention Morse code.

  • 2
    I checked and OX is the book I was looking for with Conway's "Life" game. Doing a quick skim of the other 2 books in that series I did not find the sex communications. Skimming Bio of a Space Tyrant #3 I did find that portion and its close enough to what I remember reading it 30+ years ago, that I am sure I was just mixing the 2 up. And since they are both by Piers Anthony, I am sure I read them both around the same time and confused them.
    – NJohnny
    Jul 20, 2019 at 17:54

The Life game you describe was used in Piers Anthony's novel Ox, and as you mention various patterns appear in chapter headings

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