I remember reading about a story in which an interstellar civilisation has a tradition where the citizens of each planet come up with elaborate and absurd hoaxes to trick new arrivals to their planet, as a form of good-natured fun. However, I haven't read the story itself.

I thought it might be from Banks' Culture series, as it feels similar in whimsy. However, I haven't been able to find any mention of this online. I also thought I might have read about it in a review of Lockstep by Schroeder, but again it isn't mentioned in any of the reviews I've found online.

I think this was part of a novel rather than a short story, but I'm not sure. I believe I read about it perhaps 3 years ago.

  • Thank you very much, Sir! I've read the same story, but can't remember the title. I'll have to wait for the answer, too :-) I'm quite sure that it is not from the Culture series. Aug 31, 2019 at 9:44
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    I can think of several stories where the viewpoint character arrives on a certain planet, which has a certain reputation, and gradually reaches the conclusion that some (if not all) of the locals are working very hard to give him a false impression of how things really work in their society. But I'm drawing a blank regarding any interstellar civilization in which many different planetary populations each behave this way whenever a stranger arrives on any of their member planets.
    – Lorendiac
    Aug 31, 2019 at 13:10
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    This screams Jack Vance to me, but I'm at a loss as to whether it actually happens in one of his stories or not.
    – Spencer
    Aug 31, 2019 at 15:03
  • @PM2Ring You probably have enough for an answer.
    – Spencer
    Sep 1, 2019 at 15:50

1 Answer 1


There's a bit of that happening in Greg Egan's novel Schild's Ladder, but it's only a very minor aspect of the story, not an essential plot element.

In this hard sci-fi novel, set many centuries in the future, human culture has spread over a large portion of the galaxy. There is no FTL travel. Most interstellar travel is done by transmitting people's software at lightspeed, which is uploaded into organic or robotic bodies at the destination.

But there are travelling societies who strongly disapprove of mind uploading and related technology. They live in generation ships, with a conservative culture and are mostly disconnected from general galactic culture.

When such ships arrive at a system the inhabitants of the system amuse themselves by seeing what outrageous lies about their culture they can trick the visitors into believing. They have plenty of time to set up these ruses because the generation ships are relatively slow.

These lies generally play on the conservative attitudes of the generation ship societies, but it's all in good fun. They just want to shock them, not horrify them.

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    "Schild's Ladder" also features a civilization whose members slow their consciousnesses down whenever one of their own leaves on a relativistic voyage, so as to match their subjective time and not get out-of-sync. That seems to match the premise of "Lockstep" which OP also mentioned, so I'm leaning toward this being the correct answer.
    – David
    Sep 1, 2019 at 20:41
  • Ah, ok. Thanks for that info, @David. I haven't read Lockstep.
    – PM 2Ring
    Sep 2, 2019 at 2:27

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