I really can't recall if a short story or SF novel or part of a book series. Or when I read it, just "a while ago". Or very much of the plot, all I've got in my mind is the aliens.

They have a long segmented body stretching out behind them with an upright front end. Kind of like a centipede crossed with a centaur.

At mating (I think!) the back segment with its pair of legs splits from the main body, I think it then wanders off in an autonomous manner with the fertilised eggs until it finds somewhere to squat and stay until hatching time. The previously female main body is now left with a male end piece.

The male end, at mating (I think) simply rips off and this leaves a main body that is now female at the end.

Every few years an alien mates and thus gets shorter and shorter until it's a biped.

In the story there was a male who'd had some kind of injury and lost a rear segment but, because no hormonal change had happened, was stuck in the wrong sex.

There may have been some interaction with humans but I really can't recall if there was.

Edit after seeing the proposed answers:- I've accepted the Chaining the Lady suggestion from eshier. However I've looked at the other suggestion from Zeiss Ikon regarding the fuxes of Medea and I think I got the two stories merged into one in my memory.

Thanks to both of you.

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    After reading @zeissikon answer, I wondered if there had been a merging of ideas. Similar enough concept that it would be easy to do.
    – eshier
    Dec 9, 2019 at 14:42

2 Answers 2


I believe that is Piers Anthony's Chaining the Lady from the Cluster series.

From Wikipedia:

The central plot mechanism of the Cluster novels is that of transfer. Every living thing has a Kirlian aura that can be measured. Through transfer, the mind and personality of individuals with high aura can be sent to animate a body physically distant. For instance, a transferee living on Earth could be sent to Outworld and inhabit the body of one of that planet's stone-age tribesmen.

Transfer is a refinement of mattermission technology, but because only the aura is transferred it is substantially less expensive. In the first three novels, the protagonists find themselves transferring from alien body to alien body in order to combat threats from elsewhere in space.

From the TV Tropes Bizarre Alien Sexes on the series:

The Mintakans change gender with each mating, going from female to male and back again, losing a foot each time.

As I recall, the incident you mention is that the male is a failed sexual act. When the female breaks away after changing her mind, the male's foot is knocked off, but since the act wasn't completed, the sex wasn't changed. So, he is now a male with (for argument's sake) an odd number of feet when all males are even and females are odd. This is a shameful situation for him.

Google books:

She returned to the mating chamber, but Ariose was gone. What should she have expected? She had struck off his foot in as callously degrading a gesture as it was possible for one Mintakan to make to another. She had rendered him a male personality with a female number of feet; how could he mate now?


The creature described is a fux from Medea -- a shared worldbuilding exercise published in a story collection titled Medea: Harlan's World.

The fux changes sex only once -- all the breeding segments (I don't recall how many there are, but it's more than two, initially) are female, but the two-legged creature remaining after the last breeding segment is shed is male.

Medea orbits a red dwarf flare star, and the UV radiation from the flares triggers the fuxes (and virtually all the other native animals) to mate -- at which time the normally docile and intelligent fuxes become very dangerous due to losing their minds.

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    I somehow know there ain't no audiobook featuring them creatures
    – Danny Mc G
    Dec 9, 2019 at 14:18
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    Never know -- my partner writes explicit male-male romance, and just had an audiobook released.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Dec 9, 2019 at 14:35
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    This is what I thought of as well. But I haven't read the work in the other answer. Dec 9, 2019 at 20:55
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    @OrganicMarble I read the Kirlian Quest series as they came out. The Mintakans may be the source of the "failed mating" part, but the rest of the question description is pure fux.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Dec 10, 2019 at 12:10

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