In Pre-70s science-fiction short story: "Cracker for my Megatherium?", user VWFeature asked a question about a story they read. As I read the question I was reminded of two separate classic stories. So I think that maybe VWFeature remembers two separate stories as one.

As I read the synopsis of the story, the details kept reminding me of a Poul Anderson story whose title I didn't remember. Most of the plot is very similar to what I remember from that Poul Anderson story.

So VWFeature is correct to identify the main details as coming from "Turning Point" which was first published in the May, 1963 issue of If and reprinted many times.

But the last words of the story as VWFeature remembers them - "Twenty years later, it didn't seem so funny." - strongly remind me of another classic science-fiction story.

So does anyone else remember the other classic science-fiction story with a somewhat similar theme, that I think that the last line VWFeature remembers came from?

Twenty years later, it didn't seem so funny.


1 Answer 1


This is the classic "Rescue Party" (1946) by Arthur C. Clarke. The ending of the story:

Alveron glanced at the Milky Way, lying like a veil of silver mist across the vision screen. He waved toward it with a sweep of a tentacle that embraced the whole circle of the galaxy, from the Central Planets to the lonely suns of the Rim.

"You know," he said to Rugon, "I feel rather afraid of these people. Suppose they don't like our little Federation?" He waved once more toward the star-clouds that lay massed across the screen, glowing with the light of their countless suns.

"Something tells me they'll be very determined people," he added. "We had better be polite to them. After all, we only outnumber them about a thousand million to one."

Rugon laughed at his captain's little joke.

Twenty years afterward, the remark didn't seem funny.

The boot is on the other foot in this story, though; the advanced aliens come to the rescue of the relatively "primitive" humans. The entire story is available on the Baen website.

  • 3
    And of course this has been asked and answered here before.
    – DavidW
    Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 18:48
  • 4
    This is now the 4th time it has been asked without it being marked as a dupe
    – Peter M
    Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 19:38
  • 8
    @releseabe we did use billion, it just meant a million million (trillion) which makes sense - bi (2) million. The same for tri (3) million was a million million million, with a 1000 billion in between. Now we use the standard 1000 million is a billion etc.
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 10:13
  • 4
    @releseabe at that time the long scale was still generally used in BrE, so a billion meant a million million. The UK officially switched to the short scale in 1974.
    – Carcer
    Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 10:14
  • 2
    I suspect the same questions get posted because people remember slightly different aspects of the same story, or don't conflate the same two stories, and thus describe the story in different ways. AKA 'Blind men and the Elephant.' Another reason they don't get marked as dupes is that, the internet being what it is, it's more efficient to leave more or less dup answers lying around than to curate them. Thanks to Dave W for finding the conflation.
    – VWFeature
    Commented Dec 23, 2019 at 3:30

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