The planet has always been alone and thus is terrified by the human "others." The planet's fear is felt by the people and becomes a positive feedback system until one human goes crazy and runs away.

He ends up joining with the planet's awareness and removing the fear of humans as others.

  • I have a vague recollection that there's also a 70s or 80s short story in a Star Trek anthology about a planet with an ecosystem that is afraid of the Enterprise landing party, and it takes Spock's telepathy to reach and understand the intelligence behind it.
    – Lexible
    Jan 22, 2020 at 0:14
  • @Valorum - I thought they were magical programs from Tron. Or possibly disc files that store file systems.
    – Adamant
    Jan 22, 2020 at 0:37
  • You read some of these synopsies and you can draw some parallels to some more "Modern" Sci-Fi stories/movies; like this possibly influencing James Cameron's Avatar?
    – Raisus
    Jan 22, 2020 at 10:49
  • @Lexible - Are you thinking of The Winged Dreamers by Jennifer Guttridge in Star Trek: The New Voyages (1976)? It's similar to what you describe but basically the crew is hallucinating because of a hivemind of butterflies... Jan 22, 2020 at 13:46
  • 1
    @T.J.Crowder YES! Thank you, that was it! I read that story almost 40 years ago when quite young, so no surprises I was a bit off. :)
    – Lexible
    Jan 22, 2020 at 17:44

6 Answers 6


This sounds like it might be LeGuin's "Vaster than Empires and More Slow" (1971).

A survey ship lands on a purely vegetated planet, World 4470. The crew of the survey ship feels fear broadcast at them from the forest even though there are no traces of intelligent life or even any animal life.

As she turned Osden's body over so they could lift him, his eyes opened. She was holding him, bending close to his face. His pale lips writhed. A deathly fear came into her. She screamed aloud two or three times and tried to run away, shambling and stumbling into the terrible dusk. Harfex caught her, and at his touch and the sound of his voice, her panic decreased. "What is it? What is it?" he was saying "I don't know," she sobbed. Her heartbeat still shook her, and she could not see clearly. "The fear—the... I panicked. When I saw his eyes."

"We're both nervous. I don't understand this—"

"I'm all right now, come on, we've got to get him under care."

Both working with senseless haste, they lugged Osden to the riverside and hauled him up on a rope under his armpits; he dangled like a sack, twisting a little, over the glutinous dark sea of leaves. They pulled him into the helijet and took off. Within a minute they were over open prairie. Tomiko locked onto the homing beam. She drew a deep breath, and her eyes met Harfex's. "I was so terrified I almost fainted. I have never done that"

"I was... unreasonably frightened also," said the Hainishman, and indeed he looked aged and shaken. "Not so badly as you. But as unreasonably."

The move the ship, but the fear remains (or follows them):

"How can the fear be here too?" she said, and her voice rang flat and false in the terrific silence. "It's not just the trees; the grasses..."

"But we're twelve thousand kilos from where we were this morning; we left it on the other side of the planet."

"It's all one," Osden said. "One big green thought. How long does it take a thought to get from one side of your brain to the other?

They decide that the problem is that the alien sentience has never before encountered an "other" and is responding in fear:

"Isolated," said Osden. "That's it! That's the fear. It isn't that we're motile, or destructive. It's just that we are. We are other. There has never been any other."

"You're right," Mannon said, almost whispering "It has no peers. No enemies. No relationship with anything but itself. One alone forever."

Osden, the team's empath wishes to communicate with the forest.

"If I gave in to it," Osden mused, "could I communicate?"

He seems to be successful, causing the forest's fear to end, and chooses to remain there where he won't be subject to the fear of his erstwhile team members.

Tomiko drew in upon herself, all centered in the blind eye in her belly, in the center of her being; and outside that there was nothing but the fear.

It ceased.

She raised her head; slowly unclenched her hands. She sat up straight. The night was dark, and stars shone over the forest. There was nothing else.


It was Eskwana's voice. She snapped on the interior lights and saw the engineer lying curled up asleep, his hand half over his mouth.

The mouth opened and spoke. "All well," it said.


"All well," said the soft voice from Eskwana's mouth.

"Where are you?"


"Come back."

A wind was rising. "I'll stay here," the soft voice said.

"You can't stay—"


"You'd be alone, Osden!"

"Listen." The voice was fainter, slurred, as if lost in the sound of the wind. "Listen. I wish you well."

The Wikipedia page for the story has a more complete plot summary.

  • 4
    Bob, if this is the right answer, you can accept it by clicking the checkmark on the left. Please do; it will show everyone the lystery was solved, and reward both you and DavidW with some reputation :)
    – Jenayah
    Jan 21, 2020 at 23:14
  • Also see old.reddit.com/r/empaths
    – Chloe
    Jan 22, 2020 at 19:55

No fear of humans by the planet, but the other way around: "Nemesis" by Isaac Asimov?


One of the main characters is the daughter of Eugenia -- and her name is Marlene. Marlene exhibits the ability to read body language and determine what they may be thinking or feeling. Marlene feels strangely drawn to the planet, and eventually helps Rotor realize that the mass of prokaryotic biomatter occupying the planet is not simple life, but rather constitutes a single planet-wide conscious lifeform. This is similar to Asimov's treatment of Gaia.

She is the only/first one that does not "go crazy" when her mind is "touched by the planet", whereas several other people had their minds involuntarily damaged. And she (IIRC) decides to stay with the planet, together with an Earth scientist (Japanese surname?), as if the planet enjoys "collecting" beautiful minds.

  • 2
    This was my first association, too, when I read the headline, but in addition to the missing fear of humans, the time frame does not fit either - Nemesis was written in 1989. Jan 22, 2020 at 14:24
  • @VolkerLandgraf Just wanted to point out another story, so that another one who came across this question searching for Nemesis would find its anwser
    – Astrinus
    Jan 22, 2020 at 21:46

Unlikely, but Solaris (1961) by Stanislaw Lem follows a somewhat similar premise. I'm not entirely sure about the later part of the plot though. Worth checking out nevertheless.

The basic plot summary of the novel according to Wikipedia:

Solaris chronicles the ultimate futility of attempted communications with the extraterrestrial life inhabiting a distant alien planet named Solaris. The planet is almost completely covered with an ocean of gel that is revealed to be a single, planet-encompassing entity. Terran scientists conjecture it is a living and a sentient being, and attempt to communicate with it. [Additional specific plot details follow]

  • 3
    Welcome to SciFi.SE! Could you go into a bit more detail about how Solaris matches the question?
    – F1Krazy
    Jan 22, 2020 at 10:28
  • 2
    Added the plot summary & publication date. I immediately thought of Solaris, but I'm only familiar with the (disappointing) film versions, rather than the novel, which has a controversial English translation (the official translation was disavowed by the author, and a later, more accurate one is unlicensed by the publisher). Not sure of the OP's language of choice though, or whether a novella counts as a "short story".
    – MandisaW
    Jan 22, 2020 at 22:21
  • 1
    @MandisaW Thank you! I must admit I never read the book or watched the movies, but I know roughly what the plot setting is and it seemed very similar. I have the extra privilege of speaking Polish, so the one day I'll will definitely read them. Anyway, thanks again for adding the plot. Jan 23, 2020 at 9:49

While likely not the answer you are looking for, a similar setup is in Harry Harrison's Deathworld series starting from 1960's https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deathworld where a planet's colonizing population evolved to be very efficient fighters because their planet actively opposes their presence, until the outworldish protagonist arrives to take a different outlook and tip the scales...

The premise can also be seen in Sid Meier's excellent Alpha Centauri game, which culminates with the winning faction's transcendence and merge with the planet's sentience ;)


It sounds a little bit like "The Jesus Incident" by Frank Herbert and Bill Ransom. They gradually understand that the wildlife, including the ubiquitous 'lectrokelp, are a sort of hive mind. The protagonist joins that mind and acts as a sort of intermediary between the native life and the humans.


That's very close to the story line of Anne McCaffery's Petaybee novels, although their publication date is early '90s. However, there may be a short-story version that was published much earlier, although I can find no evidence of that. Series Information

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.