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Does anyone recall an anthology with these two stories in it? Stumbled across as a teenager in the 80's in the school library, vaguely recall it was an old hardbound book...

Story #1 An elf like alien infiltrates enemy territory, hiding the fact he's terrified of riding in a vehicle, because metal is deadly to his race. I think it was the first story in the book.

Story #2 A lonely slaughterhouse worker, famous for killing cows with one blow of his sledgehammer, begins to hear a female alien voice. They fall in love and she will be coming to earth soon, he can tell she's very close and horrified when he realizes split second she's in the cow before him, and he's already raised the hammer in swing for the blow. Unusual, ironic and very well written.

I think it was near a Sci-fi anthology by August Derleth that included a story called, "The ship sails at midnight" which I tracked down, but no longer have access to, don't think it was in that anthology though. Maybe it was a shelf of anthologies...

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  • Please visit scifi.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/9335/… and try to edit answers to the prompts there into your question. That will help us help you. And should someone post the correct answer, you can accept it by clicking on the checkmark by the voting buttons as per the tour.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Apr 23, 2020 at 20:13

2 Answers 2

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Partial answer, the story about the slaughterhouse is probably Gardner Dozois's "A Kingdom by the Sea" (available to read here), which appears in two anthologies that would have been around in the eighties.

Only Orbit 10 was released as a hardback, so that is likely your anthology.

"A Kingdom by the Sea" was found by searching for "science fiction" anthology alien slaughterhouse worker cow hammer -"slaughterhouse five", which led me to The Encylopedia of Science Fiction which mentions the story:

“A Kingdom by the Sea” introduces us to a lonely telepath who is desperately seeking another mind like his own; the telepath finally senses one and tracks its owner down, only to discover that he is reading the thoughts of a cow about to die in a slaughterhouse.

It has since been confirmed that the other story, answer provided by user14111, is "Interloper" by Poul Anderson, but that we can't find an anthology that contains both.

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Are you sure both of those stories were in the same anthology?

Story #1 sounds like "Interloper", a novelette by Poul Anderson, which was also my (unaccepted) answer to this old question; it was first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1951, available at the Internet Archive. "Interloper" is the first story in the 1951 hardcover anthology The Outer Reaches edited by August Derleth, which also includes Fritz Leiber's short story "The Ship Sails at Midnight". However, none of the stories in The Outer Reaches resembles your description of Story #2, nor does the ISFDB know of any anthology containing both "The Interloper" and Gardner Dozois's novelette "A Kingdom by the Sea" which FuzzyBoots identified as your Story #2.

Beoric, the hero of "Interloper", is an actual elf, not an "elf like alien", and it is iron that is deadly to his race, they have no problem with other metals such as copper. The enemies he is infiltrating are space aliens of various species who are the secret rulers of Earth. The aliens don't know about elves, and Beoric is passing himself off as a new kind of space alien.

They came through the line of trees onto a paved highway. A native automobile was parked there—four-wheeled, enclosed, obviously chemical-powered. As he neared it Beoric felt the sudden nerve-chill that meant—iron.

He had expected it, but that made it none the easier. Every ingrained instinct screamed at him to come no closer. Iron, iron, iron—touch it and see your hand go up in smoke! Iron, cold iron, crouched there under the moon!

And he must enter that metal box, and not for an instant must he show the fear that ripped along his shrinking nerves and dinned in his brain. If they knew, if they found the fatal weakness of the Alfar, he was done. A thousand years of slow work and scheming and waiting were done—Earth was done. It all depended on him.

For a moment he couldn't do it. In spite of his resolve, in spite of his many rehearsals, in spite of the bleak fact that he must go through with it—he couldn't. He couldn't deny the reflexes that knotted his will and brought sweat cold and bitter out on his body.

Courage. The thought quivered deep in his brain. It came from the sea, from the fields beyond the road, from the trees that stood whispering in the night wind. Courage, Beoric. You are not alone.

They were sending him more than unspoken words. There was an actual flow of nervous energy into his body, an almost physical force suddenly entering him, bracing him, stilling the wild thunder of his heart and the panic-storm in his brain. Calmness came, and he walked boldly forward.

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  • Interesting. Still a powerful story, but strange how time white washed it. I wouldn't recommend it, know that I know the content, but glad to have closed the loop. Thank you
    – Talefinn
    Apr 24, 2020 at 23:59

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