I am looking for a science fiction short story that I read perhaps 20 years ago or so, probably part of a much older anthology. I thought it might be by Isaac Asimov and have searched through his works but haven't been able to find anything. The story is about a space trader who is traveling to visit a planet of aliens (I think with tentacles), wanting to sell them videos/movies. He also has a passenger, a religious preacher who wants to proselytize the aliens. The aliens do not like the videos because, being emotionally empathic, they get no readings from the recorded actors. But they do like the preacher because he believes wholeheartedly in irrational nonsense, which they find highly entertaining. Subsequently, they would like more preachers. Any help in identifying this story would be appreciated.

1 Answer 1


The race you remember are the Naxians, in Isaac's Universe. I think this is one of the stories in Volume Two: Phases in Chaos. Possibly The Soul of Truth by Karen Haber (1991).

The story goes exactly like you remember, except that (if I recall correctly) the Naxians do get emotional readings from the actors; the problem is that they can perceive that they are acting, and they find the whole concept abhorrent.

Update: it is Lawrence Watt-Evans' Keep the Faith. From his website:

In particular, the Naxians can "read" emotions; how would they cope with religious fervor?

  • 1
    Thank you, LSemi! I have been looking for this story for the last 10 years. I thought the aliens might be called Nessus, but of course that is the name of a puppeteer in David Niven's Ring World stories.
    – jerrlaro
    Apr 25, 2020 at 16:34
  • 2
    @jerrlaro You mean Larry Niven. Quite a different guy to David. ;)
    – PM 2Ring
    Apr 25, 2020 at 16:59
  • 1
    I'd love to read a sci-fi story by David Niven though ;) Apr 25, 2020 at 17:30
  • Sorry, I meant Larry Niven. David Niven is the British actor. My brain said Larry and my hand typed David. They don't like each other.
    – jerrlaro
    Apr 26, 2020 at 1:25
  • I've ordered a used copy of 'Isaac's Universe Vol 2: Phases in Chaos.' From a brief summary of the stories, it seems this may actually be the story 'Keep the Faith' by Lawrence Watt-Evans. In any case, I believe I've got it! Thanks!
    – jerrlaro
    Apr 26, 2020 at 17:10

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.