Where in a gov official is sent to a distant planet and gets involved with a murder investigation. On this planet the people never express emotion directly, instead use musical instruments worn on a necklace that they use to express their feelings. Since I donated the entire set to our local library, I’m lost trying to find it.

  • If you remember anything else about this you can edit your post to add details. For example, roughly how many years ago did you read this?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented May 11, 2020 at 20:59
  • You could improve this question by going through the checklists here and editing in any relevant info you can think to add.
    – Valorum
    Commented May 11, 2020 at 21:00
  • Thank you so much, all of you, for your help. - Stephen
    – Stephen
    Commented May 12, 2020 at 21:38

1 Answer 1


This seems like The Moon Moth by Jack Vance, a short story of his originally published in Galaxy Science Fiction (Aug 1961 edition).

The premise is that a hapless Earth Consul to the planet Sirene (Edwer Thissell), is stuggling to adjust to the planet's culture. On Sirene, all inhabitants (including the few Earthmen that have settled there) communicate using various musical instruments. In addition each inhabitant of Sirene also wears a mask in order not to show their face, and convey their "rank" in the society.

To further complicate matters, the instrument used to communicate depends on the social standing of each party of the conversations (e.g. slaves are communicated with using the most basic of instruments)

As the Earth Consul, Edwer receives a communique from Earth to arrest an escaped criminal that will be arriving on Sirene. He fails to meet the ship when it lands and the criminal escapes into the populace.

Edwer has to use his ingenuity and intellect to work out which of the existing Earthmen the criminal kills and takes the place of.

The denouement describes how Edwer works out who the criminal killed and how Edwer cements his place and standing amongst the Sirenese.

IIRC the instruments are worn on a belt rather than a necklace, but I'm positive that this is the story. I'll try to find the edition of the Dozois Years Best anthology this was printed in.

A search of ISFDB for "The Moon Moth" has a number of collections that were edited by Dozois ("The Legend Book of Science Fiction" and "Modern Classics of Science Fiction"), but not a Years Best anthology, as far as I can tell.

The story has also been included in a few collections of Vance's work, namely "The Best of Jack Vance" and "The Moon Moth and Other Stories"

  • It's also in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame but no Dozois connection. Commented May 12, 2020 at 1:27
  • Gardner has 35 sequential "The Year's Best Science Fiction ##" volumes as well as 3 best of the best volumes listed on the page about 1/6th of the way down. A Ctrl-F search might be easier to use than an eyeball one for as long as the page is. Commented May 12, 2020 at 10:36
  • @DanIsFiddlingByFirelight No search is necessary. The Dozois Year‘s Best SF anthologies didn’t begin until 1984, so a 1961 story can’t have been in any of them.
    – Mike Scott
    Commented May 12, 2020 at 16:35
  • @MikeScott I agree the years best collections are too new to have contained it, but was addressing the claim that Gardners ISFDB page didn't have any years best anthologies, not that it didn't have a collection from 61. Commented May 12, 2020 at 16:49
  • @DanIsFiddlingByFirelight - the ISFDB search is for the Moon Moth, not for Gardner Dozois, I wasn't clear enough in writing up my answer so I'll edit that information in.
    – Alith
    Commented May 12, 2020 at 20:36

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