I used to read a lot of SF short-story collections from the local library as a kid, and this one has really stuck in my mind, but I've never been able to re-discover it as I can't remember the name or the author.

I would have read it in the 80s but it could be a lot older than that.

Story sort of reads like a set of instructions and the 'reader' (after a portal opens up) is forced to go through a series of increasingly dangerous set of trials on alien worlds.

The tone of the story is darkly comical, as the 'instruction book' gives survival odds out and compares human results with other aliens with differing anatomy and such.

I have a vague recollection that the final test is against some kind of killer robot and that only 2 or 3 other 'test subjects' have ever gotten that far.

I also seem to remember it was very short (10 pages).

Sorry to be so very vague, but if anyone out there could identify this, I would be grateful!

1 Answer 1


It's called simply Instructions, by Bob Leman. A really fun little story.

According to ISFDB, it was written in 1984. You probably read it in Terry Carr's anthology Best SF Of The Year 1985.

  • That book seems to be out of print and might be difficult to find. Unfortunately, there are no better options. "Instructions" was also published in chapbook form by Tachyon Publications, but is quite expensive - $11 US with shipping! According to this review, "Instructions" is included in his extremely rare anthology Feesters in the Lake, purported to contain his entire output of stories. Commented Sep 18, 2012 at 19:29
  • Wow - Thanks for the help! sffworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=15771 This forum confirms your suggestions. Very best wishes!
    – TWD
    Commented Sep 19, 2012 at 11:32

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