I remember bits of a story I read, where there were two different kinds of beings and their interactions.

I think the first being was smarter and might have been cloud/vapor based. The second being was expected to undergo a ritual and it wasn't sure about it. At the end, the second being did the ritual and transformed into a first type being. It turns out second being was the child of first types, and that was a natural part of their life cycle.

There was also something about multiple dimensions in the story, I just can't seem to remember!


"The Gods Themselves" (1973) by Asimov?

There are two types of beings, "Soft Ones" and "Hard Ones". The "Soft Ones" come in 3 types: Emotionals, Rationals and Parentals; which form triads. They have a mating ritual where they blend together.

At the end of this section of the book we discover that this blending finally becomes permanent, creating a "Hard One".

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    The Soft Ones were vapor-like and the story also involves multiple universes, so this seems like a good candidate. – Harry Johnston Nov 14 '20 at 10:38
  • It strikes me that with the Universe conjectured to be largely "dark matter" with which we do not interact, it's probably us who are the "soft ones" (or the Lylmik, or a number of other intangible races). – Mark Morgan Lloyd Nov 14 '20 at 17:09
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    @markmorganlloyd (spoiler) In The Gods Themselves, the Soft/Hard ones are definitely in a different universe from humans and are not humans (they communicate with humans near the end of the story). – user3067860 Nov 14 '20 at 17:38
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    Unquestionably The Gods Themselves. – Buzz Nov 14 '20 at 20:45
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    It could possibly be useful to note that of the Soft Ones only Emotionals can really become so vaporlike as to blend, for example, into a rock -- the other two are described as a bit more solid, although not so dense as the Hard Ones. – Gnudiff Nov 15 '20 at 4:29

Memoirs of a Spacewoman (1962) by Naomi Mitchison also contains two-stage aliens; in this case caterpillars/butterflies, but doesn't fit much else of your description.

The Spacewoman in question is a scientist and explorer. The book is set many centuries in the future, though no dates are given. Humans have explored many worlds in a number of different galaxies. Their quest is for knowledge and to be helpful: there is a strict rule against 'interference'.

The narrator, Mary, is a specialist in 'communication' - a kind of telepathy. She operates in a society where women are just as likely as men to be leaders, though she herself prefers not to lead. They also do pretty much as they please as regards sex and reproduction:

I think of my friends and the fathers of my children. I think about my children, but I think less about my four dear normals than I think about Viola. And I think about Ariel.

Viola is a haploid human, conceived as a result of sexual interaction with a Martian - Martians being hermaphrodite. Ariel is an alien creature that could be seen either as a parasite or a kind of child.

There are no space-opera thrills and fights: rather there are a number of different worlds with interesting biologies. In one case there is an ethical problem concerning some caterpillars and butterflies, both intelligent. Attitudes about sex and about alien cultures are similar to those of the New Wave, though it is not normally classed as part of it.


Possibly a confused recollection of Katherine MacLean's Unhuman Sacrifice (1958), though not all the details fit.

The ritual involved hanging upside down for several days, and was done in order to avoid a metamorphosis into a plant-like "adult stage". However, this ritual was often fatal and the "candidate" was afraid of it.

On the other hand I don't recall any other dimensions or cloud-beings, could those be from another story?


I sounds a lot like Exurb1a's story 'Upsilon dies backwards'. Lot's of similarities to what you described, so it may be the one you're looking for.

This story (read by author) can be found here

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    Can you describe the story, in case YouTube goes down or that channel removes the video? – FuzzyBoots Nov 14 '20 at 17:09

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