I'm looking for the title and author of a story (I think a short story) that I read in the late 1960s or early '70s.

The story was about an ocean planet that has been colonized by space-faring humans. There are no continents, only widely scattered islands. The planet is deficient in metals and far from the main channels of interplanetary commerce. Self-sufficient, the colonists use locally available resources to construct fleets of wooden ships with which they trade between the islands. These ships are powered by "muschines"; non-metallic engines in which huge skeins of in-vitro-grown muscle are harnessed to a crankshaft.

That was the set-up. After a shipwreck, bioengineered muscle cells get loose in the ocean and begin to multiply and evolve. I don't recall how this turned out.

I remembered this story the other day while reading in the newspaper about in-vitro chicken muscle that is being developed to be sold as a meat substitute. Does anyone know the author and title?

  • Interesting. How were the cells fed?
    – releseabe
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 3:52
  • 2
    Welcome to SF&F! This is a very good first question. If the answer below is correct, please accept the answer by clicking the checkmark to the left of the answer. If it is not correct, perhaps explain what doesn't match; this could help people look for a different answer.
    – Basya
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 12:10
  • 2
    it's 'in-vitro', btw, but thanks for bringing such an interesting story idea!
    – tgrignon
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 13:19
  • 1
    Personally, I am thankful that you asked the question - as these story-identification questions are a major influx for my reading list. - On the other hand it is interesting that you remembered the word "muschine", but weren't able to identifiy the story of that name with a little help of a search engine. :) Thus I should actually have voted down for lack of research effort, instead of up, as I did.. Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 10:58

1 Answer 1


The Muschine by Burt K. Filer 1968

Humans colonize a water world with limited access to metals. In their sea-going ships they use organic machines that are little more than muscles grown around crankshafts.

The story is available online here

  • Links have a habit of dying. You should edit in a quote or two from the story.
    – Spencer
    Commented Jan 2, 2021 at 17:05

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.