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Can someone remind me of the title and author of the short tale from ‘golden age SF' in which a man (‘Man’, I recall) and a predictably nubile young woman (‘Woman’) find themselves in alien captivity. They speculate why: perhaps they are ‘lab rats’. They cannot make sense of alien interactions with them. Eventually they realise they are a child’s pets in a cage. Worst of all, the 'child' clearly tires of them and finally they are neglected. (This is evidently a minor SF trope – but this text is not any of those previously suggested.)

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    It might help if you would list the stories that were previously suggested and rejected. Otherwise, not knowing what they are, it will be hard to avoid repeating them.
    – user14111
    Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 23:41
  • Are you sure it was just a man and a woman that were abducted, they were not part of a larger group of abductees? What do you mean by putting 'Man' and 'Woman' in quotes? Do you mean that's what they are called in the story, instead of having names?
    – user14111
    Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 0:23
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    Unfortunately, those of us who don't know the answer to your question are going to repeat the same wrong suggestions you've seen before. Not "The Human Pets of Mars" by Leslie F. Stone, the human pets are a group of abductees. Not "Goldfish Bowl" by Robert A. Heinlein, both captives are men. I suppose those are among the previously rejected suggestions.
    – user14111
    Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 1:04
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    Are the aliens much larger than the humans? Are the aliens mostly "off-screen", except for the final scene, when we get some dialogue between the child and their parent, with the parent admonishing the child for neglecting the "pets"?
    – PM 2Ring
    Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 12:53
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    If you list the previous answers, you can also explain, for each answer, why that answer is inapplicable. That will probably give us more detail to go on.
    – Kevin
    Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 19:47

3 Answers 3

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So, not "Goldfish Bowl", and not "The Human Pets of Mars", and not, umm....

So not "The Star Beast" also by Robert Heinlein?

They're not lab rats, and they're not captivity, not in a cage, well, perhaps a gilded one.

So not John Thomas Stuart XI's "pet", the Hroshii "Princess" whose hobby is raising John Thomases?

At least John Thomas has a girlfriend and later wife sharing his adventures. She must be nubile along with brilliant; Heinlein's chickies wouldn't dare be any other kind.

It was a fun read for a kid who didn't know how it ended, because seemingly nobody in her town was reading Heinlein. It's at least a closer match -- let us know with a list of mismatches!

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Could it be "Hathor's Pets" (1950) by Margaret St. Clair? "Kidnapped by a powerful alien, a group of humans tries various ploys (all founded in the assumption the aliens sees the humans as her pets) to order to convince the alien to send them home. The model is accurate, but their application of it proves sadly incomplete."

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Honorable mention for the 1973 film Fantastic Planet (La Planète Sauvage in the original French), which features humans as (often abused and neglected) pets of children. The protagonist human escapes when he reaches young adulthood, but, he meets up with other escaped and 'wild' humans, including a romantic interest in a young woman.

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