"Lochinvar" is a short story by Margaret St. Clair, published in 1961 in Galaxy (and available to read at the Internet Archive). The titular character is an alien creature from Mars, with the appearance of a "small green animal with brown eyes. Bushy tail. Very intelligent". It turns out he has been mislaid by the Martian embassy on Earth, and is found and kept as a pet by an Earth couple. Despite his innocent appearance Lochinvar is a secret weapon whose telepathic powers make it impossible for hostile feelings to exist — very useful for negotiations (and maybe for laying the groundwork for an invasion).

The Martians make a frantic search for it, led by the "UNBI", which seems to be a kind of high-level Martian government department* (seemingly far outranking the Diplomatic Service). As far as I can see though, the "UNBI" acronym is never explained. Did St. Clair ever indicate what it stood for?

Footnote: The provenance of the UNBI is somewhat ambiguous in the story. Certainly the ambassador is afraid to report the situation to the UNBI which I read as meaning that it outranked his department, but as others have pointed out, this is also consistent with the UNBI being a Terran agency.

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    Not as far as I am aware of. It seems like short for United Nations Bureau of Investigations. A mixture of UN and FBI acronyms.
    – jo1storm
    May 6, 2021 at 8:39
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    You could be right @jo1storm I interpreted the UNBI as being a Martian agency, but it's possible that the Ambassador would be contacting the local (i.e. Terran) authorities May 6, 2021 at 9:04
  • They could be a Martian agency. We don't know political situation on Mars. There is over 200 nations and countries on Earth, maybe there are multiple nations on Mars as well and they have their own version of United Nations. Only it is United Nations of Mars, not United Nations of Earth.
    – jo1storm
    May 6, 2021 at 11:10

1 Answer 1


It appears that the UNBI is an Earthling organization. This is evident from the second-to-last paragraph:

Ivvy licked his lips. He thought of the incredulity that had come into the UNBI chief's face when Ivvy had tried to tell him that Lochinvar was an ordinary precaution of Martian diplomacy. He thought of the worsening of high-level Mars-Terra relations that was bound to result.

This indicates that the Gryna animals are well known on Mars, at least among diplomats like Ivvy and perhaps much more widely. However, the chief of UNBI was apparently unaware, and the revelation of what a Gryna creature was and that one had gotten loose is apparently going to be quite damaging to interplanetary relations now that the Earthlings know about it.

As to what the name stands for: When Ivvy reveals this information to the Terran UNBI earlier in the story,

When the UNBI chief realized that Ivvy was serious, he acted. Agents were sent out.

The mentions of agents is certainly reminiscent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or FBI. So that is probably what the last two letters indicate. The first two letters are probably for "United Nations"; it was common in mid-twentieth-century to envision a development on the United Nations into a complete or partial world government. (Think of the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce in 1960s–1970s Doctor Who. In "To Serve Man," from 1950, it is also the U. N. that manages contact between all humans and the Kanamit aliens.) It mentioned earlier in the story that only "three top-level people" know of Ivvy's mission on Earth. Although it is ambiguous whether this means three Terrans, it certainly suggests that whoever Ivvy is interacting with is at the absolute highest levels of world power—again suggesting the United Nations.

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