Can anyone identify an older sci-fi short story about friendly aliens getting perhaps ham radio guidance to land on Earth?

They are terrified of water, but their Earthly helper assures them he lives on dry land. As they crash land they scream they’ve been betrayed and the helper hears splashing. He searches outside and finds a tiny spacecraft sinking in his birdbath. It might have been in a Hugo Award collection in the ‘60s.

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    I have read the same story or a similar one. Here is a link to a list of the Hugo Winners books and the stories in them. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hugo_Winners None of the names reminds me of the story you describes. Commented Jun 4, 2021 at 17:21
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    If they're a bit smaller and it's a puddle, not a birdbath, then is it possible you're remembering Katherine MacLean's "Pictures Don't Lie" (1951)? It's been in a bunch of anthologies including Asimov's Great SF Stories 13 (1951).
    – DavidW
    Commented Jun 4, 2021 at 17:30
  • Thanks, I will check these out. I remember the story having a lone Earthling, an amateur, repeatedly assuring the aliens there is no threatening body of water nearby. Suddenly the aliens cry foul and can be heard sizzling sand dying in water. Only then does the observer look around his home and notice the tiny disruption in the birdbath. I was young but was struck by the domestic innocence of the word “birdbath“ in the tragic conclusion.
    – Nervie
    Commented Jun 8, 2021 at 14:12
  • And thank you as well for the Hugo Award list! I doubt I’ll recognize the title, but I will surely recognize others here, and this will be a delight to review.
    – Nervie
    Commented Jun 8, 2021 at 14:21

1 Answer 1


I remember the same or a similar story. A similar question is asked here.

There are several answers to that question. The answer (by FuzzyBoots) that sounds most like the story I remember, and a lot like your story, is "Pictures don't Lie" by Katherine MacLean. That story is online at Project Gutenberg.


"A half circle of cliffs around the horizon. A wide muddy lake swarming with swimming things. Huge, strange white foliage all around the ship and incredibly huge pulpy monsters attacking and eating each other on all sides. We almost landed in the lake, right on the soft edge. The mud can't hold the ship's weight, and we're sinking. The engineer says we might be able to blast free, but the tubes are mud-clogged and might blow up the ship. When can you reach us?"


Nathen laughed again harshly, reaching for the mike. "Get them out? There isn't a lake or river within hundreds of miles from here!"
A shiver of unreality went down the Times' spine. Automatically and inanely, he found himself delving in his pocket for a cigarette while he tried to grasp what had happened. "Where are they, then? Why can't we see their spaceship?" Nathen switched the microphone on in a gesture that showed the bitterness of his disappointment.
"We'll need a magnifying glass for that."

Illustration - hand pointing at the screen, showing the alien ship being grappled by a protozoa while another hand adjusts a dial

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    I'm not sure how you're embedding links, but they've been broken in all your recent posts.
    – DavidW
    Commented Jun 4, 2021 at 17:35

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