There was a short that I read in an anthology, when I was on my anthology kick about 8-15 years ago. I am fairly positive that the story was from pre-1995, if that helps anyone. I know it wasn't a novella, but it wasn't a short-short if I recall that too.

The premise:

A group of super-bright scientists are selected to go on a (experimental?) space craft from Earth.

The details I'm firm on:

  • One of the astronauts was a young chinese man who recreated the iching as a set of tokens and used them to setup a form of horoscope since the constellations didn't match the familiar ones anymore.

The details I'm pretty sure about:

  • They end up diverting from their pre-assigned flight path and flying into space forever.
  • They all went mad.
  • That the young chinese man was indeed a young Chinese male. He may have been a she, and she may have been from another oriental country, but I know it was about the iChing. That always stuck out to me.
  • although i don't think it is the one you're looking for, the premise you outlined makes me think of the astronauts that piloted the space craft in Sphere (the book). – Xantec Mar 17 '11 at 1:27
  • As in Michael Crichton's Sphere? No, I've read that too many times to think it was that one. This one most assuredly featured the iChing. – jcolebrand Mar 17 '11 at 1:50
  • I know the book you are talking about. I was convinced it was by Fred Saberhagen or maybe Ray Bradbury, but looking at their bibliography's I am not seeing the book. Did one of them form a planet around themselves? – geoffc Mar 17 '11 at 2:24
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    Some vague similarities to the short Fred Pohl novel Starburst (?). – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Mar 17 '11 at 17:19
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    Reading the reviews on this Amazon link make it sound very much like what I am looking for: amazon.com/Gold-At-Starbows-End/dp/0586039872 – jcolebrand Mar 17 '11 at 17:56

My best guess based on hazy recollections (read the short story in about 1981, when I was 12) and some Googling is that Frederik Pohl wrote the short story "The Gold at Starbow's End" first around 1970, and then expanded the themes into the novel "Starburst" in 1983.

The form of the story was of dialogue between people on Earth, and increasingly cryptic communications back from the space travellers, as they "transhumanise". The "I Ching" toe bones were actually cut (with permission) from at least one of a couple who were having sex at the time, and the dispatch from the ship claimed they did not feel anything, with the implication that they had achieved that level of control over their bodies. The toes did grow back. The whole "I Ching bone" thing is quite the most distinctive image from the story.

The ship was not diverted, I am pretty sure of that. Don't want to be a spoiler, so I won't say more.

  • That is exactly it. And I have been meaning to go check on that "Gold at Starbow's End" and haven't been to a bookstore. Time to put my Amazon gift card money and Kindle to work. You are absolutely right on all points here, that is EXACTLY the plot and story. – jcolebrand Mar 21 '12 at 16:03

I don't have an EXACT answer, but I have read this book and I have a strong memory that it was Frederik Pohl.

The scientists

(a) find that the lack of distraction with Earth trivia allows them to flourish (that's how they becom "super" smart

(b) invent various health technologies

The scientist that you mention creates the I Ching Stones by amputating his toes and using his own toe bones - he uses the technology to regrow the toes.


Googling on "Pohl I Ching Toe Bones" yields more discussion here from about 9 years back:


  • So do you think it might have been starbow/starburst as mentioned above? – jcolebrand Aug 18 '11 at 21:46
  • "So do you think it might have been starbow/starburst as mentioned above?" Oops. Didn't see that. I recall it as being a stand-alone novel. The title neither strikes me as correct or wrong. – TJIC Aug 18 '11 at 21:49
  • Do you remember it being a novella first? I recall it being a novella at first, but if you think it was a stand-alone novel then the starburst thing does sound right ... – jcolebrand Aug 18 '11 at 21:52
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    I read this no later than 1988 (when I went away for college) and perhaps as early as 1980...so I really don't recall many details. I just wanted to throw out the [ hopefully ] useful detail that toe bones were involved, which might help in googling. – TJIC Aug 18 '11 at 21:58
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    @Otis on SFF we have a general rule of 5 in 15 edits on the homepage. Please try not to spam a whole bunch of edits at once. – TheLethalCarrot Jan 18 at 16:36

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