22

This was rather short story (approx 30 pages of text) about aliens visitors abducting a human but he happens to be an alcoholic.

They conduct some test and come to conclusion that whole humanity is dependent on alcohol, non-communicative and non-threatening. For this reason they leave Earth alone.

I read this as a text file years ago so unfortunately can't tell anything about cover or art. I believe it was written by well-known sci-fi author (English or American, possibly) but I read it in translation into my native language.

Edit: I don't know if it makes any difference, but maybe 'drunkard' should be used instead of an alcoholic in my description. It wasn't that Aliens stumbled upon someone struggling with addiction, more like town drunk, someone who's never sober.
Also, the overall tone was very light, not a parody but just funny.

7
  • Was it a short story or a book?
    – Valorum
    Jul 12 at 22:46
  • It was in self contained file, ~30 pages of text, I believe it was stand-alone publication and not part of any collection of stories. My memory might be tricking me but I believe it was written by well-known sci-fi author (english or american, afaict, my copy was translation to my native language, though).
    – zubergu
    Jul 12 at 22:52
  • What is your native language? Where are you likely to have gotten it from?
    – Valorum
    Jul 12 at 22:55
  • 2
    I read this book in polish. It came in zip packed couple of gigabytes file with hundreds of sci-fi books. Untraceable. It stuck in my mind for all those years and I already made couple of attempts to finding it by myself, browsing through book catalogues, shops. It remains unidentified for all these years and not from lack of trying.
    – zubergu
    Jul 12 at 23:04
  • 6
    These silly aliens, they can travel thousands of light-years, but they still do statistics with a sample of one!
    – Hans Olo
    Jul 13 at 12:31
34

I believe the story is "Man of Distinction" by Fredric Brown. They put him in a zoo with a sign saying "Alcoholicus Anonymous". His cage had a bubbling fountain of booze in which he was occasionally known to bathe. Not a novella, but a short story.

http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?61770

5
  • 3
    Chapeau bas! That's exactly the one. I wonder, how I completely forgot the zoo part. Another mystery to me is how this story ended up in txt file, translated to polish, packed with thousands of other sci-fi stuff. Anyway, my search is over thanks to You!
    – zubergu
    Jul 13 at 9:37
  • @zubergu "chapeau bas"? Isn't that "low hat"? Wouldn't "chapeaux décollés" (hats off) be more appropriate?
    – Spratty
    Jul 13 at 11:52
  • 1
    @Spratty: "Chapeau bas" does appear to be idiomatic as well, but there might be a further distinction. You could always ask over at French Language. Jul 13 at 13:35
  • 1
    @MichaelSeifert - at this point I think I should admit that my education in the French language came to an end in 1983 and withdraw as gracefully as possible :-D
    – Spratty
    Jul 13 at 13:38
  • 3
    @Spratty: The beauty of having many StackExchanges is that you can keep learning about many things even after your formal education has ended. :-) Jul 13 at 13:40
13

There is an old story, "Paradox" by James E. Gunn, that was originally published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1949 (as by Edwin James).

The protagonist, the ironically named Sam Bright, is not a drunk, but he is aggressively uneducated and has no use for thinking. He is a petty thief with excellent manual dexterity and lots of practical burglary experience.

One day he "steals" an experimental rocket, essentially by breaking in looking for something valuable and accidentally triggering the launch procedure. At the same time an alien civilization has received orders to progress from observing Earth to kidnapping and studying the next subject to leave Earth by rocket. So they end up with Sam.

The aliens are telepathic, and between interrogating Sam, they try to demonstrate the superiority of their society and technology. Except Sam doesn't care, doesn't spend any time thinking about the answers he gives them, and eventually starts to drive the ones who deal with him the most insane, starting with a composer (the most sensitive) and the psychologist who tried the hardest to understand him.

The story ends:

Somewhere out in space a thought message winged its way toward its far distant goal:

From: Commander, Exploration Party 3-127h

To: Bureau of Exploration, Intelligence Division

Emergency message emergency. Disaster has struck our expedition. Keep away! Steer clear of this system. One by one the men are falling around me, insane in such proportions as our civilization has never seen, a contagion caught from a member of the race inhabiting the third planet of this system.

Kee—p away! There is no escape, no remedy. I am prepared to destroy the ship and all it contains if I should succumb. Should my finger relax. Kee—p away! Steer clear. No escape.

First the composer. Then the psychologist. It's an odd world, a world of twin realities, where the contradictions are only apparent. To recognize it one must split the ego, the mind itself. Ah! Now I begin to see. It is all clear. The twin realities. Kee—p away! Kee-pa-way cree-pa-way stay-a-way way-a...

(Where the last line is a mantra that Sam chanted to himself when he was reminding himself not to get caught at something.)

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  • 2
    Thank you, but alcohol part is essential. I wish I remembered anything else about the whole story so vividly.
    – zubergu
    Jul 13 at 0:16
  • 2
    Interestingly, Gunn himself (in his autobiography Star-Begotten: A Life Lived in Science Fiction) recalls this story being about a drunk: "The story was "Paradox," about a homeless drunk who gets abducted by the advance scouts for an invasion of mind-reading aliens; they take him to the moon to explore human thought-patterns. But they discover that he can believe several contrary things at one time and decide that this would drive them insane; they think he is a typical human, abandon their plans and take the drunk back to the place where he was abducted."
    – DavidW
    Jul 13 at 21:36
5

This sounds a bit like a short story "Inwazja z Aldebarana" by Stanisław Lem - at least when it comes to aliens encountering a drunk and then leaving Earth alone.

1
  • 4
    Admittedly they left Earth alone because they had been beaten to death by the drunkard in a fit of rage and had their spaceship converted into a still by the townspeople, so that's a slightly different reason then mentioned in the question. Jul 13 at 10:27

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