I’m trying to find a short story I must have read in the 90’s in a collection.

Plot is;

A biological spaceship travels around the galaxy collecting creatures that are added to to itself as parts of its symbiotic collective. Each alien turns out to have a specific function in the ship, that becomes clear only when “abducted”.

Eventually a human is abducted and his purpose becomes clear.

I read many collections back then, stories from 60’s and 70’s possibly. I think the book had multiple authors. Would have been a second hand paperback or a library book.

I was living in the UK back then.

I’d love to read the story again, anyone have ideas?


1 Answer 1


This sounds like "Specialist", a short story by Robert Sheckley, first published in 1953.

As you say, there is a biological spaceship, composed of different intelligent creatures with particular specialities, such as Walls, Engine, Thinker, Talker, and so on. To travel faster than light they require a Pusher after theirs was injured and died during a photon storm. It turns out that humans are actually Pushers, even having the correct socket to interface with the ship. The Crew capture a human, and after an initial period of mistrust, he learns of the joy of collaborating with the Crew, and "pushes", so that the spacecraft speeds away.

The original story, published in Galaxy, is available at the Internet Archive. It has been collected in numerous anthologies, which you can check at isfdb.


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