I feel like the story starts out with a guy in a bar and an alien or some other sort of advanced lifeform. I seem to recall a part in the story where the alien gives this guy a tablet or medication (or a series thereof) of some sort and these magic pills are almost like downloading a book into your brain or something of that effect. I feel like there was a part with the guy not being sure if the encounter was real or not or if it was a drunken dream.

And no, it is not the Matrix, although one can’t help but wonder if the author of the Matrix was not inspired by the story. Thanks in advance for any leads.

1 Answer 1


It could be Larry Niven's short story "The Fourth Profession". Synopsis from Goodreads:

An interstellar trading ship arrived in the moon's orbit two years ago, and the few aliens who have descended to Earth have stayed in their landing craft or at the United Nations building in New York City. When one of the aliens unexpectedly shows up in a Los Angeles tavern, bartender Ed Frazer awakes the next morning with the strangest hangover of his life. Ed barely remembers taking the pills offered by the alien; each pill flooding his brain with the knowledge of an alien profession ... spaceship captain ... teleporter .... translator ... but Ed can't remember how many pills he took, or if the confusing overload of information in his head shadows the terrible secret of their mission.

Included in various collections, and it seems to be available online (not sure how legitimately) if you search by name.

  • 2
    Huh. Could have sworn we had this one before, but no dice.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 13:13
  • 1
    "Prophet" -- being able to turn water into wine can really cut down on expenses for a bar owner, but he has to rein in a tendency to preach...
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 13:16
  • BTW, this and a number of other related stories are collected as The Draco Tavern.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 13:17
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    @FuzzyBoots I’m with you. I could swear there was already a “Fourth Profession” ID question here. Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 14:46
  • Second result on google for "Fourth Profession site:scifi.stackexchange.com"; it's mentioned in the comments but they don't think it was the answer to that question.
    – Izkata
    Commented Feb 9, 2022 at 15:30

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