I read this many years ago in a collection of sci-fi stories - almost certainly Silverberg & Greenberg's Great Science Fiction of the 20th Century.

An cat-like alien race decides to terraform an snowy, "uninhabited" planet to replace their own, but the terraforming process takes many lifetimes, so they enter cryogenic sleep for the duration of the terraforming. A slight complication arises when it is realized that a semi-intelligent species (dwarves?) already inhabits the planet, and that the terraforming process will drive them to extinction.

Jerry (I think?), a member of the colonizing aliens, is assigned watch duty where he awakens from cryogenic sleep for a duration. I recall him also being in love with another colonizer, who remains in hibernation. On his patrol, he meets the native dwarves and develops a liking for them. He decides to forgo resuming hibernation, and instead lives out the remainder of his life among the dwarves, whom he helps to be come intelligent. The other colonizers, upon awaking from their hibernation, find an intelligent species of dwarves, who have been deeply impressed by Jerry's contribution.

I'm pretty certain of most of these details, but can't remember the author or title.

1 Answer 1


This sounds very much like "The Keys to December", a short story by Roger Zelazny.

The alien race are genetically engineered humans that resemble ocelots. The protagonist, Jarry (so, close to "Jerry") is a financial wizard who devises a way for he and the other "coldworld Catforms" to purchase a planet, and terraform it to suit their needs - the frigid planet with a methane atmosphere for which they had been designed having been unexpectedly destroyed by a nova.

The process takes a long time, and so the catforms go into cryosleep. A few of them are woken periodically to check the equipment, and Jarry notices that under the stress of the climate change the indigenous lifeform are evolving and developing intelligence. He defends their interests against the rest of the colonisers, slowing down the pace of the terraforming to give them more chance to adapt, and ends up being worshipped by them as a cat-god.

It was originally published in New Worlds, August 1966, which is available online at the Luminist archive, and it was indeed anthologised in Great Science Fiction of the 20th Century.

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    I concur, this is it. It's in the collection The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth and Other Stories. Every story in that collection is excellent. Commented Mar 18, 2022 at 15:52
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    Yep, that's the one! Thanks so much.
    – built1n
    Commented Mar 18, 2022 at 17:14

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