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Another story I read in probably the 1980s in a library anthology. Might have been a novella.

Human-looking aliens have come to Earth to establish trade. The MC is a pretty young girl who meets a pretty young man possibly on the beach. The stranger is a new neighbour and introduces the girl to the older sister he shares a house with, a stern businesslike person.

It transpires that they are aliens and that the aliens have three sexes. The young 'man' the girl fell for is actually an intermediate sex and his 'sister' is actually his husband. A third member to their relationship is missing (perhaps dead?). That gender resembles a feminine girl, like the MC.

The MC is drawn to these aliens but the intermediate is emotionally unstable (perhaps with grief from the above death). Tragedy ensues when he kills himself perhaps crashing his car.

The MC then bonds with the 'sister' male. They go on to consider finding a new intermediate together.

I think the title was short and had something about the number three in it.

Edit: My mother contributes that she thinks the title may have been 'Delta'. The only 'Delta' I can find in ISFDB is a novella by french writers and tragic couple Claude-Francois Cheinisse and Christine Renard. Unfortunately I can't identify what this story is about, although it does sound like something they could have written. Can anybody find a summary or keywords for this piece?

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  • I think I’ve read this. Could it be Piers Anthony? Oh I think I’m thinking of his Cluster series, which does have trisexuality but i don’t think it’s a match otherwise Jun 11, 2022 at 16:49
  • Was the girl called Elizabeth? If she was, and the aliens were Arcturans, then "Delta" is probably the right answer Jun 11, 2022 at 22:21
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    Asimov's The Gods Themselves has three genders that mate in a triad, but other than that it bears no resemblance to the description above (human-looking aliens, pretty young girl MC).
    – shoover
    Jun 12, 2022 at 0:38

1 Answer 1

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My vague recollection of reading Delta is that it indeed fits the broad form of the question. A girl named Elizabeth lives next-door to some aliens from Arcturus, who are a species with three genders. I do not recall any details of meeting on the beach, or of car crashes though (I'm not saying they weren't present, just that I don't remember if they were there or not).

[Note: I have now reread the story (see below) and I can confirm that the OP's description is essentially completely correct.]

There is a brief summary here which corroborates these points.

Elizabeth’s simple life as an orphan in her own aunt’s orphanage is broken by her innocent and desperate attempt to make friends. The people she befriends, however, are two Arcturians who do not share a bonhomous relationship with mankind. Her aunt kicks her out yet the two Arcturians—Imonea, whom she implies is a female, and the handsome Irveille, whom she implies is a male—take her under their metaphorical wing. She senses something odd in the triangle until the truth hurts someone.

... she starts to live under the man’s house and soon discovers that he has a partner. She accepts their generosity and companionship while totally ignorant of their alien social customs… then soon finds herself emotionally involved when she blunders into sensitive social territory. Still lacking identity yet feeling obliged to their generosity, she commits herself to their ways even though the layers of understands are deep and troublesome; regardless, she makes a decision to find herself through this awkward relationship, be it for better for for worse.

If you read Delta in English it was almost certainly in Travelling Towards Epsilon, an anthology of French science fiction. This is what the cover looks like - does it jog your memory?

Cover art of "Travelling Towards Epsilon"

The story is available for free loan at the Internet Library. After reading through it I can confirm that Elizabeth first meets the male-looking Arcturian, Irveille, on a beach. In fact Irveille is what is called a neutral, the other Arcturian sexes being "girl-girl", and "Amazon".

The most classic case was that of a neutral meeting an amazon: together, they search for the indispensable girl-girl to suit both of them. As long as they haven’t found her, they constitute a bachelor ‘couple'. More unusual are bachelor couples formed by an amazon and a girl- girl; even more uncommon are girl-girl and neutral couples.

The other alien, Imonea, is an Amazon, and Elizabeth joins the relationship (she discovers gradually) in the role of a girl-girl.

Imonea crashes her car in despair when Elizabeth clumsily revealed that she loved Irveille, but not her, and goes into a coma. In response

Irveille commits suicide by shooting himself in the head.

Eventually Imonea comes out of the coma, and to give her something to live for, Elizabeth and another Arcturian, Avia, form a triad with her.

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  • Yes, this is definitely it. The gender names girl-girl and amazon I remember now. I had forgotten it wasn't originally in English. Thanks so much, it was an earworm of a story. Jun 12, 2022 at 10:38
  • Glad to help @PotatoCrisp - your mother deserves most of the credit though. I would never have dug out those memories if I hadn't been prompted by the title "Delta". Jun 12, 2022 at 10:42
  • "a a bonhomous relationship" - a word I had never heard before! I guess there's a French cognate?
    – Ben Bolker
    Jun 12, 2022 at 18:31

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