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I remember reading a short story that really impressed me as a child in the 90's. It was sci-fi anthology from my father's old book collection, so probably at the very least a decade old already.

Plot/summary

The story revolves around the main character and his/her family/clan and their simple lives on their planet. We learn there are other beings on the planet, who are savage aliens: they are described as ugly (definitely far from human form) violent creatures who can't even speak and just aggressively/mindlessly raid their camps and kill everyone every now and then.

The main character keeps saying "us humans" (... are not like that/like them, are civilized, have developed language, etc.). Because of this (and because the story is told from their perspective), we obviously sympathize with their plight.

At the end of the story, they are (I think) attacking an alien camp (out of necessity, of course), and the main character is killed. Then the ugly uncivilized alien who just killed the main character turns to his son and says something along the lines of "you see these ugly creatures (and describes them as clearly not human)? They haven't even developed language or civilization, just a bunch of mindless savages that come and attack. Only thing to do is to kill them, so that us, humans, can thrive".

Comments

  • I read it only once and a very long time ago. My memory of the events is probably not super accurate.

  • I know the theme is pretty common and I've seen a bunch of similar stories out there (and on this forum). But they all involve actual humans. In this one, we realize clearly at the end, that in fact no one was an actual human. "Human" is just the word each race used to call itself "civilized" and superior to all other races, simply because they looked and sounded different although in fact they all ended up behaving the same (mostly due to their feeling of entitlement).

  • The shocking part for me was that I was feeling sympathy for the main character and felt "close" to him/her. Felt their attacks were justified and it was "OK" and "necessary" to destroy the others. What made me feel quite uneasy was to realize that I had grown attached and supported just another group of "ugly uncivilized cruel creatures" and only because theirs was the perspective I had randomly been introduced to (and I felt I could/should identify with, since I thought they were of my species + were not really behaving any different from what I would expect...)

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  • Sorry, posted Fredric Brown's "Sentry" before I realized you said that it wasn't Earth humans. :-D
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jun 27, 2022 at 18:51
  • This isn't even remotely a match, but certain parts of your description remind me of "The Revolt of the Pedestrians" by David H. Keller
    – Spencer
    Jun 27, 2022 at 22:05
  • @TAnia G Actually, from your description, you never learn which species in the story are actuallHomo sapiens. And you don't learn which group - or both - or neighter - is ethically justified in their actions. Possibly the story itself would be more definite. Jun 28, 2022 at 15:35
  • I remember a little this one (but sadly, not the title). It's a post-apocalyptic earth (after a nuclear war) and the humans are not aliens, but human mutants.
    – Dreyf
    Sep 9, 2022 at 9:49

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Aspects of story remind me of books in the Hainish cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin so it might be worth it to look into. It is making me think of either Planet of Exile or to a lesser extent Rocannon's World or The Word for World is Forest. None are 100% what you are describing but share many of the same themes/ideas and there is a chance I am miss-remembering details that would fit what you have mentioned.

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  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. This is a start of an answer; you could improve it by focusing on a particular story and identifying specific elements which match the question.
    – DavidW
    Jul 5, 2022 at 21:10

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