I read this story in the late 60's. A man on a 6 month drunk is picked up by company agents and placed on a ship to some unexplored planet. You get the impression this has happened to him before. The after effects of the job are why he drinks. He is given a robotic assistant food and supplies. After week of the shakes he starts off on his trek. At some point he comes across a primitive alien village. There is some ongoing interaction that in the end turns sour. He ends up sending the robot in to kill them all. I think the title had the word 'Screaming' in it.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. Was this a novel or a short story?
    – DavidW
    Jul 17, 2022 at 0:08

1 Answer 1


This sounds very much like The Sound of Screaming, a short story by Theodore L. Thomas published in October 1960 in Amazing Stories.

The plot is essentially just what you recall. The explorer is named Dan Smithey, and the robot assistant was a semi-intelligent vehicle, “Vehicle, Amphibious, Mapping and Surveying, M 96” known generally as “Vamas.” An excellent summary at Blackgate gives these details:

‘“The Sound of Screaming” is one of those stories I think of as a “Prime Directive” story. Smithey is a nearly hopeless drunk, but also the best planetary surveyor around. We see him dumped on a new planet, and learn the reason for his attitude — his wife was killed by aliens on a previous mission — she save a child of theirs from drowning, and that violated a taboo. Inevitably, on this mission he encounters aliens behaving badly again, and is faced with the choice of violating the “Prime Directive” (not called that, of course), or of interfering and saving the alien in trouble (a woman being beaten, in this case). Again, a minor story, mainly because it doesn’t really take on its main issue with any subtlety.’

The story can be read at the Luminist Archive.

  • 3
    Thank-you very much, I'm sure that is exactly the story I was trying to remember. Searching for 'scifi story with screaming in the title' just wasn't helping me. I'm happy I came across the Exchange. Thanks again for the help. Jul 17, 2022 at 2:19
  • 2
    Good synopsis, though I disagree that any story someone can recall after all this time can really be called "minor". Jul 17, 2022 at 2:56
  • 2
    @Covertwalrus note that that assessment of the story is only quoted by the answerer. Jul 17, 2022 at 12:49

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