A man, some sort of functionary arrives to a planet. The planet is inhabited by aliens that are literally incomprehensible. He talks to some of the scientists that try to establish contact, then, against their advice goes to meet those aliens himself. He experiences a major trip-like experience that almost destroys his mind, but gets better. The scientists then say that they are trying to expose an infant child to the aliens' communications, to get him to bridge the gap, and it is revealed that maybe aliens are trying to do the same.

  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embassytown
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 21:21
  • You said in your previous question you'd read this in an old anthology. How old? Are we talking 2000s, 1980s or 1960s?
    – DavidW
    Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 21:30
  • 70s or 80s I think
    – Maximum
    Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 22:18
  • It's a random baby, not mentioned before in the story. Idea is it would grow up exposed to those aliens, and thus be able to understand them
    – Maximum
    Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 23:14
  • 1
    @Maximum If "Ambassador to Verdammt" is the answer you were looking for, you can signify your acceptance by clicking on the check mark next to the answer.
    – user14111
    Commented Apr 28, 2023 at 4:14

1 Answer 1


"Ambassador to Verdammt", a short story by Colin Kapp, first published in Analog Science Fiction -> Science Fact, April 1967, available at the Luminist Archives. You may have read it in one of these compilations.

The story is almost exactly as you described it. The planet Verdammt is inhabited by inscrutable beings called the Unbekannt:

"About the Unbekannt," said Sinclair. Are they hostile in any way?"

"Physically, no. I think they're as anxious as we are to establish communication. But it's in that very fact their danger lies."

"I don't understand," said Sinclair.

"No, I didn't think you would. Think for a moment about the concept alien. The Unbekannt are so alien that almost nothing about them approaches anything that we are able to comprehend. They are so far removed from our concepts of a life form as to not only be unintelligible but also completely unimaginable. So, how do you begin to comprehend something beyond the realms of your own imagination? The answer is simple: you can't."

The visiting functionary, Lieutenant Sinclair, is a Space Technician assigned to construct a landing grid and subspace beacon, not to make contact. He is warned to stay away from the natives:

The psychologist looked up sagely. "To accept the Unbekannt as reality you have to deny all your own education and experience. They don't mean a thing in our terms, so you have to try to adopt theirs. Stress and disorientation will result. The human brain doesn't react very kindly to that form of pressure. The mildest result is confusion, the direst is complete withdrawal from the conflict—cataleptic shock. That's why I suggest you check with me before you attempt any personal contacts with the Unbekannt. We can't afford to lose you. Not until we've got our grid."

He meets the natives and has a bad trip:

With uncomprehending eyes Sinclair attempted to follow the series of montages and mirages of scenes and symbols which flowed around and over him. Having no means of telling imagery from physical fact he had to force his mind not to attempt to comprehend or interpret, only to record. But even so, some psychosomatic reflex gripped at his stomach, and numbed his head with dizziness. Bewilderingly his surroundings achieved apparently impossible transpositions from the gloomy shadows of some huge Satanic complex to the white-hot negativeness of an isolated point of desert, then to an icy darkness punctuated by random colored shards so unimaginably out of perspective that he had to close his eyes in order to suffer them. And again the images blended and blurred and reformed, gaining substance and alien, incomprehensible meaning by keying some nonhuman semantic trigger which racked him with emotions which his body was not constructed to experience.

He meets the ambassador:

"William Arthur Prellen," said Wald, "Ambassador Designate to the Space Territory of Verdammt. Age . . . twenty-seven days, or thereabouts. He's getting a bit old for the job, but he's the best chance we have of establishing contact with the Unbekammt. We intend to bring him into contact with them with sufficient frequency and for sufficient lengths of time that his formative mind grows to accept them equally with ourselves.

[. . . .]

"And the Unbekannt," said Wald. "That crystal in my office . . . did I mention that it grows a little every day? I suspect it's an embryo Unbekannt. Their ambassador to us, so to speak. It would seem we've already achieved that first point of understanding."

  • i.e. the planet "fucked" is inhabited by aliens called "the unknown" Commented Apr 28, 2023 at 17:30
  • 1
    Are you sure "fucked" is a more accurate translation than "damned"?
    – user14111
    Commented Apr 28, 2023 at 23:10
  • 1
    As a native speaker of German, I can confirm that "verdammt" has neither obscene connotations, nor the alternate meanings "drunk" or "defect" that "fucked" has. So "damned" is definitely the better word.
    – straycat
    Commented May 5, 2023 at 12:04

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