Looking for a science fiction short story with the word "mask" in the title, probably from the '80s. It follows an Earth ambassador who arrives on a new planet where all people wear masks and sing as a language. A fellow Earthman is murdered and he has to solve the crime, all while trying not to offend the sensitive local population.


1 Answer 1


This is The Moon Moth by Jack Vance. It has been identified before in Murder investigation on planet where people express their feelings with musical instruments worn on a necklace

Edwer Thissell, the new consul from Earth to the planet Sirene, has trouble adjusting to the local culture. The Sirenese cover their faces and heads with exquisitely crafted masks that indicate their social status (strakh) and mood. They also communicate by singing, accompanying themselves with one of a score of musical instruments, selected based on the social situation and feelings. Furthermore, errors of etiquette may prove fatal. Thissell is a clumsy musician and lacks confidence in the alien society, so he is forced to wear a lowly Moon Moth mask.

Thissell is on the planet to hunt an assassin, and the murder is committed by the assassin. Thissell has to catch the assassin without offending the Sirenese.

  • I upvoted because "The Moon Moth" was my immediate thought. Commented May 3, 2023 at 5:55

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