I read this in the mid-70's in my high school library. The story starts out on the alien planet, following the female lead through her day-to-day life, explaining the alien society and biology. Human astronauts land and begin interacting with the alien females, having sex with them, etc. This causes dramatic shifts in the aliens' breeding habits and eventually dooms them as a species. The book was pretty sexually explicit - especially for the mid-70's in a high school library. I'd be interested in re-reading it to find out if I'm remembering it as racier than it really was.

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    Character names, planet names, anything specific you can remember would be helpful. Sex with alien hominids is a popular pastime in sf; see "Kirk, James T." Larry Niven even coined a term for it. So we'll likely need more details to find an answer.
    – Kyle Jones
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 7:14
  • @KyleJones - what made the strongest impression on me wasn't the characters (I don't remember any of the names), but rather the devastating effect that human interference made on the planet's dominant species. I've googled everything possible to come up with something that might jog my memory, but no luck. I do recall that the aliens were insectoid and laid eggs, and I remember a passage where the female alien was mourning about the sterile eggs produced by mating with the humans. It was 35+ years ago, so I'm surprised I remember even that much. :) ~Tracy
    – user11193
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 23:42
  • Sounds like something John Varley would write
    – zipquincy
    Commented Jan 8, 2013 at 23:51
  • Too early for Varley, from what I could find of his bibliography. I read it between Sept. 1974 and June 1976. ~Tracy
    – user11193
    Commented Jan 12, 2013 at 5:10

1 Answer 1


In "Brightness Falls From The Air" by James Tiptree, Jr. there are butterfly-like aliens, but humans do not actually have sex with them. Humans torture the aliens for the hormone-drug they secrete when hurt.

  • No, there was most definitely sex and no torture that I recall. The human males become status-symbol mates for the alien females, which dooms their species. I seem to also recall that there was very much a honeybee social structure, with drones, queens, and few fertile male aliens.
    – user11193
    Commented Dec 12, 2012 at 1:58
  • Peter, are you sure that happens in "Brightness Falls From The Air"? I haven't read it, but I just read "We Who Stole The Dream", and it's in that story that humans drink Stars Tears, a beverage made from hormones of tortured butterfly-like aliens.
    – Andres F.
    Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 12:46
  • Yes, the two stories are set in the same universe. BFFTA is also about Star Tears. Commented Oct 21, 2017 at 12:21
  • But I think "We who Stole the Dream" might be the answer. Commented Oct 21, 2017 at 12:47

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