At least 30 years ago, I read a short SF story about friendship between different planets.

In order to maintain good relationships between planets, it was the rule that one person from a planet would be send to another planet, with which this planet had a friendly relationship. This person was supposed to live there for some time without being discovered to have come from another planet, as this would jeopardize the relationship between these two planets.

In the story, one person is living very harmoniously on the planet he is sent to and is fully integrated into the society. On the last page of the story, this person is sent to another planet (not being the planet he originated from) to work on the good relationship between these two planets.

Hope someone recognizes this storyline and knows the title and author of this short story. I very much would like to read it again!

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    This reminds me of a story from Asimov's Magazine in the early 1980s. The plot involved a citizen exchange between planets which were hoping to begin friendly relations. To prove that diverse alien species could coexist, each exchange subject was required to live as if he were a member of the other species - regardless of physiological differences. A human was required to live on an alien world with avian beings, while the avian exchanger lived on earth with his family. This was a light-hearted tale. At the end, the human was accidentally sent to a second, even less hospitable world. Jul 23, 2023 at 21:22
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    See below - we're thinking of the same story
    – Andrew
    Jul 23, 2023 at 21:22
  • @Peter M - The normal practice on this site is not to flag story-ID questions for closure as duplicates until all the threads in question are confirmed to have the same answer via acceptances and/or comments from the respective OPs. In this instance, the other question meets that condition but this one doesn't, and they both need to meet it before we should close either one of them. Jul 24, 2023 at 16:06

2 Answers 2


I think this is a slight misremembering of Ted Reynolds' story "Trial Sample", from Asimov's magazine in June 1981 - it's available here

In this story, as a prelude to opening up full trade relations, a person from a planet desiring commerce trades places with someone from another planet desiring commerce for a year. The two people attempt to act as if they really belong, and everyone pretends to believe them - because acknowledging the truth automatically disqualifies both planets from trading with each other. In the story, an unfortunate human lives on a planet of bat-like aliens, and doesn't like it very much - and just as he's about to finish his duty, he's selected at random to trade places to another planet.


Not for the first time, he cursed the dumb way the Galactic races had of arranging inter-species relationships. Surely humans could have worked out a less ridiculous method. But when Earth joined the Galactic community, the scheme had been a set tradition for millions of years; man could join it, or retreat home and sulk, but there was no changing or circumventing it.

Paul knew the technique was necessary. Species across the Galaxy were too diverse, too varied, to expect each of them to get along with all the others. Some were baby-eaters, some held very firm religious convictions. Each new species that entered Earth’s purview was a potential diplomatic ally, trade partner, friend — or perhaps far too different, physically, mentally, socially, morally, for humans ever to get along with.

The lottery was the established way to make or break relationships. Paul knew, intellectually, that it made more sense than wars, for example. But for someone forced to carry it out in a given instance, it sure seemed dumb.

"Beautiful day, a really gorgeous day,” he said at last, joining the family at their mornmeal. "Isn’t it your turn to flap over to Youoory for eggs, Wayuu?” He beamed affectionately at Paul.

A bit of underdone mork caught in Paul’s throat and he coughed helplessly. From where he sat, on the rim of the cliff, he could see the tops of the higher planted houses poking over the flametrees. A mere half mile as the bat flies, he thought. Two hours climbing for me, first down and then up. If I make it.

I’m not one of you, he thought desperately at the squatting family. I don’t have wings, I can’t fly, I hate breeir eggs. You know that, why do you pretend?

It was no use. They were letting Paul know that he was one of them, that they still accepted him. He should feel relieved and flattered. If they ever started coddling him, then he could really start to worry. It was just that all the members of the Mestoiwe family took their turns in shopping at Youoory village, and now it was his turn. As simple as that.

Slowly the Mayor stretched out his leathery wings. "I know you will do well for us, Wayuueo of the Mestoiwe,” he was saying huskily. "Tomorrow you will be taken by webship to the world of the Dreffitti. You have been chosen by lottery as Sheckley’s representative to those beings.”

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    If so, it will be a dupe of scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/167051/…
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jul 24, 2023 at 12:45
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    Thank you so much, this is exactly the story what I was looking for! I also found and bought the (Dutch) book of short SF stories where I read this story more than 30 years ago. Jul 24, 2023 at 16:41
  • @Joost Bekkers - If this answer is correct, please consider marking it as accepted, which you can do by clicking on the check mark on the left side of the answer. It's this site's way of formally indicating that a query has been solved to the querent's satisfaction. Jul 24, 2023 at 16:46

This somehow reminds me of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's Noon Universe stories.

One of the core ideas is the presence of so-called progressors.

From the Noon Universe Wikipedia article:

One of the controversial occupations is that of the progressors - agents embedded in less-advanced humanoid civilizations in order to accelerate their development or to resolve their problems. Progressors' methods range from rescuing local scientists and artists to overthrowing local governments.

Progressors could also try and shift planets' ideologies in a way that aligns with Earth's, which makes the eventual contact easier.

I can't think of any Noon Universe stories that perfectly fit your criteria, but I'm not familiar with all of the stories in the series. The Wikipedia page for Noon Universe I linked has a list of the books, so you could take a look and see if any of them ring a bell.

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