I read a story in a 1986 Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine about a Portuguese man who reincarnates and can make women fall madly in love with him by squeezing a secretion out from under his fingernails. I would like to find the story title and read it again.

  • You could improve this question by going through the checklists here and editing in any relevant info you can think to add.
    – Valorum
    Sep 3, 2023 at 7:57
  • You might well be able to find it on Archive.org, they seem to have most issues up til fairly recently. There'll only be about 6 issues for each year. If you use "asimov's v10n01" to search on Archive it will give you volume 10 number 1 for 1986. Adjust the 01 to 02 to get the second volume.
    – bob1
    Sep 3, 2023 at 9:07
  • archive.org/details/asimovmagazine to browse the archive's collection.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Sep 3, 2023 at 13:09
  • Here's a link to the ISFDB pages for the 13 issues of Asimov's in 1986 isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?137078
    – Andrew
    Sep 3, 2023 at 13:50
  • @bob1 From 1981 to 1985 Asimov's published 13 issues a year.
    – user14111
    Sep 5, 2023 at 0:35

1 Answer 1


"The Arcevoalo", a novelette by Lucius Shepard, not in Asimov's but in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, October 1986, available at the Internet Archive.

ISFDB synopsis:

The mutated, postapocalyptic Brazilian jungle creates a human to infiltrate the walled human city.

The main character is a reincarnation of an old Portuguese soldier:

Puzzled, and somewhat afraid, he glanced down at the ferns and saw scattered among them pieces of a fibrous black husk. Upon examining them, he discovered that the insides of the pieces were figured by smooth indentations that conformed exactly to the shapes of his face and limbs. There could be no doubt that prior to his awakening, he had been enclosed within the husk like a seed in its casing. His anxiety increased when — on setting down one of the pieces — his fingers brushed the clay beneath the ferns and he saw before his mind's eye the pitching deck of a vast wooden ship, with wild seas bursting over the railings. Men wearing steel helmets and carrying pikes were huddled in the bow, and standing in the door that led to the gun decks (how had he known that?) was a gray-haired man who beckoned to him. To him? No, to someone he had partly been. João Merin Nascimento. That name — like his vision of the ship — surfaced in his thoughts following contact with the clay. And with the name came a thousand fragments of memory, sufficient to make the young man realize that Nascimento, a Portuguese soldier of centuries past, lay buried beneath the spot where he was sitting, and that he was in essence the reincarnation of the old soldier: for just as the toxins and radiations of the September War had transformed the jungle, so the changed jungle had worked a process of alchemy on those ancient bones and produced a new creature, human to a degree, yet — to a greater degree — quite inhuman.

He secretes a powerful love potion from under his fingernails:

"You have speed and strength," said the Indian. "But your greatest weapon is a mere touch."

He instructed the arcevoalo to press the pads of his fingers hard, and when he did droplets of clear fluid welled from beneath the nails.

"A single drop will enslave any man's heart for a time," said the Indian. "But you must use this power sparingly, for your body can produce the fluid only in a limited quantity."

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