As I recall it, after creating a huge butter pat market from nothing, one day the aliens just walked away from it. Probably some deep political philosophy behind it that I missed when I first read it 30-40 years ago.

  • What's AIRI? Huh?
    – Valorum
    Jan 30, 2015 at 12:53
  • 6
    It would be useful if this were phrased in the form of a question, rather than appearing to be a statement. One shouldn't need to read the tags to determine the intent of a question. Looks like the original question did have a title line with "Which story contained aliens", then @SeanDuggan 's edit removed that and made it a statement.
    – Johnny
    Jan 30, 2015 at 21:00
  • We had a debate about that on Meta. meta.scifi.stackexchange.com/a/6453/23243
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jan 30, 2015 at 23:21
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    If the tags appeared in the "Hot Network Questions" section of the sidebar that appeared on every site, relying on tags might be sufficient, but given that this question as gathered 1300 page views in 10 hours (compared to 50 - 150 for other questions), it seems that most people came here for the same reason I did -- because the subject was intriguing, but I felt misled when I came here and found that it was a request for story identification.
    – Johnny
    Jan 30, 2015 at 23:50
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    I couldn't believe it when I saw this question. I actually experienced this scenario in real life, although I didn't think to blame aliens! I was working on Mt Erebus in Antarctica a couple of years ago and McMurdo, from whence came all our food, ran out of sticks of butter. Like all the other field camps we had butter in our food orders and we were told we could only get it in large numbers of tiny single-servings. I wasn't directly involved in food ordering, but I think there was some competition between food camps for the remaining butter... Jan 31, 2015 at 4:44

1 Answer 1


The Big Pat Boom by Damon Knight is about aliens creating a market out of cow dung patties just for fun. It's pretty hilarious how they make distinctions like "ooh, an Emperor pat! With a double whorl!" The humans are sucked into it and prices rise, a typical bubble.

Then the aliens just leave and the pats aren't worth...uh, you know what I mean.

  • 6
    "the pats aren't worth..."; they are. Jan 30, 2015 at 16:16

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