I read a story years ago whose major themes stuck with me but I can't remember the name or author. I'm almost certain it was a short story. From what I can remember, the plot went roughly as follows:

Humans (on Earth?) receive a distress signal in the form of a video transmission from a peaceful race. They may have looked like cute furry elephants or something. I think they were from Barnard's star system but this story isn't listed in Wikipedia's page of stories associated with each system. Humans then mounted a huge rescue/aid effort and built a ship and sent it out to the planet. When they got there, they realize they were deceived and the transmission was fake. They get taken into a giant ship or something and are addressed by a huge federation of different alien races. The federation was peaceful but I think they had some strange policy that made them do this. That's all I remember.

  • It reminds me a little of John Varley's The Ophiuchi Hotline , but the details are way different.
    – Joe L.
    Commented Feb 16, 2015 at 6:53

1 Answer 1


This is The Helping Hand by Norman Spinrad.

The previous question you link says:

written in the form of newspaper articles and short narrative.

and this is exactly how the story is written. The transmission is video that shows an apparent environmental disaster. The aliens aren't elephants, but do have trunks:

Cut to a full shot of two upright creatures standing hand-in-hand-in-hand-in-hand. Two pairs of arms, one pair of legs, round roly-poly bodies like teddy bears.

No nose, but a mobile tubular projection covered with black fur depending from their stubby chins like elephants’ trunks.

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