As I remember, this might have been a young adult book. Two alien students at university seek the help of the librarian in finding research material. He recommends three "books" which are short stories within this book.

One story was about a young girl on the edge of adulthood who takes her father's space craft on a joy ride. She encounters a derelict ship with two men who died horribly from contact with an alien lifeform that drove them insane. She manages to communicate with this life form and realizes that safe contact is impossible. She drives her ship into a sun to save humanity from this organism.

A second story is about two families in a space empire that have been connected for centuries. A family on a small, backward planet serves the Emperor's family in a very special capacity. The Emperor's heir is always sent to this planet to be "judged" for his fitness to rule. The current Emperor's son proves to be a coward when he compromises the honor of peasant girl and then denies his obligation. He dies (is killed?) and the Emperor is informed that his son was judged a coward and unfit to rule.

I don't remember the third story.

I lent the book to a young neighbor and never got it back. Now I want to read it again.


1 Answer 1


This is James Tiptree Jr.'s The Starry Rift .

From Publishers Weekly:

The unsettling quality one expects of Tiptree is immediately evident in the sequences framing these three stories that share the background of the pseudonymous novelist's Brightness Falls from the Air. In a prologue, a librarian in a great galactic library and two students refer to that novel, marveling how wonderful, moving and insightful the tales are. Readers who proceed in spite of that clear warning of authorial self-indulgence will find that each piece in this new work revolves around an act of self-sacrifice so outrageous and weepy they're candidates for the Fannie Hurst/Steven Spielberg league: a 15-year-old girl becomes host to an intelligent but parasitic new species and commits suicide to protect humanity; a grizzled war veteran rescues an old love, now a big star, from pirates and then nobly fades away; and several deaths including that of a teddy bear-like simpleton, all trust and goodness prevent a misunderstood first contact from turning into a disastrous interspecies war. In all likelihood, this is destined for the same popularity as Tiptree's other work but readers must be prepared to turn down their critical facilities and get out their handkerchiefs. Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Here's the librarian:

Moa Blue, Chief Assistant Librarian, snuffles his way back to the Historical Specialties carousel. His snuffling is partly constitutional—Moa is an amphibian—and partly directed at his current customers, two impossibly cheerful young Comenor. They are asking for a selection of Human fact/fiction from the early days of the Federation, "to get the ambience." A selection! In Moa's days as a student, you did the selecting yourself. The hard way. Now these two want to pick his brains. Well, he can satisfy them. There've been a lot of similar requests this term—probably some ambitious instructor offering an "enriched" course. Moa sneezes definitively and punches up a readout.

But I just realized the second story the OP described is from a different author and collection - it's Gordon R Dickson's widely anthologized Call Him Lord .


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