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I am trying to find a short science fiction story I read 25 or more years ago (without telling my age :) ). I'm fairly sure it was not part of an anthology.

In it, an astronaut is sent to investigate a strange ship in space. I can't remember if the ship sent a distress signal, or if it was simply found apparently derelict. He boards it, and is greeted by a man with a shaved head living in a utopian world, where the entire ecosystem of the ship is a sustainable garden.

He wishes to escape and attempts to several times before slowly finding he loves the peace and tranquility of life in the garden and stays. The story ends with him becoming the next shaved head man ready to trap another astronaut who has been sent/discovered the ship.

The cover (from memory) has a shaved headed man in a space suit helmet laying in wait. I wish I could give you more, but that is all I remember, except that I really enjoyed the story and have been trying to find it for several years. It isn't very long, perhaps a couple of hundred pages.

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    Hello, I've put a bounty on this question because why not? Perhaps you can drop by in Science Fiction & Fantasy Chat and see if you can interest people in earning it? – SQB Jan 16 '16 at 19:45
  • This is a real long shot as the time traveler is not an astronaut and does not have a bald head. But the time looping and the protagonist living in an idyllic garden and then "trapping" the next traveler to come along sounds a lot like Heinlein's novella "By His Bootstraps". en.wikipedia.org/wiki/By_His_Bootstraps – beichst Jan 18 '16 at 21:56
  • @beichst No, I'm afraid not. There's no time travel, the protagonist definitely is an astronaut. But thanks for the suggestion! :) – Jane S Jan 18 '16 at 22:05
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    @SQB. Yes. When I saw the question from Jane S. it reminded me of a story that I had read many years ago But, I could not remember the name either. So I combined what Jane remembered with the additional things I remembered reading such as the harem of women and the ending phrase. Then I tried posting out to my friends on LibraryThing to see if they could recognize it. Apologies for not making it clearer in my post at LibraryThing that I was looking both for a book for myself but may also be what someone else was trying to find on another site. My bad. – beichst Jan 23 '16 at 5:10
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    "By His Bootstraps" was the novella they recommended. It is the book I remembered. But, re-reading it, it unfortunately doesn't seem to be the one that Jane S. was seeking which was why I said it was probably a long-shot that it was the one she was trying to find. – beichst Jan 23 '16 at 5:10
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I can't be absolutely sure, but it might be Trap for Perseus (1976; English translation 1980) by Ludek Pesek. Pesek was a Czechoslovakian artist and author.

Trap for Perseus has an astronaut who enters a vast spaceship with a garden-like ecosystem inside it. He becomes trapped there and by story's end remains on the vessel. This is the part that sounds generally similar to the story of your query.

Trap for Perseus by Luděk Pešek, Althea Bell (translator)

Set in the year 2275 where Commander Steve Blair of the spacecraft Perseus III discovers that the Argo, a spaceship lost 200 years earlier did not perish as was then believed. Aboard the Argo he finds that the crew of 120,000 have adapted to life in deep space and also that they have developed new ideologies. As a prisoner of the Argo he is expected to accept these but what will happen if he refuses and how is he to escape?

Spoiler Alert!

He doesn't escape.

However, I do not remember any bald-headed man greeting the astronaut. Although I realize in retrospect there may have been a bald headed man on the cover of the book. How weird to have the memory suddenly buoying up from the depths of my subconscious. Though it does seem plausible the astronaut having been indoctrinated and adapted to life on the vessel where he was trapped would have helped trap others.

I can only offer Ludek Pesek's Trap for Perseus as a possibility. It matches a reasonable amount of the details in your query.

  • @DavidW Absolutely yes! Many, many thanks. I am indebted to you. I feel gobsmacked to find my memories were, at least, half-right. It will be interesting to see if the OP thinks I am right with my option. – a4android Aug 1 at 13:19
  • I was about to say "no, this isn't it," but when I had a read through it on archive.org, it looks like it is actually the book I was thinking of after all! Well done! – Jane S Aug 2 at 7:37
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    @JaneS Thank you! I wasn't certain it was the actual book, so I'm glad it was the right one. – a4android Aug 2 at 13:14
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I tenuously have an answer for this: a nearly identical question was asked on another site, and the book they were looking for was By His Bootstraps by Heinlein.

man in blue jumpsuit, green background

It's an old story, from 1941, that has been re-released a few times. It features the traveler being greeted by a man with a shaved head, to a garden utopia, and eventually becoming that man himself -- but it lacks astronauts.

  • I'm sorry, but this book was raised in the comments above, and it's definitely not it. In my story there are no time travel elements, and it takes place in space. – Jane S Jan 22 '16 at 21:12
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    @JaneS It's funny, because the commenter is the one who posted the question I found the book through. A shame. – Carpe CM Jan 22 '16 at 21:14
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    The really weird thing is that the question @Axelrod is referring to, the one off Stack by the commenter above, is worded very similar to this one, in some places literally. – SQB Jan 22 '16 at 22:49
  • @SQB Really? I wrote this post all from scratch. There are only limited ways to say similar things, I guess :) – Jane S Jan 23 '16 at 0:57
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Saberhagen's Goodlife from his Berseker series?

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    Hi there. This is a great start, but it would be super helpful if you could explain why you think this is the answer. – Adele C Jan 16 '16 at 22:12
  • I'm sorry, but when I looked for more detail it's definitely not it. – Jane S Jan 17 '16 at 6:11

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