A pre-1955 short story about people hiding from undulating ribbon-like invaders coming in through the air vents. The ribbons may have been yellow, and the author just might have been Van Vogt. It probably involved time travel. Haven't read it in 60 years.

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    I'm blanking on title, but I think I know the story and can add some more details that might help someone else: Main character is one of three people left alive on Earth after gaseous aliens invade. The other two are a woman and her scientist father. One of them has extreme allergies, so the father had built an airtight house, which protected them. The main character reads old sci-fi mags and comes across his own story, foreshadowing his upcoming time travel (he goes back in time to write it). At one point they see the aliens coming through vents on a TV newscast. Does this sound right, Zack?
    – Otis
    May 2 '15 at 18:40

A pre-1955 short story

"Transfer Point" by Anthony Boucher, originally published in Galaxy Science Fiction, November 1950, which is available in the Internet Archive.

about people hiding from undulating ribbon-like invaders coming in through the air vents. The ribbons may have been yellow, and the author just might have been Van Vogt.

Not by Van Vogt, but you're right about the invasion of yellow ribbons:

It was then that they saw the first of the yellow bands.

It was just that: a band of bright yellow some thirty centimeters wide, about five meters long, and so thin as to seem insubstantial, a mere stripe of color. It came underneath the back drop behind the announcer. It streaked about the casting room with questing sinuosity. No features, no appendages relieved its yellow blankness.

Then with a deft whipping motion it wrapped itself around the announcer. It held him only an instant. His hideously shriveled body plunged toward the camera as the screen went dead.

That was the start of the horror.

It probably involved time travel.

He saw it clearly. Kirth-Labbery's genius had at last evolved a time machine. That was the one escape, the escape which the scientist had not yet tested and rather distrusted. And Lavra had poked the green button because Norbert Holt had said she had poked (would poke?) the green button.

That last passage is not exactly self-explanatory, so let me explain. The main character, Vyrko, bored in his airtight shelter, was reading a stash of ancient sci-fi pulps he found there, and he ran across an amazingly accurate account of his current situation in a story by someone writing as "Norbert Holt". Yeah, a time paradox. Here is a plot summary from NESFA's Recursive Science Fiction site:

Far in the future Earth has been invaded by aliens who look like yellow bands. They have used the allergenic gas agnoton to destroy humanity. Only three people survive—the scientist Kirth-Labbery, his beautiful, but stupid daughter Lavra, and her literary boy friend Vyrko. Vyrko, read old pulps (especially Galaxy and Surprising); he is amazed by the detailed accurate predictions of Norbert Holt. Vyrko is accidentally thrown back in time by Lavra (who is now pregnant with twins). In the 1950s, Vyrko has no skills, so he turns to writing history as science fiction under the name Norbert Holt. He becomes a success—convention guest of honor and president of the Science Fiction Writers of America (SCWA—go figure; this is changed to the Fantasy Writers of America in the anthology version). Vyrko has an affair with Ms. Manning Stern, editor of Suprising, but commits suicide to break the time loop. Appearing in cameo roles are Joe Henderson, Matt Duncan, and Austin Carter from Rocket to the Morgue.

  • Yes! I think that's where I read it, too -- which explains why I couldn't find it in my library yesterday.
    – Otis
    May 3 '15 at 15:55

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