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Trying to find title/author of story I read many years ago, around 1964. Story was written from the point of view of a snail like creature. The central character describes (stream-of-consciousness?) himself and other characters moving along a path in a constant search for food. The story ends with the main character falling into what turns out to be the fuel tank of a space ship.

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    As in he carried a shell on his back? Left a slime trail? Was hermaphroditic? And when was "many years ago"? – FuzzyBoots May 7 '15 at 16:28
  • The central character describes (stream-of-consciousness?) himself and other characters moving along a path in a constant search for food. The story ends with the main character falling into what turns out to be the fuel tank of a space ship. Long time ago= 1964 – Tom Weeks May 15 '15 at 16:19
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This is "On the Fourth Planet" (1963) by J. F. Bone. The question was asked before as "Short story where creatures have squares of territory." Originally published in the April 1963 issue of Galaxy and widely anthologized.

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  • That is it! Thank you. – Tom Weeks May 15 '15 at 17:37
  • @TomWeeks: If this is the right answer, please click on the check-mark to accept it. – FuzzyBoots May 15 '15 at 17:45
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There may be others but I nominate "James", a short story by Gordon R. Dickson, first published in the The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, May 1955, available at the Internet Archive. (The title refers to "The Four Friends" by A. A. Milne.)

James huffled.

He paused, his horns searching the air. Something was coming toward him along the brick he himself was traversing. For a moment he tensed, then his trained perception recognized that the one approaching was another snail. James glowed with pleasure and hurried to meet him.

"I'm James," he said, joyfully touching horns. "And you?"

"Egbert," replied the other. "Honored to make your acquaintance, James."

"Honored to make yours," replied James; and then, avidly, as all snails do, he asked, "What's new?"

"The word," said the other. "The word is being passed."

"No!" said James.

"Absolutely," confirmed Egbert.

"It's Homo Sapiens, of course; you might have expected it." He sighed.

"H. Sapiens?" asked James. "Why, I wouldn't have thought it of them. They seemed like such large harmless creatures, for all their rushing around. I've just been observing one—"

"They may look harmless," interrupted Egbert, sternly, "but the mischief's in them. And we can't tolerate it, of course. After coming halfway across the Galaxy to try and get away from Them, you know."

"True," agreed James. He added, a trifle wistfully, "Sometimes I think we should have crushed Them the last time they overran the planet we were on. If not the previous time. Or the time before that."

"But what a labor it would have been," protested Egbert. "Of course all they had were primitive material weapons: space warps, disintegrators and the like. But there were so many of Them—thousands of planetary systems all populated up to the plimsoll mark. What a weary task to zzitz hard enough to exterminate them all. And how easy, comparatively, to zzitz just enough to protect ourselves."

If that doesn't ring a bell, maybe a quotation from the Milne poem will:

"James gave the huffle of a snail in danger—
And nobody heard him at all."

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You don't give much detail, but it sounds like Dragon's Egg by Robert Forward. From Wikipedia: Dragon's Egg is a neutron star with a surface gravity 67 billion times that of Earth, and inhabited by cheela, intelligent creatures the size of a sesame seed who live, think and develop a million times faster than humans.

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  • Were they snail-like? – FuzzyBoots May 7 '15 at 18:03
  • yes...the gravity of the neutron star squishes them flat and they crawl like snails. – LCB May 7 '15 at 18:57
  • Snail-like creatures living a million times faster than humans? – user14111 May 7 '15 at 21:55

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