I am trying to learn the title of a short story that was about various races of beings on a ship heading to invade earth. They feel smug and more advanced then the inhabitants of Earth. However, their state of the arts weapon are something like muzzle loader. At the end of the story, much to the surprise of the aliens, when they land, they are made short work of by the machine guns and other weapons of Earth, that they had no experience with. Anyone have any insight to this title?

  • I remember this story - the principles of interstellar travel are relatively simple, obvious to humans when we see it, but until seeing it, we never think of it. Societies tend to stall technologically when they can raid other planets for resources, so our inability to travel puts our other tech far beyond the aliens we encounter, at least for a while... if we are talking about the same story, I think it is more recent... 80s at least...
    – Politank-Z
    Jun 29, 2015 at 19:23
  • 4

1 Answer 1


The Road Not Taken, Harry Turtledove:

The story is told through limited third person point of view, with most of the story concerning a single Roxolani captain. During a routine journey of conquest, they happen upon Earth. The Roxolani anticipate a simple and rewarding campaign, as they can detect no use of gravity manipulation, the cornerstone of their civilization. Humanity is awed by the invaders, as the maneuverability granted by that technology suggests the rest of their civilization is equally impressive. But as they begin their assault, things take a turn for the absurd—the Roxolani attack with matchlock weapons and black powder explosives. Humans retaliate with automatic weapons and missiles. The battle is short, and most of the invaders are killed. A few are captured alive.

When they are interrogated, the truth becomes evident. The Roxolani's method of manipulating gravity is absurdly simple, and they were thus able to begin utilizing aircraft, spacecraft, and even faster than light travel during their Age of Sail.


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