Please help me identify this story.

A woman wakes up in the wilderness, with no one else around. She has no idea why. That night, the answer comes to her in a dream: Humanity is extinct, but she has been resurrected from her remains by a race that does that sort of thing.

They can resurrect the whole human race, if she asks, and if they choose to. But she must ask only once. If they say no, that's it; they cut contact with her (such as it is -- they communicate with her only through dreams, and she with them only through her thoughts).

So from time to time she lauds our species in terms of one or another thing we're supposedly good at -- technology, art, love. Each time, she receives a dream about another race, much better than us at that thing, that was refused resurrection.

Finally, as she is about to die of old age, she asks for resurrection, not for humanity, but for the race that was best at love. This surprises the aliens so much that they decide to grant the request, which they have never done before.

  • So are you asking us to identify this story? You seem to know the whole thing start to finish... Surely you can remember some character names at least? – Daft Jul 15 '15 at 6:29
  • I don't think they ever gave her name. I want to say the story might have been called Shall These Bones Live ?, but good luck searching with that. The races mentioned had names, but I'm afraid I can't remember any of them. – trovatore Jul 15 '15 at 6:33
  • so is is a short story or a novel? When would it have been published? any idea on the nationality of the author(s)? – Daft Jul 15 '15 at 6:35
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    I added a note to the question to clarify that, yes, I would like help identifying the story. Sorry, my first question, I don't know the customs here. – trovatore Jul 15 '15 at 6:58
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    "she has been resurrected from her remains by a race that does that sort of thing" Oh, science-fiction, that that's a thing that aliens tend to do. :) – FuzzyBoots Aug 26 '15 at 13:17

I'm pretty sure you're looking for Ted Reynolds' Can These Bones Live?, first published in Analog magazine March 1979. It's supposed to be available from SmashWords October 2015 as part of this anthology.

from Aliens and Alien Societies: A Writer's Guide to Creating Extraterrestrial Life, by Stanley Schmidt:

Some human-alien interactions will be unique and hard to classify—and some of those may be the most haunting and memorable of all. Consider Ted Reynolds's Can These Bones Live?, which might be considered the ultimate wish-fulfillment story: Humanity is extinct, but aliens revive a single individual and offer her a single wish—and a test.

from the SmashWords link:

Can These Bones Live?: The last human survivor has the option to bring the human race back to life. But she's not sure that she wants to.

I found this excerpt from Donald Wollheim's The 1980 Annual World's Best SF:

“The universe is full of creatures,” it said slowly, “and all live their separate lives and crave their varied wants and hold their distinct values, and little do we comprehend or sympathize with any of them. One thing we find always and everywhere. When an individual is brought back to brief existence, and permitted to request racial rebirth, it invariably wishes the return of its own species, Each being appreciates the existence of its own kind, shares their particular values. We never grant such requests. We are rather . . . amused”
It looked at her, its eyes almost pleading. “But you . . . you have shamed us.”
It was silent awhile, rocking hack and forth on its haunches, considering.
“If you ask for rebirth,” it said at last, “not for your own kind, but for another, we can only assume that, however little we can appreciate the reasons for such requests, there is something in that other race of higher and more universal value than the contingent preference of a single species. We feel we must grant such a request. For what is higher, should be...”
The dwarf tightened its lips. “We can restore life when we choose. But the cost to us is high. High not in your concepts of money, or time, or energy, but in terms you could not grasp, though to us they are of highest importance. But somehow at this moment, although we feel the costs, we shall ignore them. Your request is granted, then. The race of the Toomeer shall live again, as they did when we were young.”
She bowed her head. “Thank you,” she said softly.

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    Yes, you've nabbed me, I confess, I wrote it. Naturally, I'd love you all to read it. It will be out in October in one of three collections of my short stories on both Smashwords and Amazon. (I think they're all worth reading, but I admit I may be a bit prejudiced.) Ted Reynolds – user51214 Aug 26 '15 at 5:53
  • I look forward to reading your new collections. – Joe L. Aug 26 '15 at 14:46

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