David Brin's short story "The Giving Plague" contains the following passage:

A guy I once knew, who used to read science fiction, told me about this story he'd seen, in which it turned out that the whole and entire purpose of humanity, brains and all, was to be the organism that built starships so that house flies could migrate out and colonize the galaxy.

If this is a real story, does anyone recognize it?

3 Answers 3


I emailed David Brin to ask him about the story, and somewhat to my surprise he replied!

His answer was disappointing, though not all that surprising:

Sorry. That was a fictional character saying that. I made it up. Sure, it sounds like an idea I might have picked up as a kid reading old sci fi. That's why I couched it that way.

But in any way I can attribute? I just made it up.

  • 2
    Actually I can hardly believe he replied. Since his e-mail address is openly displayed on his web site he must be swamped by fan e-mails. I must have just been lucky :-) Aug 7, 2015 at 19:42
  • Awesome! I have to switch the approved answer to you because of 'word of god' status! Aug 7, 2015 at 19:45
  • He also responds to twitter
    – Valorum
    Aug 7, 2015 at 19:52

This sounds like the Asimov short story Hostess, except that Asimov's story is about parasites, not flies. These parasites are an intelligent life form, and humans serve as their hosts (hence the title of the story). Here's an excerpt from the plot summary on Wikipedia:

He explains that the disease has been on Earth for millions of years, and humans (and other higher mammals) live with it within their DNA, partially immune to its effects but falling prey over the long term. To spread, the disease controls human behavior, urging men in particular to have wanderlust so they can infect new hosts. He notes that with the development of interstellar travel, almost all missing persons have fled to space.

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    Thanks and sounds like it might be it. Will wait a few days to see if anyone surfaces with an actual fly story. Aug 3, 2015 at 19:08

Brin may have been influenced by Asimov's "Does a Bee Care?" which also features Earth's space program being pushed by an alien to serve its own purposes.

Quote from Wikipedia page

An ovum is deposited on pre-human Earth by an alien race and in due course it gives birth to a creature that takes the form of a human. Over the centuries, the creature lives amongst humans and mentally influences certain of them to advance the development of civilization. In particular, it works on scientists and eventually it causes the development of space travel. As the first spaceship to attempt to reach the moon is being built, the creature, now known as Kane, causes the creation of a small space in the ship, which he enters, unknown to the builders.

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