The story I'm trying to recall had the explorers stranded on the surface of some planet. I recall that there was a body of water, and a large alien creature which had a large, globular, transparent body with a nucleus giving it the appearance of some sort of cyclops. The creature would grab anything/one that disrupted its environment.

Generally, it was a hard-science escape puzzle story.

  • Roughly when did you read this? Was it a full-length book, or a short story? Was it part of a collection, in an anthology, or did you read it somewhere else?
    – phantom42
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 17:06
  • I can't nail down the exact decade, but I was quite a bit younger at the time, so say a few decades ago. It was a story, in an anthology. I think it may have been themed on encounters with alien wildlife. Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 18:22

1 Answer 1


Your description reminds me of a story I read in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction called Polyphemus by Michael Shea. It got the cover of that issue.

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I don't remember much about it, but your brief description made me think of it, and the cover illustration makes it seem like it could match.

The story has been anthologized a few times. In fact, when I looked at that link, I realized I have the story in The 1982 Annual World's Best SF, so I re-read it. Now I'm a little more confident in the identification. The "body of water" you mention is a lake inside a volcanic crater.

It was a titanic eye - a transparent orb of gold, intricately veined within, the pupil a scarlet rhomboid into which five sand-hogs could have been driven abreast. Deep in the yellow ichor, black shapes moved, whole constellations of them swarming through the kelp-like jungle of veins, while outside the globe, round its base, a collar of huge tongue-like tentacles stirred, stretched, and licked the air.

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    Well done! This is the story exactly! I was going to add remembered details about the 'black shapes' moving inside the sphere, as well as a scene where they directed a sand hog towards the sphere with a 'dummy' made of an inflated spacesuit, in an attempt to distract it. The other funny factor was that I was certain the author was Michael someone, but couldn't recall who. I think this whole thing was triggered by a recent resurgence of publication by Michael Swanwick, for what it's worth. Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 20:44
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    Yes, marked as accepted. Thank you so much, I was wracking my brain! Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 20:47
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    Looking at some pictures of used paperbacks, the collection Polyphemus was not where I read it. I too read it in the DAW books World's Best. Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 21:05
  • I just looked for the Shea collection The Autopsy on abebooks.com....it was $300...gonna have to skip that one. Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 21:07
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    Yeah. I just ordered a used copy of the DAW anthology for $4.13 shipping included. Polyphemus started at $5, and jumped to $145 by the third choice! Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 21:10

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