THE LONELY ***
Produced by Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
BY JUDITH MERRIL
ILLUSTRATED BY LUTJENS
[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Worlds of Tomorrow October 1963
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]
If we practice our "Space Speech" and listen real
hard - Is this the sort of thing we're going to hear?
TO: The Hon. Natarajan Roi Hennessy, Chairman, Committee on
Intercultural Relations, Solar Council, Eros.
FROM: Dr. Shlomo Mouna, Sr. Anthropologist, Project Ozma XII, Pluto
DATE: 10/9/92, TC.
TRANSMISSION: VIA: Tight beam, scrambled. SENT: 1306 hrs, TST.
RCVD: 1947 hrs, TST
Herewith, a much condensed, heavily annotated, and topsecret coded
elseif (getClientWidth() > 430)
transcript of a program we just picked up. The official title is
GU#79, and the content pretty well confirms some of our earlier
assumptions about the whole series, as this one concerns us directly,
and we have enough background information, including specific dates, to
get a much more complete and stylistic translation than before.
I'd say the hypotheses that these messages represent a "Galactic
University" lecture series broadcast from somewhere near Galactic
Center, through some medium a damn sight faster than light, now seems
This one seemed to come from Altair, which would date transmission from
there only a few years after some incidents described in script. Some
of the material also indicates probable nature of original format, and
I find it uncomfortable. Also reraises question of whether Altair,
Arcturus, Castor, etc., relay stations are aimed at us? Although the
content makes that doubtful.
Full transcript, film, etc. will go out through channels, as soon
as you let me know which channels. This time I am not pleading for
declassification. I think of some Spaserve reactions and - frankly I
wonder if it shouldn't be limited to SC Intercult Chairmen and Ozma Sr.
Anthropoids - and sometimes I wonder about thee.
* * * * *
TRANSCRIPT, GU#79, Condensed Version, edited by SM, 10/9/92, TC.
(NRH: All material in parens is in my words - summarizing, commenting,
and/or describing visual material where indicated. Straight text is
verbatim, though cut as indicated. Times, measurements, etc., have
been translated from Standard Galactic or Aldebaran local to Terran
Standard; and bear in mind that words like "perceive" are often very
rough translations for SG concepts more inclusive than our language
provides for. - SM)
* * * * *
(Open with distance shot of Spaserve crew visiting Woman of Earth
statue on Aldebaran VI. Closeup of reverent faces. Shots of old L-1,
still in orbit, and jump-ship trailing it. Repeats first shot, then
to Lecturer. You may have seen this one before. Sort of electric eel
type. Actually makes sparks when he's being funny.)
* * * * *
The image you have just perceived is symbolic, in several senses.
First, the statue was created by the Arlemites, the native race of
Aldebaran VI (!! Yes, Virginia, there _are_ aborigines!!) in an effort
to use emotional symbols to bridge the gap in communications between
two highly dissimilar species. Second: due to the farcical failure
of this original intent, the structure has now become a vitally
significant symbol - you perceived the impact - to the other species
involved, the Terrans, a newly emerged race from Sol III. (Note that
"you perceived." We must accept the implication that the original
broadcasting format provides means of projecting emotional content.)
Finally, this two-fold symbol relates in one sense (Shooting sparks
like mad here. Professional humor pretty much the same all over, hey?)
to the phenomenon of the paradox of absolute universality and infinite
variety inherent in the symbolism.
* * * * *
(Next section is a sort of refresher-review of earlier lectures.
Subject of the whole course appears to be, roughly, "Problems
of disparate symbolism in interspecies communications." This
lecture - don't laugh - is "Symbols of Sexuality." Excerpts from
review: - )
* * * * *
The phenomenon of symbolism is an integral part of the development of
communicating intelligence. Distinctions of biological construction,
ecological situation, atmospheric and other geophysical conditions,
do of course profoundly influence the racially infantile phases
of intellectual-emotional-social development in all cultures ...
(but) ... from approximately that point in the linear development
of a civilization at which it is likely to make contact with other
cultures - that is, from the commencement of cultural maturity,
following the typically adolescent outburst of energy in which first
contact is generally accomplished ... (He describes this level at
some length in terms of a complex of: 1, astrophysical knowledge; 2,
control of basic matter-energy conversions, "mechanical or psial;" 3,
self-awareness of whole culture and of individuals in it; and 4, some
sociological phenomena for which I have no referents.) ... all cultures
appear to progress through a known sequence of i-e-s patterns ...
(and) ... despite differences in the _rate_ of development, the
composite i-e-s curve for mature cultural development of all known
species is identical enough to permit reliable predictions for any
civilization, once located on the curve.
* * * * *
(Then progresses to symbolism. Specific symbols, he says, vary even
more, between cultures, than language or other means of conscious
communication, as to wit - )
It is self-evident that the specific symbols utilized by, for instance,
a septasexual, mechanophilic, auriphased species of freely locomotive
discrete individuals, will vary greatly from those of, let us say, a
mitotic, unicellular, intensely psioid, communal culture. (Which makes
it all the more striking, that) it is specifically in the _use of
symbols_, the general consciousness of their significance, the degree
of sophistication of the popularly recognized symbols, and the uses to
which they are put by the society as a whole, that we have found our
most useful constant, so far, for purposes of locating a given culture
on the curve.
* * * * *
(Much more here about other aspects of cultural development, some of
which are cyclical, some linear - all fascinating but not essential to
understanding of what follows.)
* * * * *
Sexuality has until recently been such a rare phenomenon among
civilized species that we had casually assumed it to be something of
a drawback to the development of intelligence. Such sexual races as
we did know seemed to have developed in spite of their biological
peculiarity, but usually not until after the mechanical flair that
often seemed to accompany the phenomenon had enabled them to escape
their planet of origin for a more favorable environment.
I say more favorable because sexuality does seem to develop as an
evolutionary compensation where (some terms untranslateable, some
very broad, but generally describing circumstances, like extra-dense
atmosphere, in which the normal rate of cosmic radiation was reduced to
a degree that inhibited mutation and thus, evolution)....
As I said, this seemed almost a freak occurrence, and so it was, and
is, here in the heart of the Galaxy. But in the more thinly populated
spiral arms, the normal rate of radiation is considerably lower. It is
only in the last few centuries that we have begun to contact with any
considerable numbers of species from these sectors - and the incidence
of sexuality among these peoples is markedly higher than before.
Recently, then, there has been fresh cause to investigate the causes
and effects of sexuality; and there has been a comparative wealth of
new material to work with.
* * * * *
(Here he goes into a review of the variety of sexual modes, ranging
from two to seventeen sexes within a species, and more exotica-erotica
of means, manners, and mores than a mere two-sexed biped can readily
imagine. Restrain yourself. It's all in the full transcript.)
* * * * *
But let me for the moment confine myself to the simplest and most
common situation, involving only two sexes. Recent investigations
indicate that there is an apparently inevitable psychological effect
of combining two essentially distinct sub-species in one genetic unit.
(Sparks like mad.) I perceive that many of you have just experienced
the same delight-dismay the first researchers felt at recognizing
this so-obvious and so-overlooked parallel with the familiar cases of
The Terrans, mentioned earlier, are in many ways prototypical of
sexuality in an intelligent species, and the usual and rather dramatic
events on Aldebaran VI have added greatly to our insights into the
psychology of sexuality in general.
In this culture, dualism is very deeprooted, affecting every aspect
of the i-e-s complex: not just philosophy and engineering, but
mathematics, for instance, and mystique.
This cultural attitude starts with a duality, or two-sided symmetry,
of body structure. (Throughout this discussion he uses visual
material - photos, diagrams, etc., of human bodies, anatomy, physiology,
habitat, eating and mating habits, etc. Also goes off into some
intriguing speculation of the chicken-or-egg type: is physical
structure influenced by mental attitudes, or is it some inherent
tendency of a chromosome pattern with _pairs_ of genes from _pairs_ of
In this respect, the Terrans are almost perfect prototypes, with
two pairs of limbs, for locomotion and manipulation, extending from
a central - single - abdominal cavity, which, although containing
some single organs as well as some in pairs, is so symmetrically
proportioned that the first assumption from an exterior view would be
that everything inside was equally mirror-imaged. Actually, the main
circulatory organ is single - though consisting of two valves; the main
breathing apparatus is paired; the digestive system is single - although
food intake is through an orifice with paired lips and two rows of
teeth. In both "male" and "female" types, the organ of sexual contact
is single, whereas the gamete-producers are pairs. There is a single,
roundish head set on top of the abdomen, containing the primary sensory
organs, all of which occur in pairs. Even the brain is paired!
I mentioned earlier that it is typical of the sexual races that the
flair for physical engineering is rather stronger than the instinct for
communication. This was an observed but little-understood fact for many
centuries; it was not till this phenomenon of dualism (and triadism for
the three-sexed, etc.) was studied that the earlier observation was
clarified. If you will consider briefly the various primitive sources
of power and transport, you will realize that - outside of the psi-based
techniques - most of these are involved with principles of symmetry
and/or equivalence; these concepts are obvious to the two-sexed. On
the other hand, the principle of unity, underlying all successful
communication - physical, verbal, psial, or other - and which is also the
basis for the application of psi to engineering problems - is for these
species, in early stages, an almost mystical quality.
As with most life-forms, the reproductive act is, among sexual beings,
both physically pleasurable and biologically compulsive, so that it is
early equated with religio-mystic sensations. Among sexual species,
these attitudes are intensified by the communicative aspects of the
act. (Cartoon-type diagrams here which frankly gave me to think a bit!)
We have much to learn yet about the psychology of this phenomenon, but
enough has been established to make clear that the concept of unity
for these races is initially almost entirely related to the use of
their sexuality, and is later extended to other areas - religion and the
arts of communication at first - with a mystical - indeed often reverent
I hardly need to remind you that the tendencies I have been discussing
are the primitive and underlying ones. Obviously, at the point of
contact, any species must have acquired at least enough sophistication
in the field of physics - quanta, unified field theory, and atomic
transmutation for a start - to have begun to look away from the
essentially blind alley of dualistic thinking. But the extent to which
these Terrans were still limited by their early developmental pattern
is indicated by the almost unbelievable fact that they developed
ultra-dimensional transport _before_ discovering any more effective
channels of communication than the electromagnetic!
Thus their first contacts with older civilizations were physical;
and, limited as they still are almost entirely to aural and visual
communication, they were actually unable to perceive their very first
contact on Aldebaran VI.
* * * * *
(Shot of Prof Eel in absolute sparkling convulsions goes to distance
shots of planet and antiquated Earth spaceship in orbit: L-1 again.
Then suborb launch drops, spirals to surface. Twenty bulky spacesuited
figures emerge - not the same as in opening shots. This looks like
actual photographic record of landing, which seems unlikely. Beautiful
damn reconstruction, if so. Narration commences with Aldebaran date. I
substitute Terran Calendar date we know for same, and accept gift of
one more Rosetta Stone.)
This time is the year 2053. For more than six decades, this primitive
giant of space has ployed its way through the restrictive medium of
slowspace. Twice before in its travels, the great ship has paused.
First at Procyon, where they found the system both uninhabited and
uninviting; and at the time they did not yet know what urgent cause
they had to make a landing. (Our date for Procyon exploration, from L-1
log, is 2016, which fits.)
Then at Saiph, two decades later, when they could provide a bare
minimum of hospitality - no more than safe footing for their launches,
in which they would live while they tried to ensure their future
survival. But this system's planets offered little hope. One Earth-size
enveloped in horror-film type gases and nasty moistures. One more with
dense atmosphere of high acid content: probe from ship corroded in
They limped on. A half decade later they came to a time of decision,
and determined not to try for the next nearest star system, but for the
closest one from which their radio had received signs of intelligent
What they had learned between Procyon and Saiph was that those of their
crew who were born in space were not viable. The ship had been planned
to continue, if necessary, long beyond the lifespan of its first
crew. The Terran planners had ingeniously bypassed their most acute
psychosocial problem, and staffed the ship with a starting crew of just
one sex. Forty females started the journey, with a supply of sperm from
one hundred genetically selected males carefully preserved on board.
Sex determination in this species is in the male chromosome, and most
of the supply had been selected for production of females. The plan
was to maintain the ship in transit with single sexed population, and
restore the normal balance only at the end of the journey.
The Terrans have apparently reached a level of self-awareness that
enables them to avoid the worst dangers of their own divisive quality,
while utilizing the advantages of this special (pun intended - Prof.
Eel was sparking again) ambivalence. Their biological peculiarities
have, among other things, developed a far greater tolerance in the
females for the type of physical constraints and social pressures that
were sure to accompany the long slow voyage. Males, on the other hand,
being more aggressive, and more responsive to hostile challenges, would
be needed for colonizing a strange planet. (Dissertation on mammals
here which says nothing new, but restates from an outsider's - rather
admiring - viewpoint with some distinction. Should be a textbook
classic - if we can ever release this thing.)
That was the plan. But when the first females born on the trip came
to maturity, and could not conceive, the plan was changed. Three male
infants were born to females of the original complement - less than
half of whom, even then, were still alive and of child-bearing age.
* * * * *
(Well, he tells it effectively, but adds nothing to what we know from
the log. Conflicts among the women led to death of one boy, eventual
suicide of another at adolescence. Remaining mature male fails to
impregnate known fertile women. Hope of landing while enough fertiles
remained to start again pretty well frustrated at Saiph. Decision to
try for first contact made with just five fertiles left, and nearest
system eight light years off - with Aldebaran still farther. Faint
fantastic hope still at landing, with just one child-bearer left - the
Matriarch, if you recall?)
* * * * *
Remembering the reasons for their choice of Aldebaran, you can imagine
the reaction when that landing party, first, lost all radio signals
as they descended; then, could find no trace whatsoever - to their
senses - of habitation. The other planets were scouted, to no avail. The
signals on the Mother Ship's more powerful radio continued to come from
VI. One wild hypothesis was followed up by a thorough and fruitless
search of the upper atmosphere. The atmosphere was barely adequate to
sustain life at the surface. Beam tracing repeatedly located the signal
beacon in a mountain of VI, which showed - to the Terrans - no other sign
of intelligent life.
The only logical conclusion was that they had followed a "lighthouse
beacon" to an empty world. The actual explanation, of course, was in
the nature of the Arlemites, the natives of Aldebaran VI.
Originating as a social-colonizing lichen, on a heavy planet,
with - even at its prime - a barely adequate atmosphere, the Arlemites
combined smallness of individual size with limited locomotive powers
and superior air and water retentive ability. They developed,
inevitably, as a highly psioid culture - as far to one end of the
psichophysical scale as the Terrans are to the other. (My spelling
up there. I think it represents true meaning better than "psycho".)
The constantly thinning choice between physical relocation and a
conscious evolutionary measure which this mature psioid race was far
better equipped to undertake: the Arlemites now exist as a planet-wide
diffusion of single-celled entities, comprising just one individual,
and a whole species.
* * * * *
(Visual stuff here helps establish concept - as if you or I just
extended the space between cells.)
* * * * *
It seems especially ironic that the Arlemites were not only one of
the oldest and most psioid of peoples - so that they had virtually
all the accumulated knowledge of the Galaxy at their disposal - but
were also symbiote products. This background might have enabled
them to comprehend the Terran mind and the problems confronting the
visitors - except for the accidental combination of almost total
psi-blindness in the Terrans, and the single-sexed complement of the
The visitors could not perceive their hosts. The hosts could find no
way to communicate with the visitors. The full complement of the ship,
eventually, came down in launches, and lived in them, hopelessly, while
they learned that their viability had indeed been completely lost in
space. There was no real effort to return to the ship and continue the
voyage. The ranks thinned, discipline was lost, deaths proliferated.
Finally, it was only a child's last act of rebelliousness that
mitigated the futility of the tragedy.
The last child saw the last adult die, and saw this immobility as an
opportunity to break the most inviolable of rules. She went out of the
launch - into near-airlessness that killed her within minutes.
But minutes were more than enough, with the much longer time afterwards
for examination of the dead brain. It was through the mind of this one
child, young enough to be still partially free of the rigid mental
framework that made adult Terrans so inaccessible to Arlemites, that
the basis was gained for most of the knowledge we now have.
Sorrowingly, the Arlemites generated an organism to decompose the
Terrans and their artifacts, removing all traces of tragedy from the
planet's surface. Meanwhile, they studied what they had learned,
against future needs.
* * * * *
The technological ingenuity of these young sexuals will be apparent
when I tell you that only four decades after the departure of that
ill-fated first ship, they were experimenting with ultra-dimensional
travel. Even at the time of the landing at Aldebaran, ultra-di scouts
were already exploring the systems closest to Sol. Eventually - within
a decade after the child's death - one of these came to Aldebaran, and
sighted the still-orbiting Mother Ship.
A second landing was clearly imminent. The Arlemites had still devised
no way to aid this species to live in safety on their planet, nor did
they have any means to communicate adequately with psi-negatives whose
primary perceptions were aural and visual. But they did have, from the
child's mind, a working knowledge of the strongest emotional symbols
the culture knew, and they had long since devised a warning sign they
could erect for visual perception. The statue of the Woman of Earth was
constructed in an incredibly brief time through the combined efforts of
the whole Arlemite consciousness.
They had no way to know that the new ship, designed for exploration,
not colonizing, and equipped with ultra-di drive, which obviated the
long slow traveling, was crewed entirely by males. Even had they known,
they did not yet comprehend the extreme duality of the two-sexed
double-culture. So they built their warning to the shape of the
strongest fear-and-hate symbols of a female.
(Shot of statue, held for some time, angle moving slowly. No narration.
Assuming that emotional-projection notion - and I think we must - the
timing here is such that I believe they first project what they seem to
think a human female would feel, looking at it. I tried women on staff
here. They focused more on phallic than female component, but were
just as positive in reactions as males. ???? Anyhow, like I said, no
narration. What follows, though out of parens, is my own reaction.)
* * * * *
It seems more a return than a venture.
The Woman waits, as she has waited ... always?... to greet her sons,
welcome us ... home?... She sits in beauty, in peacefulness, perfect,
complete, clean and fresh-colored ... new?... no, _forever_ ... open,
welcoming, yet so impervious ... warm and ... untouchable?... rather,
_untouched_ ... almost but never, forgotten Goddess ... Allmother,
Woman of Earth ... enveloped, enveloping, in warmth and peace ...
* * * * *
One stands back a bit: this is the peace of loving insight, of
unquesting womanhood, of great age and undying youth ... the peace of
the past, of life that is passed, of that immortality that nothing
mortal can ever achieve except through the frozen impression of living
consciousness that we call _art_.
The young men are deeply moved and they make jokes. "Allmother," one
hears them say, sarcastically, "Old White Goddess, whaddya know?"
Then they look up and are quiet under the smiling stone eyes. Even the
ancient obscenely placed spaceship in her lap is not quite absurd, as
it will seem in museum models - or tragic, as is the original overhead.
(Prof. Eel goes on to summarize the conclusions that seem obvious to
him. Something is awfully wrong; that's obvious to me. How did they
manage to build something so powerful out of total miscomprehension?
What are we up against, anyhow? And, to get back to the matter of
channels, what do you think this little story would do to Spaserve