On the Last Afternoon • 1972 • SF novelette by James Tiptree, Jr.


A human colony crashed years ago on a planet. They are lucky enough to find the only arable piece of land, not wondering why it is missing the omnipresent mangroves. On the last afternoon, their reproductive cycle leads huge seamonsters back to their mating grounds like a force of nature. Grandpa Mysha has come to an alien artifact called the noion to ask for one last wish. It takes great psychological efforts to access the telepathic alien and bring it to the desired effect. Mysha is presented a choice: Eternal life in the stars or saving his own children.


Similar to „A Momentary Taste of Being,“ the human colony is eradicated by reproductive efforts. Sexuality is always a source of horror and amazement in her work. The colony’s epic fight against the seamonsters resembles Mysha’s agonizing internal monologue. Both fail in a calamitous way due to communication flaws: they do the wrong thing or nothing at all although they heared wise choices.

Reading his novelette was exhausting.

Meta: ISFDB. First published November 1972 in Amazing. I read it in the collection Her Smoke Rose Up Forever.


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