What was this science-fiction short story?
February 19, 2014 10:48 AM   Subscribe

A friend read an SF short story in the 1970's, probably published in one of the common "Best of" anthologies of that decade. She's trying to find out the title, but Google and other sources turn up nothing so far. Can you help?

Asking for a friend. I haven't actually read it, myself, but it sounds interesting so I hope someone out there can identify the author and/or title.

The title of the short story may be something like 'Value' but she's not positive about that. She's certain that she read it in a mid-1970's SF anthology. I've Googled and also searched through the common anthologies from that time, but so far nothing.

As my friend remembers, the plot involved humans and an alien race meeting in space. On mutual exchange visits to one another's ships, the humans notice the portable power-pack things (that produce clean, renewable energy) the aliens are wearing, while the aliens are intrigued by the atmosphere-replenishing living plants on-board the human ship. On their respective planets these items are ubiquitous; so much so that the humans have difficulty believing the plants could be so valuable and rare to the aliens, and vice-versa for the aliens and the power pack things.

They exchange gifts of plants and power packs/things, which are exactly what the other worlds are seeking to resolve their problems. Afterwards, the visit becomes tense as each group feels it has essentially given "beads for Manhattan" and wants to escape before the other side realizes it has been swindled.

That's about all my friend can remember about the story. Does it ring a bell for anyone? Thanks in advance!
posted by infodiva to Writing & Language (3 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I don't really have much to offer, beyond Internet Science Fiction Database, which has 65 titles that include "value" in the name (sorry, their site doesn't lend itself to linking to search results). Also lacking: story plots, but if your friend finds a story title, anthology title, or author who rings a bell, you can then search for that story online and probably find a review of it, if not the story itself.

UPDATE: Your friend might be looking for In Value Deceived by H. B. Fyfe, which is very briefly described on LibraryThing as a "clever story about aliens and humans trading what they think is junk."

It's in a number of anthologies, from the 1950s to recent collections.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:45 AM on February 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Aha, the Fyfe story might just be it. On your recommendation, I was on ISFD checking through the list of short fiction titles containing the word "value" and noticed that one. I'll take a further look, and thanks!
posted by infodiva at 12:03 PM on February 19, 2014

Response by poster: Update: Yes, that was the story she was seeking! She remembered some of the plot points wrong, but close enough, apparently. I have on-hand a copy of Damon Knight's First Contact (the 1978 ed.) and there it was.

Thanks for your help, it's most appreciated.
posted by infodiva at 12:31 PM on February 19, 2014

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