Novel: Failed alien metamorphosis- recycle individual to queen organism

Mary818

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Mar 5, 2019
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This is my first post. Please forgive me if I have an error in protocol. Key words alien metamorphous, change in skin patterns, return to the queen organism for recycle.
I think I read this book more than 20 years ago. It was a novel, not a short story. There is space travel. There are many alien races in different star systems. The protagonist/narrator is a veteran of visiting many planets and contacting many species. It is his job to learn about new species and their cultures. One thing that I remember is that he said he said he generally ate sweet foods while visiting other planets because he found that many other species perception of foods that were savory were too bitter for humans. In this story, he is visiting a new race of rather humanoid looking people. This race had a very structured society, and individuals went through many metamorphoses throughout their lives. The key item related to this what is that after each metamorphosis their superficial skin markings changed. And they were supposed to change to become more symmetrical. If, after a metamorphosis, an individual’s markings became more chaotic than it was deemed that they failed to progress properly. Our protagonist is accepted into a group of the humanoids so that he can study them and they him and to develop a relationship with them to build bridges between the cultures. During the times he is meeting with his designated group there is often another individual who is in the background watching them. This individual is undergoing a metamorphosis phase. Apparently a lot of latitude is given to those during their metamorphosis phase. At the same time it is deemed important that the individual undergoing metamorphosis not be subjected to stress or confusion because it could impact the outcome of the metamorphosis and cause what was deemed to be failure. The individual in the metamorphosis phase was very interested in the protagonist, they developed a friendship. But apparently this was negative to the progression of the individual’s metamorphosis and at the end, his markings became extremely chaotic instead of more symmetrical. Because he had not progressed properly it was required that he returned to the queen to be ‘reborn’. This was a significant plot twist - apparently the aliens hatch from eggs from a queen. So the individual went to the location of the queen and inserted himself for what I have to call recycle, in a crevice of her abdomen. And the human protagonist because of the deep friendship he had developed with the alien, also recycled himself. This probably sounds worse than the way the author spun it, when the beings went back to the queen they were supposed to be given a new beginning. Does anybody remember a story like this? I would like to find it and reread it. Thank you.
 

otistdog

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Sep 21, 2005
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This one certainly sounds distinctive enough. Do you recall anything else about the context of when you read it except the approximate time? Was this short story part of a themed collection? If so, can you remember any other stories in the same collection?
 

Mary818

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Mar 5, 2019
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I’m sorry- that is pretty much all I remember. I was thinking it was a stand alone book. It is possible that it might have been a longer story in something like Isaac Azamov’s science fiction magazine. Thanks for the reply.
 

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