(Found) Shapeshifting aliens on earth could use the ability to have bodies that are the most desirable for any fad, any time period

Ravensquawk

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A short story with the setting on Earth, probably, but not necessarily, set in the USA. The time period of the story setting and plot (i.e. not when it was written) was over several time periods. I don’t remember whether the aliens could time-travel, or the story simply described how they fitted in to earth fashions over the ages.

The main plot was that aliens shape-shifting into human form could modify their bodies to fit the current fashions. It makes sense – you can have it and flaunt it! That is, they always appeared human, but they could be fatter, thinner, taller, strongman, make their waists tiny without needing girdles, women flat-chested to fit in and be attractive to human men in the 1920s, or actually pointy-chested in the 1950s, and so on.

I would have to read it again to remember if their motive for attracting human mates was a hostile takeover to conquer humans from within, or more simply the desire to live on earth and blend in.

I had to look up this time period in fashion history: one of the various time periods in the story must be the 1870s.
The attractive human-appearing alien woman was meeting a man intimately; perhaps just married after the customs, perhaps not. When she undressed, the man screamed and ran out.

She was extremely surprised and confused at his reaction, because had she not formed her body to be most attractive to the men of this period??

Punchline:
She was unaware of the existence of --- the bustle.

Which last two words were the last two words of the story, I think. A punchline ending in the last two words.


This story was in a science fiction paperback anthology, in English, which I read about in the 1980s, any time during that entire decade.

The story itself could be either new at that time, or older. It seems newer than Golden Age, 1960s to 1970s, but it could still have been an older classic.
It was written like a standard short story: for adults, that is, not a “juvenile”, but adult only in the sense of the standard audience, not because of X-rated “adult” themes.

I can’t pin what I remember of this down to a style, i.e. not necessarily Sheckleyesque, or Ellison horror, or Golden Age Campbell. Can’t rule any of ‘em out, though!

I have used the Unz review, searched for every combination of words I could think of, and all I got was references to “hustle and bustle”.
 

otistdog

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Sep 21, 2005
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I don't have the answer, but I just wanted to pipe up to say that I recall reading the same story, with the ending being as you describe. I can't think of any other details to add, either, but it definitely exists!
 

Ravensquawk

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I don't have the answer, but I just wanted to pipe up to say that I recall reading the same story, with the ending being as you describe. I can't think of any other details to add, either, but it definitely exists!
Yess!
Now others will be looking for it too!
 

KiraAnn

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Sounds like something from the late 50's to early 60's, but I don't know it.
 

Ravensquawk

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Apr 30, 2006
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My first bump of my own question, a little before a new year, because others remember it vaguely, and others might remember it exactly enough to find it.

And because I didn't imagine it. Besides, if I had imagined it, I could have been a science fiction author instead of just a science fiction reader! (ha)

"The Alien Woman Who Didn't Know Earth Humans Weren't Shaped Like A Bustle". . .
 

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