I’m not sure what to think of this story. The imagery is memorable and profound, the sensawunder powerful, and that guilt which underlies much of sf—that we saw something lovely and ruined it—is present here as well.
The story isn’t as touching or as emotional as “Mars Minus Bisha.” And yet, the story is lyrical and delicate.
John Ross, our protagonist, is cataloguing the Martians, looking for lost races, when an elf-like man stumbles into the bar where JonRoss (as he’s known) is drinking. Ross convinces this man to return to his home city, Shandakor, which is dying. The race is dying, according to the elf-man. John Ross accompanies him on a perilous journey, and things go horribly wrong. They continue to go horribly wrong to the very dark ending.
Memorable. Dark. Just not as emotional as the fiction that usually attracts me. Still, I’d like to include something of Brackett’s, so I’ll keep this one in reserve and read the other books I have of hers.
I found the story in The Coming of The Terrans by Leigh Brackett, Ace Books, 1967. The story first appeared in Startling Stories in 1952. The story’s been reprinted in other collections as well.