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Chance Encounter by A. Bertram Chandler

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“Chance Encounter” is a 1959 science fiction short story by A. Bertram Chandler. It is about two men who accept dangerous but lucrative assignments as crewmen on an exploration ship to the edge of the galaxy.

Non-Spoiler Summary In A Nutshell:

Andromeda GalaxyKen Willoughby and Peter Morris have just finished an assignment delivering a spaceship to Rim Runners Inc. on the planet Faraway. While waiting for their transport ship to whisk them back to Earth, they find themselves bored silly and spend most of their time getting drunk in the local bars. It is in such a state that they are approached by Captain Grimes, who offers them a job on the space exploration ship Faraway Quest. Each accepts the offer for his own reasons – Willoughby for the money and Morris because he has been searching for the perfect telepathic female companion for years, and he sincerely believes this opportunity will provide what he is looking for. Now, after several long months they finally come into contact with the Lowanni – a race of aliens who are very similar to humans… except for one small yet all-important detail!

I saw the girl in the alien ship speak to the Captain. She must, I thought, be their P.R.O. I remembered, suddenly, what Peter had told me of those dreams of his before we left Faraway. She was a little too tall, and a little too slim, and her golden hair had a greenish glint to it. Her small ears were pointed at the tips . . . And she has a wide, generous mouth, I thought, and in spite of the severity of her uniform she’s all woman . . . I looked at Peter. He was staring into the screen like a starving man gazing into a restaurant window.

My Two Cents:

• The good:

  • The ending of “Chance Encounter” was really cool and definitely a surprise! Not one that I saw coming – or have ever seen before. Very cool!
  • The idea of using a Psionic Radio Officer on each space ship as a way of contacting others was a pretty cool idea too. I would have loved to learn more about that one position.
  • Captain Grimes was a cool character – so much so that I found out he was featured in several of A. Bertram Chandler’s stories.

• The bad:

  • Remember, “Chance Encounter” was written a long time ago so some of the dialog and character actions are a bit stilted and over-dramatized.
  • As far as creativity goes… the aliens suck! C’mon – humans with greenish hair and pointy ears? Bleck!

Fact Sheet:
• Page Count: 14
• Word Count: 6,483

Where you can find “Chance Encounter”:

  • This short story first appeared in the March 1959 issue of New Worlds Science Fiction.
  • “Chance Encounter” is included in the spaceship-themed short story collection edited by Isaac Asimov: Starships .
  • You can read a very nice HTML version of this story at Webscriptions.

Some Interesting Links:

Craving More Stories?
If you enjoyed this story then you might also like Omnilingual, about a group of specially trained scientists who travel to Mars to uncover an ancient city, by H. Beam Piper.