Death and Designation among the Asadi by Michael Bishop

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This is an unsolicited guest post from Oliver, one of our readers in Germany. Thanks Oliver!

“Death and Designation among the Asadi” is a 1973 science fiction novella by Michael Bishop. It tells the story of Egan Cheney, a xenologist who studies an alien race on a distant colony world.


In the forests of the planet Bosk Veld live the hominid-like Asadi who form a rudimentary tribal society. Because of Egan’s physical differences from the Asadi they consider him a pariah and ignore him. So he can observe their perplexing behavior undisturbed from within their group. From his notes we learn about the old chieftain of the tribe and his eerie guardian, the bat-like huri. And we participate in the disturbing rituals which accompany the old Asadi’s death. How far will Egan go to understand the strange manners of the Asadi?

“Day 112: It continues, this strange bipartite waltz. The dancers have grown even more frantic in their movements. Anxiety pulses in the air like electricity. The Bachelor climbs higher into his tree, struggling to the topmost branches where his hold is precarious—he wedges himself in place. In the last three days I can’t recall having seen any of the dancers eat—none have engaged in sex. Even their staring contests have virtually ceased, though those that do occur are fierce and protracted. The nonexistent flute that plays in my head has grown stingingly shrill and I cannot guess what the end of this madness must be.”

“Death and Designation among the Asadi” is a story about aliens with a very different mindset. To communicate with them takes far more than learning a new language. It means risking your sanity.

More Information

  • 31,154 Words
  • This novella first appeared in the magazine Worlds of If Science Fiction, Jan/Feb 1973
  • In 1973 this story was short-listed for both the Hugo and Nebula awards.
  • You can find more stories by Michael Bishop on his website.

Where To Find This Story

  • You can read the first few pages at infinity plus.
  • In 1979 Michael Bishop returned to this story in his novel “Transfigurations”. This story forms the first part of the novel. A new edition of “Transfigurations” is available at Amazon.
  • “Death and Designation among the Asadi” is also included in Bishop’s story collection Blue Kansas Sky.
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