A Momentary Taste of Being
|"A Momentary Taste of Being"|
|Author||James Tiptree, Jr.|
|Published in||The New Atlantis and Other Novellas of Science Fiction|
"A Momentary Taste of Being" is a science fiction novella written by Alice Bradley Sheldon, published under the pseudonym James Tiptree, Jr. in the 1975 anthology, The New Atlantis and Other Novellas of Science Fiction (also featuring stories by Gene Wolfe and Ursula K. Le Guin).
The story takes place in a world where the excessive human population necessitates an interstellar search for a habitable planet, the story centers on the experiences of Dr. Aaron Kaye, resident psychiatrist of Centaur, the second relativistic starship sent by the United Nations for this endeavor. The ship's crew has discovered a planet potentially capable of supporting human life, and after sending an away team to investigate the planet, only one crew member returns—Lory Kaye, Dr. Kaye's sister.
The story primarily concerns what occurred on the planet and why Lory was the only returning member. Lory insists that the planet is a paradise, and that the samples she retrieved are harmless, but she and others who came into contact with the samples are held in quarantine regardless.
Tensions among the multinational crew grow as the leaders of the expedition try to decide if they should send a message back to Earth telling them to come to the planet or not.
Origin of Title
- A Moment's Halt -- a momentary taste
- Of Being from the Well amid the Waste --
- And Lo! the phantom Caravan has reach'd
- The Nothing it set out from -- Oh, make haste!
Like other stories by Tiptree, '"A Momentary Taste of Being" deals with the dichotomy of sex, its life and death dynamic, and the inability to resist what we are. The intersection between aliens, sex, and human destiny is something Tiptree examines in her short story "And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill's Side," as well as her story "Love is the Plan the Plan is Death."
In addition to its inclusion in the various printings of The New Atlantis and Other Novellas of Science Fiction, the story also appeared in Star Songs of an Old Primate (first published 1978) and Her Smoke Rose Up Forever (first published 1990), both of which are collections of Tiptree's short fiction.