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Long ago there was a gaudy pulp magazine called Planet Stories, which was devoted to two-fisted, colorful tales of action and adventure on other worlds. Don't think it was junk, though: Ray Bradbury, Poul Anderson, Theodore Sturgeon, and Leigh Brackett were regular contributors, Isaac Asimov and Jack Vance wrote for it, Philip K. Dick's first published story appeared in it. Readers loved it and so did the writers, because they could rare back and let their imaginations run wild.

I never had anything published in Planet Stories, because it went out of business in 1955, just as my career was getting started. But I enjoyed doing Planet-type material for such later imitators as Science Fiction Adventures and Venture SF, which flourished toward the end of the fifties, and suddenly, one day in the spring of 1984, it occurred to me to attempt one for Playboy in the old Planet Stories mode, appropriately buffed and polished for Playboy's demanding readership. (I would, after all, be fighting for a place on the contents page with the likes of Nabokov, Updike, and Joyce Carol Oates, all of whom were once Playboy regulars.) And out of the machine came "Symbiont," the somber tale of jungle adventure and diabolical revenge that you are about to read. Off it went, with some trepidation on my part, to the formidable Alice K. Turner, who had put me so exhaustingly through my paces fifteen months earlier with "Tourist Trade." And back from Alice a few days later came this letter of acceptance:

"Your check, as we like to say, is in the mail. I was dumbfounded when I read this story (avidly, I should add) and sent it off to Teresa [her assistant editor], whose youth was not misspent, as mine was, in reading stories that featured creatures with tentacles and body-takeovers by alien nasties. I waited, somewhat apprehensively, for her response - and she loved it. That's good enough for me. If such a noble mind can be here o'erthrown, what the hell. This is one of the ones that will go with not a word unchanged, though not till '85 some time." And so it did, in the June 1985 issue.

The initial idea for the story, incidentally, was given to me by a young woman named Karen Haber, whom I had met while on a speaking tour in Texas. It originally involved something that had happened to a friend of hers in Vietnam, but I applied my usual science-fiction metamorphosis techniques to it and "Symbiont" was the result. Ms. Haber was very impressed. I was very impressed with Ms. Haber, too. A couple of years later I married her.


Used availability for Robert Silverberg's Symbiont

Kindle Editions

March 2013 : USA, Canada, UK Kindle edition

Author(s): Robert Silverberg
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA