A sci-fi short story recognition help thread...

I have only somewhat vague memories of a sci-fi story, but some Googling didn’t help.

It was in an anthology, probably a late '40s or a '50s story, and it centered around a prisoner in some post-war scenario describing the rise of “the Leader” who is never named, but always capitalized (the Hitler reference is strong and obvious.) The prisoner is interrogated by the victorious foreigners, and implies strongly some sort of psychic powers that allowed the Leader to take control, and the prisoner, who was apparently close to the Leader, describes how much he and others loved the Leader even as he led them to do terrible things and into disaster.

There may or may not have been a twist at the end; I don’t remember that.

Any ideas?

I’m thinking it was a story titled The Leader by Murray Leinster first published in 1960. It’s told as a series of letters between the characters after the events.

Project Gutenberg link:

That’s the one. Many thanks, Bill Door and hogarth!

Good story (I just read it). Reminds me of “Entity Trap” by Fred Brown.

I’m thinking of a sf short story in which a human astronaut (or more than one?) is sitting by a campfire on an Earthlike world. Out of the dark, an alien appears and sits down with him, and they talk.

After awhile the alien tells him (them?) about an ancient master race that used to tyrannically rule the galaxy until defeated in a long and terrible war. The ancient race was ruthlessly hunted down wherever it was found, since it was so dangerous, and was thought to have been exterminated… until now. We realize the ancient race was human. The alien quickly kills the human astronaut, more in sorrow than anger. It’s implied (or stated outright?) that the alien will now follow the trail of the astronaut’s ship back to Earth and destroy humanity.

Ring a bell for anyone?

Almost sounds like the ancient humanity in the Halo universe but I don’t remember that story specifically.

Sounds like a Gordon Dickson story - something in his collection called “The Human Edge,” perhaps. (see related discussion here https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=659676)

Thanks. I first read the story in the early Eighties, I think, so it wouldn’t be anything Halo-related. Not sure about Dickson.

I’m thinking of a story where the final line is “IT’S A COOKBOOK!!!”

It’s on the tip of my tongue…

If you’re serious - it’s “To Serve Man” (by Damon Knight).

That is called “All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury.

Nah, I looked it up.

It’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, by H.G. Wells.

Under a picture of a Dalek “OMG it’s R2-D2 - I love him in Star Trek”

And it turns out they were Adam and Eve all along.

Just before they woke up and discovered it was all a dream.

And the Music of the Spheres was actually “Rio” by Duran Duran.

They’re made out of meat!

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There’s an Alan Dean Foster story (in either the collections “With Friends Like These” or “Who Needs Enemies?”) that’s almost exactly like what you described except a detail or two and the ending is the opposite of what you remember. The time you read it was dead-on accurate.

The Dickson story has the alien kidnap a guy and put him in a zoo. See, there’s these warnings about “Hu-Mans” that every time they get off planet, they take over everything then collapse into infighting. Then the subject races try to exterminate all the remaining humans, but always miss some who begin the cycle all over over again. EVERY ancient text–without exception-that describes this says “If you see them, nuke their planet then blow up their sun–do NOT contact them or let them out”. So of course, the first thing an alien scout ship does when it finds humans is to try to figure out what makes them so dangerous. They grab one human (possibly a hobo?) and lock him in a zoo to study-he has nothing in the cell including his clothes. They can’t figure out why everyone was so scared of these wimpy hairless apes.

Eventually he goes catatonic and curls up in a fetal position holding one of the bars, letting go only to eat and drink. One day, the jailers find him gone. Turns out he’s used his spit (or stomach acid?) to eat away at the bar (this is after literally years). He’s killed his guards (by taking them by surprise) stolen a starship and is making a bee-line back to Earth with all the maps/data they’ve got aboard the starship. The cycle has just started again. I think the title was “Danger! Human”.

The Foster story has roughly the same starting point, but the aliens have sealed all remaining humans in an Earth-sized force-field that’s impenetrable from the inside. A multi-species group of aliens decides to visit Earth to get help against a deadly new invading species. Humans conquered the Galaxy once before, maybe these super-warriors can help. They find humans are quiet, super-mellow farmers in a turn of the (20th) century type world. The humans, being good neighbors and all, offer to help, but to the aliens it’d be like a small group of shepherds from the 14th century offered to help the Allies in WWII.

The aliens shrug, accept and take down the force-field. Suddenly every human in the world joins into a giant hive mind and says “I’M FREE!” and then tells the aliens that A) That forcefield trick was cute, but they won’t let it happen again and B) They promised to help against the bad aliens, and they will…but afterwards, well the Galaxy could use some…organization.

Both are pretty close to what you described.

I haven’t read the first one, but I have the second, and neither is the one I’m thinking of.