What is this story? (Sci-Fi)

When the first alien visits the Earth, it lands in a cow pasture, not Washington DC. It doesn’t ask, “Take me to your leader,” but rather, “Would you accept this pound of gold (whatever!) for that cowpat over there?”

Other members of the alien race visit the Earth, looking to acquire cowpats. Not just any cowpats, only the most artistic cowpats. Any and all attempts by government dignitaries or scientific specialists are rebuffed by the aliens.

An industry arises, the sole purpose of which is to determine which cowpats will bring in the most money. Just as humans are starting to understand the artistic proclivities of the alien species, they stop visiting the Earth, and the Earth’s economy, strained at first by switching to a new standard, is now crippled when the bottom falls out of the market.

Until a new alien race visits Earth to find bargains on (IIRC) used chewing gum.

“The Big Pat Boom” by Damon Knight - see here for where it’s been published http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?57062

The Big Pat Boom by Damon Knight (1963)

ETA: Curse you, Andy L! <shakes fist>

I never get tired of seeing Andy L do that trick. :smiley:

iirc, without checking, I think it was apple cores and the person who first sold one to them specified that it was a [his name] apple core, so that his apple cores would be the most collectable…

Great user name/thread combo.

Sorry about that. Great minds think alike (and respond almost exactly as quickly) apparently.


Andy L, you are the undisputed Straight Dope King of Science Fiction; the breadth and depth of your knowledge in the field is Astounding (did you see what I did there?). I am well-read; you are truly a scholar.

That said, I have to confess that at times I succumb to my competitive nature and relish two things regarding posting on the Dope: when I manage to beat you to an answer and when I manage to beat running coach in reporting a spammer; both are relatively rare feats.

I first read this story fairly recently, like sometime in the last five years, so I recognized the plot in the OP immediately.

My first thought, though, was “Oh! Avram Davidson!” Doesn’t it seem more typical of his sense of humor?

Yes it does (him or George Alec Effinger).