I remember a short story but can't remember the name of the story or author. It is about alien/robotic beings that have been hunted to the edge of extinction because they are an exceptional fuel source. Fairly certain the hunters are us (humans), though they hardly appear in the story. However their fuel is both how the beings communicate and their life force. They only say “toot toot” to each other. And it means I love you, but also anything else you could really say when all you can say is "toot toot". It’s a story about the last two (or few) in the species and how they want very badly to say “toot toot” but are afraid. I believe it is written either from the POV of the beings/aliens/robots or from third person impersonal.

I'm fairly certain I read this in a school text book in the 90s or early 2000s, but if could have also been an anthology of sci-fi stories. It might have been in a Ben Bova anthology or a Year's Best Science-Fiction and Fantasy if it wasn't a text book. I have found at least 1 other person who remembers the story, but can't recall the author or the name either.

Though it’s got Sci-Fi elements it had a very speculative fiction feel. It had a style similar to Harlan Ellison, but I don’t think it was him. I have a vague recollection that it might have been written by a women (but I'm definitely not sure on that).

Disclaimer, I probably have some details wrong. So the word "toot-toot" might be a little different but the major elements will likely be the same (I have an excellent memory for fiction). I have already tried googling "toot-toot" and any basic combo you might try and also looking at best of lists etc. I also tried to crowd source it through my friend group which includes many intense sci-fi readers and even some well known editors. So there is a possibility this could be more on the literary end of things and less known in sci-fi circles.

Can anyone help? I feel like someone else has to have read it and will rememeber the name or author.

  • Welcome to Literature Stack Exchange! Thank you for including so many details. One more thing - what language was the short story in? Please edit this into the question. Also see here for more kinds of useful information, in case you remember anything more.
    – bobble
    Commented Feb 13, 2021 at 17:25

1 Answer 1


A friendly Redditor ialmostguaranteeit found the answer for me. So I am posting here in case anyone else wonders in the future.

"Zog-19: A Scientific Romance" by Pinckney Benedict? A couple places in which it can be found are the anthology Miracle Boy and Other Stories by Pinckney Benedict (Press 53, 2010), the magazine Zoetrope: All Story (Vol. 4, No.1), short-story collection Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope: All-Story 2 (Harvest Books, 2003), edited by Adrienne Brodeur and Samantha Schnee and the collection Prize Stories 2001: The O. Henry Awards, edited by Larry Dark (Anchor Books, 2001).

Quote from the story:

On Zog's planet, 'Toot Toot' means 'Don't worry.' It also means 'I love you' and 'Everything is A-okay, Everything is just peachy keen.'

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