I've just read R. A. Lafferty's short story "Nine Hundred Grandmothers", published in If magazine and freely available to read online. The story starts with the following line:

Ceran Swicegood was a promising young Special Aspects Man.

The story then goes on to provide some introduction to Ceran and his travelling companions, before delving into the world of the Proavitoi which is the main point of the story. But I never quite understood, what is a "Special Aspects Man"? Are all of Ceran's crew (Manbreaker, George Blood, etc.) Special Aspects, and his only difference with them is that he kept his name and his inquisitive nature? Or is his difference with them that he's Special Aspects and they're something else? Their purpose in general seems to be interplanetary trade, but he seems to occupy a special role (what?) within the crew.

  • @user14111 That's the quote that made me think Ceran has some special role, but the second paragraph begins with "They all ..." in a way that suggests it's "all Special Aspects" as mentioned in the first paragraph. Hence my confusion.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 10:37
  • 1
    The term seems to be made up by Lafferty and AFAIK he doesn't specifically define it anywhere. So your guess is as good as anyone's; it's probably supposed to sound a bit like special operations, special investigations, etc, a bit sophisticated and esoteric.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 15:12
  • @user14111 But the very end of the story suggests that Ceran ends up becoming a bloodthirsty sort like the rest of them - does it mean he stopped being a Special Aspects Man after the Proavitoi experience?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 7:10
  • @user14111 Want to write up an answer? The current answer may be correct, but it's not well supported with quotes and evidence from the story. Even if the answer is "we don't know exactly" or somewhat speculative, I'd rather see an argument for that with proper support.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 13:02

1 Answer 1


A Special Aspects Man is someone who looks into the cultures they find for special things in them. Witness that when he talks about the questions of what happens to their dead and their respect for their ancestors, it's thrown back into his lap.

As they observe, it's supposed to add something to their trip if they gain such knowledge -- but the ship particularly gains if he discovers something they can profit from.

  • 2
    This answer could be improved by explaining how you came to your conclusions—what passages from the story led you to the answer, and how? Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 10:30

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