I read this story decades ago, and suddenly recalled, looking at my kid scrolling on his phone.

Somebody visits a guy who returned from a space exploration. "What did you bring?" - "Here's an artifact," and the astronaut hand the guest a small smooth stone.

The guest rubs his thumb over the artifacts, and likes that, and asks "what's it for?" - "It's for doing exactly what you are doing." And the guest keeps rubbing the artifact, enjoys that, and cannot stop, and falls into a trance, soon losing all perception of reality outside of the artifact.

An alien enters the room and takes control over the guest who is still in trance.

  • 2
    I won't vote to close, but science fiction identification questions are asked and answered quite frequently on scifi.SE, where you might get a quick response.
    – shoover
    Jul 12, 2022 at 5:02
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    @shoover We don't ask people to migrate questions that are on topic here. And above all, we don't close vote questions that are on topic here!
    – Tsundoku
    Jul 12, 2022 at 7:27
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    @Tsundoku That's why I didn't CV or ask them to migrate. Just offering that there is a community that specializes in SF.
    – shoover
    Jul 12, 2022 at 13:52

1 Answer 1


This may be "The Hypnoglyph", a short story by the poet John Ciardi, originally released under the pen name of John Anthony, as per this SF&F SE question.

Maddick flushed a moment, then pursed his lips almost imperceptibly and shrugged. “Well, what’s it for.?” he said. He held the thing in front of him and watched his fingers stroke it.

Jaris chuckled again. “It’s for exactly what you’re doing. The thing is irresistible. Once you’ve picked it up, your thumb just automatically strokes that little hollow, and it just automatically hates to stop stroking.”


"The women of the proper clan work these things, and the men set them out in the forests. As you might suppose, the men are a rather scrawny lot, and would starve soon enough if they had to depend on their own muscular prowess as hunters. These gadgets take care of all that, however. The animals, with their extremely high tactile suggestibility, come through the forest and find one of these things in their way. They begin to stroke it and feel it, and they just can't stop. The men don't even kill them; all slaughtering is handled by the ruling clan of women. The men simply wait till the animal has worked itself into the right state, and then lead it back to the slaughtering compound—still under hypnosis of course."

"Of course," Maddick agreed, his fingers working softly and rhythmically.

And it is implied that a bit more is done than just taking control.

The women on the planet where the hypnoglyph was taken are cannibals, and the explorer's wife plans to eat Maddick.

I remembered us having had this one on the SF&F SE (twice, actually), so I searched for a few different keywords until [story-identification] trance got me what I wanted.

You can read it at archive.org in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, July 1953.

  • Yes, that's the story. Also thank for the link to the archive.
    – Michael
    Jul 12, 2022 at 17:17

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