An extraterrestrial expedition comes to earth. The captain is astonished (and more than a little disgusted) when the claim is made to him/her/it that the planet is a riot of species and that the dominant form exists in two varieties which must “cooperate” to produce offspring—at least, so claims a local publication called something like Recreationlad. An attempt to get a pair of the locals to “cooperate” fails miserably, however, and the expedition leaves.

Oh, but this is a funny story. Asimov details the reasons why it was written in Nightfall and Other Stories—basically, Playboy had satired science fiction by highlighting an early magazine which tried to boost readership via kind of a soft-core S&M theme. Asimov, in turn, is satirizing Playboy.

The satire is rather lost now. Magazines far more explicit about “cooperation” are too numerous to mention, and even Playboy itself is incredibly racy compared to its manifestation of fifty years ago. That doesn’t matter. The story is still funny and delightful, in almost every respect. Once again, we’re treated to an extraterrestrial race (as so often happens in Nightfall and Other Stories), who are well-realized and lots of fun. The uniqueness of mankind in the story must have warmed Campbell’s heart (although the story wasn’t published in Astounding), as it is exactly the sort of thing he loved. The failure of the aliens and their hapless human captives to understand one another, the failure of the aliens to understand how Playboy doesn’t exactly represent the norm of human sexual mores, and the unfortunate human couple are all well-done, funny, and right on target.

This is definitely one of Asimov’s best ventures into humor.

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