‘Froggies’ by Laura Whitton
It is some sort of cruel joke putting this straight after Le Guin’s story and Sarrantonio manages to contribute his worst introduction yet: he slaps himself and Dan Simmons on the back for discovering Whitton whilst pretending not to and at the same time simultaneously over-praises and denigrates her work. According to isfdb this was both her first and last published story.
In contrast to Le Guin, Whitton puts her xenoanthropologist centre stage. Unfortunately Jo-ann, her main character, is possibly the worst xenoanthropologist imaginable. Advanced life has been found on a new planet but apparently this species shows no sign of intelligence so the whole planet has been handed over for mining to the company that discovered it. Jo-ann sets out to prove the species are intelligent after all. (How she manages to get to another planet and set up her research centre without any apparent backing is never explained.) Her methods are even more baffling. The warning signs that she is not perhaps the most serious researcher are there from the beginning with the fact she is happy to call them Froggies. This doesn’t prepare the reader for the fact that she then kidnaps a Froggie and raises it as her son. “The ethics panel would have a field day with her methods.” No shit.
The Froggies are intelligent and quickly learn to speak English. Rather bizarrely this is not considered evidence of intelligence, that would supposedly only be proved if they had their own language. Again, this is never explained nor is it made clear how an alien species can seem entirely unintelligent to a trained xenoanthropologist survey but quickly learn English after being given a hug.
Somewhere in this mess there is some interesting stuff about how the Froggies perceive the world in their natural state. Mostly this is lost by the stupidity of the story.