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"I don't know why I write science fiction. The voices in my head told me to!"
- Charles Stross

Symb  
  A symbiont life form that provides its human with life-giving energy.  

Each human-symb pair is a closed ecology, requiring only sunlight and a small amount of solid matter to function. The vegetable symb gathers sunlight in space, using it to convert human waste and carbon dioxide into food and oxygen. At the same time it protects the fragile human from vacuum and the extremes of heat and cold. The symb's body extends into the lungs and through the alimentary canal. Each side feeds the other.

...upon permeating the nervous system of its host, [the symb] is born as a thinking being. It shares the human brain.

From The Ophiuchi Hotline, by John Varley.
Published by Quantum Science Fiction in 1977
Additional resources -

Compare this idea with that of the star stone from Roger Zelazny's still-amazing 1976 novel Doorways in the Sand as well as the aliens from Robert Heinlein's 1951 novel The Puppet Masters.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Ophiuchi Hotline
  More Ideas and Technology by John Varley
  Tech news articles related to The Ophiuchi Hotline
  Tech news articles related to works by John Varley

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