SciFi Story Identification - Body Switching and Mindreading
February 25, 2009 9:38 AM   Subscribe

"What science fiction short story is this?" filter. One story about body switching/different perceptions, and another about mindreading.

I read these two short science fiction stories probably about a decade ago. I think both were in books rather than magazines - part of science fiction story collections. I don't read too many collections, so they may have even been in the same volume. I've tried googling for various things, but nothing's coming up.

One was about a science experiment that allowed you to perceive things as others did. I don't remember if it was an actual body switch, or just a change in the way you perceived things. I use "perceive" because it wasn't just sight. It was other senses as well.

I remember that other people perceived things in completely different I think some people saw different colors than others (what was blue to one person would be red to another) and felt different textures. In some cases, things were a lot sharper/more alarming, or softer/brighter. One thing that stood out was a guy who was seeing things from a particular woman's perspective, and I THINK everything was soft and squooshy. This was why she was so optimistic all the time. The guy was horrified.

The other story was about man who could read other people's minds. He was the only one who could do so, and he took full advantage of this. No morals about rummaging around to find things out whatsoever. I believe that he felt he was superior to other people because of this power. At the end of the story, he...either hunted down or bumped into another person (a woman?) who could do the same thing. At first he was excited about this, but then when they were actually in "range" of each other...the story ended with them both screaming "get out of my mind!" at each other telepathically.

It's been a long time, so it's possible that some of these details are wrong.

Anyone know what stories these are, and who wrote them?

Thank you in advance!
posted by anthy to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The first one is an R.A. Lafferty short story called "Through Other Eyes" and the characters were mostly a group of scientists he occasionally wrote about; the woman is the wife of one of them. It's in "Nine Hundred Grandmothers".
posted by zadcat at 9:45 AM on February 25, 2009

Response by poster: Oh, awesome! That was really quick; thank you. I'm going to check my local library catalog, and if they don't have "Nine Hundred Grandmothers," Amazon has it for a little over $20. I've been wanting to reread that story for a while.

Also cool that there were other stories with the same characters. I may hunt those down.

Thank you again.
posted by anthy at 10:14 AM on February 25, 2009

Lafferty is a neglected master.

Not sure about the other one but it has an Alfred Bester-ish feel to it, the way you describe it.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 10:25 AM on February 25, 2009

I have read the second story, but it has been a while. I am thinking "pre-1980."

Some searching with "get out of my mind" (telepath OR telepathy OR telepathic OR mind-read OR mind-reading) -"young girl" -hootie -kravitz -dune -"little nicky" -lensmen -silverberg hasn't pulled up anything yet. I tried restricting it a bit with (story OR sf OR sci-fi OR science-fiction OR bester), but didn't get anywhere with that — less than a hundred results.
posted by adipocere at 11:14 AM on February 25, 2009

Response by poster: Guy_Inamonkeysuit - looked up Alfred Bester, and you're right, it does have a feel to it like some of his novels and stories. But I googled a bunch of the stories on the short story list on the wiki, and I can't find anything that quite fits. The closest thing is his novel "The Demolished Man," and that involved a large number of mind-readers/telepaths who were known to society. In this story, the protagonist couldn't find anyone else like him.

Adipocere, thank you for trying - I appreciate the effort. It's possible that it was just "Get out!" too, but that isn't helping much with searching, either.

Some more details that I THINK I remember (I am racking my brain): He didn't really "get" why people would NOT want him to read their mind. He knew that people felt they had secrets that they didn't want other people knowing, but all people had secrets that they felt were horrible and he didn't think they were really that bad. He was actively searching for others like him...may have even put ads in magazines or newspapers.

I think I may have mixed up the encounters a little...I think he once passed up a women (in a train or subway going past him) but only caught enough mentally to know that she was "like" him and could not find her again. The mindreader at the end may have been another person entirely. The "Get out" line was the last line of the story, or close to it...the story ended very abruptly.
posted by anthy at 12:03 PM on February 25, 2009

If your AskMe turns up nothing, I'm thinking a request to the newsgroup rec.arts.sf.written with a subject line of "Story ID req: male telepath meets female telepath, ends with "Get out!" or "Get out of my mind!" is probably the way to go.

You know, this is going to drive me crazy.
posted by adipocere at 1:23 PM on February 25, 2009

Perception as others do? This could be Joe Haldeman's second book, Mindbridge. I only read it once and it's been a while, and an alien life form was what allowed the telepathy. Shock at how the opposite sex experienced things was part of the story (and it made sex impossible).
posted by Rash at 1:48 PM on February 25, 2009

I'm pretty sure that the second story is by Theodore Sturgeon, but I can't locate it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:56 PM on February 25, 2009

I believe that the second story is Command Performance by Walter M Miller Jr. I have it in an old Penguin Omnibus, but I can't find a a copy or an extract online. There is a spoiler-laden synopsis around half-way down this page - SPOILER. It may also have been published as Anybody Else Like Me?
posted by Jakey at 5:42 AM on February 26, 2009

Response by poster: Joe in Australia: Good lead! ...but I can't find it, either. I'm searching for "Theodore Sturgeon" and anything I can think of that might be related, and looking through some of the stories on his wiki list...and nothing.

Jakey: Looking at the synopsis, I don't think that's it. The protagonist is female in that story, and I'm 99% sure that the protagonist was male in the story I'm thinking of. And it doesn't look to have ended the same way.

Rash: I looked at the synopsis for the story that Zadcat pointed out ("Through Other Eyes"), and I'm pretty sure that's the one I'm thinking of. Mindbridge sounds pretty interesting, though...I may look for that book.

Adipocere: Thank you again. I'm going to wait a bit longer and do some more searching. But if nothing pops up, I may take your suggestion to post to rec.arts.sf.written. (Not entirely sure anymore that he met a female telepath at the end...could have been male or gender unknown...but otherwise.) Just...need to remember how to post to Usenet. It's been a long time. (Maybe I can use Google Groups for that.)
posted by anthy at 10:35 AM on February 26, 2009

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