Help finding an old science fiction short story?
July 6, 2020 2:38 PM   Subscribe

A request from a friend: ==== A short story I read as a child has been on my mind. It comes and goes, so I may have already asked you about it. But tell me if it rings a bell: In the story I’m thinking of, there’s a female protagonist. She discovers a super-power in herself when she’s young—She has the power of telekinesis. She can lift paperclips and other objects of small mass. She gleefully imagines the great power she will wield as her abilities mature, and what an important person she will be on the world stage. But, to her bitter disappointment, she has never developed the ability to do more than lift a paperclip. She’s an adult now, working in some mundane job. She’s a nobody. That’s her situation at the start of the story. Over the course of the story, whose events I do not remember at all, except that they had something to do with world politics, she gets over her youthful grandiosity, and her bitter disappointment, and comes to the realization that her power comes from how she applies her ability, not how big a thing she can move with her mind. Within the limits of her ability, if she does the hard work of learning the necessary content, she can—and this is the climactic scene—use her mind to go into the heart of some important world figure and, with the precision of a surgeon, move something the size of a paperclip, and make his heart stop beating.

I keep thinking of it as a pretty true story about what it’s really like to be gifted. I read it in a magazine—Maybe Galaxy, maybe Analog, less likely Fantasy and Science Fiction. I had an older cousin who subscribed. I was probably between 10 and 13 years old, but I don’t really know. ===== That would be circa 1970. Any ideas, oh hive mind?
posted by namesarehard to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I think it was Analog, and the title was something like "A Little Talent." Sorry I can't give you the author.
posted by SPrintF at 3:06 PM on July 6, 2020

Best answer: The last reply in this thread is relevant.
There was a story in the March 1969 issue of Analog that dealt with just that concept: "Minitalent," by Tak Hallus/Stephen Robinette. IIRC, the protagonist couldn't affect anything much heavier than a paper clip, and had pretty much written it off as a useful talent. But then life (and a kidnapping?) happened.

(I remembered the story title and that it was in Analog; ISFDB supplied the rest.)
I can't find that issue online right now, but there are a few book sellers who have copies.
posted by hanov3r at 3:36 PM on July 6, 2020 [3 favorites]

There was an issue of the Rising Stars comic book which had a character like that. Given that the comic book was written 15-20 years ago I don't doubt that the author, J. Michael Straczynski, was inspired by the story in Analog.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:32 PM on July 6, 2020

Best answer: Yes! "Minitalent". That's it.
posted by SPrintF at 5:06 PM on July 6, 2020

Response by poster: Thanks guys!
posted by namesarehard at 9:45 AM on July 7, 2020

The Luminist Archive has Analog from 1960 - 1979.
posted by Mitheral at 5:06 PM on July 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

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