I read this story well over twenty years ago, so I really don't remember too many details. I am 99% sure it was in an issue of F&SF Magazine, from the 50's I think. Moreover, I think it was the story related to the cover art.

The cover art for the issue depicted a scruffy looking bearded man with a black fedora looking to the side in fear. I think he had a couple of paper scrolls in his hands. He was at the bottom of the cover and you could only see his torso and above. I know he was set against a dark object of some sort (a judges bench?) and the overall background was yellow.

I don't remember much about the story, just that the narrator was bitter because you needed three PhDs in order to get ahead while he only had a couple of Masters and thus couldn't find a job. Because of that, he winds up taking some kind of shifty job doing something illegal. That's all I remember.

Edit: I've now checked every F&SF cover from the beginning through 1979 and I'm not seeing it. I thought it was F&SF but it might have been Analog or something else- like I said, it has been over twenty years. That said I would suspect that it was late 60's through the 70's on further reflection; stories from the 50's didn't have such a pessimistic and dour look at things usually (please don't fill the comments sections with arguments, I said usually) as opposed to how I remember this. Will look more later.

  • 1
    You read it over twenty years ago but it's from a 50s magazine? I thought this was gonna be easy because I've got those old F&SFs, all of them up to 1965 and lots of later ones. But I can't find the cover with your worried guy in a black fedora. Maybe it's my bad eyesight. If you can find the issue with the cover picture you're talking about, I'll see if I've got it and check out the stories for you.
    – user14111
    Feb 5, 2016 at 14:12
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    You could pick up a modern non-fiction article about most of North Africa (and perhaps even Spain) and read the same story.
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 5, 2016 at 14:48
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    Story? That's pretty much the description of modern Western society :-)
    – Valorum
    Oct 2, 2016 at 20:26
  • Part of the reason for my wanting to re-read the story is that it stuck with me all these years, how remarkably predictive it was.
    – Broklynite
    Oct 2, 2016 at 20:27


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