This is a story that I read in a sci-fi magazine in the mid-to-late 1980s, but it may have been published up to 15 years earlier, since I was going through several years' worth of issues at the time. I'd guess most likely a late 60s to mid 70s original publication.

I really only remember the premise of the story and not the main plot. The protagonist wakes up believing himself to be an alien who has somehow transferred his mind to a human host. He does some quick studying of the local culture and decides he needs to make some "improvements" to the host body (exercise, better clothes, contact lenses, etc.). I think maybe he also quits his job or drops out of college or something similar.

Over the course of the next several weeks, I think he either starts to remember a mission he was supposed to be doing, or he notices the activity of other covert aliens on Earth and decides they must be stopped. He then tries to derail these other aliens' plot. I believe he is successful, to everyone's surprise, because, at some point, it's disclosed that the protagonist is a normal (if nerdy) person who has been hypnotized into thinking he is an alien, as a sort of... vacation? self-improvement program? and everyone knows that aliens aren't real.

I'm pretty sure that he had undergone this hypnosis willingly, but there may have been some concern that he was taking things too far and was not willing to return to his normal personality before completing his mission.

I don't really recall whether the other aliens were real or just part of his hypnosis trip. In the end, he does return to his normal personality, but is a very different person due to his experiences as an "alien."

The only detail I remember other than the "makeover" was that the protagonist ran into some acquaintances who recognized him but whom he had forgotten. They may have known his from his prior work or school life. I think they were impressed by the change but confused or put off by being brushed off. Maybe one decides to help him with his current efforts?

Pretty spotty, I know, but I've had luck with similarly warped recollections here before. Anyone recognize this?

  • This sounds familiar. I think I remember reading it 25 years ago or so. As I recall, it was part of a program to turn your life around, like hypnosis to cure smoking, that kind of thing. – Broklynite Jun 21 '18 at 11:58
  • @Broklynite - Yes! Now that you mention it, I think the protagonist first learns about the program through an advertisement at the start of the story. – Otis Aug 20 '18 at 15:34

A story with a similar plot line is 'The Color of Space' by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

It was a week before the Lhari ship went into warp-drive, and all that time young Bart Steele had stayed in his cabin. He was so bored with his own company that the Mentorian medic was a welcome sight when he came to prepare him for cold-sleep.

The Mentorian paused, needle in hand. "Do you wish to be wakened for the time we shall spend in each of the three star systems, sir? You can, of course, be given enough drug to keep you in cold-sleep until we reach your destination."

Bart felt tempted -- he wanted very much to see the other star systems. But he couldn't risk meeting other passengers.

The needle went into his arm. In sudden panic, he realized he was helpless. The ship would touch down on three worlds, and on any of them the Lhari might have his description, or his alias! He could be taken off, unconscious, and might never wake up! He tried to move, to protest, but he couldn't. There was a freezing moment of intense cold and then nothing. . . .

You can read it for free here.

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  • Took a look at the story (thank you for the helpful link), and I don't think this is it. It was definitely not a standalone novel, and I don't think it was a serialized novel, either -- just one story. – Otis Dec 24 '17 at 21:54

Possibly "The Groundstar Conspiracy".

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  • 5
    Please can you add more details to this answer, e.g. a link to the story you're referring to and some explanation of why it fits the question asked? See also our guidance on answering story-ID questions. – Rand al'Thor Aug 24 '16 at 14:42
  • I looked into this, and I'm pretty sure that's not it.Thanks for the suggestion, though. – Otis Aug 30 '16 at 19:16
  • This is a film, not a book. Although it was developed from a novel ("the Aliens" by L. P. Davies) there's not a strong match – Valorum Nov 21 '16 at 22:19

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