Looking for a short story maybe from the 70s/ early 80s in which extraterrestrials come to earth and inhabit individuals randomly, forcing them to do horrible or embarrassing things for the amusement of the aliens. The whole world has to adjust to this new and horrible way of life. It may have been by Philip K. Dick and may have been called "Ridden."


3 Answers 3



This short story by Robert Silverberg was first published in 1968, so you could easily have read it in the 70s or 80s.

Society has been changed by the arrival of alien Passengers, which take control of people at a moment’s notice (though though they are not explicitly established as being extraterrestrial).

The people possessed are referred to as being “ridden”:

I began to walk without purpose. I cross Fourteenth Street, heading north, listening to the soft violent purr of the electric engines. I see a boy jigging in the street and know he is being ridden. At Fifth and Twenty-Second a prosperous-looking paunchy man approaches, his necktie askew, this morning’s Wall Street Journal jutting from an overcoat pocket. He giggles. He thrusts out his tongue. Ridden. Ridden. I avoid him.

Society has adjusted:

The Passengers arrived three years ago. I have been ridden five times since then. Our world is quite different now. But we have adjusted even to this. We have adjusted. We have our mores. Life goes on. Our governments rule, our legislatures meet, our stock exchanges transact business as usual, and we have methods for compensating for the random havoc. It is the only way. What else can we do? Shrivel in defeat? We have an enemy we cannot fight; at best we can resist through endurance. So we endure.


As Adamant has pointed out in his comment, this is likely "Passengers" by Robert Silverberg. The main characters are "ridden" by aliens.

Per wikipedia

The story is set in the year 1987. For three years, people on Earth have been subject to the will of the "Passengers"—-intangible beings who usurp human bodies temporarily and without warning, and do nothing but play and cause havoc. People being "ridden" are ignored by others, and when they are freed, the experience, by social convention, is ignored by all. When the Passenger leaves the host body, the person is left with no memories of his time being ridden.

The story is narrated by a man who wakes up after a three-day ride. Unusually, he recalls what has taken place: a random sexual encounter with a woman, also being ridden at the time. By chance, he encounters her just a few hours after her Passenger has left her. Fighting against the pervasive pessimism of the world (people tend to avoid relationships, as one can be taken by a Passenger at any moment), he tries to connect with his fellow victim. Just as he begins to win her trust, he is again taken by a Passenger, driven into a nearby bar, where he meets a man and leaves the bar with him.

  • 1
    You don’t mind if I write an answer, do you? I was on the subway, and I couldn’t type much on my phone.
    – Adamant
    Sep 22, 2016 at 21:53
  • @Adamant - You're free to do whatever you like :-) I suspect this'll get about two upvotes and then disappear forever.
    – Valorum
    Sep 22, 2016 at 21:55
  • Robert Silverberg = Bob Silverberg = Silverbob = Agberg, never heard him called Rob.
    – user14111
    Sep 23, 2016 at 2:16
  • @user14111 - Asimov used to call him Rob.
    – Valorum
    Sep 23, 2016 at 9:32

Frederik Pohl's short novel Plague of Pythons has this plot excepting that the entities doing the controlling are actually humans with a technology not available to the rest of the race, though this is not known to the reader or protagonist when the story opens.

Our hero is branded (literally as it turns out) a "hoaxer" after claiming to have been under control while he raped and murder a coworker. He is exiled and his travels eventually bring him to meet some of the controlling people.

He fights back, and the story has an ominous ending.

There is a librivox recording of the story and it is also available from Project Gutenberg.

  • +1 though the OP is probably looking for the Silverberg story because of the word "ridden".
    – user14111
    Sep 24, 2016 at 0:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.