I read a story in which an alien exchanges a series of letter with a human, over the course of which he convinces the human to swap bodies with him. Towards the end of the story, it is revealed that the alien was a prisoner in his home planet, and he had tricked the human. Further, we are told that the human was actually in a wheelchair, and he was the one who actually tricked the alien.

  • 3
    Welcome to Science Fiction & Fantasy! Take a look at this guide to help jog your memory and edit any more details. Specifically things like when you read it, or where? Also, take a look at our tour to get a better understanding of our site and earn your first badge!
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 14:26
  • 4
    Your question has received a couple of answers. I hope one of them is the story you were looking for. Please let us know so we can mark this case closed. No need to post a comment, you can simply click on the check mark next to the answer of your choice.
    – user14111
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 15:08
  • 3
    Though not what you are looking for the kids cartoon Phineas and Ferb had an episode where they were persuaded to swap bodies with aliens who turned out to be prisoners. Sounds like it could well have been inspired by this story. phineasandferb.wikia.com/wiki/Mind_Share
    – Chris
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 10:17
  • Possible duplicate of Short story where an alien convinces a human to exchange consciousness with it
    – Otis
    Commented May 25, 2018 at 23:26
  • See OP confirmation comment below... at least it sounds like the OP under a different name?
    – Otis
    Commented May 25, 2018 at 23:27

2 Answers 2


"Dear Pen Pal" aka "Letter From the Stars", a short story by A. E. van Vogt, first published in The Arkham Sampler, Winter 1949; the reprint in Nebula Science Fiction, Number 1, October 1952 is available at the Internet Archive. This popular story has come up before on this site, here and here.

Plot summary from Wikipedia:

The one-sided dialog takes the form of correspondence from Skander, an alien, to an unnamed human whose replies are not presented. Skander spends some time in the first letters describing his home planet of Aurigae II, a hot planet circling a star in Auriga. Later, Skander admits that he is a criminal, incarcerated for conducting illegal scientific experiments. Desiring to see his pen pal, he sends several photographic sheets that can be exposed if the user simply thinks about a picture being taken.

The last letter is from the unnamed human back to Skander. The human is now in Skander's body. He realized long ago that Skander was trying to scam him, and immediately took the "photographs" to the Earth authorities. They informed him they were a form of consciousness transfer device that Skander was attempting to use to escape from prison. Learning this, the human went through with the process anyway.

He hopes that Skander will enjoy the short time that he has left, trapped in a dying wheelchair-bound body.

  • Beat me to the punch :-) - this is the wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dear_Pen_Pal
    – LSerni
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 14:42
  • @LSerni Sorry about that! D you mind if I add the Wikipedia reference to my answer?
    – user14111
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 14:44
  • By all means! And while locating that story - I remembered the book and where it is on the shelf, but not the title - I accidentally found a copy of Slan Hunter that I want to re-read, so we both win :-)
    – LSerni
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 14:48
  • 1
    Wow, wasn't here looked away for a few minutes and @user14111 nailed it. :) Good job, I think A. E. van Vogt is a great author that may be on the verge of being forgotten .... that would be a sad thing. Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 15:00

A partial match, Robert Sheckley's 1966 Mindswap has Marvin Flynn, the protagonist, swap with an alien who turns out to be a prisoner. However, I don't believe Marvin is crippled in any way, and it's a full-length novel where the prisoner twist is learned early on.

Mindswap cover

In the future, interstellar travel to alien worlds will be too expensive for most ordinary people. It certainly is for Marvin, a college student who wants to take a really good vacation. And so he signs up for what he can afford, a mindswap, in which your consciousness is swapped into the body of an alien lifeform. But Marvin is unlucky, and finds himself in the body of an interstellar criminal, a body that he has to vacate fast. But that criminal consciousness has stolen Marvin's earthly body, and Marvin has to find a body on the black market.

Travel from world to world with Marvin, each one crazier than the last, as he keeps finding far from ideal bodies in awful situations, just to stay alive.

  • Mindswap is one of my favorites, but the OP is clearly talking about "Dear Pen Pal".
    – user14111
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 15:01
  • 2
    You are right. I'm going to keep my answer up, just because it might help someone in the future, but you have the right of it.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 15:16
  • 4
    "Travel from world to world with Marvin, each one crazier than the last, as he keeps finding far from ideal bodies in awful situations, just to stay alive." - "Theorising that one could time travel within one's lifetime, Dr Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap Accelerator - and vanished!" Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 16:08
  • "Let's take it point by point. Do you remember by any chance where you were when you first noticed that your body was missing?" — Mindswap
    – user14111
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 5:28
  • @user14111 this is one of the reasons I love this stack. The quote you presented for Mindswap has intrigued me enough to read the story. While it's not the answer to the question at hand, the "incorrect" answer still has purpose. Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 0:34

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.