I am trying to identify a Sci Fi short story I had in a compilation of short stories bought for me in the 1970's. I think the book was printed before then and may have been a Nebula or Hugo winner.

The story relates to the main character having some sort of condition that means he can see "light globules" detach from radio masts and wires and attach themselves to peoples heads. Those then affected suffer behavioural changes. I cannot remember the outcome. I would love to know what it is as it seems to predict fears over use of mobile phones.

I think other stories included one about people searching for every name of God, when they found the answer they watched all the stars going out one by one.

  • The story with the stars going out is Arthur C. Clarke's The Nine Billion Names of God. Jul 21, 2017 at 17:00
  • 2
    @DoscoJones - Which has been included in so many anthologies that it would be easier to rule out those that don't contain it :-)
    – Valorum
    Jul 21, 2017 at 17:08
  • While it's too recent, this reminds me of Eoin Colfer's The Supernaturalist, which involves them seeing the "Parasites" that feed on pain and electricity.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Oct 5, 2023 at 13:14
  • I'm thinking this is some Fortean thing like Sinister Barrier but that was a whole novel. Oct 5, 2023 at 13:32

1 Answer 1


I've been searching for stories on sentient electricity or other electromagnetic radiation. I've found a lot of them so far, but none of them except one match the descriptions of any form of EM energy attaching to people's heads.

And that one is about a halo of light attaching to one man's head. (And near the end of the story, his wife's head.)

So it's the closest match, but I'm still not satisfied. It's "Variations of a Theme" by Curt Siodmak.

An American couple is visiting Rome, and the man just suddenly sees a halo of light around his head. He cannot get rid of it. They are in Rome, touring every church, after all, so even the physicians and prostitutes he seeks out get frightened and shout "It's a miracle!" and fail to help.

He starts acting out several of the seven "mortal sins" on the idea that if it is some kind of mystical saint thing, acting out the sins would get rid of it.

What brings it into the "fantasy and science fiction" genre (more fantasy) -- besides being published in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction June 1972 -- are attempts by other characters to explain it:

"I'm in the small-appliance business. I know an electric aureole when I see one."


"The Edison Company," McWilliams said resourcefully. "They might use him for advertising their product. After all, it looks like it's being created by electricity."

There are no other people (besides the man's wife) who get this phenomenon, and there are no narratives of it emanating from any electromagnetic sources.

So this story is simply the closest match so far. I'm hoping that this one will lead to answers somewhere that include variations on that theme (ha) and that lead to an exact match.

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