In the late 1960s I read a fascinating science fiction novella - part of a double header paperback series (Ace Doubles books?) - which I have been trying to identify.

The lead male character discovers he can enter rooms etc where he is ignored - treated effectively as invisible. Room occupants give him a cursory look then just ignore him. He can appropriate money - from banks, take food and possessions without suspicion. Eventually he walks unnoticed onto a space ship and continues the adventure on other planets.

Definitely not Niven’s novel A Gift from Earth. The action as I remember starts on Earth in the not-too-distant future. Space travel is relatively new. The crime aspect I recall alludes to Silverberg, but he does not have his character sneaking onto a space ship on Earth bound for the planets, which is a strong memory for me.

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    Welcome to Science Fiction & Fantasy! This question would be improved by going through the checklists here; How to ask a good story-ID question?
    – Valorum
    May 26, 2019 at 21:10
  • Fairly sure it was between 1968-71. Bought the paperback second hand in a Forces families shop (SSAFA) in Cyprus. It was one of a double header - the second novel was upside down at the back of the paperback - cannot remember the second title. This seems to be part of the Ace Books Doubles series - but not sure which Series.
    – Bradwell77
    May 26, 2019 at 21:16
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    Matthew Keller in A Gift from Earth (1968; by Larry Niven) has this power, but he does not leave his world for other planets. He does spend time on an old spaceship, though.
    – Gaultheria
    May 26, 2019 at 21:16
  • Not this other story then about a girl who can go anywhere without causing suspicion then, because it's from the 2010s: scifi.stackexchange.com/a/78658/4918
    – b_jonas
    May 26, 2019 at 21:20
  • Is the character's invisibility a superpower he has, or is he being ignored as a punishment?
    – user14111
    May 26, 2019 at 22:20

3 Answers 3


(An update from the original poster confirms that this is not the answer.)

A Gift from Earth (1968), by Larry Niven

Matt Keller has a psychic power that is sometimes useful and sometimes inconvenient: when he feels nervous, people ignore him. To be affected, people must initially see him, although then they immediately lose interest. As a boy, the power kept him safe from bullies; as a young man, it interferes with his romantic opportunities.

Matt is one of the underclass on the segregated colony world of Plateau. He becomes caught up in a revolutionary group infiltrating the privileged class's centre of authority: the two colony ships that brought humans to Plateau. Matt uses his power to steal supplies, evade capture, and rescue prisoners.

Matt's journey does not literally take him to other worlds, but it does take him to parts of Plateau that are reserved for the ruling class.

You can borrow A Gift from Earth as an e-book from The Internet Archive.

Cover: A Gift from Earth


Was the pseudo-invisibility forced upon him? Robert Silverberg wrote a novella called "To See the Invisible Man" about a protagonist who is sentenced to be invisible. Among other things, he enters women's dressing rooms. The story was based on/inspired by a short story of Borges.

  • Here is the ISFDB record for To See the Invisible Man. Do any of the book covers look familiar? isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?59335 May 27, 2019 at 1:30
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    It was also made into an episode of the 1980s Twilight Zone: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_See_the_Invisible_Man
    – Buzz
    May 27, 2019 at 1:45
  • The involvement with crime rings a bell, but the stigmata aspect not. Familiar with Silverberg’s work, but ‘Invisible’ is a short story of about 17 pages and I was fairly sure that the tale I am recalling was longer, and included in Ace Doubles popular ‘tete beche’ series. Also if this is the story then would have to have either the first Galaxy mag issue or one of the ‘Needle in a Timestack’ anthology. Read many, many SF short story compilations around that time - it was a long time ago. Character definite walked aboard a spaceship unnoticed.
    – Bradwell77
    May 27, 2019 at 2:07
  • Silverberg's story was also the basis of the Twilight Zone episode of the same name.
    – krb
    May 27, 2019 at 13:24
  • After which short story by Borges is that inspired by?
    – rafa11111
    May 27, 2019 at 23:59

It sounds a lot like Larry Niven's 1986 novel A Gift From Earth, set in his Known Universe future history. It was originally serialized as "Slowboat Cargo". The hero, Matthew Keller, discovers that he has exactly the psychic power you describe. I can't, however, find any evidence that this book was ever published as part of a double.

  • Hi. I'm working on a Niven answer right now to go along with my comment from a few hours ago.
    – Gaultheria
    May 27, 2019 at 9:23
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    Definitely not Niven’s piece. The action As I remember starts on earth in the not too distant future. Space travel is relatively new. The crime aspect I recall alludes to Silverberg but he does not have his character sneaking onto a space ship on earth bound for the planets which is a strong memory for me.
    – Bradwell77
    May 27, 2019 at 11:02
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    ...and thanks for all the suggestions, guys. Sure I will get it. But remember, it MUST be published before 1972.
    – Bradwell77
    May 27, 2019 at 11:12

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