A crewman has just finished a job, landed on a planet, rented a room, and goes to a bar. He picks up a few women who are dancing, taking them back to his room. He intends them harm. He expects to get another crew job on another spaceship and be long gone by the time his crime is discovered.

The women were actually bait intended to catch exactly such miscreants as himself. He is enslaved, and eventually forced into a sex change and to work as a dancer to catch more men like himself.

The story is told as second person narration.

I suspect that this was published in the 1980s or later.

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    Do you mean 3rd person? Second person narration is pretty rare in stories, although many songs use it, eg Where Do You Go to My Lovely by Peter Sarstedt.
    – PM 2Ring
    Aug 4, 2019 at 9:23
  • Second person, e.g., "You just arrived on the planet, and you'd kill for a beer, but first you have to rent a room." (Not an actual quote from the story.)
    – Eric Smith
    Aug 4, 2019 at 16:41
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    Ok, that's definitely 2nd person. :) The story sounds a bit like something John Varley could write, it reminds me a little of The Pusher.
    – PM 2Ring
    Aug 4, 2019 at 23:13
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    “You just arrived on the planet, ... but first you have to rent a room.” Sounds like prose from a text adventure game. The computer describes where you are, what you see, and then the results of any actions you take.
    – AJNeufeld
    Aug 5, 2019 at 13:58
  • @AJNeufeld, in the 1980s and 1990s I was totally an Infocom text adventure game addict.
    – Eric Smith
    Aug 8, 2019 at 19:05

1 Answer 1


I finally found it, after looking at literally over a thousand ebooks in my library. My description was close but not exact. The main character (you, being that it's told in the second person) is a passenger on the spacecraft, not crew, and doesn't rent a room.

The story is "Second Person Unmasked" by Janis Ian, first published in the 2003 anthology Stars: Original Stories Based on the Songs of Janis Ian, edited by Janis Ian and Mike Resnick.

Summary from here:

You probably wouldn’t expect it to inspire a story about a planet-hopping sociopath forced to undergo a sex change. But it did: Ian’s “Second Person Unmasked,” which appears in the anthology Stars: Original Stories Based on the Songs of Janis Ian.

The "he" in that story (written, effectively, as “you”) carries a spring-loaded double switchblade, wears a belt with a sharpened buckle and has a high forehead, which in Ian's words has “don’t-fuck-with-me written across it in lines that took decades to accumulate.” He’s an obvious predator -- a literal lady killer -- and from his homophobia to his conquistador walk, he’s easy to hate.

But then, when two blonde girls with silver necklaces seduce him, trap him, and ship him off in a cargo freighter; when he’s sold into slavery, re-educated, starved and then changed into a sociopath-trapping girl himself, you start to pity him. Not really — "he" was terrible, even if "she" isn't — but the story plays with your initial repulsion. Like the song, it takes a hard look at both the cyclical nature of abuse and the structural links between gender hierarchy and violence.

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    You're welcome. It will hopefully help people searching in the future. More keywords to play with.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Aug 8, 2019 at 19:26

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