I'm trying to find the title of a science-fiction short story where a number of humans live on a space station. Pretty sure the main character is male

There's some sort of catastrophe or sabotage, and it's a mystery at first (I think?) as to why it's happening, but pretty much everyone goes crazy, venting oxygen into space, fouling the little pool they have in the glade, etc.

Eventually, one of the few sane characters figures out that they can calm the affected people by communicating to them over the station's PA system, as the psychotic will think the voice is God's, or their own thoughts, etc.

I'm pretty sure the person who actually did the thing gave themselves paranoid schizophrenia so they'd be more difficult to find afterward (which was important to them for reasons I no longer remember).

I know the male main character had a relationship (not a super romantic one—more of a physical thing/stress relief for both of them) with a female space station inhabitant, and she always told him to tell her when he was about to "finish" as they were having intercourse, and then she'd finish at the same time. As I recall, he eventually learns that this was because she had some kind of implant in her brain (I think because of an injury in her past?) that allowed her to control that.

This is relevant, because it becomes a question as to whether having an orgasm on command as opposed to the "natural" way is better or worse, etc. Specifically, because once things settle down on the station, there's a reason (which I've forgotten) that the male and female character are considering partaking of a version of the crazy-making chemicals from earlier, only this one will make them fall deeply in love with each other.

Can you help?

  • 1
    Hi, welcome to SF&F! This a good question with lots of details, but there may still be some useful info to add; check out the suggestions to see if there's anything else you can add. For example, when did you read it?
    – DavidW
    Aug 22, 2019 at 13:33
  • There's too much that doesn't match, but this does seem like something that Vernor Vinge might have written; I'm thinking of one of the subplots in his A Deepness in the Sky... Aug 22, 2019 at 13:39

2 Answers 2


I think this is Griffin's Egg by Michael Swanwick, which is a novella rather than short story. The encounter you're thinking of is:

She rode him roughly, her flesh slippery with sweat against his. “Are you coming yet?” she murmured. “Are you coming yet? Tell me when you’re about to come.” She bit his shoulder, the side of his neck, his chin, his lower lip. Her nails dug into his flesh.

The lady is Ekatarina Izmailova and she has a chip embedded in her neck that:

Her eyes were grey and solemn. “It hooks into the pleasure centers. When I need to, I can turn on my orgasm at a thought. That way we can always come at the same time.” She moved her hips slowly beneath him as she spoke.

The story is set in lunar station. The occupants find themselves stranded when a war breaks out on Earth.

The person who releases the psycho tropic drugs is Sally Chang who is a scientist working for a secret project to map out the chemical pathways of the brain. One of the possible applications of this is:

“Consider also the military applications. This knowledge combined with some of the new nanoweaponry might produce a berserker gas, allowing you to turn the enemy’s armies upon their own populace. Or, easier, to throw them into a psychotic frenzy and let them turn on themselves. Cities could be pacified by rendering the citizenry catatonic. A secondary, internal reality could then be created, allowing the conqueror to use the masses as slave labor. The possibilities are endless

Which is of course what happens later in the novella, though they aren't drugs but rather a schizomimetic engine. The agent is released in the main living space Bootstrap City. The affect people are calmed by speaking to them through their trance chips, which are communication devices embedded in the skull:

“Look—” Gunther began. And then Krishna’s voice sounded over his trance chip, stiffly and with exaggerated clarity. “Everyone is to go to the central lake immediately for an organizational meeting. Repeat: Go to the lake immediately. Go to the lake now.” He was obviously speaking over a jury-rigged transmitter. The sound was bad and his voice boomed and popped on the chip.
By the time they got out to the parklands again, the open areas were thick with people. Not just the suited figures of the survivors, either. All the afflicted were emerging from the caves and corridors of Bootstrap. They walked blindly, uncertainly, toward the lake, as if newly called from the grave. The ground level was filling with people.
“It’s the trance chips! Sonofabitch, all we had to do was speak to them over the chips. They’ll do whatever the voice in their heads tells them to do

  • 1
    There's a set-up for this right at the start of the story: "The words, broadcast directly to his trance chip, sounded as deep and resonant as the voice of God."
    – DavidW
    Aug 22, 2019 at 16:32
  • That's it! John Rennie, you've soothed my haunted brain. Thanks very much. This is yet another example of my half-remembering a story's plot (and nothing else) years and years after reading it, only to find out the author is one I've grown to enjoy since then. You have my gratitude, friend. Aug 23, 2019 at 0:20
  • @Officefan55 if this is the correct story please click on the tick mark to the left of my answer to mark it as accepted. Thanks :-) Aug 23, 2019 at 4:14
  • Ah! Thanks. I shall do so now. Aug 24, 2019 at 15:27

I think the correct answer is John Rennie's.

That said, similar elements may be found in other stories and novels:

  • psychochemical sabotage of space station: Lagrange Five by Mack Reynolds (1979). The space rage syndrome makes people of Lagrange Five kill each other.

  • planet initially uninhabitable due to psychoactive atmospheric component Longstead-42 in Ghost Five by Robert Sheckley (thanks to @Gnudiff).

  • also psycho-suggestion on a starship: what the onboard Connectivist, Grosvenor, has to do to his crewmates to defeat the Anabis in The Voyages of the Space Beagle by A. E. Van Vogt

  • orgasm control, in Judas Unchained by Peter F. Hamilton

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    Your last paragraph is exactly what happens in Griffin's Egg. It wasn't a robot mutiny, the robots were affected by a solar flare and had in effect become psychotic. Aug 22, 2019 at 16:35
  • Thanks! Removed the reference paragraph as superfluous.
    – LSerni
    Aug 22, 2019 at 18:23
  • 1
    Also not this, but with certain parallels is Robert Sheckley's "Ghost V" short story, where a recently discovered planet is thought to be inhabited by ghosts who kill colonists, but turns out it is a hallucinations inducing gas in the atmosphere.
    – Gnudiff
    Aug 23, 2019 at 8:27

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