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Someone described a story with an interesting premise:

I remember reading a SF story many years ago, in which mankind had developed a way to capture a person's consciousness/personality/soul/whatever (for brevity I'll call it soul, but assume no religious connotation in this context) at the moment of death and sustain it in a continuing state of self-awareness in some sort of device. I have forgotten many of the details, but one use of the device was to ensure prisoners served their full sentences. If you were sentenced to, say, 20 years but died after 15, your soul was captured and spent 5 years experiencing prison in the device before being released to whatever happens to souls after death. IIRC, the focus of the story was a prisoner who had committed a crime so heinous (destroying an entire populated planet, maybe?) that he had been sentenced to a term of many thousands of years.

But when asked what the title was, he couldn't recall:

Not a clue, unfortunately. Back in the day, I used to read a lot of SF, including subscribing to two or three magazines full of stories that were (probably) never published anywhere else. Hmm, if you ever manage to come across a stash of Analog magazines from the mid-70s, there's a decent chance it's in one of those, but beyond that, I have no idea.

Any ideas?

  • There was a series of short stories in Analog back in the 1980s about a device that could catch a person's "soul" and either transfer it to another host (another person, or an animal) or return it to its original vessel, but I can't find it with a Google search -- at least not quickly. I think the one you're looking for might have been one of that series (all by one author). – Zeiss Ikon Jan 17 at 19:59
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    Pfft. You kill a planet and all of a sudden everyone's like "Oh him, yeah, didn't he kill that planet?" and they never mention all the charity work you did. – Valorum Jan 17 at 20:00
  • @Valorum Or how nice you were to your cat! – Lexible Jan 17 at 20:44
  • @Valorum They did take that charity work into account, that's why the culprit got sentenced to only 17,999 years instead of serving the full 18,000 ;-) – Volker Landgraf Jan 18 at 14:52
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Almost certainly not the answer, but many points are in common with Arsen Darnay's 1978 The Karma Affair, reviewed here.

There, a "soul-catcher" was used to capture souls, and they were kept in small cells (even able to see outside, I think). The protagonist or someone close to him had committed a sin (perhaps building the soul-catcher) and was therefore sentenced to return to Earth again and again to cleanse the karmic debt thus incurred.

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