I'm looking for the title and author of a short story involving a woman who has a device on/in her brain that directly stimulates the pleasure centers and a man who finds her and probably saves her life.

What I (think I) know about it:

  • I would guess it was written in the 1970s, maybe late 60s.
  • I was sure it was Larry Niven, what I remember of the setup and style just screams Niven, but I can't find anything looking through lists of his short work.
  • I first read it in the late 70s or early 80s.
  • The woman had a socket in her head that connected to something that directly stimulated pleasure centers. There was a term for it, something like wirejacking.
  • When he found her she was in a chair in her apartment completely zoned out, hooked to some kind of feeding/hydration thing that (I think?) wasn't working anymore, dehydrated, etc., probably not far from death. She was nude with vomit down her front.
  • He pulls the thing out of the socket and she goes berzerk.
  • He nurses her back to health.
  • They talk and form a bond.

At the end of the story (I'll put this behind a spoilers tag for anyone happening across this who hasn't read the story):

...we learn that the reason he was in her apartment and found her was that he was burgling her apartment. She laughs and says "take what you want!"

  • Check if it is not one of these in literature section: tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/…
    – jo1storm
    Sep 2, 2020 at 8:00
  • 3
    The end of the story is (since she's still recovering) "Wait a couple of days. You're going to need help getting those speakers down the stairs."
    – JRE
    Sep 2, 2020 at 10:32
  • This does sound very much like Larry Niven's Teela Brown. She was blessed/cursed with incredible luck which would explain the ending, but I'm not sure if she was ever a wirehead. Sep 2, 2020 at 16:09
  • 2
    @RBarryYoung Sounds a lot like the beginning of The Ringworld Engineers, except that it happens to Louis Wu. He was a wirehead, he got burgled, etc. Sep 2, 2020 at 16:44
  • @MadPhysicist Yep, that was my thought also. Sep 2, 2020 at 16:48

1 Answer 1


God is an Iron by Spider Robinson.

The short story was originally written in 1979, and was then incorporated into his novel Mindkiller in 1982.

It starts:

I smelled her before I saw her. Even so, the first sight of her was shocking. She was sitting in a tan plastic-surfaced armchair, the kind where the front comes up as the back goes down. It was back as far as it would go. It was placed beside the large living-room window, whose curtains were drawn. A plastic block table next to it held a digital clock, a dozen unopened packages of Peter Jackson cigarettes, a glass jar full of packs of matches, an empty ashtray, a full vial of cocaine, and a lamp with a bulb of at least 150 watts. It illuminated her with brutal clarity.

She was naked. Her skin was the color of vanilla pudding. Her hair was in rats, her nails unpainted and untended, some overlong and some broken. There was dust on her. She sat in a ghastly sludge of feces and urine. Dried vomit was caked on her chin and between her breasts and down her ribs to the chair.

And ends:

"What did you come here for?" I was angry enough to be honest. "To burgle your fucking apartment!"

So it isn't Larry Niven, though Spider Robinson uses the same term wirehead that Niven uses in his Ringworld novels:

I knew about wire heading, of course - I had lost a couple of acquaintances and one friend to the juice. But I had never seen a wirehead. It is by definition a solitary vice, and all the public usually gets to see is a sheeted figure being carried out to the wagon.

The transformer lay on the floor beside the chair where it had been dropped. The switch was on, and the timer had been jiggered so that instead of providing one five- or ten- or fifteen-second jolt per hour it allowed continuous flow. That timer is required by law on all juice rigs sold, and you need special tools to defeat it. Say, a nail file. The input cord was long, fell in crazy coils from the wall socket. The output cord disappeared beneath the chair, but I knew where it ended. It ended in the tangled snarl of her hair, at the crown of her head, ended in a miniplug. The plug was snapped into a jack surgically implanted in her skull, and from the jack tiny wires snaked their way through the wet jelly to the hypothalamus, to the specific place in the medial forebrain bundle where the major pleasure center of her brain was located. She had sat there in total transcendent ecstasy for at least five days.

  • 1
    This is absolutely it, thank you. I'd had a slight hesitation about it being Niven just because the wireheading wasn't something he did in other stories and he tended toward continuity. Now I know why. I had the wrong author. Sep 2, 2020 at 10:35
  • 2
    I remember reading it in Omni magazine. Published here: williamflew.com/omni8b.html
    – Robert
    Sep 2, 2020 at 16:31
  • 2
    Robinson had wirehead first -- in fact, I think he had it first of anyone. FWIW, this story was became the opening chapter of Robinson's novel Mindkiller -- which was followed by Time Pressure and Lifehouse.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Sep 2, 2020 at 17:05
  • 1
    @ZeissIkon Whoops, it looks like I was mistaken. Niven describes wireheading in some detail in Death by Ecstasy, but he doesn't actually use the word "wirehead" for it in that story. He doesn't use that word until The Defenseless Dead (another Gil the ARM story) in 1973. Sep 2, 2020 at 20:07
  • 1
    Well, 1973 is still well before "God is an Iron", which I first read in Analog in the 1980s.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Sep 3, 2020 at 11:10

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