I read this short story in an American magazine in the early 1970s. (It doesn't sound like an Analog story, so it was probably Galaxy or Amazing, something like that.) The MCs name was Lank; he has completely rejected logic and rationality because science is seen as having caused the war. He, like everybody else, flips a coin to make decisions - he sees a woman, flips a coin, and then rapes her. I can't remember anything more than that.

2 Answers 2


I believe this is probably "Coins" by Leo P. Kelley, published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November 1968.

The setting is "Afterit," which appears to be a post-apocalyptic world, as distinguished from "Beforeit":

It had been Afterit for at least as long as Lank could remember, which was nineteen Tosses, eleven of which — ever since his eighth year, as the ancient ritual required — he had participated in and none of which he had Lost. For which he was glad.

Now, as he made his way through the network of upright spears that had been living trees Beforeit...


Down he went and past the skeletal ruins of Randland, fear sweating his nearly naked hide, and on through the countryside strewn with Beforeit things. Melted autos. Smashed steeples.

He makes decisions based on a coin toss:

The urge to stretch seized him. He spat out his Coin, clawed it from the dirt and expertly tossed it.

Heads, I stretch.


Lank cursed.

He sees a woman:

Lank spat. His Coin hit his waiting hand, dizzied up, down. Heads to kill, tails to take. The Coin stared up at him, a copper eye in the ashes. Tails!

He then rapes her, and when she attacks him for it he discovers that she does not toss a coin to make decisions.

It turns out this is a constructed society where everyone is conditioned to make decisions by coin toss as a (rather bizarre) social experiment to prevent future wars.

  • 1
    Randland? I promise it's not my doing.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Feb 12, 2021 at 20:35
  • What's the relationship between this short story and The Coins of Murph, a novel by the same author which also features a man named Lank and a coin-tossing society? Is the latter an extension, or a sequel, or inspired, or what?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Feb 12, 2021 at 20:37
  • The SF Encyclopedia entry for Leo P. Kelley says "The Coins of Murph (1971) is a Satire set in a Ruined Earth" but it does not say "Coins (November 1968 The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction; rev and exp vt The Coins of Murph 1971)" so it's probably not an extension. It might be a sequel or an "inspired by" but without reading both I couldn't say.
    – DavidW
    Feb 12, 2021 at 20:53
  • That said, the short story lacks the religious aspects of the novel; Lank is just a random anybody we happen to be following, there are no priests... Since one of the Goodreads talks about Lank and Doll meeting, it can't be a sequel, so I'd have to say it's a complete rewrite.
    – DavidW
    Feb 12, 2021 at 21:40
  • I've gone ahead and posted a new question. Maybe you can turn your deductions into an answer there; maybe someone else here will have read both stories.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Feb 12, 2021 at 22:30

Are you totally sure it was:

  1. Science Fiction
  2. a short story
  3. post apocalyptic ?

It sounds a lot like The Dice Man by Luke Reinhardt.

The book tells the story... of a psychologist named Luke [Rhinehart] who, feeling bored and unfulfilled in life, starts making decisions... based on a roll of a die. Along the way, there is sex, rape, murder, 'dice parties', breakouts by psychiatric patients, and various corporate and governmental machines being put into a spin. There is also a description of the cult that starts to develop around the man, and the psychological research he initiates, such as the 'F**k without Fear for Fun and Profit' programme.

More information:

An American author, Rhinehart lived his whole life in America, the Land of the Free. But The Dice Man perfectly illustrates how you are not free if you live among those who insist on insisting on their own ideas. A successful psychiatry practice in Manhattan, a loving wife and two kids, Rhineheart has it all. But he is trapped by his job and his family, and life seems empty and boring. In a deep funk one night after discussing psychotherapy with his colleagues and friends at a poker game, Rhineheart concludes that ‘analysis, were it really on the right track, should be able to change the subject; to change anything and anybody.’ Desperate to experience something new and exciting, something fundamentally life-changing, Rhineheart decides that if the dice on the floor is a one, he would march downstairs and rape Arlene. A ‘one’ is cast. Terrified but excited, Rhineheart does not question the die.

What matches:

  • Man makes decisions based on random chance
  • first decision is to rape someone
  • date is correct (1971)

What doesn't match.

  • Not SF
  • Not a short story
  • not post apocaplyse
  • uses dice, not a coin
  • His name is Luke, not Lank.

Possibly you are conflating two stories. Or maybe you read a parody of the above.

  • Dear Pete: It was definitely an SF short story but it certainly has a lot in common with the novel described. It makes me wonder just who copied from who! Feb 12, 2021 at 5:02
  • Dear Pete: I am definitely going to look up Rhinehardt's book to see how man other 'coincidences' Luke there are. Feb 12, 2021 at 16:14
  • I tried to read it about 30 years ago. I didn't like it at all and gave up. YMMV
    – Pete
    Feb 12, 2021 at 17:12

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