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I'm looking for a short story, I believe by a 50s to 70s American author, about a guy who gets a coveted job at a huge Company making some unspecified products.

He gets promoted to the head office of the Company, located in a enormous pyramid-shaped skyscraper of over a hundred floors, where the higher your rank, the higher floor your office is on. The President's office is supposed to be at the apex of the pyramid.

But it's a strange company because while everyone works very hard, no-one has ever seen the President. The official line is that he is very busy. There are rumors that he is dead, or that he does not exist, and that nobody is in charge. Eventually a superior expiring on the job from overwork authorizes the protagonist to visit the company directors. He explores their offices near the top floor, which are full of the paraphernalia of their respective hobbies, but there is nobody there.

Finally he climbs to the very top tiny floor which turns out to contain the elevator motors. He finds a small window, looks out and sees that it is winter, and remembers that there is a world outside the Company.

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  • Does the company have a name abbreviated as "G.O.D.?"
    – NomadMaker
    May 26 at 18:02
  • Unfortunately I don't remember anything that specific. May 26 at 18:34
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    I remember that story, it was in an antology of Sci-Fi selected by Groff Conklin, hope that helps!
    – user141361
    May 30 at 16:33
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    I recognize the description of this one, but can't place it either. It's definitely a short story, not a novel, and of the period suggested. Can you provide any other detail, such as what the hobbies might have been?
    – Otis
    May 30 at 17:25
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    The top floor might have been 113th and the superior's name might have started with L, and I vaguely remember one of the directors was a woman, but I wouldn't swear to it. May 30 at 18:24
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Update: Is it "The Top" by George Sumner Albee?

This looks more like it, thanks to comments above mentioning Groff Conklin (@user141361). I went through each of the story lists in anthologies listed in the 60s under his name on Wikipedia. Found here, I then searched for the top. From Goodreads - 12 Great Classics of Science Fiction, a comment by Chris Aldridge:

...This book contains as it's [sic] 4th story the Mindwebs audiobook 33 which is "The Top" by George Sumner Albee ... Mindwebs version from "Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction" 1962. A strange possibly satirical story about an advertising executives [sic] rise towards both the top position and floor, of a claustrophobic pyramidal building within a profoundly dysfunctional corporation...

Here is part of a description/review of the story, from Galactic Journey:

Career ad-man receives the promotion he’s always desired, allowing him at last to meet the President of the sprawling industrial combine of which the copywriter is just a valuable cog. But does the Big Boss run the machine, or are they one and the same?...

I still recommend the below if you are interested in other related stories!



It doesn't fit so neatly — from the 2000s, a whole novel — but it sounds a lot like Company, by Max Barry. Here are some details that jumped out, just in case:

The titular Company is very mysterious. The CEO is a mysterious figure.

A meeting with upper management is impossible without an appointment, an appointment is impossible without the consent of mid-level managers, and managers fire anyone who ask questions outside the lines of preferred company policy.

Eventually, the protagonist is invited into a more in-the-know position.

There is a good deal of sense of character to the building, almost a character itself. Particularly regarding the floors in the building:

...the CEO's floor is the empty roof, and the real work behind the scenes takes place on the unreachable floor 13

The description of the work taking place also seems to fit. Everyone works very hard, but few seem to really understand the work they are doing.

(Quotes: Wikipedia, Goodreads)

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    Nice try, but this can't be it because it was published in 2006 and I read the story described in the question in a book that was printed well before 1990. May 29 at 6:35
  • @AntonTykhyy "The Top" by George Sumner Albee??
    – Atom C
    Jun 1 at 20:37
  • @AntonTykhyy from GoodReads - 12 Great Classics of Science Fiction, a comment by Chris Aldridge: > ...This book contains as its 4th story the Mindwebs audiobook 33 which is "The Top" by George Sumner Albee ... Mindwebs version from "Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction" 1962. A strange possibly satirical story about an advertising executives rise towards both the top position and floor, of a claustrophobic pyramidal building within a profoundly dysfunctional corporation.
    – Atom C
    Jun 1 at 20:42
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    Yep, that's it. Thank you! Jun 1 at 21:26
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    Here it is on isfdb.org and readable on archive.org Jun 2 at 0:17

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