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I read these books around 10-20 years ago via the library, but I suspect they're older than that. I don't remember enough details to google them on my own, but some key points:

  • It's a series of novels where the protagonist is a psychic/space wizard who travels via ship between various worlds, and helps them correct various cultural & social issues. I think the protagonist is from a family of psychics and just decides to call himself a space wizard, but I just don't remember details clearly.
  • One story that stuck in my mind has him treating a planet where a decision to require everyone to get married causes a large prevalence of individuals to develop 'megalomania' (unhappy parents -> abuse -> mental issues with insisting their nobility that has been unfairly removed from their 'rightful place'). These individuals are collected in cities controlled by a computer that came with the original colonization effort, that tries to keep these self-declared nobles taken care of. The protagonist of the series 'heals' them by taking them back to various key events in their lives and reliving them, but with the emotional impact altered — e. g. instead of being beaten for breaking a vase by an infuriated, bitter mother, they're scolded appropriately by an exasperated mother. He uses the healed individuals as a cadre to reform the planet to 'fix' the marriage requirements.
  • It may be the same story, it may be a different story, but I think it included that the civil servants had a tradition similar to ancient China, where you had to 'test' into their ranks. That test was theoretically kept fair because the servants were rotated, so they couldn't favor their own children, but in practice a lot of those servants identified their predecessor's children and favored them in a wink-wink, nudge-nudge pattern that lead to them being favored anyway.
  • At some point, he picks up a cat-like hitch hiker with powerful psychic abilities. In another story, this hitch hiker helps solve the issue on a planet that's torn by feuding clans by talking to the native lifeforms — who just happen to bear a strong resemblance to the 'little folk' of Celtic myth — to help support ending the constant feuds.
  • I think there's another companion who pops up at some point, but I don't remember any details.

I'm reasonably certain the author participated in "Writers of the Future" at some point, because there was a WotF story with a very similar premise when it came to curing 'incurable' mental illnesses. Unfortunately, I don't know which WotF year it was.

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  • I'm positive I've read at least the beginning of the story you're talking about and it used to be in my parents' library when I was younger (in the early 90s, perhaps). My first thoughts were possibly McCaffrey or Piers Anthony but I can't find anything by either of them that looks like what I remember. I'll keep digging. Jan 19 at 22:52
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    It has enough misses to not be worth an answer, but in the broad strokes it sounds quite a lot like Speaker for the Dead.
    – Yann
    Jan 20 at 9:05
  • @Yann My immediate guess at seeing the title of the question as well, but story-lines wise there seesm to be no resemblance at all.
    – Tonny
    Jan 20 at 13:07

3 Answers 3

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This may be the Rogue Wizard Series by Christopher Stasheff. The series follows a psychic "wizard" (or it looks like actually more than one, family members, in different books) who uses his powers in various ways in a science fiction setting, travelling via "sentient starship". Judging from various book synopses I've been able to find, the characters spend a lot of time helping oppressed peasants overthrow various overlords, bureaucracies, etc.

In particular, a synopsis of "A Wizard in Peace" describes planet under the control of a "Protector" who dictates the thoughts of his subjects and the wizard finds "a spark of rebellion" in the aristocrats. Reviews of this book indicate the inhabitants of this world having no choice in things like marriage partner, travel, etc.

Your description made me half-remember a book cover, which I was pretty sure was by Darrel K Sweet, and by searching ISFDB I found this one (sourced from Goodreads) along with a book that seems to match your description:

cover image of A Wizard in Peace

I can't be positive this is the book the question is about, but it's certainly the one that came to my mind when I read the description.

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    Yes, I have "A Wizard in Peace" and it has both the themes of compulsory marriage and the civil service described in the question. The telepathic cat like alien is called Evanescent and first appears in the eight book in the series A Wizard and a Warlord. Jan 20 at 7:38
  • In reviews of the books I have seen the protagonist Magnus described as a psychic wizard but that phrase is never used in the books. Magnus does not describe himself as a psychic wizard or a space wizard. Jan 20 at 10:09
  • The other companion mentioned in the question could be Herkimer, the AI of Magnus' ship. It has been ages since I read the series. Time for a re-read when I have some time.
    – Tonny
    Jan 20 at 13:10
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    This would have been my guess, just based on it being about a "space wizard". It's been ages since I read these, but they're what immediately popped into my head when I read that. I guess it's a surprisingly rare concept.
    – Bobson
    Jan 20 at 20:19
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    I can't be absolutely certain until I purchase & read them, but this series looks right -- the description for 'Wizard in a Fued' for example sounds like an exact match to my memory of that book. THank you!
    – RonLugge
    Jan 20 at 23:11
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Not a perfect match to the description, but perhaps this is Suzette Haden Elgin's series of stories about Coyote Jones? The first of these was "For the Sake of Grace" and sort of matches your scenario of civil service nepotism. It was incorporated into a fix-up novel "At the Seventh Level" reviewed below.

From sciencefictionruminations.com

The plot follows Khadilh ban-harihn, a functionary on the planet Abba, who returns from his work on Earth due to a family crisis. He is alerted to the crisis despite his distance from his home planet via a device, a “state-being-control” (9) that monitors the mental state of his wife. The crisis itself involves the conduct of his wife and his daughter, Jacinth. For Jacinth, barely twelve, desires to enter the only profession open to women, Poetry. For the Abbans, the study of poetry is the study of religion.

Khadilh’s family is highly renowned — five of his sons were accepted into the Major of Poetry. In Elgin’s vision, the study of poetry is a religious calling and those who study poetry the most honored members of society. The exact way in which Abban poetry and religion intersect is never developed at length. But, one can assume that the refined and articulate way of organizing through that poetry requires is equated with a purity of mind and a pursuit of the highest power. Likewise more in line with Elgin’s polemical purposes, traditionalist poetry perfectly encapsulates the entrenched ideologies of an “institution” of religion. In Abban society there are strict rules for verse — and thus, strict rules for expression. Poets of the higher levels are required to communicate only in verse. [...]

The main plot, about half of the novel, is completely uninteresting. Coyote Jones, a particularly unintelligent and non-agent like agent of the enlightened and egalitarian Galactic Federation, is assigned to uncover the mysterious poisoning of the poet Jacinth.

Although that reviewer obviously doesn't think much of Coyote Jones, it is Jones who ties the various stories together. He is a powerful projective telepath, and ends up being assigned to, or backing into, societies or whole worlds where there is a social problem in which he intervenes.

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Might you be talking about Murray Leinster's Med Ship Man stories?

Scattered through the galaxy are thousands of worlds colonized by humans. Many have native microbes dangerous to the human immigrants. Others have diseases brought to them accidentally—or on purpose—by visiting ships. When millions of lives are threatened, it's a job for the Interstellar Medical Service, and a Med Ship is sent to solve the problem.

Calhoun is the best the Med Service has, and hard experience has taught him that often the major obstacle to curing the sick is ... the sick. And removing that kind of obstacle may take very strong medicine. To find a cure for a disease, Calhoun has the help of his small animal companion Murgatroyd, a tormal—a species with the most powerful immune system in the galaxy. But to find a cure for hysteria, prejudice, crime, and even war is much more complicated, requiring considerable ingenuity. Fortunately, ingenuity is something that Calhoun has in good supply...

This was an unaccepted answer to Looking for this short-story about a lone man's space travel, although details are a bit vague, which popped up when I searched for [story-identification] cures planets on this site, thinking I'd seen this before.

Not matching is that I don't think that Calhoun is psychic.

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  • Also the accepted answer to scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/259080/…
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jan 19 at 21:30
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    FWIW, I recently re-read these stories, and I don't recall any plots matching the ones in the question.
    – DavidW
    Jan 19 at 21:42
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    I actually have that book, and it's a great series of short stories. I'll edit my original question to make it clearer that I'm talking about social issues, not medical.
    – RonLugge
    Jan 19 at 21:44

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