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I believed I read this story in Asimov's in the early 1980s, but last year I re-read (most of?) them, and I didn't come across it. I'm 90% sure I read it in a magazine, the next most likely being F&SF or Analog.

The protagonist is an older woman, who lives, I believe, in urban Chicago. She has a fancy apartment that was part of a settlement with the company she formerly worked for, but only ever goes out for walks.

She had been the leader of a team that invented some kind of teleportation device, which worked perfectly except for the fact that it was really a duplication not a transmission device. To get around the fact of creating copies of people, the company settled on packaging it in a closed booth where the outgoing person was electrocuted and disposed of immediately following the teleport.

This freaked out the protagonist to the point that the company decided to cut her out. Using a combination of a carrot (a really nice home, great pension) and a stick (a draconian non-disclosure agreement) the company shunted her off to her (Chicago?) apartment and went about commercializing the invention. But she, knowing how it worked, refused to use it.

The story is framed as a series of conversations she has with a young boy who lives in her neighbourhood. He has noticed that she never uses the teleportation booths, and she tells him her story as she explains why. At this point in her life she's mostly stopped worrying about what the company will do to her, but now that the teleportation booths are everywhere there aren't any cars anymore. The one thing she wants to do is go back to the small town she grew up in, but there's no way to get there without using a teleportation booth.

The story ends with the boy shoving her into a teleportation booth and coding it to send her to her town. She stands there briefly confused and is horribly electrocuted — and then steps out of the booth on the other end, thinking that there wasn't anything to worry about, and she'll be fine using the booths from now on.

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  • And there you also have part of the plot of the movie “the Prestige” where the trick of transporting the magician is achieved by duplicating him and destroying one copy.
    – Manngo
    May 7, 2022 at 4:59

1 Answer 1

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This sounds very much like "The Fare" by Sherri Roth. It was indeed published in Asimov's, but in November 1979 so little earlier than you thought.

You summarised the plot very completely. The old woman is named Corin, and the young boy who winkles the story out of her is named Seth. As you recall, she yearns to escape from Chicago. Seth ends up forcing her bodily into a booth and transporting her back to her hometown in Kansas, and she comes out fine:

Could she get herself back into the booth? If so, she was free. To visit Paris after all these years, see Antarctica, discuss things with Seth. If not, well, she was trapped in a place she liked far better.

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  • Oh man, that's embarrassing. Story is here, and you're right. I even searched specifically within the Asimov's sub-archive but couldn't turn it up.
    – DavidW
    May 4, 2022 at 15:37
  • Huh, even knowing that they are called "transport booths" and knowing that string appears in the story, I can't match the story in a google search against archive.org. Which probably means that it's simply not possible to effectively search it, and any failed search could be a false negative.
    – DavidW
    May 4, 2022 at 15:42
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    @DavidW The search function in archive.org is indeed a deep mystery May 4, 2022 at 15:44
  • "As you recall, she yearns to escape from Chicago" -- as a Chicagoan I find this deeply offensive :P May 5, 2022 at 0:33
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    @AlexanderNied. Why, were you unable to escape yourself? :) May 5, 2022 at 20:31

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