I read this in the 90s. Probably older, probably a short story.

The main character was the captain and sole crew-member of a starship delivering a cargo of colonists in suspended animation to a remote planet. On the way he decided to amuse himself by (illegally) waking one of the passengers.

He had a perverted desire to dominate women, and chose a young woman with a low IQ in the hope of being able to terrify and manipulate her while he watched on camera. Fortunately she had been forewarned of this kind of trick and stood her ground, demanding he show himself.

She warned him that the authorities might punish him by removing his brain and forcing it to spend years operating industrial machinery. Realising he couldn't control his victim, he allowed her to return to suspended animation. It was then revealed that the protagonist was already serving such a sentence, spending this lonely voyage wired into a ship while his body was stored on the cold side of Mercury.

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    Well, we can date the publication of this to before astronomers discovered Mercury's 3:2 resonant day/orbit periods (after Mariner 10's 1974-1975 visits, which were accidentally synchronized to Mercury's day length).
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Jun 23, 2022 at 16:01
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    Actually the discovery of Mercury's true rotation came in the early 1960s, after Larry Niven's story "The Coldest Place" was sold but before it was published in the December 1964 issue of If Magazine. Jun 23, 2022 at 19:27

1 Answer 1


This would be The Fiend by Frederik Pohl.

The plot is more or less exactly as you describe it. Dandish, the captain and sole crewmember of a nameless starship carrying 700 frozen colonists, has spent nine years working up the courage to wake one of the passengers. He has hidden dreams of dominating a girl, but Silvie proves to be a tough nut. She challenges him and keep telling him to show himself and warns him about the punishment he will receive if he harms any of the passengers. After a while he gives up and sedates her and sends her back to storage, admitting to himself that he probably will not have the courage to try again with another girl.

The story ends with him thinking "he would have sobbed if he had had a voice to sob with", but the body is in storage on coldside Mercury.

My copy of the story is in "The Giant Book of Science Fiction Stories" which was released in 1992, but the original edition seems to be from 1964.

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    Great job! I had a feeling this was Pohl, but did not have time to look. Jun 23, 2022 at 21:19
  • Thanks, that's the one. As it happens I did read it in The Giant Book of Science Fiction Stories, which will make it easier for me to track down a few more titles. Jun 27, 2022 at 12:32

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