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There was this story I read when I was quite young that left an impression on me. Could have been anytime in the 70's. It would not have been a new story at the time because it probably came from my Dad's collection who had been reading SciFI since he was young. Also, due to my prolific reading habits, my parents would not buy me new books. Used book stores were our friends!

I'm pretty sure it was a short story but I may have just condensed it in my mind.

The basis of the story was that in the contemporary society you could do anything you wanted as a young adult.

You were basically accruing debt that you would have to pay off by working. Once you hit a certain age (30 I think?) you were assigned a job to pay off those debts. The more you owed, the harder the job.

While many people were careful not to accrue too much debt, the protagonist of the story lived the party life and cared not what he spent.

On his 30th birthday he tried to cheat the system by jumping off a bridge.

He then woke up with his brain implanted in a ship and a debt that was going to take hundreds of years to pay off.

This story could have been a precursor to the "Brain Ship" stories by McCaffrey, Niven and others or it might even have been prompted by them.

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  • Hi, welcome to the site. If anyone correctly identifies this, you can mark their answer as accepted by clicking on the check mark beneath the voting buttons, as per the tour. Aug 20 at 21:29
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    There were "brain ships" in sci-fi long before McCaffrey and Niven, e.g., "Solar Plexus" by James Blish (1941), which is definitely not the one you're looking for.
    – user14111
    Aug 20 at 23:13
  • Yes, there were actually quite a few. Some of which I had read but long forgotten! Part of my difficulty is that I read much of my SciFi long after it was published. I spent years as a kid "binging" on my dad's collection of Astounding!
    – Ken
    Aug 22 at 0:30

1 Answer 1

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Wasted on the Young by John Brunner. It was originally published in Galaxy Magazine April 1965 and I read it in The Ninth Galaxy Reader.

The protagonist is Hal Page, who is a notorious hedonist and determined to build up a record debt in his thirty years, which he does by accumulating three hundred years worth of debt!

At the start of the story he has just received notice that his thirty years is up, and he receives a visit from Thomas Dobson to arrange repayment of the debt. Hal tries to commit suicide by buying then crashing an aircar:

The aircar had cost him one and a half years’ credit. It was going to be well worth it, he thought dreamily as he gulped down the five capsules of hypnotic - three hours’ credit - and set the controls to carry him out to sea. There was just about enough fuel for fifty miles; by then, he’d be at thirty thousand feet. And hitting water from such a height ought to be pretty much like smashing into a stone wall. If they even got back enough to use for prosthetics they’d be lucky, but that was the most they could hope to have back from ... Hal Page’s famous record-breaking debt... of more than... three hundred...

But his body is recovered and his brain implanted into a spaceship. At the end of the story Dobson tells him:

‘We have to go to the stars, Hal. Creeping outward. As I told you, it’s forced on us because we have so much energy to absorb, so much frantic creativity, so much skill and impatience. One day we’ll go at the speed of light, freely and easily, but before that epoch arrives there must be scouts, explorers, pathfinders ... You, Hal. You’re going to Rigel, as the commander, and the crew, of a slow, slow rocketship, and the round trip is going to last just about three hundred years.’

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  • Considering the distance between Rigel and Earth, it would take an impossibly fast rocketship - if any form of rocket was its main propulsion - to make the journey in a mere 300 years. Maybe all spaceships are called rocketships in the future, or mayby Brunner and/or Dobson is bad at galactography and/or math. Aug 21 at 18:33
  • Thank you! It's interesting how the mind alters memories as I had morphed the aircar into a bridge!
    – Ken
    Aug 22 at 0:17

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