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Looking for short story read in the '60s.

In the future, space exploration uses a sort of astral projection. The traveller is in the lab and hooked up to monitors, but they don't allow real-time analysis. Just as his trip to another barren world ends, he encounters an intelligence which says "with you I exchange my mind". In a flash the trip ends and he is "woken" in the lab. They ask if there was anything of note and he says not and goes home.

He soon becomes aware of what happened and realises it's monumental, as the mind he exchanged with had been collecting minds for eons and he has them all for sharing only his. He's reluctant to admit to the authorities and realises they will soon finish the analysis and come after him......

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    Hi, welcome to the site. Do you recall whether you read this in an anthology or a magazine? Sep 5 at 22:43
  • More likely anthology as I rarely read magazines but loved science fiction short stories.
    – Colin Kerr
    Sep 5 at 22:52

1 Answer 1

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This is Clifford Simak's novel "Time is the Simplest Thing" (1961).

Excerpt of plot synopsis from Wikipedia:

Shep Blaine is an explorer working for Fishhook, an organization exploiting paranormal powers to explore planets around other stars. Because of anti-paranormal prejudice in the US, Fishhook operates in northern Mexico. Explorers spend time in "star machines", which are boxes shaped and decorated to stimulate the mind to leave the body and explore the universe. They are accompanied by a small machine that can record experiences and gather physical samples. Some explorers have returned with minds affected by what they encountered. Those explorers have disappeared and never been heard from again.

Blaine returns from one expedition having encountered an intelligence that looks like a large pink blob sitting immobile in a room open to the sky. The blob greets him telepathically with the message "Hi pal! I trade with you my mind." Blaine immediately feels the alien mind alongside his own. Returning to his body, he knows he must get away before the recording of his trip is checked.

One of my all-time favorites. The piece of the story you describe, and the excerpt above, are all just an intro to the plot proper. Most of the book deals with a movement to set up a sort of underground railroad, or in this case a trans-spatial railroad, to deliver the persecuted minority group ("parries") to a refuge.

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    One of my favorites too! I have seen that portion split out as a short story with that cliff-hanger ending as well. From the era when ESP and such were extremely popular in western culture but not yet cloyingly so ... Sep 6 at 11:38
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    Brilliant. I've ordered it thanks so much. Going to ask about another now.
    – Colin Kerr
    Sep 6 at 14:11
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    @ColinKerr: You can accept by clicking the checkmark by the voting buttons on the answer.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Sep 6 at 15:20
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    This book (or rather the one with this short story in) is sat by my bed right now (along with maybe twenty others, not a particularly tidy heap, so hard to count), so damn you for getting there first with this 😁
    – Pelinore
    Sep 6 at 22:38

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