Scanners Live in Vain by Cordwainer Smith


“Scanners Live in Vain” is a science fiction short story by Cordwainer Smith (pen name of Paul Linebarger), set in his Instrumentality of Mankind future history. It was originally published in the magazine Fantasy Book in 1950. It was judged by the Science Fiction Writers of America to be one of the finest short stories prior to 1965 and was included in the anthology The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, 1929–1964.


Man has conquered space, but not without costs. To maintain the space lanes, Scanners have to undergo an operation in which their brain is severed from their sensory inputs to block the pain of space. Scanner Martel has made this sacrifice. He must monitor his vital functions via implanted dials and instruments in his chest. His only respite from this isolated existence is his ability to occasionally “cranch” and return to some sort of normalcy with his wife, Luci.

But now a man named Adam Stone has claimed that he has a found a way to travel in the deep of space without the use of the Scanners. Through the twisted logic of the community of Scanners, it is decided that Adam Stone must die. Martel, while cranched, realizes the madness of that solution and that all Scanners Live in Vain!


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