The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Development of a computer capable of simulating human thought brings a public outcry against it. The protagonists are Professor Billings and Professor Hoskins, who were the principal inventors, and Joe Carter, Billings’ assistant, who is a telepath. Joe not only can receive thoughts but also can receive and transmit feelings, both mental and physical. Joe rescues the two professors and the disassembled computer (named Bossy for its resemblance to a cow) from a San Francisco train station by tricking three agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation into abandoning their posts.

In the story, the America of 1985 is a repressive oligarchy in which originality is a crime. The fugitives hole up on skid row, and their landlady is a retired prostitute. They plan to finish and then test Bossy. Billings and Hoskins do not have applications in mind for Bossy, but Joe does. He believes that the computer will be able to cure all psychological problems, turning out rational, well-adjusted individuals by healing at the cellular level. Joe also believes that people cured by Bossy will be telepaths, so he will no longer be alone.

Mabel and Carney, their hosts, discover who the fugitives are. Mabel, overweight, aging, and arthritic, agrees to be Bossy’s first patient. Unexpectedly, the treatment makes her young again. Mabel wakes up alone, physically twenty years old, telepathic, and without inhibitions; she walks out into the city and is arrested. She...

(The entire section is 540 words.)