First appearance: in Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (June 1951).
The version I read: in The Science Fiction of Kris Neville (1984) – ed. Barry N. Malzberg.
Find a version here.
The sting is in the tale of this story. Nothing new to see here, in the good old sf tradition (even then). But what a sting, and what a tale!
I can’t say much about this without revealing the wonderful gist, but it falls into what I call “near future realism”. The internal chronology puts it somewhere in the late 20th/early 21st century.
Kris Neville is a dab hand with psychological motivation and distress. I hear he is a harbinger of things to come, and I realise this fitfully (through my readings of the various new wave sters). More proximally James E. Gunn seems obviously influenced by him – particularly the Station in Space stories (the only ones I have so far read). Joachim Boaz notes an affinity with C.M. Kornbluth’s themes and excellent stories.
To bring a rapidly exploding short review to a necessary stop: Read this story!