‘No Award’ by Roger Zelazny

When the Secret Ser­vice employs telepaths to pro­tect the Pres­i­dent against assas­si­na­tion, the only way to get an assas­sin close enough is to keep the mind of the assas­sin some­how in sus­pen­sion until the very last moment.

Descrip­tion: In ‘No Award’ by  Roger Zelazny, we see the first-per­son stum­blings of a man caught in a dilem­ma, being present as a Pres­i­den­tial address with lit­tle mem­o­ry of how or why he was there. His mem­o­ry and thoughts are frag­ment­ed, but dis­turb­ing flash­es keep dis­tract­ing him. And then, when he sees his hand pro­duce a gun, he is imme­di­ate­ly at war with him­self, allow­ing the Secret Ser­vice the time to stop him.

What had hap­pened, the man is told, is that a group intend­ing to assas­si­nate the Pres­i­dent used a num­ber of sur­gi­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal tech­niques to sep­a­rate his brain into two dis­tinct per­son­al­i­ties, one con­scious that was the ordi­nary mind and one kept in a deep trance state until the prop­er moment and the prop­er trig­ger. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, that process could not be reversed, leav­ing the man with only half of a mind, unable to com­mu­ni­cate with the oth­er half except through the most crude of ways.

His­to­ry: This sto­ry is reprint­ed in “The Last Defend­er of Camelot”, and Roger explains the ori­gin of the story:

Bet­ty White of The Evening Post sud­den­ly solicit­ed a 3,500 word sto­ry from me one day, so I did this one quick­ly and she bought it just as quick­ly. Then I asked her why she had want­ed it. She told me that she recent­ly had her tele­vi­sion set on and was occu­pied with some­thing which did not per­mit her to change chan­nels read­i­ly. A show named “Star Trek” came on and whe watched it through and enjoyed it. She had not known much about sci­ence fic­tion, she said, and she resolved to stop by her paper­back book store the fol­low­ing day, buy a sci­ence fic­tion book at ran­dom and read it. It hap­pened to be one of mine. She read it and liked it and decid­ed to ask me for a story.

It is inter­est­ing to con­tem­plate what nov­el Bet­ty White read. This sto­ry was pub­lished in 1977: at that time, Zelazny had pub­lished the greater por­tion of his nov­el work, includ­ing his award win­ning nov­els “This Immor­tal” and “Lord of Light”, sev­er­al oth­er nom­i­nat­ed works, as well as 4 out of the first 5 Amber novels.

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