“Fair,” John Brunner, 1956 — A man rides an escalator to the top of the “fair.” Along the way, he muses on media saturation, speed, loss of intimacy, generational conflict, youth, the dumbing down of culture, guilt for the wars waged by his nation, and fear of the bomb. At the top, he encounters a remarkable exhibit with a device that allows one to enter the body of another. The ringmaster is hawking it as a means of escape, which appeals to the current culture: “Get out of your body as well as your worries…” After being inserted into the bodies of members of other races and nations, the protagonist realizes that the ringmaster has a hidden motive–he hopes the device will create empathy in his patrons by proving to them that humans have same feelings and experiences despite nationality, politics, and race. The device seems to work. “…[H]e looked down in growing astonishment and found that his skin too was black and he didn’t give a damn…” The man imagines that war will vanish “and life will be worth living instead of foreboding.”
Comments: Published as Keith Woodcott in New Worlds SF 1956, written in 1955. Was thought by an editor to have a “worrisome avant-garde quality”; see Brunner’s intro in SF Author’s Choice 4.
Author: Wikipedia: “John Kilian Houston Brunner (24 September 1934 – 26 August 1995) was a prolific British author of science fiction novels and stories. His 1968 novel Stand on Zanzibar, about an overpopulated world, won the 1968 Hugo Award for best science fiction novel. It also won the BSFA award the same year. The Jagged Orbit won the BSFA award in 1970.”