The protagonist of R.A. Lafferty's short story "All the People" (available to read online from Project Gutenberg) is a "restricted person" working at the "filter center". We learn later in the story that he is

an artificial consciousness, a personality-fitted appendage of a vast mechanical brain, physically "compounded of animal, vegetable, and mineral fiber" and 17% metal,

but does he look exactly like a normal person, or is it clear from his appearance that he's different?

Evidence for him being visibly different is that the children and dogs always chase him and call him "Tony the Tin Man", but do they see something different in him or just sense it instinctively?

Evidence for him (or the filter centre people in general) not being visibly different is that one of his colleagues mentions a girl who met him without knowing he works at the centre:

I met a girl last night that's cute as a correlator key, and kind of shaped like one. She doesn't know yet that I work in the center and am a restricted person. I'm not going to tell her. Let her find out for herself.

... and it's also mentioned that one particular person knows he works at the centre, which suggests that not everyone does know:

He went into the Plugged Nickel Bar, but the man on duty knew him for a restricted person from the filter center, and would not serve him.

So what is the physical appearance of the protagonist and other "restricted people"? Do they look completely "normal" or not?

1 Answer 1


I'd say the examples you give are conclusive -- restricted people (including the protagonist) look entirely normal. The girl can't tell that his coworker is a restricted person; the bartender is described as knowing him for a restricted person, not recognizing him as one. The professionals that Anthony questions -- the politician, the philosopher, the priest, the psychologist -- show no signs of knowing that they are not talking to an ordinary person. (Neither do Anthony's coworkers, but they could more plausibly be in on the deception.) As for children and dogs "just knowing", without a rational explanation, that doesn't seem out of character for Lafferty.

Also, of the alien, Anthony thinks "he would be able to pass for a man", yet the children and dogs are harassing him.

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