Resident Witch
by James H. Schmitz

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson
Analog, May 1970

collected in —

The Telzey Toy
TnT: Telzey & Trigger
March 2002;
March 2008 

What is a human personality?

Dasinger was the head of Kyth Interstellar, a detective agency to which she'd given some assistance during the past year, and which in turn was on occasion very useful to her. ...

"What we want," Dasinger was saying, "is a telepath, a mind-reader — the real thing. Someone absolutely dependable. Someone who will do a fast, precise job for a high fee, and won't be too fussy about the exact legality of what he's involved in or a reasonable amount of physical risk. Can you put us in contact with somebody like that? Some acquaintance?"

Telzey said hesitantly, "I don't know. It wouldn't be an acquaintance; but I may be able to find somebody like that for you."

"Resident Witch"

This review develops a portion of my essay,

Demigoddess of the Mind:
James H. Schmitz's heroine Telzey Amberdon

  1. "Novice"
  2. "Undercurrents"
  3. "Resident Witch"

"Resident Witch" is a stunning story for any reader truly thoughtful about the human potential. In psychological subtlety and power Schmitz's novelet reminds me of some of Fritz Leiber's best. We skip ahead here to the eighth Telzey story, a tangled skein of minds.

What is a human personality anyway, what does it consist of, what anchors your personality to you? A cunning and nasty murder attempt is underway; although it now seems ordained, Telzey and the Kyth Interstellar detective agency are trying to prevent it:

They hadn't given up. Dasinger was speaking to the Kyth Agency by pocket transmitter within a minute after he'd entered Larien's suite with Telzey, and the agency promptly unsheathed its claws. Operators, who'd come drifting into Joca Village during the evening, showing valid passes, converged at the entry to the Selk estate, set up some lethal equipment, and informed Village Security the section was sealed.

Village Security took a long, thoughtful look at what confronted it in the gate road, and decided to wait for developments.


Demigoddess? I use here a word of power, and I maintain that James Schmitz is a rare exemplar of a writer understanding and characterizing what being a demigoddess might actually involve in modern terms. In "Undercurrents" we might say that Telzey has made her first visit to Olympus. It's during "Resident Witch" we must add that she earns a seat at the high table, between Psyche the breath of Spirit, and Artemis the Huntress.

Demigoddess of the mind? Is this in the human potential? Not ancient religion, not mythology, not fantasy, but science fiction — a speculative but reasonable extrapolation of known human capabilities?

Dare we think so?

Why not?

Telzey nature, Telzey insight

Let's stop a moment to reflect upon the tremendous mind and character of Telzey Amberdon.

Near the beginning of "Resident Witch", two smart and tough operatives of the Kyth Interstellar detective agency have asked Telzey for urgent advice about the murder attempt underway at that moment — but they're reluctant to accept her offer of active help:

Wergard said to Dasinger, "We can't get her involved."

"Corvin Wergard," Telzey said.

He looked back at her. "Yes."

"I'm not reading your thoughts," she said. "I don't have to. You've been told who I am, and that I'm sixteen years old. So I'm a child. A child who comes of a very good family and has been very carefully raised. Somebody really too nice to get shot tonight, if something goes wrong, by a Colmer guard or Joca Security people, or ripped up by Brisells. Right?"

Wergard studied her a long moment. "I may have had such notions," he said then. "Perhaps I've been wrong about you."

"You've definitely been wrong about me," Telzey told him. "You didn't know enough. I've been a psi, a practising psi, for almost a year. I can go through a human life in an hour and know more about it than the man or woman who's living it. I've gone through quite a few lives, not only human ones. I do other things that I don't talk about. I don't know what it all exactly makes me now, but I'm not a child. Of course, I am sixteen years old and haven't been that very long. But it might even be that sometimes people like you and Wellan Dasinger look a little like children to me. Do you understand?"

"I'm not sure," Wergard said. "I believe I'm beginning to."


© 2002, 2008 Robert Wilfred Franson

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