By Robert Sheckley (1928-2005).
First appearance: Galaxy Magazine, April 1953.
Novelized as The 10th Victim (1965 movie tie-in); two novel sequels: Victim Prime (1987) and Hunter/Victim (1988).
The 1957 radiocast is online HERE (22 minutes 8 seconds); the script for it is HERE.
Reprinted many many many times, including textbooks; publication data HERE.
Short story (14 pages).
Online at SFF Audio HERE (PDF) and Archive.org HERE and HERE.
"The most dangerous game, said one writer, is Man. But there is another still more deadly!"How do you save billions of lives, basically the entire human race? In the near future society has evolved a way, but there is a downside—someone, somewhere will still have to die:
The beauty of the system was that the people who wanted to kill could do so. Those who didn't—the bulk of the population—didn't have to.
At least, there weren't any more big wars. Not even the imminence of one. Just hundreds of thousands of small ones.Frelaine, the Hunter, couldn't be happier with the system and is looking forward to his next kill, his seventh Victim on his way to membership in an exclusive club of Hunters—until he encounters Janet, his target, and finds love . . .
- The ISFDb's comprehensive Robert Sheckley page is (HERE), Wikipedia has a full page devoted to "Seventh Victim" (HERE—WARNING: SPOILERS), and we just remembered we had an encounter with Sheckley not so long ago (HERE).
The bottom line: "When once a certain class of people has been placed by the temporal and spiritual authorities outside the ranks of those whose life has value, then nothing comes more naturally to men than murder."
— Simone Weil