Andy's Anachronisms
Time Travel Short Story Reviews

Science Fiction Adventures in Dimension
(1953; Reprinted 1965)
Groff Conklin, editor
Yesterday Was Monday

Theodore Sturgeon
© 1941

Classic sci-fi author Theodore Sturgeon gives Shakespeare's "All the world's a stage" new meaning with this short story as he takes a humorous look behind the scenes of our everyday existence.

Auto mechanic Harry Wright wakes one morning to realize he has somehow skipped over Tuesday and woken up on Wednesday. He can't explain the missing 24-hour interval; he only knows that he didn't sleep through it. As Harry begins to go about his usual daily routine he notices a small army of men standing only 3 feet high carrying out a bizarre range of activities, from applying dirt to windows and vehicles to building and damaging vehicles. Harry soon learns that these men are stagehands preparing the "set" for the next "act". As shocked as Harry is to see all this activity, the producer and supervisor of the set are even more shocked to learn an "actor" has gotten behind the scenes accidentally. In attempt to get back to where he belongs, Harry gets a first hand tour of how time works and perhaps even the afterlife.

A gem of piece that stands the test of time, Sturgeon's premise was adapted for an episode of the New Twilight Zone (1985-1989) called A Matter of Minutes and featured a couple (Adam Arkin and Karen Austin) who wake one morning to find their home overrun by faceless blue-clad workers.


William L. Bade
© 1951

Maitland, a rocket scientist from 1950 is transported to year 2634 against his will. Held captive, he soon discovers that the human race long ago abandoned the quest to reach out to the stars and explore distant worlds. Devastated that his life ambition of helping man reach the stars is wasted and that his work with rocket propulsion will only result in the development of weapon systems, he begs to remain in the year 2634. Unable to allow him to remain, his captors prepare to release him back to 1950. Maitland however wishes to fulfil his dream of reaching the stars.

An inherent danger when writing fiction about the distant future, that it can tend to be pretty far fetched and exotic, author Bade manages to walk a very fine line between outrageous and possible futures. Writing during a rather racially intolerant period of history, Bade courageously predicts a future of inter-racial marriage and racial blending. Even going so far as portraying the whites of South Africa as the last hold out of white supremacy. Bade's prediction of mankind abandoning its quest to reach distant worlds must have seemed outrageous at the time, although it has come partially true during the period since the end of the manned missions to the moon of the early 1970s.

Bade seems to have had a very short lived career in writing science fiction having only published a handful of stories between 1948 and 1953. I've checked out the Internet Speculative Fiction Database and found very little on this author. Anyone with further information on this author, please drop me a line.

The Middle of the Week after Next

Murray Leinster
© 1952

A seemingly innocent taxi cab driver becomes a murder suspect after a series of fares mysteriously disappear from his cab. Confused and frightened by the sudden disappearances of his customers, Mr. Steems works to discover the source of his problem before the police catch up with him.

The trail of "victims" leads Mr. Steems to conclude that the source of the disappearances may be related to the first victim, a peculiar inventor called Mr. Binder who claimed to have discovered how two things could share the same space at the same time, a concept he called "compenetrability". Mr. Steems soon thinks there may be some truth behind the claim as people seemingly disappear into another dimension in the back of his cab.

Murray Leinster weaves an enjoyable little tale that manages to be both humorous and intriguing at the same time. Leinster's other contributions to the Time Travel genre include the novel Time Tunnel (1964) which was the original inspiration for the ABC TV series of the same name, as well as two novelizations based on the television series: Time Tunnel (1967) and Timeslip! (1967).

…And It Comes Out Here

Lester Del Rey
© 1951

Author Lester Del Rey tackles an age old circular paradox about the future influencing the past which in turns creates a future which comes back to influence the past.

A stranger shows up on the doorstep of engineer Jerome Bell, one day with a fantastic tale. The stranger however isn't as strange as Jerome might expect since it is himself thirty years older. His older self relates a dizzying first person account of how Jerome will travel a hundred years into the future steal a model of the first household atomic generator from a museum, come back and invent the generator.

This mobius strip of a story is an interesting tale of a seemingly never-ending cycle of the past and present influencing each other. As with similar stories, such as Anson's "By His Own Bootstraps", the story becomes an exercise for both the reader and author in juggling the different perspectives of the characters. Its interesting to note that the 1950's promise of cheap atomic energy is reflected directly in Del Rey's future where small power plants are used to power households.

Other Tracks

William Sell
© 1938

This short story is one of the earliest that I have seen which attempts to explain the branching of timelines, complete with diagrams, as the result of time travellers influencing the past.

Two research assistants borrow an inventor's time machine and inadvertently change the past. Upon their return they discover their own present altered. Using this knowledge to their advantage the pair hit upon a novel idea to create a more powerful power supply for the time machine, by returning to the past with present technology and allowing inventors of the time a head start on inventing the battery they need. Returning to the present they discover that their gambit has worked and technology has much advanced past where it had been in the own timeline. Having obtained the power supply the pair return to the past where they undo the events that created the accelerated technological timeline. Having put the past back in order they return to a present closely resembling the original one they left, this time with the fruits of their labour.

Editor Groff Conklin notes in his introduction to the story that only one story has ever been published under the name of William Sell (as of 1953). A quick search of the Internet Speculative Fiction Database reveals that there was also a story called "Time Cats" submitted by William A. Sell to Marion Zimmer Bradley's' Fantasy, Fall 1995 edition. Coincidence or perhaps a pseudonym? If anyone knows any details of William Sell I'd be interested in hearing the story.

Night Meeting

Ray Bradbury
© 1950

Originally a part of Bradbury's the Martian Chronicles this story has been reprinted in this anthology.

Night Meeting tells the story of the ancient past and distant future meeting on the Red Planet. In a chance encounter between a long extinct Martian and a newly colonizing Earthling, neither is sure who is in the present and who is the time traveller.

The Flight That Failed

E.M. Hull
© 1942

The Flight That Failed starts out as a promising story about time travel and alternate universes, concerning World War II. A passenger flight aboard a military aircraft departing from Newfoundland bound for England is visited by a strange traveller. Using his ability to cloud the minds of others, the visitor tries in vain to take the place of individual members of the crew. His motive is to be in a position where he can affect the outcome of the flight when a raid by German fighters comes. When discovered the visitor tries to convince the Squadron Leader of his mission and significance of the flight only to be labelled a saboteur.

I found the resolution of this story to be disappointing compared to the lead up and wonder if the author wasn't trying to do too much within the story for their own sake.

Endowment Policy

Lewis Padgett
© 1943

An element of many time travel stories involves time travellers attempting to use hindsight to profit from the past. Betting on the known outcomes of sporting events, or perhaps buying into the stock of a company such as IBM or Microsoft in its infancy.

In this story a time traveller attempts to use his knowledge to alter the past and set his younger self up for life. The question is can he succeed?

The Mist

Peter Catur
© 1952

The shortest of the stories contained in this collection, barely running four pages, it is also one of the more memorable and inventive ones in the anthology.

A man obsessed with a strange mist manages to find his way home to another dimension thanks the greed of humans and a particular ring.

What If…

Isaac Asimov
© 1952

In this very personal drama, a couple meet a stranger on a train and are given the opportunity to answer the age old question "What If..." regarding their relationship. As they soon find out, some questions are better left unanswered. Especially if you want to preserve peace in a relationship.
Tiger By The Tail

Alan E. Nourse
© 1951

A group of scientists discover a gateway to an alternate universe in the unlikely form of a woman's handbag. Attempting to solve the riddle of what is on the other side and why they are only keeping aluminium items placed in the handbag, the scientists decide that they should strike first putting a stop to this menace before the alternate dimension invades their own. In doing so they unwittingly jeopardise our own universe.
Business of Killing

Fritz Leiber, Jr.
© 1944

A time traveller from a war torn Earth seeks out other universes where the secret of a peaceful co-existence might be learned. The traveller hopes to trade the knowledge of time shifting for the secret of lasting peace. Landing on a world where everything seems to be run by corporations, the traveller thinks he may have found the answer, but is horrified to learn that instead of war waged by governments, it is now run by business for profit.

An interesting take on the nature of war and the nature of business, the story almost manages to convince the reader that war might be the least bloody and costly if it were run by business.

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