Bewildering Stories

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Challenge 74

Time and Time Again

Time travel can take us to truly new places, even if they often seem strangely familiar.

Astounding Science Fiction used to have a little self-promoting blurb that included the phrase “We have a time machine for sale...” I was fond of that idea: don’t almost all stories make the reader a time-traveler in some way, if only by depicting a setting that’s new to us? John Thiel’s “That Elusive Other” may show us the only way we can travel without moving in time and space: his hero stays home but goes on a philosophical and psychological “trip.”

In Deep Bora’s “Fourth Dimension,” time is a place with unusual features. In David L. Erickson’s, Cleveland W. Gibson’s and P. J. Lawton’s stories, time travel offers resources to be exploited for good or ill. And Thomas R. creates a character who requires a whole new historical time-line to contain her. As for Tala Bar’s “Ya’el,” let’s just say that the story can be read metaphorically in terms of time travel: we visit Ya’el in a distant past. But at the end, will she come to us from our own future? Who knows? Stay with us: we shall see...

For this issue’s official challenge, you have a choice of questions:

  1. Do you like time-travel stories? Why or why not?
  2. If you do like them, what are your favorites?
Okay, professor, can you answer your own questions? Well, to be honest, no, not always. We don’t play “Jeopardy” in the Challenges, and the best questions are the ones that aren’t made up from “canned” answers. But, yes, I am fond of time-travel stories; I cut them a lot more slack and suspension of disbelief than I do most other fiction. Now why might that be? I really would like to know, myself. Maybe time travel seems like a sure-fire remedy for staircase wit, be it personal or cosmic.

But, at an early age, I remember being fascinated by a story — I forget the author and title — about a farmhand who leaves his farm to seek his fortune. He stops at a crossroads and chooses a path at random. He has adventures, of course, but sooner or later he’s killed by a nobleman. Zap, back to the crossroads. Every path he takes leads to doom at the hands of the same man who had slain him the first time. At the end, he just goes back home. And again he meets an early demise: he shoots himself — or is shot somehow — with a pistol belonging to his nemesis. That must have been a French story!

When H. Beam Piper’s “Temple Trouble” and “Time Crime” appeared in Astounding, I was hooked. Much as I like Verkan Vall, Hadron Dalla and the Paratime Police, I never cared for Piper’s Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen: a great idea and a good start, but the novel shows marked signs of fatigue about halfway through. I forgive Isaac Asimov his potboiler The End of Eternity, but his Pebble in the Sky made me a permanent time-travel fan. I don’t think Asimov ever used the theme of time travel again; once or twice was enough: after that, everything was in place. If as humble a hero as Joseph Schwartz could come from the distant past and save the Galaxy, why couldn’t a really smart fellow like Hari Seldon do as much or more? Change the future? Asimov does it. Change the past? Ward Moore’s Bring the Jubilee is beyond all praise... One could go on. Please do!

Please send us your ideas!

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