tag: Time Travel

Exhibit Piece

Second Variety and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in If Aug 1954

A man in charge of the twentieth century exhibit at the History Agency two hundred years in the future passes through a time gate in his exhibit, ends up in a 1950’s suburban home with a wife and two kids and decides to stay.

“Exhibit Piece” was adapted for the first season of Electric Dreams as the episode “Real Life”, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the story it is supposedly based on.

Cast of characters

  • George Miller – in charge of the twentieth century exhibit at the History Agency
  • Controller Fleming – Miller’s boss
  • Don and Ted – Miller’s sons in the 1950s
  • Marjorie – Miller’s wife in the 1950s
  • Adam Grunberg – Miller’s psychiatrist in the 1950s
  • Director Carnap – the History Agency director

Prize Ship

Paycheck and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Thrilling Wonder Stories Winter 1954

The only way for Terran ships to resupply the Earth’s colonies at Promixa is from the launching point at Ganymede. The Ganymedeans realize the leverage they have and hold their launch pads as ransom, demanding twenty per cent of all goods for their continued use. Just as Earth is about to give in to this arrangement they get a report of a captured Ganymedean ship.

Four men volunteer to pilot the ship hoping it can reach Promixa. The first place they land is populated by tiny humans six inches tall. The second place they encounter is ruled by giants. At this point the men have recognized the similarities to Johnathan Swift’s fictional lands of Lilliput and Brobdingnag. Before they are crushed by a giant they return to Earth where a Ganymedean, who has arrived to claim the Gany property, informs them they were actually traveling in time and explains how the relativity of size in the expanding universe shrinks the past and enlarges the future.

Cast of characters

  • General Thomas Groves, Major Stiller, Commander James Carmichel, Doctor Earl Basset – volunteers who take the captured Ganymedean ship on a test run


Paycheck and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Future Science Fiction Oct 1954

In the tropey “Meddler” some men peek hundreds of years into the future using a machine called the Time Dip and discover humanity has been wiped out. They send a man forward in time to investigate why, and when he returns he inadvertently brings back the thing (in this case hyper-intelligent butterflies) that ends up destroying mankind.

Cast of characters

  • Wood – operator of the Dip
  • Hasten – travels into the future to find out what has doomed the humans

The Variable Man

Paycheck and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Space Science Fiction Sep 1953

A failed experiment with faster-than-light travel shows promise as a potential bomb that could instantly destroy the Centaurans, but the problem of the central control unit has so far been unsolvable. This all changes when Thomas Cole, an itinerant handyman with the uncanny ability to fix anything, is accidentally brought forward to the present from the year 1913.

The statistical computer can no longer reliably compute odds of victory at all once this ‘variable man’ is around. Security commissioner Reinhart wants Cole killed before the Council realizes the odds of winning the war are no longer in their favor, while the Military Design director Sherikov wants Cole to help him fix the control unit of the so-called Icarus bomb. Cole does eventually ‘fix’ the bomb by figuring out why it wasn’t working as a ftl drive in the first place. Reinhart still tries to kill Cole, Earth loses the war with Centarus when the bomb doesn’t explode (which doesn’t really matter since now Earth possesses the knowledge of faster-than-light travel), the scheming Reinhart is removed from power and Sherikov promises to send Cole back to his own time.

Cast of characters

  • Eric Reinhart – the security commissioner
  • Kaplan – lab organizer
  • Peter Sherikov – director of Military Designs
  • Thomas Cole – handyman from 1913 with the intuitive ability to fix anything
  • Margaret Duffe – President of the Council
  • Joseph Dixon – Reinhart’s second in command

The Skull

Paycheck and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in If Sep 1952

A man named Conger is sent two hundred years back in time to the 1960s to find and kill the mysterious Founder of the First Church, a subversive anti-science movement that preaches non-violence at odds with the present era’s ruling class that trusts a society governed by rationalism and the occasional war to clear out humankind’s weaker elements.

In order to identify the Founder and kill him before he is able to deliver the sermon that will lead to this new movement Conger is given the skull of the Founder which they obtain after raiding the First Church’s holy relics.

Once back in 1960’s Midwest America, it is fairly obvious that Conger himself is this Founder he is searching for. Because he arrives too late and is spotted by some townsfolk before traveling farther back in time to when the Founder is killed he gives the appearance of a resurrection which leads to the belief in the Founder’s divinity. Eventually, right before he is killed by a mob from the town that doesn’t trust outsiders, Conger realizes ‘wait a minute the teeth in this skull I’ve been carrying around are a dead ringer for my own.’

I get what Dick was going for here, although the 1960s setting makes it hard to believe Conger’s trite aphorism, spoken to the townspeople right before they take him down, would be enough to spark a global and long-lasting movement.

Cast of characters

  • Conger – sent back in time to find the Founder of the First Church
  • The Speaker – the council member who sends Conger back in time in search of the Founder
  • Mrs. Appleton – rents Conger a room in Cooper Creek
  • Ed Davies – store owner in Cooper Creek
  • Bill Willet, Lora Hunt – teenagers in Cooper Creek
  • Sheriff Duff – the sheriff of Cooper Creek


Paycheck and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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“Stability” is one of Dick’s oldest stories dating back to the late 1940s when he was still in high school, but it wasn’t published until it was included in a short story collection in 1987.

At some point in the future world leaders decide that mankind has reached the peak of its civilization, and so in order to prevent sliding backwards they enact a program of ‘stability’ where new inventions are prohibited. The resulting story based on this unrealistic premise is clunky, although I don’t expect too much out of these really early works.

An evil city trapped in a globe summons Robert Benton back in time through the use of some sort of time travel device (that the Council Members aren’t too happy about) in order for Benton to bring the globed city forward to present day where it hopes to be freed so it can take over the world.

Cast of characters

  • Robert Benton – our protagonist and only named character
  • the Controller and Council Members – in charge of controlling inventions and enforcing ‘stability’