tag: Time Travel

Captive Market

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First published in If Apr 1955

Mrs. Berthelson, owner of a small country store in Northern California, has the unique ability to travel through time. Her ‘captive market’ is a group of desperate survivors of a nuclear war in the not too distant future where Mrs. Berthelson travels once a week to sell her goods at whatever price she chooses.

The survivors plan to leave Earth for Venus on a rocket they have constructed, but Mrs. Berthelson, not wanting to give up such a lucrative gig, selects a future where their rocket crashes on takeoff trapping them on Earth as her perpetual customers.

Cast of characters

  • Edna Berthelson – owner of a small country store
  • Jackie – Mrs. Berthelson’s grandson
  • Tellman, Gladys, Barnes, Masterson, Flannery, Patricia, Crowley, Dobbs – survivors of a nuclear war in the future

Rautavaara’s Case

The Eye of the Sibyl and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Omni Oct 1980

This brief story is part of a recap in an intergalactic trial.

Three humans on a monitoring mission in the vicinity of the Proxima Centaurus System are killed during an accident. Because of the location, the so-called “Approximations” from Proxima intervene. Two of the humans are fully and totally dead, but the Approximations are able to regenerate the brain of the third human, a female named Rautavaara.

What happens next occurs in Rautavaara’s brain as time runs backwards to just before the disaster, and Rautavaara and her two companions are visited by Christ. The Approximations decide to conduct an experiment, and they alter Rautavaara’s hallucination so that the humans encounter the Approximation’s version of a savior instead of their own. This Proxima savior proceeds to eat the humans (noted as a reversal of the Christian sacrament when humans eat the flesh of the deity), and the horrified court then elects to shut down Rautavaara’s brain activity.

Cast of characters

  • Agneta Rautavaara, Travis, Elms – three humans killed during a mishap in space
  • “Approximations” – ET from the Proxima Centaurus System

A Little Something for Us Tempunauts

The Eye of the Sibyl and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Final Stage 1974

U.S. tempunaut Addison Doug shows up at his wife’s house, soon joined by fellow tempunauts Benz and Crayne, just after news comes in that their time capsule has imploded on reentry returning from a mission to travel one hundred years into the future. It’s understood that they are on some kind of ‘emergence time,’ but they may or may not also be stuck in a time loop. Signs point to Addison, the only person who suspects this, as the one who sabotaged their reentry in order to break them out of the loop for good.

I won’t pretend to understand everything about this story (particularly how the Emergence Time Activity is supposed to work), but it’s a clever reimagining of the Cold War U.S.-Soviet space race.

Cast of characters

  • Addison Doug, Benz, Crayne – tempunauts in the U.S. time travel program
  • Merry Lou Hawkins – Addison’s wife
  • General Toad – in charge of the U.S. time travel program
  • Officer N. Gauki – a Soviet chrononaut. I love the detail of U.S. tempunauts vs. Soviet chrononauts.
  • Henry Cassidy, Everett Branton – TV newscasters covering the tempunauts’ funeral
  • Dr. Fein – physicist from the Time Extrusion Labs


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In Ubik Dick took one of his own tropes, a group of people trapped unknowingly in a simulated or false reality (used previously in Eye in the Sky and later in A Maze of Death) and created one of his most entertaining novels.

In 1992 Glen Runciter’s anti-psionic prudence organization duels with Raymond Hollis’s group of telepaths and precogs. Runciter’s employees end up stuck in the simulated reality of half-life storage after Hollis lures them to the moon and attempts to kill them. The group is tormented by a powerful fifteen-year-old half-lifer, and Runciter, still alive on the outside, tries to help them as time inside half-life regresses into the past (similar to the drug-induced time travel in Now Wait for Last Year).

It sounds absurd in summary, but the book is stuffed with some of Dick’s funniest and best ideas while dealing with his prevalent theme of the nature of reality.

Cast of characters

  • Glen Runciter – owner of Runciter Associates, an anti-psi prudence organization
  • Ella Runciter – Glen’s twenty-year-old dead wife in half-life
  • Herbert Schoenheit von Vogelsang – owner of Beloved Brethren Moratorium.  Also the owner of Beloved Brethren Mortuary in “What the Dead Men Say”
  • Jory Miller – a dead fifteen-year-old boy in half-life cold-pac storage
  • Raymond Hollis – employs telepaths. Runciter’s opposition
  • G. G. Ashwood – one of Runciter’s telepaths
  • Joe Chip – Runciter’s electrical tester
  • Pat Conley– an anti-precog
  • Stanton Mick – reclusive speculator and financier
  • Zoe Wirt – Stanton Mick’s assistant
  • Tippy Jackson, Edie Dorn, Al Hammond, John Ild, Francesca Spanish, Tito Apostos, Don Denny, Sammy Mundo, Wendy Wright, Fred Zafsky – Runciter’s inertials who travel to Luna

Dr. Futurity

Dr. Futurity
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Dr. Futurity (not to be confused with the much better Dr. Bloodmoney) tells the story of Dr. Jim Parsons who is snatched away from 2012 and brought to the year 2405. The world of the future has no need for doctors as they have embraced death and eugenics. Their society is organized into tribes represented by animal totems. These tribes compete in contests to determine future generations as the winning tribes are able to contribute a greater number of zygotes to the Soul Cube. I feel stupid writing this down.

The Wolf Tribe has access to a time travel device, and they need the medical know-how of Parsons to save the life of Corith who was shot by an arrow in 1579 during a botched attempt to travel back in time to kill Sir Francis Drake. His plan was to erase the next 500 years of white supremacy by preventing England from taking North America from the Native Americans. Anyway… at least he wasn’t trying to stop Hitler.

The whole thing is full of plot holes, time travel and otherwise. Dick tries to explain away some of these issues, but the poorly-written story remains muddled and not very interesting.

Cast of characters

  • Dr. Jim Parsons – our protagonist
  • Wade and Icara – members of an illegal political group advocating women’s rights
  • Al Stenog – the Director of the Fountain
  • Loris – Mother superior of the Wolf Tribe
  • Helmar – Loris’s brother
  • Corith – Loris’s father. He travels back to 1579 in an attempt to kill Sir Francis Drake.
  • Jepthe – Loris’s mother
  • Nixina – mother of Jepthe and Corith

Other things to know

  • Shupos – delinquent children who work as government enforcers
  • Soul Cube – contains all the zygotes of the human race
  • The Fountain – government building where the Soul Cube is kept
  • Nova Albion – Northern California landing spot of Sir Francis Drake in 1579

Now Wait for Last Year

Now Wait for Last Year
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Set in 2055… at least before the drug-induced time travel kicks in.

Once again we have an old man kept alive by artiforgs, although the description of 130-year-old Virgil Ackerman as a slight, hermaphroditic creature is almost the exact opposite of how Stanton Brose is described in The Penultimate Truth. Rich men like Ackerman build simulated worlds on Mars to recreate their childhoods down to the smallest detail. It doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the story, but it’s still hilarious as Dick calls them regressive babylands.

Dick is airing out some issues with women with this book. His scheming, mentally unbalanced Kathy Sweetscent is one of the most caustic depictions of a wife that I can recall in any of his novels. The whole thing is ultimately about whether our protagonist, the unfortunately named Eric Sweetscent, will stay with his wife or not, even though he knows she is destined for the psychiatric hospital.

At one point it seems we will have yet another simulacrum of an authority figure just like in The Penultimate Truth and The Simulacra, (in this case one of the UN Secretary General), but that turns out not to be the case.

Some unexpected twists and a well-rounded world leader in Gino Molinari make this one worth the read.

Cast of characters

  • Virgil Ackerman – founder of Tijuana Fur & Dye Corp
  • Dr. Eric Sweetscent – artiforg surgeon who works for Virgil Ackerman
  • Katherine Sweetscent – Eric’s wife who works for TF&D as an antique collector
  • Bruce Himmel – quality control inspector at TF&D
  • Jonas Ackerman – Virgil’s great-grandnephew
  • Phyllis Ackerman – Virgil’s great-grandniece. On TF&D’s board of directors
  • Gino Molinari – aka “the Mole”. Terra’s supreme elected leader and commander of its armed forces in the war against the reegs
  • Minister Freneksy – Prime Minister of Lilistar
  • Christian Plout – host of the JJ-180 drug party
  • Marm Hastings – a San Francisco Taoist
  • Harry Teagarden – chief of the Mole’s medical staff
  • Mary Reineke – the Mole’s eighteen-year-old mistress
  • Roger Corning – a ‘Starman
  • Don Festenburg – advisor/speechwriter for Molinari
  • Bert Hazeltine – representative of the Hazeltine corporation where JJ-180 is made

Other things to know

  • Lilistar – dominant military power in the galaxy. Terra is their ally in their war against the reegs
  • Reegs – creatures from Proxima at war with the ‘Starmen from Lilistar