Science Fiction Books/The stranded traveller


QUESTION: Delighted to find your site.  In the 60's I read this both as a short story and saw on (British) TV.

A scientist scanning the radio waves (in a large laboratory) makes contact with and is able to decipher (and understand the language of !) some beings who are communicating;  in fact I think it is the beings - who we deduce are way ahead of us - who make communication possible.

They are in the region (Solar system presumably) and say, "Can we drop in?"  After discussion  with colleagues, and determining that visitors are friendly, our man agrees, possibly on behalf of the lab.

He is guiding the visitors in -  knows they are pretty close, because he receives radio reply a few seconds after sending.  But there is a difference in perception on one score.  Our man sends replies to each received msg in a few moments.  But on the visitors' ship (we do not see the persons) there is concern about the slowness (seems like days) of his responses.

Our man sends msg looking forward to seeing them;  lovely sunny day in surrounding countryside;  atmosphere, gravity and temperature acceptable to visitors.

Then anxiety in msg from vistors.  Our world is not as expected;  strange swampy murky place, enormous monsters, practically no visibility.

The final scene is when he takes a break and steps outside the lab for a few moments.  He steps in a tiny puddle, and we see what he steps on.  It was heartbreaking.

If you recognise this, I would be most grateful.  Andrew Mozley, Warminster, UK.

ANSWER: Like you, I remember this story, and unfortunately like you, I cannot remember the author or title.  Sorry.  Good luck finding it.

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QUESTION: Thank you.  I may pose the question to the other (UK) expert.  I do have one other, but it may be more specific to this country.

It is not quite as corny as I make it sound.

The storyteller says that some years ago he met a fellow traveller at a wayside inn, who after some conversation mentions that he either discovered time travel, or that he was lent a machine by a colleague who had.

He discovers that it really works,  After a few little trips, he travels to many periods of time.

Mainly he is an observer, but he gets quite brave;  he travels back in time to primitive man and observes the lifestyle, to recent history to observe the events. He even sets the dials to far into the future and observes that the sun is a fainter red object.  He always returns.

I cannot remember how the author copes with the interference with history paradox;  but he gets braver.

One day (he tells the storyteller) he sets the dials pretty much at random and finds he is in a time very much like our own.  He is brave and disembarks from his machine.  I imagine that distance travel is not involved, so the citizens speak his language (presumably English).

But (he tells the storyteller) it is a sadder place than our own.  The ignorance of the people is difficult to imagine.  They live uncomfortable lives in squalid housing.  They work long hours in arduous and dangerous conditions for low pay;  they suffer from diseases that by now have been long cured.

The storyteller is fascinated.  "And how did you get back".

A pause.  "I never did".

This would have been in the London Mystery magazine about 1960.

This may be off your patch, but I wondered whether you had read it.  I think that is the last one that I am trying to find out about.  Best wishes.  Andrew M.

Sounds marvelous, but sorry never read this one either.  Suggest you contact the world's largest SF library to see if they have the magazine archives or if someone there knows the story.  If you find it, please let me know since it sounds worth reading.

Something quite similar is the novel The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov.

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Sue Kayton


Engineer who has read thousands of science fiction books and short stories. Can recommend stories on specific subjects and comment on technical feasibility. Especially good at older out-of-print books and authors.

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