Thursday, July 1, 2021

"A Man Tumbled Out the Window, Bounced Off the Awning in Front of the Building, and Dropped Heavily to the Ground"

"The Time Snatcher."
By Randall Garrett (1927-87).
Illustrator unknown.
First appearance: Imagination, February 1957.
Reprints page (HERE).
Short story (12 pages).
Online at Project Gutenberg (HERE) and (HERE).
So what's so serious that a Time Patrolman has to get involved with it? Building a dam, obviously:

  "Time travel, he knew, was possible only so long as the traveller into the past did nothing that would change history significantly; the time-stream itself would straighten out little changes in the past so that overall history would remain the same. But a big change was something else again. If you stick your finger in a river, there are a few ripples around it, but the flow of the river remains the same. If you build a dam, though . . . ."

And a wanted criminal is determined to build that dam . . . .

Principal characters:
~ The Councillor:
  "I'm afraid I don't understand what you mean."
~ Brek Halliday:
  ". . . felt a sudden blow on the back of his neck, and his knees sagged."
~ Joe Sagginer:
  ". . . had been convicted once for illegal use of a time machine, and had been sentenced to ten years . . ."
~ Dori Clayton:
  ". . . stared at him, no recognition in her eyes."
~ The sheriff:
  "You've got trouble, stranger."
~ Chuck:
  "Ed, it really ain't none of my business, but I thought you ought to know that Cactus is gunnin' for you."
~ Sam:
  "No noise from the house."

Reference and resource:
- "a very ordinary-looking cayuse": Without horses there would have been no Wild West to write about:
  ". . . in full, Cayuse Indian pony, North American wild or tame horse, descended from horses taken to the New World by the Spanish in the 16th century. The small and stocky horse had become a distinct breed by the 19th century. It was named for the Cayuse people of eastern Washington and Oregon" (Britannica HERE).
- As we said long ago, we'll be returning to Randall Garrett's pulp fiction quite often; our latest contact with him was his "Heist Job on Thizar" (HERE).


  1. I've been reading a lot of 1950s pulp sci-fi recently and there really was an obsession with time travel stories at that time. And a lot of rather clever time travel stories too.

    1. I'm guessing SFF pulpsters had grown weary of Martian princesses by this time and were glomming on to time travel as a new direction for the genre.

      I'm always hesitant to attribute the then fairly new prospect of genocidal atomic warfare to a loss of nerve on their part; people hiding in British bomb shelters during the Blitz avidly consumed murder mysteries as much, if not more, than they did before the war. The pulpsters managed to exploit nuclear war for a long time in their stories, making them one of the few non-governmental segments of society to turn a profit off Armageddon.