the science and soul of an innocent world


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Time and Time Again by H. Beam Piper

By Denise Longrie

spitfire silhouette Astounding Science Fiction cover
To upset the stable, mighty stream of time would probably take an enormous concentration of energy. And it's not to be expected that a man would get a second chance at life. But an atomic might accomplish both.~ H. Beam Piper

First published in Astounding Science Fiction in April 1947, this Cold War era tale opens with Captain Allan Hartley realizing that he is dying. He’s suffered through an atomic bomb blast, though thanks to the narcotic injects from the medics, he’s in little pain. He hears one of the corpsmen exclaim, recognizing him as an author of several books.

Another injection of narcotics and he’s in oblivion. He holds onto memories of who he is: a man, a soldier. Before the blast, he’d endured a month-long siege with others, and a retreat from the north. He had memories of before the War, back to when he was a schoolboy, the son of a successful lawyer in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

He remembered his childhood bedroom—he could see it. He blinked. He really could see it.

And thus the 43-year-old Allan finds himself back in the life of his 13-year-old self, with the memories of the next 30 years. And not just on any day. He arrives, he later finds out, on August 5, 1945, the day before the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

The author is adept at recreating a world where a 13-year-old boy’s concerns suddenly come to the forefront—friends, school and so on—and where a 43-year-old man’s memories tell a different story.

"Here was a house that would, in a few years, be gutted by fire. Here were four dwellings where he had last seen a five-story apartment building. A gasoline station and a weed-grown lot would shortly be replaced by a supermarket."

Now the question becomes, how far will Allan go to prevent the world he knew in adulthood from arising? This is an interesting, if sad story, available to read for free from Project Gutenberg here.

About the author

Denise Longrie

Denise Longrie's poetry and a short story have been featured in small press periodicals. She has self-published a short story, Always Coming Home, and a chapbook of poetry, Sotto Voce, both available at, and she also writes reviews at

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