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Time Waits for Winthrop

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Time Waits for Winthrop
The Galaxy Project

William Tenn
Series Editor Barry N. Malzberg


Time Waits for Winthrop
Copyright © 1956 by Philip Klass, renewed 1984

Time Waits For Winthrop: Introduction
Copyright © 2011 by Robert Silverberg

Jacket illustration copyright © 1954 by the Estate of Ed Emshwiller
Cover art to the electronic edition copyright © 2011 by RosettaBooks, LLC

Special materials copyright © 2011 by RosettaBooks, LLC

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

Electronic edition published 2011 by RosettaBooks LLC, New York.
ISBN e-Pub edition: 9780795321412



About Science Fiction Novelettes and Novellas

About the Author

About the Author of the eForeword

About the Jacket


Time Waits for Winthrop


The first issue of
, dated October 1950, already heralded to the highest standards of the field. The authors it published regularly contributed to the leading magazine
, writing a kind of elegant and humanistic science fiction which although not previously unknown had always been anomalous. Its founding editor, H. L. Gold (1914–1996), was a science fiction writer of some prominence whose editorial background had been in pulp magazines and comic books; however, his ambitions were distinctly literary, and he was deliberately searching for an audience much wider and more eclectic than the perceived audience of science fiction. His goal, he stated, was a magazine whose fiction “Would read like the table of contents of a literary magazine or
The Saturday Evening Post
of the 21st century, dealing with extrapolation as if it were contemporary.” The magazine, although plagued by distribution difficulties and an Italian-based publisher (World Editions), was an immediate artistic success, and when its ownership was transferred with the issue of August 1951 to its printer Robert M. Guinn, it achieved financial stability for the remainder of the decade.

published every notable science fiction writer of its first decade and found in many writers who would become central figures: Robert Sheckley, James E. Gunn, Wyman Guin, and F. L. Wallace, among others.
revivified older writers such as Frederik Pohl and Alfred Bester (whose first novel,
The Demolished Man
, was commissioned and directed page by page by Gold). John Campbell fought with
and remained an important editor, and
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
(inaugurated a year before
) held to high standards of literary quality while spreading its contents over two fields, but
was incontestably the 1950s’ flagship magazine for the acidly satiric, sometimes profoundly comic aspect of its best contributions.
had a lasting effect not only upon science fiction but upon literature itself. J.G. Ballard stated that he had been deeply affected by
. Alan Arkin, an actor who became a star after 1960 and won an Oscar in the new millennium, contributed two stories in the mid-fifties.

At this point Gold was succumbing to agoraphobia, physical ills, and overall exhaustion (some of this perhaps attributable to his active service during WWII) against which he had struggled from the outset. (There is creditable evidence that Frederik Pohl was the de facto editor during Gold’s last years.) Gold would return some submissions with notes like: “Garbage,” “Absolute Crap.” Isaac Asimov noted in his memoir “Anthony Boucher wrote rejection slips which read like acceptances. And Horace wrote notes of acceptance which felt like rejections.” Despite this, the magazine retained most of its high standard and also some of its regular contributors (William Tenn, Robert Sheckley, Pohl himself). Others could no longer bear Gold’s imperiousness and abusiveness.


In the view of James E. Gunn, science fiction as a genre finds its peak in the novella (17,500–40,000 words) and novelette (7,500–17,500 words). Both forms have the length to develop ideas and characters fully but do not suffer from padding or the hortatory aspect present in most modern science fiction novels. The longer story-form has existed since science fictions inception with the April 1926 issue of
Amazing Stories
, but
developed the form to a consistent level of sophistication and efficiency and published more notable stories of sub-novel length than any other magazine during the 50s…and probably in any decade.

The novella and novelette as forms make technical and conceptual demands greater, perhaps even greater than the novel, and
writers, under founding editor H. L. Gold’s direction, consistently excelled in these lengths. Gold’s most memorable story, “A Matter of Form” (1938) was a long novelette, and he brought practical as well as theoretical lessons to his writers, who he unleashed to develop these ideas. (John Campbell of course, had also done this in the 40s and continued in the 50s to be a directive editor.) It is not inconceivable that many or even most of the contents of the 1950’s
were based on ideas originated by Gold: golden technology becomes brass and jails its human victims when it runs amok—is certainly one of his most characteristic.


“William Tenn” was the pseudonym for the science fiction of Philip Klass (1920–2010) who through the early fifties shared with Damon Knight, Robert Sheckley, Frederik Pohl, and Cyril Kornbluth the defining voice of Horace Gold’s
. A bitter and acute social satirist and a dark humorist of the first rank, Klass was never prolific, but his fifty or sixty short stories and his one novel,
Of Men and Monsters
(1968), comprise a lasting and irreplaceable contribution to science fiction at its mid-century peak. His complete works were collected by the NESFA Press in the early millennium. Klass sold his first story, “Alexander the Bait,” to John Campbell’s
shortly after he left the military in 1945 and two years later published a novelette, “Child’s Play,” in the May 1947
, which is probably the most reprinted of all stories published within the confines of the genre. When Gold’s magazine of social extrapolation and satire opened for business, Klass was among the earliest pursued, and he became (with the few others noted above) integral to the magazine. In the mid-sixties Klass, always a painstaking, anguished writer, was glad to be invited to join the English faculty at Penn State University, and he spent the next quarter century there as an effective and much admired Professor of Creative Writing. In the last forty years of his life, Klass published a total of three short stories (and a scattering of nonficton). A 40,000-word interview with Eric Solstein, reprinted in the NESFA
Dancing Naked
, the collected nonfiction comes very close to a completely successful work of autobiography.


Robert Silverberg, the greatest living science fiction writer, is the author of more than 40 novels and 250 short stories in the genre. He has won the Nebula, Hugo, and Locus Awards and was awarded the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master title of the Science Fiction Writers of America in 2004. Among his novels are
Dying Inside
The Book of Skulls
A Time of Changes
(Nebula 1971),
Up the Line
The Masks of Time
Shadrach in the Furnace
The Stochastic Man
, and
Lord Valentine’s Castle
, the opening volume of his famous Majipoor series. He edited the original anthologies
New Dimensions
, and the second Universe series.


COVER IMAGE: “Granny Won’t Knit” by Ed Emshwiller

    Ed Emshwiller (1925–1990) was
’s dominant artist through the 1950s. His quirky images, perspective, and off-center humor provide perhaps the best realization of the magazine’s iconoclastic, satirical vision. Emshwiller was—matched with Kelly Freas—science fiction’s signature artist through the decade and a half initiated by this color illustration. He and Carol Emshwiller, the celebrated science fiction writer, lived in Long Island during the period of his prominence in science fiction. (Nonstop Press published
Emshwiller: Infinity × Two: The Art & Life of Ed and Carol Emshwiller
, a joint biography and collection of their work in visual and literary medium, in 2007.) In the early 70s, Emshwiller became passionately interested in avant-garde filmmaking, and that passion led him to California, where he spent his last decades deeply involved in the medium of independent film and its community. He abandoned illustration: in Carol’s words “When Ed was through with something he was really through with it.” He died of cancer in 1990. His son, Peter Emshwiller, published a fair amount of science fiction in the 80s and 90s.


Some science fiction writers are novelists by preference and, perhaps, talent, and rarely if ever venture into the shorter lengths after the earliest years of their careers. Such names as Frank Herbert, E. E. Smith, Jack Vance, and Robert Heinlein come quickly to mind. And then there are the short story writers whose excursions into longer lengths are just as uncommon: for example, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Theodore Sturgeon, James Patrick Kelly. Philip Klass (1920–2010), who wrote science fiction under the name of William Tenn throughout his long career, belongs in that latter group. He wrote just one novel, 1968’s
Of Men and Monsters
. (A second novel, long promised, never appeared.) Of his many shorter works, very few reach even to novelette length: “Medusa was a Lady” (1951), “Firewater” (1952), “The Flat-Eyed Monster” (1953), and a couple of others, including 1957’s “Time Waits for Winthrop,” which at 20,000 words is one of the longest stories he ever wrote. (And the only one that ever was published, at least in part, under his real name. But more about that later.) Klass was a slow, careful, conscientious workman, masterly at short lengths, who plainly felt uncomfortable spinning a story out much past thirty or forty pages.

I was a member of the New York science fiction scene back there in 1957, a very young contributor to Horace Gold’s glittering magazine
, when Klass was writing “Winthrop,” and so, like everyone else who attended the monthly meetings of the little circle of science fiction writers that called itself the Hydra Club, I was aware that Phil had a major project in the works and that he was having agonies over it. For week after week, he let it be known that he was writing a big story for Horace and that he was still stuck in it, occasionally making some progress between Hydra Club gatherings, occasionally making none, occasionally backing up and rewriting what had already been written. Then, lo and behold! It was done. And purchased by Gold. And, very soon thereafter, published in the August 1957 issue of

I have always taken a very personal interest in “Time Waits for Winthrop.” (Which Phil called “Winthrop Was Stubborn,” a title that seems to me to fit the story at least as well as Horace’s and under which all later reprintings have appeared until this one.) Not only had I been hearing about the story since the earliest days of its conception, but, when it finally appeared, the issue that contained it also contained a story of mine! Klass, by then, had had ten or eleven superb pieces in
, but this was only my second, and I took every appearance of mine in that magazine very, very seriously indeed. So I have had an odd and wholly unearned proprietary attachment to “Time Waits for Winthrop” all through these many years.

The story itself, which I fell upon and read eagerly, was not exactly what I had been expecting. During the months of Phil’s travail, I had heard enough about it to know that it was a time travel story, and—on no evidence other than that—I had begun devising in my own mind the sort of time travel story it would be, which was something on the order of Heinlein’s “By His Bootstraps” crossed with Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder.” But the actual story turned out to be nothing at all like that. There was none of Heinlein’s diabolical conceptual ingenuity, nothing of Bradbury’s poignant tragic passion. The
of time travel, which plays such a key role in the Heinlein and the Bradbury, had not been Klass’s primary concern. No, the story was—as I should have expected, I guess—a comedy, a farce, even, a sort of parody of the classic time travel stories of earlier years. It wasn’t a new version of the Heinlein, nor was it another go-round of the Bradbury. (Klass had already brilliantly handled the Bradbury theme, in fact, about five years before Bradbury himself had in the mordant little “Brooklyn Project” of 1953.) No, it was a William Tenn story and nothing else but a William Tenn story.

BOOK: Time Waits for Winthrop
2.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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