Five American time travelers from 1958 visit the year 2458, but there’s a catch—they can only return to their own time if they return together. Winthrop, one of the time travelers, prefers the future—and if they ever want to see their old lives again, his cohorts must persuade him to return.
In an afterword to this story when it was reprinted over a decade ago in his three volume complete works, Phillip Klass (who used the pseudonym “William Tenn” for his science fiction) noted that he had been paid originally $790 for this 23,000 word novella which was, before he sold BERNIE THE FAUST for $5000 to Playboy a few years later, the largest amount he had ever received for a single work. Such was the science fiction market in the 50′s (and so for the most part is the science fiction market today).
TIME WAITS FOR WINTHROP, published in 1957, was the longest of Tenn’s contributions to GALAXY and among his last (a short story, THE DISCOVERY OF MORNIEL MATHAWAY was to follow in 1958 and then THE MEN IN THE WALLS, the first third of his one novel, in 1963). It may be the most carefully worked and precise of his many contributions to the magazine.
Superficially dealing with the tension overwhelming a group of corporately-displaced time travelers when one of them, the eponymous Winthrop, decides that he does not want to return to a despicable present this novella is really about culture shock, culture conflict, the narcissism of humanity…topics which concerned Twain, Voltaire and Jonathan Swift and which were worked out no less elegantly by William Tenn.
It was in the publication of this novella that Horace Gold deliberately or through inadvertence revealed the author’s true identity, printed “Phillip Klass” at the end of the work (GALAXY’s symbol for finis) rather than the pseudonym. Klass was infuriated, betrayed at the time, wrote many years later that he had come to realize that with this novella he had again demonstrated complete artistic maturity and that Horace was telling him “Time to grow up and accept your fate, Phil.”
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