Time-Travel Fiction

  Storypilot’s Big List of Adventures in Time Travel

DC Superhero Comics
First time travel: Adventure Comics 71, Feb 1942

As a kid, I never read DC (Why would I? Excelsior!), but I’ve read some DC time-travel comics since then (don’t tell Stan). The earliest DC time travel that I’ve found was in 1942, but as for the big boys, the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder got the jump on the Man of Steel by a few months: Batman’s first travel was back to ancient Rome in Batman #24 via hypnosis by Professor Carter Nichols. Here’s a table of notable DC first time-travel experiences that I’ve found through 1969 (after that, everything became time-travel chaos): [circa 1990]

 CharacterFirst Time Travel 
StarmanAdventure Comics 71, Feb 1942
Green Arrow, et. al.Leading Comics 3, Jun 1942
Green LanternGreen Lantern 7, Spring 1943
Justice Society of America   All Star Comics 10, Apr/May 1942
The Shining KnightAdventure Comics 86, Jul 1943
Batman and RobinWorld’s Finest 11, Fall 1943
Wonder WomanWonder Woman 20, Nov 1946
SupermanSuperman 44, Jan-Feb 1947
Johnny QuickAdventure Comics 134, Nov 1948
SuperboySuperboy 2, May/Jun 1949
Lois LaneAction Comics 152, Jan 1951
Blackhawk CommandosBlackhawk 47, Dec 1951
Rex the Wonder DogRex 17, Oct 1954
Jimmy OlsenJimmy Olsen 7, Sep 1955
The FlashShowcase 4, Oct 1956
Legion of Super-HeroesAdventure Comics 247, Apr 1958
AquamanAdventure Comics 251, Aug 1958
ChallengersChal. of the Unknown 4, Nov 1958
Rip HunterDC Showcase 20, May 1959
SupergirlAction Comics 255, Aug 1959
Adam StrangeMystery in Space 62, Dec 1960
The Atomic KnightsStrange Adventures 129, Jun 1961
Elongated ManThe Flash 124, Nov 1961
JLAJustice League of America 10, Mar 1962
The AtomThe Atom 3, Nov 1962
J’onn J’onzzDetective Comics 305, Dec 1962
The SpectreShowcase 61, Apr 1966
EclipsoHouse of Secrets 79, Jul 1966
Prince Ra-ManHouse of Secrets 79, Jul 1966
Sea DevilsSea Devils 32, Dec 1966

“The Immortality of Alan Whidden”
by Ralph Milne Farley
First publication: Amazing Stories, Feb 1942
The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction characterizes Farley as “a rough-hewn, traditional sense-of-wonder writer,” who “as a consequence became relatively inactive with the greater sophistication of the genre after WWII.” But by the time of this story, Farley’s rough-hewn edges of his 1920s Radio Man stories had been smoothed out, and I find his writing to be engaging. I’ll grant that he never stepped away from the view of women as mere objects of beauty, and his characters have too much purity or evil with no examination of the morality of murdering a greedy man. Also, I have seen only stereotyped presentations of other cultures, but his time-travel plots are still fun and worthy of study. In this story, an immortal man serendipitously invents time travel which takes him from 1949 back to the time of his dastardly grandfather and a consistent resolution of the grandfather paradox. [Feb 2015]

 Framed in the front doorway stood a gloriously radiant girl of under twenty. Her flaunting reddish-brown hair was the first feature that caught Whidden’s admiring gaze. Then her eyes, yellow-green and feral, set wide and at just the least little slant, beneath definitely slanted furry brows of the same tawny color as the hair. Lips, full and inviting. Complexion, pink and cream. And a gingham clad figure, virginally volupuous. A sunbonnet hung down her back from strings tied in a little bow beneath her piquant chin. 

“Recruiting Station”
aka Masters of Time (1942); Earth’s Last Fortress (1960)
by A.E. van Vogt
First publication: Astounding Science Fiction, Mar 1942

When the Glorious begin shanghaiing military recruits throughout time, Miss Norma Matheson and her once-and-future boyfriend Jack Garson are caught up in 18 versions of our solar system and a Glorious-vs-Planetarians war. [Mar 2012]

 We are masters of time. We live at the farthest frontier of time itself, and all the ages belong to us. No words could begin to describe the vastness of our empire or the futility of opposing us. 

“Some Curious Effects of Time Travel”
by L. Sprague de Camp
First publication: Astounding Science Fiction, Apr 1942
The very first Probability Zero story in Astounding took us on a romp back in time by the members of the Drinkwhiskey Institute to obtain saleable specimens of Pleistocene fauna, we learn that time travel has an effect on aging (coincidentally, the same effect described by Gaspar in Chapter 9 of El Anacronópete). [Nov 2012]

 A curious feature of time travel back from the present is that one gets younger and younger, becoming successively a youth, a child, an embryo and finally nothing at all. 

“Time Pussy”
by Isaac Asimov
First publication: Astounding Science Fiction, Apr 1942 (as by George E. Dale)

Mr. Mac tells of the troubles of trying to preserve the body of a four-dimensional cat. [Jul 1972]

 ‘Four-dimensional, Mr. Mac? But the fourth dimension is time.’ I had learned that the year before, in the third grade. 

This issue also contains Asimov’s first Foundation story.
“Forever Is Not So Long”
by F. Anton Reeds
First publication: Astounding Science Fiction, May 1942
The professor’s handsome assistant, Stephen Darville, is in love with the professor’s beautiful daughter and wants to spend every waking moment with her, but duty calls—duty to build a time machine, of course, in which the youthful assistant can go ten years into the future to return with the more polished time machines that will be produced by the professor’s very own technicians over the next ten years. [Dec 2012]

 The technicians would “save” themselves ten years of labor and the new sweeping highway in the future and the past would be open to mankind within the life of its discoverer. 

“The Ghost of Me”
by Anthony Boucher
First publication: Unknown Worlds, Jun 1942

After Dr. John Adams is murdered, his ghost accidentally begins haunting some time before the murder occurred. [Jan 2013]

 I’ve simply come back into time at the wrong point. 

The story also appears in Groff Conklin’s 1952 anthology, The Omnibus of Science Fiction.
by Robert Abernathy
First publication: Astounding Science Fiction, Jun 1942
Nick Doody, inventor of the time machine and sole explorer through time, ventures some nine millennia beyond what he reckons was the fall of mankind. [Apr 2012]

 Are you not a Man, and do not Men know everything? But I am only a... 

The story also appeared in this 1975 collection.
“My Name Is Legion”
by Lester del Rey
First publication: Astounding Science Fiction, Jun 1942
At the end of World War II, as the Allies occupation army closes in on Hitler, a man offers him a way to bring back thousands of copies of himself from the future. [Apr 2007]

 Years ago in one of those American magazines, there was a story of a man who saw himself. He came through a woods somewhere and stumbled on a machine, got in, and it took him three days back in time. Then, he lived forward again, saw himself get in the machine and go back. 

“Time Dredge”
by Robert Arthur, Jr.
First publication: Astounding Science Fiction, Jun 1942

I haven’t yet read this story which appeared only in Astounding, but Jamie Todd Rubin writes that the story is of two men who seek a German professor who plans to pull things out of ancient South America to help the Germany win World War II. [Based on Rubin]

 The German professor had a nice idea for making archeology a branch of Blitzkrieg technique—with the aid of a little tinkering with Time. 
—John W. Campbell’s introduction to the story

The story also appeared in this 2003 collection.
“Secret Unattainable”
by A.E. van Vogt
First publication: Astounding Science Fiction, Jul 1942
After his brother is killed by the Nazis, Herr Professor Johann Kenrube invents a machine that promises a little of everything to Hitler—unlimited energy and natural resources, instant transportation behind enemy lines, even a smidgden of time travel—but only after the Germans have over-committed themselves, does the truth about the machine emerge. [May 2012]

 Kenrube was at Gribe Schloss before two P.M., March 21st. This completely nullifies the six P.M. story. Place these scoundrels under arrest, and bring them before me at eight o’clock tonight. 
—comment on a memo from Himmler

“About Quarrels, about the Past”
by John Pierce
First publication: Astounding Science Fiction, Jul 1942
In addition to A.E. van Vogt’s “Secret Unattainable,” the July 1942 Astounding also had three short, short time travel stories as part of the magazine’s Probability Zero series. In this story, our narrator tells of the quirky Quarrels who took his time machine into the past—or we should say some past— to woo the winsome Nephertiti. [May 2012]

 Well, didn’t you realize that this uncertainty holds for the past, too? I hadn’t until Quarrels pointed it out. All we have is a lot of incomplete data. Is it just because we’re stupid? Not at all. We can’t find a unique wave function. 

Some other flag covers from July 1942
“The Strange Case of the Missing Hero”
by Frank Holby
First publication: Astounding Science Fiction, Jul 1942
Many magazines across the U.S. featured a flag on the cover in this patriotic month. In this second Probability Zero story of the issue, Elliot Gallant, hero to the people and beacon light of courage, was the first man to travel through time; Sebastian Lelong, editor of the Encyclopedia Galactica, aims to find out why he never returned.

This is the earliest story that I’ve spotted anywhere with the time traveler coming to know his own mother. [May 2012]

 Elliot Gallant went back into time thirty years. He liked the peaceful days of yesteryear. He married, had a son. 

Interior artwork for the Probability Zero series
“That Mysterious Bomb Raid”
by Bob Tucker
First publication: Astounding Science Fiction, Jul 1942
Sitting around Hinkle’s, the narrator tells the story of how he, Hinkle and the local university scientist took a bomb back in time in an attempt to nip World War II in the bud. [May 2012]

 Well, sir, that little machine traveled so fast that before we could stop it we found ourselves in the last century. Somewhere in the 1890s. We were going to drop our oil drip there but I happened to remember that my grandfather was spending his honeymoon in Tokyo sometime during that decade— 

“Time Marches On”
by Ted Carnell
First publication: Astounding Science Fiction, Aug 1942
Also appearing in the first ever Probability Zero column (along with de Camp’s story, listed above, and a story by Malcolm Jameson) is Carnell’s tale of a group of science fiction authors who explore the consequences of a simple time machine that can be built from radio parts, but can take the traveler only into the future. [Sep 2012]

 Yes, they were practically all here, thought Doc Smith, as his gaze moved from one to another of the circle. Williamson, Miller, Hubbard, Bond, McClary, Rocklynne, Heinlein and MacDonald, and many others who had once written about the mysteries of time travel—so many hundreds of years ago now. 

by Anthony Boucher
First publication: Astounding Science Fiction, Sep 1942
John Brent travels 500 years into the future only to find that he can’t return because the authoritarian state has erected barriers to change that include regularization of all verbs and temporal barriers that prevent backward time travel. [Nov 2012]

 That is only to be expected when you jump five hundred years, but it is nonetheless perplexing to have your first query of" “What city is this?” answered by the sentence: “Stappers will get you. Or be you Slanduch?” 

The story also appeared in Healy and McComas’s famous 1946 anthology, Adventures in Time and Space.
“The Twonky”
by by Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore (as by Lewis Padgett)
First publication: Astounding Science Fiction, Sep 1942

A dazed man (apparently dazed from running into a temporal snag) appears in a radio factory, whereupon (before returning to his own time) he makes a radio that’s actually a twonky which gets shipped to a Mr. Kerry Westerfield, who is initially quite confounded and amazed at all it can do. [Sep 2012]

 The—robot— was trying to be helpful. Only Kerry would have preferred to remain drunk. 

The Anachron Stories
by Malcolm Jameson
First story: Astounding Science Fiction, Oct 1942
Golden-age favorite Malcolm Jameson wrote three stories of Anachron, Inc., a company that recruits ex-commandos for their “foreign” department—a euphemism for intertemporal commerce. [Nov 2012]

“Anachron, Inc.”Astounding, Oct 1942
“Barrius, Imp.”Astounding, Jan 1943
“When Is When?”Astounding, Aug 1943

 We can use a limited number of agents for our “foreign” department, but they must be wiry, active, of unusually sound constitution, and familiar with the use of all types of weapons. They MUST be resourceful, of quick decision, tact and of proven courage, as they may be called upon to work in difficult and dangerous situations without guidance or supervision. Previous experience in purchasing or sales work desirable but not necessary. EX-COMMANDO MEN usually do well with us. 

“The Case of the Baby Dinosaur”
by Walter Kubilius (as by J.S. Klimaris)
First publication: Future Fantasy and Science Fiction, Oct 1942
Futurian Walter Kubilius wrote this story about Wilbur and Stevenson, two members of the Society for the Investigation of Unusual Phenomena, who must track down a time-machinist jokester who, among other things, drops a baby dinosaur in Times Square, plops Cleopatra into a modern beauty contest, and brings Shakespeare to a modern-day theater. [Apr 2014]

 A time-machinist with a sense of humor! 

The Thunderbolt
drawn by Rafael Astarita
First publication: Doc Savage Comics #10, Nov 1942

According to the Michigan State University Comic Art Collection index, Doc Savage #10 included a 7-page origin of a superhero called The Thunderbolt (aka Dr. Adams). The story involved a scientific princess and time travel, but the hero was never heard from again. (Maybe he/she is lost in time.)

 With the aid of the mystic powers of Princess Ione, mistress of scientific wonders... 
—from the splash page

20 items are in the time-travel list for this year.
Thanks for visiting my time-travel page, and thanks to the many sources that provided stories and more (see the Links and Credits in the menu at the top). —Michael (