“It seemed to be logical research, switching
sixteen Romans from the 1st Century to the 27th—for
study.... But who was going to take their place?”
Our next story will be “Time Grabber” by Gordon R. Dickson. This short story was originally published in Imagination - Stories of Science and Fantasy magazine in December of 1952 with an accompanying illustration by W. E. Terry. At the time, you could pick up a copy of the 164 page magazine for just 35c.
Imagination was one of a number of cheap science fiction and fantasy magazines and comic books published from the 1920s through the 1950s. Since many of these publications were printed on paper made from wood-pulp, they were known as “pulp fiction”. Over time the phrase came to apply to the vivid and lurid content these publications used to quickly sell their product.
For works published prior to 1964, authors and publishers were required to renew their copyright every 28 years. Many didn’t bother, especially in the precarious world of pulp fiction, leaving many of these works in the public domain. Multiple online archives collect these public domain works and make them available to view online for free.
The Library of Congress offers a public catalog of copyright records, which shows that just one story from the December 1952 issue of Imagination magazine (titled “Cinderella Inc” by Harry C. Crosby Jr.) renewed its copyright in 1980. With that copyright claim lapsed after 2008, the entire issue is now in the public domain.
“Time Grabber” was written by Gordon R. Dickson, a prolific Canadian-American science fiction writer. He wrote regularly for pulp magazines in the early 50s before publishing his first two novels in 1956. His works have received several prestigious awards, including the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, the August Derleth Award, and the Skylark Award. He was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2000.
“Time Grabber”, a lighthearted story that plays fast and loose with history, tells the exploits of Philton J. Bugsomer, a 27th century scholar whose ambition is to use a restricted time traveling device to further his studies. The story is told partially through his journal and partially through the letters and journals of the unfortunate historical figures that get caught in the crossfire.
Content Warnings for “Time Grabber” include: cultural and religious intolerance, historical inaccuracy, gladiators, police, corruption, violence, human test subjects, mad scientists, imprisonment, fire, time paradoxes, and 1950s-scifi-typical lack of character diversity.
The first installment will be February 16 and the last will be April 1. After that, Literary Letters will take on a more lengthy and serious work with The Sorrows of Young Werther, beginning May 4.
If you (or anyone you rope into reading along with you) would like to catch up or read ahead, the text of the short story is taken from Project Gutenberg, a free online library of public domain literature. Happy Reading!
I remember reading GRD years back! Thank you.
Sounds great - looking forward to it, and to Werther afterwards (curious to see how you run that one across its years/timeframe!)