Friday, 31 October 2014

The Day Time Stopped Moving by Bradner Buckner, 1940

Another sf entry for Friday's Forgotten Books at Patti Abbott's blog Pattinase which is being hosted by Todd Mason at Sweet Freedom today.

All Dave Miller wanted to do was commit suicide in peace. He tried, but the things that happened after he'd pulled the trigger were all wrong. Like everyone standing around like statues. No St. Peter, no pearly gate, no pitchforks or halos. He might just as well have saved the bullet!

Dave Miller pushed with all 
his strength, but the girl was an 
unmovable as Gibraltar.
Imagine a scenario where everyone and everything has come to a standstill, where nothing is moving, where there is no trace of motion or emotion.

Imagine a place where people are in suspended animation, where fires burn without smoke, where doors don’t open, where liquids have turned solid, where pebbles can’t be kicked, where a blade of grass supports your weight.

Imagine a world where all life, animate and inanimate, is frozen like a statue.

Now imagine yourself in just such a place where you are the only living soul and yet you know you are not alone.

It is in this surreal and terrifying world that drugstore owner Dave Miller finds himself after he “commits” suicide to teach his wife, Helen, a lesson. 

October 1940
This short story by sf writer Bradner Buckner reminded me of a silly game we used to play as kids, where you pointed to a friend and blurted out, “Statue!,” and the friend would freeze where he was until you said “pass” and allowed him to get on with his life. After a while it got on everyone’s nerve.

Dave can’t say “pass” and bring the human statues back to life. Instead, his only hope is fellow survivor John Erickson, an elderly, half-bald, eccentric scientist whose experiment with a time machine has gone horribly wrong, and a friendly police dog called Major.

Like Greylorn by Keith Laumer, which I read and reviewed last week, this story was an easy read although Buckner offers a scientific explanation for the immobilised world as well as the working of the time machine known as impulsor. It all went over my head.

Erickson pursed his lips. We are somewhere partway across the space between present and past. We are living in an instant that can move neither forward nor back. You and I, Dave, and Major—and the Lord knows how many others the world over—have been thrust by my time impulsor onto a timeless beach of eternity. We have been caught in time's backwash. Castaways, you might say.”

The 1956 issue
The premise of the story, where time stands still, has been done before, in books, films, and television including, I believe, The Twilight Zone series.

The Day Time Stopped Moving can be described as science fiction, horror, and supernatural rolled into one. It’s a nice little story although I have no idea who Bradner Buckner is. I didn’t find anything on him online. The name could be a pseudonym for a famous sf writer. I leave it to you to enlighten me. The story appeared in Amazing Stories but there is some confusion over the year of publication, 1940 or 1956, so I have reproduced both the covers.


Illustration source: Project Gutenberg

18 comments:

  1. Bradner Buckner was really Western writer Ed Earl Repp, who wrote quite a bit of SF, too. Repp was notorious for farming out his Western fiction, but I've never heard that about his SF. I haven't read any of it, but that's one of the things I've been meaning to get around to.

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    1. Mr. Reasoner, thanks for putting me wise to Bradner Buckner's real identity. I'd be interested in reading Ed Earl Repp's western fiction.

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  2. Repp also famous for rewriting the same story several times. Paul Fairman, famously the most nonchalant editor in AMAZING's history, was in charge for the reprint selections for that 30th anniversary issue of the magazine, so you can rest assured the Repp story dates from 1940, Prashant. Impressive that even Fairman might choose a Repp story as an example of what AMAZING was all about, but I suppose it was indicative of certainly the many mediocre or worse stories the magazine had published over the three decades, along with any number of classics...http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?56638

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    1. Todd, thanks for all the information. I guessed the story might have first appeared in the October 1940 issue and then was reprinted sometime in 1956, except I wasn't sure. I enjoy reading stories from AMAZING and such other magazines, albeit without your sense of knowledge and understanding of these stories.

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  3. Howard Browne was officially still editor for the 30th Anniversary issue, but he already had more than one foot out the door at that point, and Fairman was his assistant as well as immediate successor.

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    1. Todd, those must have been exciting times for sf, fantasy, horror, and mystery magazines whose succession of editors brought in their own style and left a stamp on the periodicals they edited.

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  4. I loved AMAZING especially the Cele Goldsmith years. Great covers and occasionally a great story!

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    1. George, thank you. I like the covers of most of these vintage and mid-20th century magazines. I don't know who Cele Goldsmith was but I'll read about him.

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  5. Another interesting find Prashant. I think you read them so I don't have to! Cheers,

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    1. Col, thank you. I'll read them all for you. There are so many interesting stories like this in public domain that I don't know what to read. But without internet, I'd have never read them.

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  6. Reminds me of at least two Twilight Zone episodes where characters were frozen and someone was moving about attempting to figure out the strange occurrence. Of course, a big part of the fun was watching the actors trembling in the scenes. The Day Time Stopped Moving sounds like a good read.

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    1. David, it is a good read. I came across a reference to THE TWILIGHT ZONE series but not to specific episodes. I need to watch TZ someday.

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  7. Sounds like a very interesting story, Prashant. It would be fun to have either one of those issues.

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    1. Tracy, absolutely! I have never seen any of these magazines in my neck of the woods and I'm not likely to in future. I have better luck with early pulp and noir fiction.

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  8. The title reminded me immediately of a teleplay back in the days of live TV drama (before TZ). A group of people witness a crime that makes time stop for them. Gives them plenty of "time" to talk about what the world is coming to.

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    1. Ron, the storyline is all too familiar though I couldn't put a finger on anything specific; the kind you know has been written or filmed before.

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