Rapidly-moving short stories?
September 1, 2008 2:07 PM   Subscribe

What are some good short stories in which time passes extremely quickly?

The other night I heard a story on the Selected Shorts radio program which followed a couple throughout their entire life, from birth to death, sort of pausing in between to examine a few particular moments (I didn't catch the author's name, but he was Native American, maybe Sherman Alexie?).

I wasn't crazy about the story itself, but the notion of showing a great distance of time in a brief medium sort of intrigued me. I know I've read some similar things to this in the past, but I can't think of them right now, and I thought I'd see if MeFites had any particular recommendations for stories along these lines.

Bonus question: is there a formal term for this device as a literary technique?
posted by whir to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Asimov's "The Last Question"
posted by whataboutben at 2:17 PM on September 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce could be considered the seminal classic in the genre you are referring to - Kurt Vonnegut's favorite short story, apparently. Unfortunately, I don't have a term for the genre as a whole - "subjective time viewpoint", perhaps?
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 3:23 PM on September 1, 2008

This is a bit of crazy suggestion, but Stephen King's The Jaunt is a horror short story about a form of teleportation used for everyday travel. The catch? While "jaunting" appears to take no time at all, time moves at different speeds depending on your perspective.

There's also Mrs. Todd's Shortcut, another horror short story by King, in which a woman discovers a driving shortcut between two points that seems to grow shorter each day.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:49 PM on September 1, 2008

Ms Fnd in a Lbry, by Hal Draper, covers the rise and collapse of a bureaucratic human civilization in a few pages.

None So Blind, by Joe Haldeman, tells the story of a brilliant mad scientist and his love and the fate of their lives as he pursues his research.
posted by Rhaomi at 3:57 PM on September 1, 2008

Neil Gaiman's Goliath.
posted by suedehead at 5:05 PM on September 1, 2008

Evan's Progress
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 5:12 PM on September 1, 2008

Not a short story, but I can't resist mentioning the beautiful Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, "The Inner Light." It's one of the all-time fan favourites, and it also won a Hugo award. Fifth season.
posted by Beardman at 9:16 PM on September 1, 2008

Try The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, particularly the bit where our protagonist speeds through time and watches the sun slowly die.
posted by Sfving at 10:24 PM on September 1, 2008

There's a story by Ray Bradbury, I believe, which takes place on Mercury. Humans live there, surviving after a rocket crash. Their life-spans have been reduced until they are born, live, and die of old age in about two weeks. I can't remember the name of the story but it packs a punch.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 9:05 AM on September 2, 2008

House on the Border-Land, by William Hope Hodgson. It's distinctly bizarre (rather than frightening, which I think was the intent), but a good read.
posted by orrnyereg at 9:55 AM on September 2, 2008

Nancy Kress's short story "Savior" covers thousands of years in something like 7,000 words. It's so awesome that I can hardly even say anything about how awesome it is. It was in Asimov's in 2000 and was just reprinted in her new collection Nano Comes to Clifford Falls.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:56 AM on September 2, 2008

Many stories by J.L. Borges deal with the idea of a long period of time that seems to go quickly or a short period of time that seems very long. The Immortal might fit your criteria.
posted by ludwig_van at 5:54 PM on September 2, 2008

« Older Where can I buy a copy of the G.C.S.E. Science...   |   Is it becoming the norm for people to work more... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.