Please help me ID this old sci-fi story
August 23, 2014 6:36 PM   Subscribe

Here are a few facts about this old SF story whose author I can no longer recall. 1. It was written by a giant of mid-century SF whose name I can no longer recall. Not Sheckley, not Asimov. I thought it might be Damon Knight, but I can't find it in his work. 2. It's a story about a man who travels to the future as part of a gigantic relief effort to assist future men who are burying themselves in the earth.

3. When the time traveler goes to the future, he attempts to talk to the future men (who are burying themselves in the earth) so as to get insight about their behavior, but their evolved language (and the impossibility of translation) poses a barrier. The concepts of the men of the future, when definitions are requested, are discovered to be composed of other untranslateable concepts.
4. There is an implication (or maybe it's just my inference) that there is something deep in human nature, even in the present, that forces this human behavior in the future.
5. The story's title changed when it was reprinted later, but it was originally called something very simple like "Forward" or "Onward."
6. The story is told in retrospect by the man to a kind, beautiful barmaid wearing Asian-influenced clothing.
7. Time travel is noisy, in that it makes loud noises when time machines arrive back in the present.

Of course, the most frustrating thing is that I'm going to remember where this story is in my stack of paperbacks roughly 30 minutes after I post this. Can you beat the clock?
posted by Mr. Justice to Writing & Language (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Any notion when it was published?
posted by edgeways at 7:38 PM on August 23, 2014

1950 to 1970 or thereabouts, I think.
posted by Mr. Justice at 7:41 PM on August 23, 2014

Sounds like "The Failed Men" by Brian Aldiss, which was also titled "Ahead."
posted by Kimmalah at 7:41 PM on August 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

According to this it is "The Failed World" by Brian Aldiss.
posted by routergirl at 7:42 PM on August 23, 2014

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