I am trying to figure out the title of an sci-fi short story anthology book that was geared towards young adult readers. It was in my junior high school library and I read it sometime between 1987 to 1990. I remember that the book was already well-read by the time I read it, so I would guess it was published in the 1970s or early 1980s.

I distinctly remember two of the short stories as follows:

  1. One of the stories revolved around the concept of a time-traveling/teleportation tourism industry. (No, it's not Ray Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder"; I have that story, along with many others in a Bradbury collection.) This particular short story had a technology that involved people materializing (seemingly) in thin air out of nowhere. For example, a scene in this story takes place in a stage theatre (might have been a Houdini magic show or some other Victorian-era stage performance) where the audience was astonished to see a set of moving human legs dangling from the ceiling. I think it was Victorian-era, based on the newspaper clipping detailing the strange happenstance the night before, and as I recall the newspaper didn't have photographs but had drawings instead. Anyway, the story deals with the teleportation device not exactly working as planned, and tourists from the future were appearing where they shouldn't be, as they explored the past.

  2. The other story seems to borrow an idea from Edwin Abbott's "Flatland," with a world populated by 3D polyhedral figures (cubes, prisms, icosahedrons, etc.). One particular figure "gives birth" to something that was alarmingly different, a sphere. (Or I might have it backwards; everyone is a sphere, but the newborn baby is a cube or something.) Either way, the bizarre appearance of the offspring (no edges; or, conversely, has edges) results in a chaotic reaction by the typical "people." (A bit of an "Ugly Duckling" scenario but with polyhedral figures and spheres.)

That's all I can remember, as far as details in the stories.

I know there were several short stories in this anthology. It seems like it was a stand-alone collection, and not part of a series. I've done some checking and I don't think it was a Roger Elwood anthology.

  • 1
    The first story sounds like Pawley's Peepholes by John Wyndham, at least if you've misremembered a few details.
    – Mr Lister
    Oct 19, 2015 at 16:47
  • 1
    A quick online search through anthologies that Pawley's Peepholes appeared in, does not immediately reveal any clues about the second story though.
    – Mr Lister
    Oct 19, 2015 at 17:27
  • 1
    The second story rings a bell - did the parents decide to "shift" to the dimension (or whatever) that their baby was in, so that they also appeared to be shapes instead of people, but were still living in the normal world?
    – NiceOrc
    Oct 20, 2015 at 1:35

1 Answer 1


The first story, as suggested in a comment by Mr Lister, is probably "Pawley's Peepholes" (aka "Operation Peep"), a short story by John Wyndham published in Science-Fantasy, Winter 1951, which is available at the Internet Archive. Set in the present (i.e. the middle of the 20th century, when it was written), it is about annoying time-tourists from the future. Here is the part with the dangling legs, a paragraph from a newspaper:

Patrons at Adams Hall last night got a shock when they saw a pair of legs dangling from the roof while the concert was on. Seemingly everybody thee saw them and all reports agree they were bare feminine gams. After three or four minutes and a couple of cute kicks they disappeared upwards. Examination of the roof showed everything normal, and the owners of the hall are at a loss to account for the phenomenon.

The second story may be a faulty recollection of "The Shape of Things" (aka "Tomorrow's Child"), a short story by Ray Bradbury, first published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, February 1948, also available at the Internet Archive. Bradbury's story is set in the near future, in a world of normal people. A baby is born in the form of a "small blue pyramid":

The blue pyramid has six blue snake-like appendages, and three eyes that blinked from the tips of projecting structures.

The doctor explains:

"The child was somehow affected by the birth pressure. There was a dimensional distructure caused by the simultaneous short-circuitings and malfunctionings of the new birth-mechs and the hypnosis machines. Well, anyway," the doctor ended lamely, "your baby was born into—another dimension."

Horn did not even nod. He stood thee, waiting.

Dr. Wolcott made it emphatic. "Your child is alive, well, and happy. It is lying there, on the table. But because it was born into another dimension it has a shape alien to us. Our eyes, adjusted to a three dimensional concept, cannot recognize it as a baby. But it is. Underneath that camouflage, the strange pyramidal shape and appendages, it is your child."

The doctors are unable to bring the baby into our dimension, so they send the parents into the baby's dimension:

It was all over.

They were in another dimension.

He heard Polly cry out. There was much light. Then he slipped from the table, stood blinking. Polly was running. She stooped and picked up something from the floor.

It was Peter Horn's son. A living, pink-faced, blue-eyed boy, lying in her arms, gasping and blinking and crying.

the pyramidal shape was gone. Polly was crying with happiness.

Peter Horn walked across the room, trembling, trying to smile himself, to hold on to Polly and the boy baby, both at the same time, and cry with them.

"Well!" said Wolcott, standing back. He did not move for a long while. He only watched the White Oblong and the White slim Rectangle holding the Blue Pyramid on the opposite side of the room. An assistant came to the door.

"Shh," said Wolcott, hand to his lips. "They'll want to be alone awhile. Come along." He took the assistant by the arm and tiptoed across the room. The White Rectangle and the White Oblong didn't even look up when the door closed.

The anthology containing both stories, "Pawley's Peepholes" and "The Shape of Things", is Tales Out of Time (Barbara Ireson, ed.), published in 1979 in the UK; a US edition was published in 1981. You can find images of both editions at Abebooks.com.

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