It's common in science fiction, and occasionally fantasy, to see a device that can stop time.

  • Time travellers on Heroes, such as Peter Petrelli, Nathan "Tommy" Bennet, and Hiro Nakamura can make time slow essentially to the point of standing still.
  • Wizards and sorcerers in Dungeons and Dragons can cast time stop, giving themselves a few seconds of unrestricted movement.

  • The short story All The Time in the World, from 1952, is one of the earlier well-known examples. It features a man who is given a device that can stop time—but which may not be the gift he believes it to be.

The earliest example that comes up in a quick search is from 1952, but I suspect the idea must be much older. Where did this concept originate? What the first story where time was "stopped"?

By "stopped time," I refer to one or a few (i.e. not the whole universe minus one) people moving normally while the rest of the world is apparently frozen.


1 Answer 1


"The New Accelerator", a short story by H. G. Wells, first published in The Strand Magazine, December 1901. The text is available, e.g., at Classic Reader. From Wikipedia:

"The New Accelerator" is a 1901 science fiction short story by H. G. Wells. The story addresses the invention of an elixir that accelerates all of an individual's physiological and cognitive processes by some orders of magnitude, such that although the individual perceives no change in themselves, the external world appears almost frozen into immobility and only the motion of most rapidly moving objects - such as the tip of a cracked whip - can be perceived.

The exploration of the consequences of this is incomplete; for example, the inventor and his companion find that while under the influence of the elixir they can easily singe their clothing from the heat produced by friction against the air as they walk, such is the rapidity of their motion; but this same air friction would render it impossible to breathe at a correspondingly accelerated rate, and this difficulty is ignored.

  • 1
    "The New Accelerator" may or may not be the first story on that theme, it's just the one that popped into my head. The best one is "The Six Fingers of Time" by R. A. Lafferty, which is available at Project Gutenberg.
    – user14111
    May 2, 2016 at 9:20
  • Do you do nothing but read short stories?
    – Adamant
    May 2, 2016 at 9:30

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