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I am now 46 and so it's been bugging me for over 30 years - time to try and do something about it. The collection was in my lower school library (UK). It was a thick black hardback book and I believe there was at least one more book in the series. Many of the images have stayed with me so vividly and it was the book that got me into science fiction. Here are snapshots of some of the stories - the first 2 are the ones I'd like to track down most:

  1. Time travel is commonplace especially for leisure purposes. A group of people go back to the time of Jesus' crucifixion. Their appearances are modified so they blend in with the crowd and they are told what to do in order not to alter history. The experience is as exciting as they hoped until the moment when Pilate asks them to choose between Jesus and Barabbas - of course they shout for Barabbas, but the protagonist suddenly realises the whole crowd is made up of time travellers and the people of the time are hiding voiceless...

  2. A new way of controlling criminals is to inject them with a drug that slows their bodies down to a fraction of that of normal humans. They exist alongside the world at normal speed but can't perpetrate any further crimes as they are so slow. Their speech is so slow it is incomprehensible. I seem to remember a reporter or similar decides to take the drug, either to meet a friend or just as an experience but gets trapped as the drug is routinely readministered as 'he must be a criminal'. Time passes so fast.

  3. Aliens have taken over the world and are experiencing what it is like to be human by taking over/occupying part of people's minds. 2 humans fall in love and don't want the aliens involved but eventually can't stop them. The aliens will only let them be in a relationship if they can experience it too. The aliens want to know what sex is like. Disastrous consequences.

  4. A space station floating in the middle of nowhere. A dead woman (or baby?). Someone floating off into nothingness with no hope of rescue. The sense of being totally alone. Sorry I can't be more specific - it was obviously the feelings of this one that got my teen self!

I'd love it if anyone has an idea on this Thanks all

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    The first story sounds at lot like Let's Go to Golgotha! - Anthologised here and a bunch of other times – Valorum May 19 '16 at 14:56
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    It's this anthology. Big (750 pp) and black, contains your 1st story "Let's Go to Golgotha!" and your 2nd story ("The Hibbie"), will look for the rest but they must be there too. – user14111 May 19 '16 at 15:03
  • reddit.com/r/sciencefiction/comments/36o1rq/… - The Hibbie described by someone else – Valorum May 19 '16 at 15:07
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    @Pharap - that is bizarre. My son is 13 and his school library stocks hardback (and paperback) books - both fiction and non-fiction - and lets the students touch, read and borrow them. – Vicky May 20 '16 at 11:42
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    This is so exciting - I've now ordered the book and wait to relive it with bated breath! I think story 4 was most likely survival and then I had conflated it with Kaleidoscope as suggested. This may even be the anthology with the story about going down to the depths of the sea and realising there's something more down there... I'll find out soon! Thank you all! – C McLean May 25 '16 at 10:34
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It's the 1977 anthology The Best Science-Fiction Stories; 750 pages, black cover, edited by Michael Stapleton. As for the stories you mentioned:

  1. "Let's Go to Golgotha! by Garry Kilworth:

Simon was frantic. 'Harry, Harry. Look at the crowd! Look around you! There are no Jews here. No natives. The only ones here are us. The holiday-makers. Do you realize the enormity of what we've done? The whole guilt of mankind rests on our shoulders.'

He was sobbing violently now. 'We've crucified the Son of God, and we're going to do it next tour, and the next and the next . . ."

'For ever and ever, time without end, amen,' finished Harry, humbly.

  1. "The Hibbie" by James Alexander:

To his surprise it was quite easy to obtain Torpex. Supply was controlled, but the stigma attached to its use was so powerful that strong safeguards against misuse did not seem to be necessary. Cass got his from a friend, Bill Sayers, who had served in the space service with him and who, being incapacitated by an injury from further service in space, had elected instead to work for the prison service. One of Bill's job was to administer Torpex every ten weeks to the offenders in his care.

  1. "We Purchased People" by Frederik Pohl:

'Only we have to wait, Wayne. They want to do it. Not us.'

'What do you mean, wait? Wait for what?' She shrugged under my arm. 'You mean,' I said, 'that we have to be plugged in to them? Like they'll be doing it with our bodies?'

She leaned against me. 'That's what they told me, Wayne. Any minute now, I guess.'

I pushed her away. 'Honey,' I said, half crying, 'all this time I've been wanting to—Jesus, Carolyn! I mean, it isn't just that I wanted to go to bed with you. I mean—'

'I'm sorry,' she cried, big tears on her face.

  1. This one is vaguer than the others and hard to match. Could you be conflating two different stories? I have three suggestions; none of them fits the description perfectly.

4a. "Survival" by John Wyndham. Not a space station but a rocket ship headed for Mars. There is a mishap and seemingly no hope of rescue (there is a rescue at the end). There is a woman passenger and the baby she gave birth to on the trip, but they are not dead; in the end they are the only survivors:

Her song cut off suddenly at the click of the opening door. For a moment she stared as blankly at the three figures in the opening as they at her. Her face was a mask with harsh lines drawn from the points where the skin was stretched tightly over the bones. Then a trace of expression came over it. Her eyes brightened. Her lips curved in a travesty of a smile.

She loosed her arms from about the baby, and it hung there in midair, chuckling a little to itself. She slid her right hand under the pillow of the bunk, and drew it out again, holding a pistol.

The black shape of the pistol looked enormous in her transparently thin hand as she pointed it at the men who stood transfixed in the doorway.

'Look, baby,' she said. 'Look there! Food! Lovely food. . . .'

4b. "Transit of Earth" by Arthur C. Clarke was the answer to this old question. A solitary astronaut is stranded on Mars. No hope of rescue: check. The sense of being totally alone: check. But no space station, no floating off, no woman or baby.

The therapy has worked. I feel perfectly at ease—even contented, now that I know exactly what I'm going to do. The old nightmares have lost their power.

It is true, we all die alone. It makes no difference at the end, being fifty million miles from home.

4c. "Kaleidoscope" by Ray Bradbury was the answer to this old question; you can listen to the Dimension X radio adaptation at the Internet Archive. Someone floating off into nothingness with no hope of rescue: check. The sense of being totally alone: check. No women or children though:

The first concussion cut the rocket up the side with a giant can-opener. The men were thrown into space like a dozen wriggling silverfish. They were scattered into a dark sea; and the ship, in a million pieces, went on, a meteor swarm seeking a lost sun.

The men are in spacesuits and maintain radio contact for a while, but they are headed in different directions and eventually get out of range:

They were all alone. Their voices had died like echoes of the words of God spoken and vibrating in the starred deep. There went the captain to the Moon; there Stone with the meteor swarm; there Stimson; there Applegate towards Pluto; there Smith and Turner and Underwood and all the rest, the shards of the kaleidoscope that had formed a thinking pattern for so long, hurled apart.

And I? thought Hollis. What can I do? Is there anything I can do now to make up for a terrible and empty life? If only I could do one good thing to make up for the meanness I collected all these years and didn't even know was in me! But there's no one here but myself, and how can you do good all alone? You can't. Tomorrow night I'll hit Earth's atmosphere.

I'll burn, he thought, and be scattered in ashes all over the continental lands. I'll be put to use. Just a little bit, but ashes are ashes and they'll add to the land.

He fell swiftly, like a bullet, like a pebble, like an iron weight, objective, objective all the time now, not sad or happy or anything, but only wishing he could do a good thing now that everything was gone, a good thing for just himself to know about.

When I hit the atmosphere, I'll burn like a meteor.

'I wonder,' he said, 'if anyone'll see me?'

  • 1
    Evidently a memorable collection. Two answers within minutes of the question, and you and I gave our answers 47 seconds apart! – Lostinfrance May 19 '16 at 15:13
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    Whereas, in the real world, Torpex is a high explosive and, instead of making them move slowly, administering Torpex to criminals makes them move very quickly and in lots of different directions at the same time. – David Richerby May 20 '16 at 0:48
  • @DavidRicherby You're a sick, sick man. That made my Friday afternoon. :) – Graham May 20 '16 at 13:18
  • The time travelers should have been happy. Wasn't the crucifixion the whole point of Jesus coming to Earth? To redeem mankind? – user89108 Oct 3 at 18:21
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  1. Let's Go to Golgotha by Garry Kilworth. Your description is accurate.
  2. The Hibbie by James Alexander. If I remember rightly the viewpoint character is a spacer who comes home to find that the woman he once loved (possibly his ex-wife) had fallen into drugs and crime and was sentenced to this enforced hibernation.
  3. We Purchased People by Frederick Pohl. Your description is accurate, although the aliens had not taken over the world. They were actually interested in buying Earth art. They could not travel here in person, only mentally, and so purchased criminals from the government to be their purchasing agents.
  4. Probably Survival by John Wyndham. If I recall correctly, rescuers coming across a derelict spaceship find that a woman and a baby are the last survivors. The woman had apparently gone mad and tried to fend off her rescuers with a gun while hugging the baby. I think she had turned cannibal to keep the baby alive.

I had that collection too. I haven't got it to hand, but having done a Google search for the titles of the stories you mention, it was almost certainly Best Science Fiction Stories published in 1977 by Hamlyn. Note the other stories listed in the contents and see if they chime with your memories.

My copy was a plain black hardback with gold writing, unlike the cover shown on this UK Amazon page. Scroll down to look at the "Customer image" for something more like the cover I remember.

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    I'll note in passing that Purchased People are mentioned again (though I don't recall whether they appear) in Farthest Star by Pohl & Williamson. – Anton Sherwood May 19 '16 at 20:46
  • I know of only one edition of that anthology. On my copy the dust jacket matches the picture on that Amazon page; the book inside has plain black covers with silver lettering on the spine. – user14111 May 20 '16 at 2:26
  • I could be misremembering the colour of the lettering. I am much more certain that the typeface was very like the one shown on the Amazon "customer image". I assume my copy had lost its dust jacket. Whatever it looked like, it contained some great stories. – Lostinfrance May 20 '16 at 12:12
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The first story is "Let's go to Golgotha!" The second is "The hibbie". I don't know about the third you mentioned but number 4 is "Survival". They're all together in a book called "The omnibus of science fiction". You can get a second hand copy from amazon.com

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    Welcome to SFF.SE An accurate answer, however this question already has an accepted answer so yours (which is just a subset of it) seems quite obsolete now. – Mat Cauthon Jun 22 at 7:43
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    There was a 1952 anthology called Omnibus of Science Fiction but it doesn't contain any of the stories you mentioned. – user14111 Jun 22 at 8:12

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