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This story reminded me of something similar I had read 10+ years ago.

I'm trying to identify a book of short stories, possibly by the same author. I only remember bits of it.

  1. A story about time travel where the protagonist travels back in time and sees himself as a troubled child staring at him in the dark. The time machine is like some sort of box and you squeeze yourself into it to use it.

  2. A story about a second spaceship landing on a distant planet in search of the crew of the first. But all they find was the damaged old ship and also encounters ugly monkey-like creatures screaming "COPAAK, COPAAK, COPAAK". They defend themselves by shooting down every such creature that they come across. The story is written in the form of journal entries by the protagonist. And after a few days of well written entries, the author starts to lose proper writing style in their words. The last journal entries were "ritttenn lykk theees". And we, the readers, will finally learn that the planet has some serious effect on the crew and they're actually turning into such creatures. Then we realise that the creatures that screamed "COPAAK" were actually the first crew members warning the new ones to "Go Back!".

  3. A story about a white collar criminal who somehow ended up on a strange planet with civilisation as a punishment for his earth crimes. But learns that he's actually given a great job and a second chance to life there. The people appear to be pure and innocent. But after a few good weeks, the protagonist starts to be his old self and begins committing fraud while at his job as a sort of accountant. On one evening looking out his window, he sees red skies and violent volcanic eruptions at a distance and after a while wakes up in the middle of a cult session wearing long clothes and masks. He was the subject of their ritual that day where he was tortured and killed for his crimes against this new civilisation that gave him a second chance at life.

There may be mistakes in my memory of these stories. There may be more short stories in the same book. The authors may be different. I'm not sure.

Please help identify them.

  • Do you remember anything about the book's cover? – Joe L. Jun 12 '16 at 13:39
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    #2 may be Larry Niven's "The Changelings", but I haven't been able to dig out the book it's in. Could it be a magazine? – Spencer Jun 12 '16 at 19:29
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    I think this COPAAK one has been answered on the site before, but having trouble finding it. – Organic Marble Sep 2 '16 at 12:36
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    Man, that "COPAAK" thing really rings a bell, but I can't place it... something to do with Harry Harrison, maybe? – Alex Bates Aug 21 '17 at 5:38
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    I'm sure I read the 2. story. Was one of the creatures wearing a hat of the first crew and throws a fruit as an attack? The 3. I think I remeber, too. The twist as I remember was, that the civilization was very primitive (with cruel rituals) and was "upgraded" and rushed to become modern and totally looked like a modern culture. But in the end, we learn, that they didn't abandom their cruel rituals and that they only were modern on the surface. The book (german edition) could have been white with blue picture on the cover. But this could be misleading. – Hothie Aug 21 '17 at 13:25
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+50

All three stories are reminiscent of work by John Wyndham (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wyndham) an English author who initially worked under various pseudonyms for early US Sc-Fi pulp magazines like Wonder Stories and Fantasy. Later, he published successful novels under his own name, most notably The Midwich Cuckoos and Day of the Triffids. I cannot put my finger on these exact titles although he was prolific at times and they are right up his street. Several collections of short stories have surfaced since he passed in 1969, Web for example and Plan For Chaos (the latter originally written around 1949).

Why do I believe it may be Wyndham? His short stories were grounded in the exploration of ordinary people / motives reacting to strange circumstances including themes of space discovery, aliens, time travel and parallel universes. Wyndham would often cross-reference characters and environments in these stories although they were not overtly linked e.g. a child with telepathic powers or an event / landscape / population on a planet would appear in another similar short story going down a different trajectory. Sometimes they were directly in sync such as his Troon series later published as The Outward Urge. This makes it great fun to read although difficult to pin his work down (and its something that directly influenced Stephen King with his Castle Rock inclusions).

To be more a little more specific to your references:

Story 1 - Wyndham wrote multiple time travel / parallel universe stories where people meet themselves or have different lives with other (romantic) partners due to a slight change in events. In one such story Wanderers in Time, the vessel is a tube like box not much bigger than 3 x 8 feet which is a squeeze enter - this story was a significant influence on what became the British TV series Dr Who.

Story 2 - Wyndham wrote several space based stories on the theme of adaptation, either forced or natural i.e. ship crashes on a planet, over time the inhabitants change into something else due to the environment years later they are re-discovered but un-recognisable. These stories were directly influenced (acknowledged in biographies) by HG Wells The Time Machine. One very similar to your description is The Last Lunarians.

Story 3 - Wyndham wrote several stories along these lines including one about a white collar criminal who jumps universe / body and arrives in an idyllic community at peace but cannot help falling back into character by taking advantage of their freedom and good nature. Eventually it comes home to roost. I cannot think of the title.

Apologies that I cannot nail it down completely for you. If it is not a Wyndham collection then the themes are so close it could be someone who came after and was influenced by him. In any respect, if these stories floated your boat, read John Wyndham as it will open up a whole new world for you.

  • +1 thank you. I'll start searching from this. Maybe this could be it. :) – NVZ Sep 2 '16 at 12:06
  • Your welcome - have fun. – Applefanboy Sep 2 '16 at 14:01
  • I have searched for it a lot. I couldn't narrow it down yet. I'm not yet sure if this is the author. It sure sounds like a lot of the themes match. – NVZ Aug 21 '17 at 14:07
  • I'm awarding the bounty on this because I couldn't find any other answer yet. – NVZ Aug 28 '17 at 5:03
  • One very similar to your description is The Last Lunarians. - Nope. I just read through that story, and it doesn't match the description in the question. – Mithrandir Dec 10 '17 at 11:49

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