Short story where humans experience time in reverse - they remember the future and cannot recall the past.

Probably in a cyberpunk anthology published in the '90s

It begins with the death of the main character and goes backwards from there.

It's implied that people used to experience time normally, but there was some sort of 'great inversion'. Everything fell into chaos until humanity adjusted to the new status quo.

I remember something about traffic lights being automated to tell you where you were going to go.

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    When did you read this story? Roughly how old was it? What language was it written in? Where was it set? Was it 'classic' scifi, like Asimov or Clarke, or something more recently written? Every detail you can remember might help someone to identify the story! See also our guidance on asking story-ID questions.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 21:01
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    Phillip K. Dick? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counter-Clock_World
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 21:05
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    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 21:12
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    @NKCampbell Or the short story it was based on, "Your Appointment Will Be Yesterday" :)
    – Andres F.
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 21:14
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    Nodnol, 871 selim.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 16:35

2 Answers 2


I read a story with this plot in Galaxy August 1956 page 42 "This Way to the Regress" by Damon Knight. However, it does not mention the turn-around. It starts with his "birth" in a traffic accident, and ends with his meeting his mother at her "birth" in the hospital.

A grey woman. Her eyes opened and she tried to smile at him.

"Mother", he said.

Of course you added that it is in a 90s cyberpunk anthology so it would not be this story.

There was also a story of this type in which the narrator is immortal and remembers the fear of an approaching world destroying war forcing the reversal so the war goes away and things continue on. One incident is a horrible civil war that results in enslaving dark skinned citizens followed by the abandoning of the North American continent. It ends with him in the middle east desert expecting that his (then) wife will walk into the desert or be abandoned as an infant. He is the only immortal in the world he describes.

Thanks to @Fruitbat20 for identifying The Man Who Never Grew Young

@user14111 points to looking for short story / novella - time is flowing in reverse except for the story teller

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    The other story that you are thinking of is The Man Who Never Grew Young by Fritz Leiber
    – Fruitbat
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 22:55
  • By the way, Knight's story appeared under the title "This Way to the Regress" only on its first publication in Galaxy; it was reprinted as "Backward, O Time". (Maybe "Backward" was Knight's title for that story, and "Regress" was forced on him by H. L. Gold, the editor of Galaxy.)
    – user14111
    Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 5:25

I found it! It was 'Foresight' by Mike Swanwick. Thanks to @valorum for posting the sf-encyclopedia link where I found the reference.

  • If you could add some more details about the story that would be helpful, you can also accept your own answer as correct.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 18:31
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    Teach a man to fish. Now I expect you to use this resource to check every single unanswered story-ID question on the site.
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 18:48

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