The only thing I remember about the story (or possibly novel) was that the main character (and possibly some of his colleagues) could temporarily speed up. I think it took a toll on them, and they needed a period of recovery afterwards. It was probably a story by a very good writer.

I understand the need to give you more to work with. I just remembered this a few minutes ago when I read this question on English Language and Usage https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/335115/antoymn-for-slowcoach

Possibly I will remember more after my subconscious works on it.

It was almost certainly a man. The story is probably from 15 to 25 years ago, maybe more. Most of the SF I read was from Analog; some was from Galaxy and F&SF. In other words, it definitely was not from a comic book or a TV series. The character was a good guy. I think something had altered him so he could flip into the hyperspeed state at will.

  • 5
    I can speed up temporarily, and then I need a period of recovery afterwards. Its called running ... :)
    – JK.
    Jul 1, 2016 at 4:19
  • "The Thief of Time" by Terry Pratchett has some elements of this.
    – Chenmunka
    Jul 1, 2016 at 8:04

1 Answer 1


Perhaps the novelette "The Six Fingers of Time" by R. A. Lafferty, first published in If, September 1960, available at the Internet Archive and Project Gutenberg and ralafferty.com. Here is part of a review from the web site Continued on Next Rock:

The odd thing in all this, of course (or an odd thing) is that the stoppage of time is likely the least original element in “Six Fingers of Time” (Robert Bloch’s “The Hell-Bound Train” is only one of many tales around that time presenting similar temporal tricks). In Lafferty’s telling, the time-manipulation and the juvenile pranks played by the protagonist are only the setup for a game played for much higher stakes than a peek or two in the women’s locker room: the ability to greatly slow time is reserved for those who have, whether vestigially or fully-formed, six fingers on each hand, and who belong to a different recension from the standard-issue man on the street.

Lafferty would use this background conspiracy more effectively in later works, especially The Devil Is Dead and the Coscuin Chronicles; here that history is compressed into the space of a novelette and made into a race against, not the time of the clock, but the span of one’s life, as the hero must learn enough (across many disciplines—yet another Lafferty autodidact) in the time he has to bring the conspiracy to light.

Thanks to its being in the public domain, “The Six Fingers of Time” is the first Lafferty story many new readers encounter, and that seems a shame. It has all the horror of a great Lafferty work, but very little of the humor; the coexistence of the two is what marks him at his peak. Yet it is undeniably a story that leaves an impression: many among the non-devoted remember it with a chill, along with its implications of a global and likely cosmic conspiracy of extradigital individuals to maintain their immortality and amusement at the expense of all others on earth. Hell, even the number six itself is charged with a certain spookiness, a “wrongness” not in the least diminished by the thought that it divides neatly into all measurements of time.

The end of the tale is ambiguous: nearing the great vision of the conspiracy’s extent, and the transmission of that vision to the public, the prematurely aged protagonist dies in his sleep, and his adversaries sedately rejoice.

  • +1 for a hot prospect. I'll check this out over the weekend.
    – user48960
    Jul 1, 2016 at 4:23
  • 1
    @ab2 Have you read "The New Accelerator" by H. G. Wells? Probably the earliest story about people speeding up.
    – user14111
    Jul 1, 2016 at 6:15
  • Yes, this is it. Thanks.
    – user48960
    Jul 9, 2016 at 21:57
  • @ab2 If you liked "The Six Fingers of Time", you might enjoy a lot more Lafferty stories. Short fiction like "Nine Hundred Grandmothers" and "Rainbird" and "Name of the Snake" and "Snuffles" and "Through Other Eyes" and "The Ugly Sea" and "Been a Long, Long Time" and "The Transcendant Tigers" and "Seven-Day Terror" and "Dreamworld". Novels like Space Chantey and The Reefs of Earth and Annals of Klepsis.
    – user14111
    Jul 9, 2016 at 23:12
  • Thanks for the recommendations. I hope some of these are available on Kindle or Nook.
    – user48960
    Jul 9, 2016 at 23:20

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