I'm trying to remember the name of a short story in which a criminal was being prosecuted for a crime by a zealous prosecutor. Somehow, the criminal is able to travel back in time and reshape society, perhaps by forming a new religious order. By the time he arrives back at the present, the laws are such that even though the prosecutor and criminal are the same people, roles are reversed, and it is now the prosecutor who is the criminal and is convicted. In my recollection this was by Asimov but I can't find any of his stories that match.

  • If someone finds the answer for this, I want to read it... (the story) Mar 8, 2017 at 20:53

2 Answers 2


If it is from Asimov, it sounds very close to "The Winds of Change".

The setting is in some kind of university, there are three men in a room waiting for a message to arrive;

The protagonist starts by telling how everybody in there assumes that one of the other two men will be chosen to a high position in the university, the other man (his protegé) will also be favored by this change and the man who is doing the talking, who is hated by the other two, will be quickly fired.

Then he comments about their past history, about how, despite how the other two men have put forward very knowledgeable theories about time travel, they are both unable to use them. He tells that if the were able to travel through time he would have researched both of the other men to find their failures. In fact he mentions a couple of scientific mistakes by the other two men but qualifies them as too minor as to have any effect; if he were to denounce them for that it would look worse on himself (as a delator) than in the other two men.

He continues on telling about how the scientists think themselves above society, and how these men did ignore the rules of society and commited crimes. That it was ok when society was anarchic and had no rules, but he did change the society so that it now has rules and strict leaders. That he did lots of trials in that direction, not only to change the society but to ensure that the two men "crimes" were kept hidden.

He then relates how he has proof that both men did sign political manifestos in favor of freedom of speech and religion when were younger, and now he has denounced them to the authorities for those "crimes". The messenger arrives, arrests both men with charges that include witchcraft, takes the crosses the men were wearing on their suits, and confirms that the promotion will go to the narrator.

The story ends with the man considering asking for leniency for the captured men. But he reminds himself that he should only do that if it that is safe, and that under the rule of the Moral Majority nobody is completely safe.

  • 1
    Yes, that is most likely the answer I'm looking for, even though the description from my memory is faulty. I've put in an order for the book that contains the story. I think about this story a lot when I hear of men who were considered honorable in the past whom we now denounce in a milieu with different standards...
    – Kevin N
    Mar 8, 2017 at 23:09

The element with the time-traveller being a criminal, and religion made me think of Philip K Dick's short story The Skull.

The story protaganist is an imprisoned criminal given the chance of a pardon by being sent back in time to kill a man who is responsible for founding a religion that the current government want to weaken or destroy.

He ends up not going back quite far enough at first - being seen by a number of people who seem to recognise him. He then goes back further and ends up delivering the anti-war and anti-violence message which founds the religion right before he is killed in the past, realising that he will be seen again in just a few months.

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