Trying to remember where this story is from. A girl, concerned about humanity overpopulating the planet and/or destroying itself, wishes for something or someone to make a change. Some kind of alien or inter-dimensional being hears her and does something that affects the world and humanity.

Time dilation occurs and people start speeding up or slowing down. It affects people differently, but those that speed up get so fast they disappear and can occasionally be heard as a background hum and those that slow down become nearly statue-like. Eventually society is reorganized where those that are very slow are moved to their own communities where they can be kept safe, and those that are super-fast have essentially become so advanced they have moved beyond Earth.

Thanks for the help!

  • When did you read this, and where? In what language? Jun 12, 2017 at 8:41
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    Hello, welcome to Science Fiction & Fantasy. Please make sure you've checked out the tour, read How to Ask (and possibly How to Answer), as well as the Story-ID guidelines. What language did you read it in? Where were you when you read it? Medium? Etc. I hope you decide to stick around!
    – Mithical
    Jun 12, 2017 at 8:53
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    I think I have read a David Brin short story with something like this. But the name isn't coming to me. Jun 12, 2017 at 10:07
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    There's a David Brin story that involves time dilation called "Coexistence" or "The River of Time". But I haven't read it so don't know if it matches the description.
    – ssav
    Jun 12, 2017 at 11:45
  • English. I can't remember if it was 10, 20, or even 30 years ago. I can't remember if it was in an anthology or a magazine.
    – Lodestone
    Jun 13, 2017 at 2:41

1 Answer 1


As suggested in the comments there is a David Brin short story, The River of Time aka Coexistence, that is similar to this. However it has some key differences. Specifically the main protagonist is a male science fiction writer called Daniel Brand, not a girl, there is no overpopulation theme and aliens are not mentioned.

The first sign of the change is people apparently going into coma, and the condition is called ComaSlow.

I don't think anyone knows exactly when it began. It seemed a fatal disease, at first. Dozens, possibly hundreds, were buried or cremated before the ComaSlow epidemic was recognized for what it was.
These corpses remained warm. Under careful scrutiny, they were found to consume oxygen and give off carbon dioxide. Their stiffness shared only one attribute with rigor mortis… an adamant resistance to motion.

It is realised that the ComaSlow are actually just experiencing time very slowly when they start writing (very slow) messages. The speeding up of time happens later:

The new phenomenon began, a month after the onset of the ComaSlow epidemic, with a series of very strange deaths—or rather "disappearances." People simply vanished. Poof.

As you say in the question the problem is solved by organising into different areas:

Somehow we sorted things out. More people went fast or slow. We started dividing the cities into zones set aside for each speed. A barter economy developed, with computers used for communication.

But the story ends with a discussion on the philosophy of time. The superfast humans do not evolve and leave Earth.

  • I could be mentally combining a couple of different stories. But sometimes stories are rehashed by another author or retold by the original, so it may just be a different but similar version. I will check it out.
    – Lodestone
    Jun 13, 2017 at 2:43

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