When I was a kid (late eighties) I read a few books of short stories by the same science fiction writer in my local library. He had a sequence of stories about the invention of 'gates', teleportation devices.

In one late story the gates have made diseases too communicable as people can carry them to anywhere in the world. His stories had a kind of horror/ fantasy element. In another a thief breaks into a house and ends up being dragged through a window into a void outside.

I've been trying to remember who wrote these for years now, any ideas?

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    we don't know how old you are so we don't know when you was a kid
    – Memor-X
    Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 3:31
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    When you say they;re about the discovery (rather than the invention) of teleportation devices, do you mean that humans stumbled across some devices made by aliens?
    – user14111
    Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 5:39
  • They were invented by humans scientists I remember. This would have been in the late eighties when I was a kid in the library. Ring any bells? It's been tormenting me for years now! Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 12:42
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    Possibly Harry Harrison's One Step From Earth, which contains nine stories about teleportation. Alternatively Kenneth Bulmer's 'Key to the Dimensions' books use the idea of 'gates'. Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 16:49
  • Thanks, I'll check him out. Commented Jan 20, 2018 at 21:13

2 Answers 2


I think the author you're thinking of is David Hutchinson. He uses the term "gates" for teleportation devices. He called the process "transplacement".

He wrote short stories under that name in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Then, after a long break from writing, he switched to the name Dave Hutchinson.

In particular, in his third short story collection, Torn Air, there is a short story called Abyss which is about a man wandering through a deserted Britain. The book was published in 1980 which matches your timeline. This story has two features that make me think it's one of the stories you're after.

Firstly, it describes the invention of transplacement in a way that would tally with your description of it as a discovery:

Ray Preston had stumbled on transplacement as a theoretical possibility while working on the strange structure of elementary particles. It was one of those strange scientific sidesteps that only happen very rarely, and Preston, though never doubting the validity of his theory, could never understand how it worked at all.

Secondly, it also describes the spread of diseases:

The World Health Organisation had tried to delay the introduction of gates several times at the United Nations, and each time it had been overruled. The advantages outweighed the disadvantages, so long as people were careful. People weren't careful, as usual. Transplacement could spread typhoid from Calcutta to Croydon in the time it took to dial four digits, then up to half a dozen more, then step through ...

If transplacement had come three years later, perhaps immunology whould have been ready for it; as it was, plagues started in one place, then erupted in another, perhaps a thousand miles away. It was impossible to stop once it had begun. Soon there weren't enough people to try...

If it helps you remember, the gates are describe in a manner to telephone boxes. At least you select your destination by punching a number into a push-button telephone dial:

... a skeleton gateway of square-section metal tubing, a little more than a man high and two men wide. Attached ... was a square push-button telephone dial ...

You could dial anywhere in Britain with six digits ... He punched six random digits, waited for the little light to go on, and flicked a twig through the gate.

It vanished without a flicker.

A quick search should find a picture of the book. It has a distinctive cover which might jog your memory.

As far as I can tell, David Hutchinson's early work, including Torn Air, is out of print, which is a shame.

Torn Air has ISBN 0-200-72691-9. It was published by Abelard-Schuman Limited.

  • Cheers mate, the title 'Torn Air' sounds familiar, as does the story you described. I've ordered 'Fool's Gold', one of his short story collections, from Amazon, I'll see if that jogs any memories. Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 0:03
  • @JosephWalsh: Did you ever get to reading this?
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 17:19

Could it be the HeeChee novels by Fredrick Poul? Mankind discovers gateways created by a vanished alien race. The gateways can lead to great rewards, but mapping them can be hazardous.

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    I don't think there are any gateways in the Heechee books. The main asteroid base is called Gateway, but it's full of FTL ships, not actual "gateways". Commented Feb 20, 2018 at 4:50

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