I can't remember the name of the story, and couldn't find anything on Google searches either.

The story is about a science fiction writer whose story gets rejected by the publisher because it's word-by-word identical to another story published years ago. The writer then writes another story only to find out that the same author also published this story around the same time as the other one.

Our writer then writes a story about a man who uses a time machine to read other people's work in the future and then publishes it in his time. Only to find out that this story was also published by the same guy years ago.

The story I'm trying to find out was in the form of letter correspondence between the writer and the publisher.

So, does anyone know its title?

  • Sounds interesting. I've read some stories about a guy who plagiarizes across dimensions, but not across time. I hope someone finds you the answer because I'd like to read that. Was it a short story, by chance? Commented Feb 12, 2011 at 15:09
  • @Roger: Yes, it was a short story. I read it published in a magazine. Commented Feb 12, 2011 at 15:11
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    Not the answer you want, but there is an episode of auto-plagiarism by time machine described in one of the Hitchhiker Guide books (I'm thinking Life the Universe and Everything ). Commented Feb 12, 2011 at 15:54
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    @dmckee: something like: "A later and wilier editor of the HHG sent a copy of the guide back and then sued the breakfast cereal manufacturer under the same laws". In the section about some stats for the universe (no people, no money, lots of sex).
    – Richard
    Commented Feb 12, 2011 at 17:00
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    @Richard I was thinking, instead of the poet and the correction fluid company, but there is that one too. Commented Feb 12, 2011 at 17:04

1 Answer 1


Looks like Who's Cribbing by Jack Lewis. From this Usenet thread:

There's a story, which I really wish I could remember the details of, which consists of a series of letters between the author and various SF magazines. All the letters from the magazines are along the lines of "Thank you for your contribution, but we already published exactly this story 20 years ago". The author, in his various letters to the magazines, gets more and more defensive, pleading with the editors not tell him that some guy his never heard of has already written the story. Eventually, he bundles all these letters together and sends them to one last magazine with a cover note saying that he's done some research into this guy he's supposedly plagiarising, and thinks it was the other way around - Mr X was apparently a bit of a backyard tinkerer, and suppose he invented some machine for seeing into the future...? "Thank you for your contribution. It's an intriguing premise, and we certainly would have accepted it for publication, had [Mr X] not submitted exactly this story 20 years ago..."

Your description reminded me of something I'd read, but I haven't read Who's Cribbing, so I must have misremembered some other plagiarism-related story.

  • Ha, I remember that story! Talk about the ultimate paranoid nightmare! +1 Commented May 25, 2011 at 2:52
  • One wonders why our protagonist wouldn't simply read everything Mr. X ever wrote, and then write something entirely different...
    – Kevin
    Commented Nov 19, 2017 at 6:16
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    @Kevin Because as soon as time-travel is involved, the past is no longer fixed. I don't know the story so I don't know how the plagiarist operates, but as soon as the author writes a story, anyone can hack it from his computer, then travel 20 years back into the past and submit it. ^^
    – Pwassonne
    Commented Nov 19, 2017 at 20:36
  • @Kevin: The character did try to get copies of the works of "Todd Thromberry" (the time-traveling plagiarist) but they were out of print, and hard to get copies of (reflecting an earlier era in which stories were not reprinted in books very often, and editors and fans might remember a terrific story from the past (and recognize copying), but not be able to lay hands on the old issue that actually had the story.
    – Andrew
    Commented Apr 3, 2022 at 19:01

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