I read this probably in the 1990s but it could have been written earlier. It was probably in an anthology and in English.

The story is about a person, probably a man, who is in some kind of stasis or suspended animation on a spaceship for a long voyage. I think there were hundreds of other crew/passengers but they all remained asleep.

The protagonist 'woke up' and was aware and conscious but still in stasis. I think initially he is just reliving some experience from his life but then realises he is actually on board the ship. He finds out from the ship's computer that he is stuck in this mentally awake but physically asleep state and willbe for the hundreds? thousands? of years of the remainder of the voyage and the computer has decided to try to keep him sane by replaying his memories.

I seem to remember it ended there, no happy ending but more the horror of imagining the next centuries to come.


3 Answers 3


It could also be "I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon" by Philip K. Dick. From the summary at the Philip K. Dick Review:

Victor Kemmings is on an interstellar voyage that will take ten years, so he is supposed to be in cryogenic suspension. Instead he awakens and is informed by the computer that he cannot be put back into cryogenic suspension. The computer tells him that he will feed him sensory images drawn from his personal memories. Victor fears that he will be under the authoritarian control of the computer for ten years (likely to feel much longer). He cannot even walk around the ship because it lacks air and provisions.

The computer tries to feed him happy memories, but they all wind up twisted by Victor's sense of guilt, particularly over a bird he killed as a child. It then feeds him repeated simulations of his arrival at his destination. At the end, Victor actually arrives, but can't be convinced it's not just another simulation. (I'm still going by the Review's summary, which has more details.)

  • This is it. Thank you! I hadn't remembered it entirely correctly, but reading the summary you linked to and then finding the story online this is the one. I wonder where I read it, almost certainly not in the 1980 Playboy where Wikipedia says it was first published. Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 16:37
  • Was this this the core of PKD's absolutely depressing "A Maze of Death?" Commented Apr 19, 2020 at 21:12

Following up on my comment, it might be "Common Time":

A man named Garrard is a test pilot for an experimental space ship bound for Alpha Centauri. Previous attempts to make the trip have failed. Garrard is put in the ship in suspended animation and wakes up after the ship has gone into "over-drive". The first thing he remembers is the injunction: "Don't move". Garrard realizes that ship time seems to be almost stopped relative to his conscious time; he is not breathing, and his muscles respond slowly to mental directions. He calculates that 6000 years of subjective time will pass before the ship reaches its goal. Suddenly, he realizes that ship time is speeding up, until it equals, then exceeds, his subjective time. As the differential time rates increase, he again loses control of his body and goes into "pseudo-death".

Garrard awakes as the ship comes out of overdrive near Alpha Centauri. Around him in the space ship is a group of dreamlike beings that call themselves "the clinesterton beademung" and speak to him in dream-language, which he understands perfectly. The story's narrative also becomes dreamlike at this point, suggesting that Garrard's experiences are indescribable. As the ship's automatic mechanism is about to start the journey back to Earth, Garrard again goes into pseudo-death, and remains in that state until the ship nears Earth. He lands safely. He can no longer remember what the "beademung" was like or even if it was real, but he has a haunting sense of loss.

  • That was the one that popped into my head as I read the description.
    – Lorendiac
    Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 14:14
  • 1
    This is the story I thought of too, but I don't remember a ship's computer keeping him sane, or there being other passengers. Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 15:35

That has some similarities with the 1974 novel The Dream Millennium by James White. The protagonist is on a long starship voyage, and starts by dreaming his own memories, before moving back in time.

Except for being awoken at long intervals to eat, exercise, and perform his duties as captain, Devlin spends all of his time in hibernation, during which he dreams the entire lives of people and other creatures that lived and died on Earth in the past.


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