I am trying to find a short story that was in a hardback short story collection which I recall reading in the late 50s to early 60s.

It involves a group of children -- boys, as I recall -- on a sort of field trip.

They are genius adepts with awesome skills although this is not immediately apparent.

The story is not juvenile science fiction, however.

The story had a sort of Cordwainer Smith meets Philip K. Dick not to mention Gene Wolfe flavor but before their heydays.

It really had that scary future other timely ambiance with little exposition.

Unusual for the time.

Their conversation includes one saying he is going to be President of the World next week.

They go to an arena centered on an ovoid force field wherein they see a group of spear carrying warriors before a fire standing before a shaman or, magician or wizard who is chanting and gesturing.

It was a portal in time apparently.

One of the boys is bored and through some sort of psionic exercise adds his powers to the shaman and collapses the forcefield.

Which leaves warriors and shaman there in the arena.

Havoc ensues.

After that, I seem to recall that things are resolved and the boys are on their way home.

It may be that the reference to being President of the World was made then.

These were super children not without attitudes and a real deal prehistoric to dark ages era shaman possibly with real powers.

And one of them was going to be President of the World next week.

That's the best of my recollections.

It was something that especially stayed with me, not unlike Horrer Howce by Margaret St. Clair or "Go for Baroque" by Jody Scott or "Alpha Ralpha Boulevard" -- there were edge and craft to it and that far weird future ambiance.

I hope it exists and someone has read it. If I dreamt this fifty years ago, I will be most bemused.

  • @Y2kari if it turns out that you dreamed it 50 years ago you might try to write a story based on that dream. Apr 8, 2021 at 16:28

1 Answer 1


"Time in the Round", a novelette by Fritz Leiber; first published in Galaxy Science Fiction, May 1957, available at the Internet Archive; reprinted in the 1958 hardcover anthology The Third Galaxy Reader edited by H L. Gold. The story is also available at Project Gutenberg.

The Butcher, the youngest of the three boys and the one who causes all the trouble in the Time Theater, is the one with political ambitions (though he doesn't expect to seize power "next week"):

The Butcher achieved a fearful frown. "When I'm World Director," he said slowly, "I'm going to have warfare again."

"You think so now," Hal told him. "We all do at your age."

The older boys are going to the Time Theater, accompanied by the Butcher, who won't be admitted because he's under five. Physical time travel is impossible, as Hal explains to the Butcher:

"You've never been inside the Time Theater—you're not old enough yet—so you just can't know anything about it or about the reasons why it's impossible," Hal replied with friendly factuality. "The Time Bubble is just a viewer. You can only look through it, and just into the past, at that. But you can't travel through it because you can't change the past. Time traveling is a lot of kid stuff."

"I don't care," the Butcher asserted obstinately. "I'm still going to have warfare when I'm World Director."

"They'll condition you out of the idea," Hal assured him.

"They will not. I won't let 'em."

"It doesn't matter what you think now," Hal said with finality. "You'll have an altogether different opinion when you're six."

But there is a minority theory that physical time travel might be possible in some circumstances, as the AI interpreter in the Time Theater explains, after the Butcher has gotten in by a ruse:

"I believe," the interpreter cut in smoothly, "that you're thinking of the theory that the Time Bubble operates by hyper-memory. Some scientists would have us believe that all memory is time traveling and that the basic location of the bubble is not space-time at all, but ever-present eternity. Some of them go so far as to state that it is only a mental inability that prevents the Time Bubble from being used for time traveling—just as it may be a similar disability that keeps a robot with the same or even more scopeful memories from being a real man or animal.

"It is because of this minority theory that under-age individuals and other beings with impulsive mentalities are barred from the Time Theater. But do not be alarmed. Even if the minority theory should prove true—and no evidence for it has ever appeared—there are automatically operating safeguards to protect the audience from any harmful consequences of time traveling (almost certainly impossible, remember) in either direction."

"Sissies!" was the Butcher's comment.

Today's show in the Time Theater is from "somewhere in Scandinavia around zero in the B.C.—A.D. time scale":

The interpreter continued: "The skin-clad men we are viewing in Time in the Round seem to be a group of warriors of the sort who lived by pillage and rapine. The hooded figure is a most unusual find. We believe it to be that of a sorcerer who pretended to control the forces of nature and see into the future."

The Butcher, with help from the ancient shaman, breaks the walls of the bubble:

"A viewing anomaly has occurred," the interpreter announced. "It may be necessary to collapse the Time Bubble for a short period."

In a frenzy, his ragged robes twisting like smoke, the sorcerer rushed at one of the warriors, pushing him backward so that in a moment he must cross-section.

"Attaboy!" the Butcher encouraged.

Then the warrior was standing outside the bubble, blinking toward the shadows, rain dripping from his beard and furs.

"Oh, boy!" the Butcher cheered in ecstasy.

"Butcher, now you've done it!" Hal said, aghast.

"I sure did," the Butcher agreed blandly, "but that old guy in the bubble helped me. Must take two to work it."

Havoc ensues.

  • 4
    I am in your debt, user14111. I went to the grocery and in the meantime, my question was answered. I went straight to Project Gutenberg and reread Time in the Round -- it's not the story I remember and yet it is. Except I forgot the uninjes -- the cybernetic dogs. (btw & fwiw: a friend's Marine vet son uses the expression 'unsat' for situation unsatisfactory) But the Time Theater melee and the Vikings, that I do recall. And while it is not quite what I recall after 63 years, Fritz Leiber was an excellent writer. And what a revelation to compare it to my memories. So thank you so so much.
    – y2karl
    Apr 8, 2021 at 5:36

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