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Interesting short story I read 1970-80s.

A lifepod containing one occupant appears at a museum. At first hairy, dirty and wildly incoherent, the occupant becomes calmer, cleaner and communicative over time. Holding up messages to his window he explains he is travelling slowly backwards in time.

His plan is to build up potential then catapult himself into the future. He's a genius and feels he belongs there. The museum director debates whether to tell him he will be mad when he gets there and what that will mean for the world.

I thought it was called something like either 'Cometh the hour, cometh the man' or 'Uphill slowly, downhill fast'. But can't find either.

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  • Note that proposed duplicate is already the target of another question closed as duplicate.
    – Otis
    yesterday

1 Answer 1

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Ian Watson's The Very Slow Time Machine, I think.

At first hairy, dirty and wildly incoherent, the occupant becomes calmer, cleaner and communicative over time. Holding up messages to his window he explains he is travelling slowly backwards in time.

**

A capsule appears from nowhere in 1985 containing a mad and incoherent old man whose life appears to be running backwards. The capsule appears to have been sent back in time from the near future and is impregnable, but the highly efficient recycling system inside the allows its occupant to sustain himself. As he grows younger and saner he begins to deliver a message.

His plan is to build up potential then catapult himself into the future.

From "Cosmic Wormholes"'s description of Watson's work:

It turns out that he is from the future but is moving back in time in order to "catapult ” himself even further into the future.

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  • That's definitely it. And the phrase I thought I'd remembereqd was from one of the traveller's messages 'CRAWLING DOWNHILL, SLIDING UPHILL!' and it gets very Messianic at the end. Excellent story. Thanks for finding it. yesterday
  • I'm glad to help.
    – Andrew
    yesterday

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