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Back in the 1970s when I was still in high school I had a subscription to the Science Fiction Book Club. I'm trying now to locate a short story from that time.

The story tells of a group of people who take a drug (I think it was called Skyy) that would make time seem to pass extremely slowly. They would then skydive together, experiencing it as a gentle weightless floating instead of a free fall.

The story ends in tragedy as they become so used to the slowness that they neglect to deploy their parachutes.

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  • For anyone else who is reminded -- by the title of this question -- of a completely different story: "To Jump is to Fall" by Stephen Graham Jones. I heard it on the "LeVar Burton Reads" podcast.
    – mrienstra
    Nov 4, 2022 at 0:26

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I believe this is R.A. Lafferty's short story "Sky" (1971), first published in New Dimensions 1 and then collected in Nebula Award Stories 7, which had a SFBC release (as Nebula Award Stories Seven) in 1973.

SFBC Cover of "Nebula Award Stories Seven"

The drug is called "Sky" and the people who take it and jump are called "Sky-Divers."

"A sack of Sky from the nervous mouse. Jump, or the sun will gobble your house!" Welkin sang-song, and she was already higher than most skies.

"Hurry, hurry!" the Sky-Seller begged, thrusting the sack to her while his black eyes trembled and glittered (if real light should ever reflect into them he'd go blind).

Welkin took the sack of Sky, and scrambled money notes into his hands, which had furred palms. (Really? Yes, really.)

A small group of them go Sky-Diving:

Four of them when Sky-Diving that morning. Welkin herself, Karl Vlieger, Icarus Riley, Joseph Alzarsi; and the pilot was - (no, not who you think, he had already threatened to turn them all in; they'd use that pilot no more) - the pilot was Ronald Kolibri in his little crop-dusting plane.

The story is a bit confusing, since it's sometimes hard to tell how much we're getting simply from their drugged perceptions, but it seems that time stops:

"We have our own rotundity and sphere here," said Icarus Riley (these are their Sky-Diver names, not their legal names), "and it is apart from all worlds and bodies. The worlds and the bodies do not exist for as long a time as we say that they do not exist. The axis of our present space is its own concord. Therefore, it being in perfect concord, Time stops."

All their watches had stopped, at least.

"But there is a world below," said Karl. "It is an abject world, and we can keep it abject forever if we wish. But it has at least a shadowy existence, and later we will let it fill out again in our compassion for lowly things. It is flat, though, and we must insist that it remain flat."

"This is important," Joseph said with a deep importance of one on Sky. "So long as our own space is bowed and globed, the world will remain flat or depressed. But the world must not be allowed to bow its back again. We are in danger if it ever does. So long as it is truly flat and abject it cannot crash ourselves into it."

"How long could we fall," Welkin asked, "if we had not stopped time, if we had let it flow at its own pace, or at ours? How long could we fall?"

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    interesting phrasing in talking about the relationship to the world in terms of flat or bowed. The flip in the visual curvature of the earth is a sign in sport - or any - skydiving that you are getting significantly low and alarmingly so for casual sport jumpers if you haven't deployed the chute.
    – Mike M
    Nov 3, 2022 at 14:02
  • @DavidW - Done and done. I've ordered a copy of Nebula 7 (eBay), but can you tell me where you found the full text?
    – Dan Ader
    Nov 4, 2022 at 13:52
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    @DanAder Nebula Award Stories Seven can be "borrowed" (free, registration required) from the Internet Archive. (I often look there first before trying to dig a book out of storage; I find it easier to type out a quote from a second screen than to try to hold a book open while typing.)
    – DavidW
    Nov 4, 2022 at 13:57
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    If you want to have a read: archive.org/details/97StoriesByR.A.LaffertyR.A.Lafferty/page/…
    – busssard
    Nov 7, 2022 at 16:33
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    @DanAder If you hadn't already ordered that Nebula anthology, I'd have recommended getting "Sky" in a Lafferty collection, such as Ringing Changes or The Best of R. A. Lafferty. That way you get a whole bunch of lafferties instead of just one.
    – user14111
    Nov 8, 2022 at 0:03

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