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When I was young I read a SF short story about a man traveling into the future to (IIRC) see the effects of a nuclear test or something of the like. He encounters a race of "mermaids" that have evolved from the fallout from the nuclear war that resulted from the tests.

Edit 2: I distinctly know that the protagonist was a time traveler, because (spoiler) the "mermaids" sabotaged his time machine at the end of the story to prevent him from going back in time and warn his people of the effects of the nuclear war, which would cause them to never exist. I wasn't myself for several days after reading that ending :)

I have no idea what it is called or who wrote it, so any tips are much appreciated!

Edit 1: I read it in the 90s, don't remember when more accurately sadly. It was in a book of short stories translated to Swedish.

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    About what year did you read it? Did you read it in a magazine or in book of short stories? – James Jenkins Dec 3 '13 at 11:41
  • Thanks for your reply, I edited my post to include "answers" to your questions :) – Martin Dec 4 '13 at 12:52
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Extinction is Forever by Louise Lawrence - Book Cover 01

How about "Extinction is Forever" by Louise Lawrence?

Extracts from some of the plot summaries online:

A scientist uses a time machine to travel to the future and film the results of a nuclear war in a bid to prevent it from happening. However, his actions could have serious repercussions for the mutated descendants of the human race.

What the post-apocalyptic world looks like...

Can Stephen bring back from the future his videotape of post-holocaust London (a city submerged under water, absent of man, inhabited by a sea people) and so stop the process of events that are to lead to World War III – and extinction....?

And the following segment describes a meeting between the time traveller and one of the "mermaids":

In the story, humans – who are called ‘the Ancients’ by a race of mutant, sea-dwelling creatures – are considered destructive and violent. The story opens with a class of these creatures discussing the destruction of the human race. They joke about homo sapiens meaning ‘wise man’. Vanya feels sad about humankind and how they ‘engineered their own extinction’. Later, her instructor Kermondley, reflects on the ‘horror and grief’ he felt over the extinction of humankind and how he could now “laugh at the arrogance of those who had called themselves wise”. When Vanya encounters Stephen, who was born in the twentieth century, she tells him that his kind were murderers who “killed everything that lived upon the land”. Stephen is dismayed that all that survived was their “murderous reputation”.

~ Edited from Wikipedia, LouiseLawrence.net and lessonbucket.

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If we assume that you only remember fragments and misremember the rest, this could have been "Galapagos" by Kurt Vonnegut. It features seal-like humans in a post-apocalyptic setting. There was no nuclear holocaust, but the gene for the fur of the seal-humans came from a female who developed it after a mutation inflicted by the nuclear bombs over Japan in WWII.

Also, the protagonist was not a time-traveller, but a ghost narrating from the future. Absurd enough for ones brain to fill in the more sensible time-traveller trope when trying to remember the story.

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    Thanks for your answer, but it is sadly not the one. I distinctly know that the protagonist was a time traveler, because (spoiler) the "mermaids" sabotaged his time machine at the end of the story to prevent him from going back in time and warn his people of the effects of the nuclear war, which would cause them to never exist. I wasn't myself for several days after reading that ending :) – Martin Dec 5 '13 at 10:21

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