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It's a story I read in 2 or 3 parts in a Greek sci-fi magazine called 9 around 2004 (give or take a few years), but it may be a bit older than that. This is what I remember (and I hope it's all accurate):

  • The protagonist used to travel a lot, mainly using high speed media like aircraft.
  • It was established in the story that as he traveled more frequently and with more speed, he would gradually cross over towards (sort of) higher planes of existence (and that everyone in the setting could do the same, although most people simply didn't bother).
  • These higher planes of existence were apparently still Earth, but the environments and the inhabitants were increasingly more alien and life in them was increasingly luxurious.
  • As far as I recall, the protagonist's goal was to reach those higher levels (either for the luxury or for some other reason I can't recall).
  • If he failed to maintain his "speed" for too long, he would fall back to lower planes of existence, with more familiar characteristics and significantly lower quality of life.
  • His wife had died some time ago and her grave was apparently in the lower planes. He did visit her once near the end of the story, before starting to build up "speed" again.

I don't happen to know the original language of the story because what I read was a version translated into Greek.

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    Sounds like a cross between Jonathan Livingston Seagull and David Masson's Traveller's Rest. – Daniel Roseman Apr 19 '14 at 18:54
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    Oh, Traveller's Rest (now available at lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/travellers-rest , wonderful!) had a very different feel, with the protagonist always at risk of being dragged back towards that dreadful Frontier. Anyway, Sigma Ori has remembered it very well. I've just added an answer: "Speedstream" by James Lovegrove. An unusual but evocative story, which I enjoyed. – Phil van Kleur Sep 12 at 19:49
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    His soul was supposed to change planes, but sounds more like it had to change planes in Chicago. Oh yes on Traveller's Rest, fellow fans. That is one of those stories I will remember the rest of this life and probably all of the next one. It's that good. – Occam Shave Sep 29 at 1:05
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"Speedstream" by James Lovegrove, Interzone issue 163, January 2001.

Appeared in Greek as «Ταχύτητα Διαφυγής» (which literally translates as "Escape Velocity"), 9 issue 154-156, June-July 2003. 9 was a weekly comics & SF supplement to the sadly now-defunct daily paper Ελευθεροτυπία. Some example covers can be seen at http://www.eugiefoster.com/cover-art/9_magazine, and I discovered that the magazine once produced an anthology, 9ΕΦ. The Lovegrove story doesn't appear to be in it. The title 9ΕΦ, incidentally, is probably from the Greek words for "SF", «Επιστημονική φαντασία».

My information on the English version is from ISFDB; on the Greek, from James Lovegrove's web page https://www.jameslovegrove.com/books/. There are slight typos in the title given there: «ξ» should be «χ», and the words are missing their stress accents. ISFDB doesn't mention this translation.

The protagonist used to travel a lot, mainly using high speed media like aircraft.

"Stoneham journeyed on.

Now he was aboard a train, heading for somewhere called Capa Douf.

Now he was on a bus, lumbering through lush green valleys towards X'sarné.

Now he was in a hired car, driving across a vast volcanic plain like a section of moonscape brought to earth. One thousand miles ahead: Fathomopolis.

Now a boat. Then a plane. Then a train again. Then another plane."

It was established in the story that as he traveled more frequently and with more speed, he would gradually cross over towards (sort of) higher planes of existence (and that everyone in the setting could do the same, although most people simply didn't bother). These higher planes of existence were apparently still Earth, but the environments and the inhabitants were increasingly more alien and life in them was increasingly luxurious.

"Speed.

If you were doing well, you graduated through the levels without being fully conscious of doing so. An imperceptible shifting-up of gears. Only when you reached your next destination did you realise that the place you had come to was not in quite the same world as the place you had left behind. Something had changed, something fundamentally indefinable and indefinably fundamental. Somehow you knew — though you could not put your finger on how, exactly — that where you were was universally better than where you had been."

An example: "Marn Werev: reminiscent of a Belgian city. Flat, planned, orderly, gleaming, greened."

As far as I recall, the protagonist's goal was to reach those higher levels (either for the luxury or for some other reason I can't recall).

"And you kept on moving, because that was what you did, what you had to do. That was how, as a Fogg, you shook off the past. You moved on."

And

"Once more, Continuum beckoned. The ultimate goal of every Fogg. The final destination. The purpose. Nobody knew what it was. All that was known was that a few Foggs had disappeared into it. Had accumulated so much Speed, risen so high up the levels, that they vanished out of existence. An abstract concept. Perhaps an illusion. But this theoretical oblivion had been given a name nonetheless: Continuum."

If he failed to maintain his "speed" for too long, he would fall back to lower planes of existence, with more familiar characteristics and significantly lower quality of life.

"It took guts to Slow on purpose. [...] He arrived at San Barcino in a cold sweat, with a lump in the back of his throat that he could not swallow down. Once this had been a spectacular city, you could tell. Vibrant. Twenty-four-hour. Now: lost and old and succumbing to crime and vermin. A cloud settled over Stoneham's soul. Things were only going to get worse.

Palgray. Like every superannuated British seaside resort rolled into one, perched at the edge of a vast, leaden inland lake. Bursts of liveliness here and there, but the closed-down shops and restaurants outnumbered the open, and the residents outnumbered the visitors."

His wife had died some time ago and her grave was apparently in the lower planes. He did visit her once near the end of the story, before starting to build up "speed" again.

"Joanna's ashes had been sprinkled over a corner of the garden of remembrance at the Green Lawns Cemetery just outside Guildford. A tree had been planted there in her name. A silver birch, now twelve feet tall, whitely spreading its wings. There was a brass plaque on a small concrete plinth set into the ground at its base: JOANNA STONEHAM. "

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  • I read the story when I was 13, so I'm surprised my memory was even remotely accurate and that I didn't half-imagine this story. I'm so happy I finally get to re-read it. Thank you! (And you are right, 'ξ' is wrong in that word.) – Sigma Ori Sep 12 at 23:14

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