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I'm looking for a short story, similar to H.G. Wells' "The New Accelerator," about a device that speeds up time for the person who goes through it. A promoter uses it to give a boxer super-fast reflexes and the boxer gives rise to suspicions by catching a dropped bottle too quickly. The protagonist is forced into the machine and accelerated to the point where he lives the entire remainder of his life in a single day and his body is found naked and elderly. While accelerated, he does things like taking a bite out of a stream of pouring whiskey and punching a pedestrian in the stomach to see what happens. Anybody out there have any idea what this story is?

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  • About how long ago did you read it? Do you recall if you read it online or in print, in a magazine (sci-fi, sports, men's, general), or a book (hardcover or paperback, single-author or multi-author collection, sports-themed or general)? Your story description is pretty good, but any more details that come to mind can only help: a character name, a location, anything. By the way, can we rule out the obscure old story in Richard's answer?
    – user14111
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 2:23
  • It was almost certainly in a paperback anthology, and I like Groff Conklin and Judith Merrill's anthologies, so maybe something published in the 70s? It's possible that I'm mixing up two stories, but "The Einstein Slugger" isn't one of them (although I look forward to reading it!). Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 13:21

2 Answers 2

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This sounds like Half Past Eternity by John D. MacDonald, first published in the July 1950 edition of Super Science Stories. From what I remember of the story it matches your description exactly - though it is a few years since I read it. The story can be read here.

As I remember the story, the first part deals with the effects of the technology on athletes. People treated with the device basically live at a faster rate than those around them and can run or react faster. At one point a bottle gets knocked off a table and is easily caught by one of the treated athletes before it can hit the ground.

The second part of the story comes about because of conflict between the people using the device. I think one person is killed by being put into the device and having their time rate accelerated by a huge factor - they die of old age before they can open the door and escape. The protagonist of the story is destined for the same fate, but manages to force the door open before he starves to death. The remainder of the story is about him living out his life in a world where he can only interact with difficulty with the objects around him. The only food he can eat is what is currently being served - the time required to open a packet or a can is too great for him. I remember the punched pedestrian incident, and there was another where he finds a woman sunbathing on a roof top. He stays there so long (falling asleep while he watches her I think) that she perceives him, and he then sees her running from the roof in slow motion (seconds for her, days or weeks for him).

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    "Half Past Eternity" is available on archive.org here--I skimmed it and it does match all the details, the dropped bottle incident happens on p. 18, hitting the man in the stomach happens on p. 42, they find the sped-up man old and dead on p. 47.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 4:10
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    @Hypnosifl And he bites off a stream of liquor on p. 45.
    – user14111
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 6:08
  • Barry, this is it! Thank you so much for the response, I can't wait to read it again (I ordered the MacDonald collection it's in because I like to read on paper). Commented May 10, 2023 at 22:27
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The first half of your description is "The Einstein Slugger" by Manly Wade Wellman

A boxer is sped up to incredible speeds (by his trainer and their professor friend) using unspecified electrical impulses from a radio set. He doesn't get caught out though, his freakish speed is immediately noticed by sports broadcasters. You can read the full version here

The second part of your description has nothing to do with this short story and is likely conflated from another story.

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  • Interesting that Wellman's character explicitly mentions Wells' "The New Accelerator". But where's the dropped bottle incident? Did I miss it when I skimmed the story, or is it not there?
    – user14111
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 1:48
  • @user14111 - I went through it carefully. It's not there. I think it's much more likely that he's mixing up two different stories; this one and another with a "kind of stopwatch" world-is-frozen-in-time-but-not-the-hero motif; en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Kind_of_a_Stopwatch
    – Valorum
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 1:59
  • If the OP read "The Einstein Slugger", it seems he would have had to read it in a dead-trees copy of the December 1939 Thrilling Wonder Stories or else a scanned copy of that issue on the web. Maybe, but maybe it's more likely there's another story about an accelerated boxer out there.
    – user14111
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 1:59
  • @user14111 - The issue with clothes catching fire is explicitly referenced in "The New Accelerator"
    – Valorum
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 2:00

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