Okay, similar questions to this have been asked before, but not about the particular short story I am trying to find.

It was in an anthology of short sci fi stories, possibly award winning ones or at least someone's compilation of favourites. (I think)

It was a long time ago, maybe 1970s or 80s, so the story could date back to even the 1960s for all I know, but probably the 1970s.

It was the funniest story about time travel where a person meets incarnations of himself, that I have ever read. It was either derivative of 'By His Bootstraps' or the other way around, but my recollection is that this story was funnier.

Maybe my memory is playing tricks on me and it WAS 'By His Bootsraps', but I am almost certain that it wasn't, because when I read that recently it seemed unfamiliar and not as funny.

In the one I am trying to recall, the guy is also bemused and irritated by the behaviour of other incarnations of himself, like the Heinlen story, but the repartee between versions of himself and his extreme frustration is much more hilarious.

I have a vague recollection that he is in a spaceship during the story, but not absolutely sure. There seemed to be a lot of clambering around, ladders, bulkheads, etc, unlike the Heinlen story.

I'm almost certain it isn't any of the commonly suggested stories and I'm quite sure it wasn't a short film where he shoots his older self, or a full length novel. Someone will have read it and (un)remembered it fondly like me, I feel sure!

  • 2
    Any additional clues about the story itself, rather what it isn't? Dec 14, 2014 at 11:44
  • It's tricky. I can't think of other stories it could be but isn't off the top of my head. I may have to wait for a few suggestions to narrow the field a bit. I'm fairly confident I can remember enough about it to know when a suggestion is wrong. I'll keep Googling and may find other similar themes that are not it...in which case I'll post them. It's driving me crazy! :-)
    – Gattaca
    Dec 14, 2014 at 12:37
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    Okay, I can rule out 'The Man Who Folded Himself' and it also definitely wasn't 'Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency' which I have read and mostly enjoyed. My vague recollection is that it was in an anthology of short stories by pretty good writers, like (but not necessarily including) Theodore Sturgeon, Phillip K Dick, Robert Heinlen, Ursula Le Guin, Frederik Pohl and the like. However, it might have ben by someone less well known and I suspect that to be the case.
    – Gattaca
    Dec 14, 2014 at 12:47
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    Could it have been Stanislaw Lem's "The Seventh Voyage of Ijon Tichy?" Dec 14, 2014 at 12:59

3 Answers 3


Perhaps The Star Diaries, a collection of short stories by Stanisław Lem. In Particular, "The Seventh Voyage".

Below is a funny conversation between a few of the parallel versions on his rocket ship after a malfunction results in many versions of himself from different times being created.

"Just a minute," I replied, remaining on the floor. "Today is Tuesday. Now if you are the Wednesday me, and if by that time on Wednesday the rudder still hasn't been fixed, then it follows that something will prevent us from fixing it, since otherwise you, on Wednesday, would not now, on Tuesday, be asking me to help you fix it. Wouldn't it be best, then, for us not to risk going outside?"

"Nonsense!" he exclaimed. "Look, I'm the Wednesday me and you're the Tuesday me, and as for the rocket, well, my guess is that its existence is patched, which means that in places it's Tuesday, in places Wednesday, and here and there perhaps there's even a bit of Thursday. Time has simply become shuffled up in passing through these vortices, but why should that concern us, when together we are two and therefore have a chance to fix the rudder?!"

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    Gentlemen, please do not start hitting each other over the head with metal pipes! Many thanks to all of you, as I believe you have indeed discovered the elusive story which I sought. Those of you who haven't read it, it's very funny and doesn't take long. Then compare it to, 'By His Bootstraps' by Robert Heinlen, which also can be read in a single sitting. Could someone who knows the dates let us know who was derivative of who? (Or whom, grammar is not my strong point.)
    – Gattaca
    Dec 14, 2014 at 13:59
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    By His Bootstraps is from the early 40s. Lem was much later. Not evidence of derivation of course. Dec 14, 2014 at 14:01
  • Thanks. Agree it's not evidence, but the two are remarkably similar in some respects. Blame it on the zeitgeit or whatever they call the shared consciousness. Heinlen's piece is perhaps more weighty, but I like the levity in Lem's writing style. It's tongue in cheek... very funny.
    – Gattaca
    Dec 14, 2014 at 14:06
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    Well, James Macleod was first to correctly identify it as far as I can see, so I checked that answer. Thanks to all.
    – Gattaca
    Jan 9, 2015 at 0:43
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    It's not checked...
    – FuzzyBoots
    Nov 9, 2015 at 18:47

Could it be "The Seventh Voyage" by Stanislaw Lem? (It would appear that the links have been changed and rearranged on the website. This new link goes to an excerpt from "The Star Diaries", which contains the story.

  • (-1) When I click on the link, I get that "the requested page cannot be found" with Error 404.
    – Mr Pie
    Feb 27, 2018 at 2:45
  • @user477343, it appears the links were changed on the website since I wrote that answer 3 years ago. I've updated the link. Mar 1, 2018 at 12:14

Could it be the 1973 science-fiction book, The Man Who Folded Himself, written by American writer, David Gerrold?

In 1975, Daniel Eakins, a young college student, is visited by his "Uncle Jim". Uncle Jim offers to increase Daniel's monthly allowance for living expenses as long as Daniel promises to keep a diary.

Shortly after, Uncle Jim dies, and Daniel inherits a "Timebelt" from him that allows the wearer to travel through time. Daniel quickly learns how to use the Timebelt and makes a few short jumps into his own future. He meets an alternate version of himself, who accompanies him to a race-track where the pair make a fortune betting on horse-racing.

The following day, Daniel realises that it is his turn to guide his younger self through the previous day at the races; through this and other events the time-travelling Daniel learns more about the belt, about the nature of the 'timestream', and about his personal identity.

Wikipedia — Plot Summary (Please Note: This link might expire.)

  • Why do you think this is the answer? Having the details behind a link risks the long-term integrity of the answer, as the link may expire. We prefer all of the pertinent information to be in the answer itself.
    – Politank-Z
    Jul 7, 2018 at 1:02
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    @Politank-Z ok. I will describe the book in my answer and not use the link. Apologies for that.
    – Mr Pie
    Jul 7, 2018 at 1:12

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