8

Another time travel short story, also from (probably) the 50s. This one is specifically not "Brooklyn Project". That involved multiple, independent changes of history. This one uses two alternating time lines, each of which produces the other.

A time machine is operated by a scientist at a gathering (which may not be human), and it is operated by pushing a lever. The object sent back in time changes history dramatically, producing a biologically different intelligent species. This alternate species also produces an essentially identical time machine, operated at essentially the same "time" as the first, but which is operated by pulling a lever. The changes caused by the new machine restore the changes caused by the first, so the lever gets pulled, etc. However, the duration of jump steadily declines, so that in terms of the narrative, the alternation between the version of the speech given by the spokesthing(s) (in two alternating versions) happens more and more rapidly, producing a "push" "pull" "push" "pull" dynamic with an undefined singularity when the period of alternation approaches zero - sort of a Zeno's Temporal Paradox.

9

Another time travel short story, also from (probably) the 50s.

"It Ends with a Flicker" aka "Of All Possible Worlds" by William Tenn (pseudonym of Philip Klass), originally published in the December 1956 Galaxy; you can read it at the Internet Archive.

A time machine is operated by a scientist at a gathering (which may not be human), and it is operated by pushing a lever. The object sent back in time changes history dramatically, producing a biologically different intelligent species.

Not exactly. The time machine only travels from 2089 to 1976, so it's human beings in both timelines. In the original(?) timeline:

"I am sure, young man, that I don't have to go into the details of your instructions once more. You enter the time machine and go back the duration for which it has been preset, a hundred and thirteen years, to the moment after the Guided Missile of 1976 was launched. It is 1976, isn't it?" he asked, suddenly uncertain.

"Yes, sir," one of the technicians standing by the time machine said respectfully. "The experiment with an atomic warhead guided missile that resulted in the Blight was conducted on this site on April 18, 1976." He glanced proudly at the unemotional men on the couches, very much like a small boy after completing a recitation before visiting dignitaries from the Board of Education.

"Just so," Abd Sadha nodded. "April 18, 1976. And on this site. You see, young man, you will materialize at the very moment and on the very spot where the remote-control station handling the missile was—er—handling the missile. You will be in a superb position, a superb position, to deflect the missile in its downward course and alter human history for the better. Yes."

He paused, having evidently stumbled out of his thought sequence.

"And he pulls the red switch toward him," Gomez, the dandelion-root magnate, reminded him sharply, impatiently.

"Ah, yes, the red switch. He pulls the little red switch toward him. Thank you, Mr. Gomez, thank you very much, sir. He pulls the little red switch on the green instrument panel toward him, thus preventing the error that caused the missile to explode in the Brazilian jungle and causing it, instead, to explode somewhere in the mid-Pacific, as originally planned."

Needless to say, when 2089 rolls around again, the explosion in the Pacific has had (different but) equally dire consequences, and once again they try the time-machine fix. The ending:

He materialized the time machine around the green instrument panel, disregarding the roomful of military figures since he knew they could not see him. The single red switch pointed downward on the instrument panel. That was the device that controlled the course of the missile. Now! Now to make a halfway interesting world!
Mac Albin pushed the little red switch from him.

flick!

Now! Now to make a halfway decent world!
Max Alben pulled the little red switch toward him.

flick!

Now! Now to make a halfway interesting world!
Mac Albin pushed the little red switch from him.

flick!

. . . pulled the little red switch toward him.

flick!

. . . pushed* the little red switch from him.

flick!

. . . toward him.

flick!

. . . from him.

flick!

  • Dude, you're very good, but I'm not sure that's it. The problem is that my memory may be confusing part of it with "Brooklyn Project". So I'll wait and see if anybody has any alternatives. – WhatRoughBeast Jul 11 '15 at 2:21
  • I'm inclined to agree, but my (admittedly-fallible-but-amazingly-good-at-preserving-useless-details) memory tells me that it was "push, pull", rather than "flick,flick". Oh well, maybe someone will come up with an answer. – WhatRoughBeast Jul 11 '15 at 3:07
  • Probably not, but that's what I remember. And you noticed that I got quite a few details right on "Brooklyn Project", even after 50 years. So I'm holding off on selecting your answer. – WhatRoughBeast Jul 11 '15 at 3:58

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