I read this story in about late 50s, possible in F&SF magazine.

A man travels back in time to before life came on land. He likes it there because it is so peaceful. Then he sees the first tentative primitive plants coming on to the land. He stomps them down. Does anyone know what story that was?

Here's another one from the same time period - some sort of time paradox. I remember the name of this story but not how to find it: "Tripod".

  • The second story you mention, was it in the same issue as the one you're looking for? For the record, I'm fair sure the second one is "Tripod" by Les Cole, but I don't think it's online. I haven't been able to find it, anyway Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 21:40
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    Since William S. Hart mentions that he thinks he read it in F&SF, it may be one of the others in the August 1957 issue which also contained "Tripod". That issue is available for about 10 bucks on amazon, so there's always that option. But then, the comment was just that Tripod was from "the same time period" rather than the same issue, so you might have to look through isfdb entries for other issues around the same time.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 21:47
  • @user1411 - Yes, I did note that, but it was in an edit to my comment so maybe you didn't see it before you started your own comment.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 22:02
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    I have every issue of F&SF from 1949 to 1964. If you're sure it was in F&SF and not Venture or Infinity or If, and it was in the "late 50s", then I guess I could find it, at the cost of ruining what's left of my eyesight. It would help if you could give me a definite "no later than" and "no earlier than" and any other clues.
    – user14111
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 22:31
  • William S. Hart - plants are lifeforms,and sea life is life just as much as life on the land. Therefore the title of this question is scientifically invalid, (you did write Earth the planet and not earth dry land). though that does not prevent people from answering it if they want. Don't change your title; you might as well amuse those who read it. Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 3:53

1 Answer 1


This sounds like 'The Intruder', a short story by Theodore L Thomas in the February 1961 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. However, the man isn't a time traveller - he lands in a small spaceship on what appears to be an Earthlike but entirely lifeless planet. (Lifeless unless you count things like trilobites; the man is on a fishing trip, spearfishing trilobites.) He camps by a waterfall, but suddenly notices a tiny lichen on the rocks, stamps it furiously out of existence,

Max glanced at the water's edge ten feet away. This speck of alga had been out of the water for fifteen days, and it lived and grew. It lived. Max's eyes widened. Here and now it had happened. It could have happened a million years from now, but it had happened now. This was the way it had been on Earth during Cambrian times 400 million years ago. A first plant, coming out of the water onto the land, and living there. The first fragile step on the road to man. There was no more to it than this, a bit of green growing on a speck of sand on an island of rock. An intrusion onto his clean and lonely rock. Max stared at the green spot six inches from his face, and his eyes watered in angry frustration.

He jumped to his feet and ground the little fleck under his foot, stamping on it and twisting his heel again and again, ripping the tiny cells to shreds, rubbing them against the rock and the sand until the spot was scarred and lacerated. He bent and brushed the muddy dust into a little pile and took it into his hands and strode to the water's edge and flung it out over the water.

and heads back to his ship, apparently intending never to return. I've never read the story since, and I remember feeling that I hadn't really understood it, possibly because I would have been about 13 at the time! The brief editorial header to the story was

A simple little saunter down a trail that Hemingway has walked before--with, however, science fiction scenery, and an unexpected turning. . . .

an allusion which I've never traced, either.

I can't find a link to the text, or any evidence that that the story was ever reprinted in English, except in Damon Knight's anthology A Pocketful of Stars, which surprises me, because I remember it over 50 years later...

The second story you mention was correctly identified in a comment by Jason Baker as "Tripod" by Les Cole.

  • PeterClose - That may be it! It's been a long long time. You guys are great scifi detectives. Too bad those stories aren't available online. Commented Aug 1, 2015 at 18:30
  • Google is not your friend, but the ISFDB is. Theodore L. Thomas's story "The Intruder" has been reprinted, mainly in Damon Knight's anthology A Pocketful of Stars.
    – user14111
    Commented Aug 2, 2015 at 3:53
  • Looks like all, or most of, the stories in Pocketful have been anthologized many times - except for Intruder. Commented Aug 2, 2015 at 4:32
  • @WilliamS.Hart I edited a quotation from "The Intruder" into Peter Close's answer. It sure looks like the correct answer to your question. If you agree, you can accept the answer by clicking on the check mark beside the answer.
    – user14111
    Commented Aug 2, 2015 at 5:59
  • That's it, 1411! Thank you!!! It took 58 years to find it again! Next I've got to tell you guys about my amazing experience vis-a-vis Robert A. Heinlein's "The Door Into Summer", F&SF, 1956! Commented Aug 2, 2015 at 15:23

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