Newspaper from the future

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A newspaper from the future is a plot device encountered in various science fiction/fantasy stories. Forrest J. Ackerman noted in his 1973 anthology of the best fiction of the year that "[t]he theme of getting hold of tomorrow's newspaper is a recurrent one".[1]


An early example of this device can be found in the H.G. Wells 1932 short story "The Queer Story of Brownlow's Newspaper",[1] which tells the tale of a man who receives such a paper from 40 years in the future. The 1944 film It Happened Tomorrow also employs this device,[1] with the protagonist receiving the next day's newspaper from an elderly colleague (who is possibly a ghost). Ackerman's anthology also highlights a short story by Robert Silverberg, "What We Learned From This Morning's Newspaper".[1] In that story, a block of homeowners wake to discover that on November 22, they have received the New York Times for the coming December 1.[2]:38 As characters learn of future events affecting them through a newspaper delivered a week early, the ultimate effect is that this "so upsets the future that spacetime is destroyed".[2]:165 The television series Early Edition, inspired by the film It Happened Tomorrow,[3] also revolved around a character who daily received the next day's newspaper,[2]:235 and sought to change some event therein forecast to happen. Back to the Future Part II used a similar device, having the antagonist prosper after receiving a booklet of sports trivia from the future, based upon which he could place bets. In the television series Goodnight Sweetheart, a man who is able to travel at will between his own time (the 1990s) and World War II era places successful wagers on sporting events of the 1940s by consulting the next day's paper, which exists in his own era (the 1990s) as an antique.

The newspaper from the future, like any communication from the future, raises questions about time travel and the ability of humans to control their destiny.[2]:165 If the recipient is allowed to presume that the future is malleable, and if the future forecast affects them in some way, then this device serves as a convenient explanation of their motivations. In It Happened Tomorrow, the events that are described in the newspaper do come to pass, and the protagonist's efforts to avoid those events set up circumstances which instead cause them to come about. By contrast, in Early Edition, the protagonist is able to successfully prevent catastrophes predicted in the newspaper (although, if the protagonist does nothing, these catastrophes do come about).

Where such a device is used, the source of the future news may not be explained, leaving it open to the reader or watcher to imagine that it might be technology, magic, an act of a god etc. In the H.G. Wells story, the author writes of the newspaper that "apparently it had been delivered not by the postman, but by some other hand". As in It Happened Tomorrow and Early Edition, no explanation is offered for the source of the future news. Ackerman suggests that "[t]he longer that authors mush on with the tale of... the next-week's-newspaper-now, the more difficult it becomes to pull a new rarebit out of the hat".[1]



  1. ^ a b c d e Forrest J. Ackerman, ed., Best Science Fiction for 1973 (1973), p. 36.
  2. ^ a b c d Paul J. Nahin, Time Machines: Time Travel in Physics, Metaphysics, and Science Fiction (1999).
  3. ^ R. G. Young, ed., The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Film: Ali Baba to Zombies (2000), p. 318.

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