That Hell-Bound Train
|"That Hell-Bound Train"|
|Published in||The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction|
|Media type||Print (Softcover)|
|Publication date||Sep 1958|
Martin is a young hobo with a fondness for trains. One night, as he is considering whether to abandon crime, a large unmarked black train pulls up beside him. The train conductor offers Martin anything he wants, in return for which he will "ride that Hell-Bound Train" when he dies. Martin requests the power to stop time, which he plans to use at the happiest time of his life. The conductor accedes to this request; however, over the years that follow, Martin discovers that he cannot choose which moment is his happiest. In the end, he dies, never having stopped time, and indeed boards the train. However, he likes the sinful look of the passengers and chooses to stop time then and there. The train never reaches the depot and Martin, now the brakeman, finally finds happiness.
The story was shaped by William Tenn, who at the time had an editorial position at Fantasy and Science Fiction salvaging stories that had been selected by Anthony Boucher (prior to Boucher's retirement) as "not quite good enough to be published, but still too good to have been rejected". In 2001, Tenn explained that the original version of "That Hell-Bound Train" had been "an absolutely fine piece of work that just didn't have a usable ending"; consequently, he devised a new ending "and persuaded [Bloch] to write it".
In other media
A comic book version of the story began publication on May 15, 2011. The adaptation was written by Joe R. Lansdale and John Lansdale, with art by Dave Wachter. Running for 3 issues, it was published by IDW Comics.
The song "Hellbound Train (Downbound Train)" by Chuck Berry is about a similar train.
A dramatized radio version was broadcast on Mindwebs, narrated by Michael Hanson.
- SF Awards Database
- Lansdales and Wachter jump aboard That Hellbound Train, by Bridget Alverson, at Comic Book Resources; published March 25, 2011; retrieved January 6, 2017
- "Immodest Proposals: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn (volume 1)", published 2001 by NESFA Press; p 199