Time is the Traitor

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"Time Is the Traitor" is a science fiction short story by Alfred Bester originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in September, 1953.[1] It is included in the Bester collections The Dark Side of the Earth (1964), Star Light, Star Bright (1976) and Virtual Unrealities (1997) and has been extensively anthologized. Warner Bros. bought the film rights to the story in 1998.[2] The movie is "In-Development" with producers Matthew McConaughey and Denise Di Novi.[3]

It is the story of John Strapp, the world's most powerful man, who is obsessed with finding a girl identical to his long-dead love, Sima Morgan.

Bester adapted this story for the CBS Radio Mystery Theater in 1976 with the title "One Girl in a Million."[4]

Critical response[edit]

The story was selected for Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 15 (1953) (DAW books, 1986) and for The Best Science Fiction Stories: 1954 (Fredrick Fell, 1954), as well as for The NESFA Core Reading List of Fantasy and Science Fiction.[5]

Rich Horton wrote, "One of Alfred Bester's glorious run of 50s stories is 'Time is the Traitor', a madly odd story of obsessive love."[6] Reviewing The Dark Side of the Earth, Joachim Boaz wrote, "Bester is at his best when he blends his satirical/comedic side with a fascinating concept — for example, an inventive theory of time travel in 'The Man Who Murdered Mohammed' [i.e., The Men Who Murdered Mohammed] — or a gritty strain of film noir-esque action adjoined smartly to the sci-fi premise ('Time is the Traitor')."[7] Fiona Kelleghan wrote, "The id often wins in Bester's stories, imprisoning the conscious mind with obsessions. Characters may be tormented by flashbacks, or compelled to repeat the same actions over and over, as is John Strapp—whose name suggests both punishment and restraint—in 'Time is the Traitor'."[8] Arthur D. Hlavaty, a former editor of The New York Review of Science Fiction, has written, "Believing that people are brutal and devouring ids under a thin veneer of civilization, Bester often saw human creativity as inextricably bound to that destructiveness. It is this union of the artist and the criminal that is often considered Bester's defining theme. John Stapp [sic], in "Time Is the Traitor," developed a genius for business prediction after the same disaster that made him a serial killer, and his associates dare not fool with the latter for fear of destroying the former."[9] Kirkus Reviews judged it to be "more style than substance."[10]


  1. ^ Von Ruff, Al. "Publication Listing". Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved October 5, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Warner Bros. Buys Bester's Time"
  3. ^ "Time Is the Traitor" at Hollywood.com
  4. ^ Stafford, Randy (2012-06-22). "Column: Summer Screams: CBS Radio Mystery Theater". Innsmouth Free Press. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 
  5. ^ "NESFA Core Reading List of Fantasy and Science Fiction". New England Science Fiction Association. 29 October 1997. Retrieved October 5, 2012. 
  6. ^ Horton, Rich (20 February 2004). "The Best Science Fiction of 1953: A Look a Potential Retro Hugos". Locus Online. Retrieved October 5, 2012. 
  7. ^ Boaz, Joachim (April 30, 2012). "Book Review: The Dark Side of the Earth, Alfred Bester (1964)". Retrieved October 5, 2012. 
  8. ^ Kelleghan, Fiona (November 1994). "Hell's My Destination: Imprisonment in the Works of Alfred Bester". Science Fiction Studies (Greencastle, Indiana: DePauw University) 21 (64, number 3). ISSN 0091-7729. Retrieved October 24, 2013. 
  9. ^ Hlavaty, Arthur D. "Virtual Unrealities by Alfred Bester". Retrieved October 5, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Virtual Unrealities". Kirkus Reviews. October 1, 1997. Retrieved October 5, 2012.