Time is the Traitor

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"Time Is the Traitor" is a science fiction short story by American writer 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.


John Strapp is a business consultant whose savant-like intuitive genius makes him so valuable that his support staff indulges all his eccentricities — including homicidal fugue states.

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.[2]

Rich Horton described "Time Is the Traitor" as "glorious" and "madly odd".[3] Fiona Kelleghan considered that John Strapp's name ""suggests both punishment and restraint", observing that Strapp was "tormented by flashbacks" and "compelled to repeat the same actions over and over",[4] while Arthur D. Hlavaty of The New York Review of Science Fiction called Strapp an example of the "union of the artist and the criminal that is often considered Bester's defining theme."[5] Kirkus Reviews judged it to be "more style than substance."[6]


Bester adapted the story for CBS Radio Mystery Theater, with the title "One Girl in a Million."[7] In 1998, Warner Brothers purchased film adaptation rights to the story for $500,000.[8]


  1. ^ Von Ruff, Al. "Publication Listing". Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved October 5, 2012. 
  2. ^ "NESFA Core Reading List of Fantasy and Science Fiction". New England Science Fiction Association. 29 October 1997. Retrieved October 5, 2012. 
  3. ^ Horton, Rich (20 February 2004). "The Best Science Fiction of 1953: A Look a Potential Retro Hugos". Locus Online. Retrieved October 5, 2012. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ Hlavaty, Arthur D. "Virtual Unrealities by Alfred Bester". Retrieved October 5, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Virtual Unrealities". Kirkus Reviews. October 1, 1997. Retrieved October 5, 2012. 
  7. ^ Column: Summer Screams: CBS Radio Mystery Theater, by Randy Stafford, at Innsmouth Free Press; published June 22, 2012; retrieved June 19, 2018
  8. ^ Warner Bros. Buys Bester's Time, at SciFi.com; published June 15, 1998; retrieved June 19, 2018