Short Reviews – Time Heals, by Poul Anderson

Friday , 11, May 2018 13 Comments

Time Heals by Poul Anderson appeared in the October 1949 issue of Astounding. It can be read here at

Adventures in the Far Future!

I know what I said about Poul Anderson stories, but I would be remiss if I did not thoroughly review issues of Astounding to give as complete a picture (snapshot, really) of the publication.

Time Heals is a thinky story in which a man with terminal cancer freezes himself in a stasis chamber as part of a program to freeze the terminally ill until a time at which they can be treated. Rather than cryogenics, the Crypt uses temporal stasis. They, uh… prevent the flow of chroniton particles, or something.

Hart was a witty and clever playboy, an artist, a dilettante, and an intellectual. He’s smart and rich, and the Crypt project has an arrangement to invest all program participants’ assets so that when they emerge from stasis, they ought to have more than enough funds. Hart ought to awaken and find himself a well-to-do curiosity, able to fit into whatever society he ends up in.

Except he awakens surrounded by odd people with vaguely Swedish accents who’ve constructed a highly traditional utilitarian society in which an agitated young man such as Hart may find no place.

Earth’s population has been decimated by wars, but things have turned around and produced a few rather stable centuries. While a few solar and extra solar colonies exist, they are largely out of contact with the homeworld. There are only 30 million or so left on earth. A high-trust eudaemonic insular society in which family groups, tribes, matings, and what have you are determined by optimized personality matches means that there’s less need for a large population, as the population there is is now hyper-efficient.

Hart may be cured of his disease, but he’s a caitiff, an outcast, a pariah in polite society. Due to his psych profile, he’ll never be accepted into a tribe or familial group, and due to a genetic predisposition to cancer, he’ll never be allowed to mate. Eventually, he takes a busy-work post at a weather monitoring station that’s created for him to keep him out of society’s hair. At the weather post, he shuns all contact from the outsider world and refuses to be relieved. He’s discovered to have gone insane when he stops filing his daily reports (all of which were immediately trashed; he wasn’t actually doing useful work, he was just being kept out of the way), and with great sorrow, his doctor feels his only recourse is to refreeze him until a time at which psychiatry can deal with a case such as he.

Looking for adventure in your sci-fi? Cirsova #8 is coming

  • Raymond says:

    Wow..such a life. You eventually get healed and then you are no longer accepted into the society. Too bad.

  • Nicholas Archer says:

    Does anyone know f this was before or after he became a Libertarian? I’ll probably read it regardless, I’m just curious. Also his writing style might have changed with his politics.

    • Alex says:

      Probably before, given that the this is just one month before this story.

    • Alex says:

      This didn’t have the same odious implications as Double-Dyed Villains, but in all of the pulp-era Anderson I’ve read, there’s been an undercurrent of anti-heroism, moral morass, and an overall lack of exciting adventure.

      It’s kind of ironic that he’s such a hero of the Pulp Revolution, while every time I come across one of his pulp-era stories, I’m just all “No, no, no, no, this is NOT how you do it!”

      The only Anderson I’ve read so far that I enjoyed was the Tupilak from Flashing Swords! #4, and that was from the 70s.

      He’s technically a great writer, but his pulp-era work seems largely antithetical to the zeitgeist of the pre-50s pulps and the ideals espoused by the PulpRev crowd.

  • Blume says:

    Check out Earthmsn’s burden. It probably has what you are looking for.

  • J. Manfred Weichsel says:

    I recently read The High Crusade and I loved it. It’s about knights battling space aliens, and it’s nothing at all like the stories of his you’ve been reviewing.

    • Alex says:

      It may take years to get there, but I’ve actually got the issues of Astounding that the High Crusade was serialized in in my “to be reviewed” queue.

  • Mark McSherry says:

    Just like to point out that Poul Anderson was born in 1926, and graduated with his physics degree in 1948. His first published story was “Tomorrow’s Children” in 1947.

    Quoting from the POUL ANDERSON APPRECIATION blog—

    “This early phase was when Anderson was still learning how to write, to find his natural voice as a writer, and when he began writing about many of the ideas and themes dearest to his mind. This early period is also when we can detect a few false starts…One of the false starts I believe can be found in Anderson’s early phase is “Genius” (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, December 1948). I base this on comments by a critic whose name I cannot convincingly recall (it may have been Sandra Miesel) who argued this very early story contradicted the moral values and beliefs of Poul Anderson. I wish I could cite the author by name and quote the exact text. I apologize for this vague and unsatisfactory paragraph and hope I can replace it if I find the text I am incompletely remembering.”

  • deuce says:

    “his pulp-era work seems largely antithetical to the zeitgeist of the pre-50s pulps and the ideals espoused by the PulpRev crowd.”

    You’ve read, what, 3 or 4 stories of his? Stories so obscure that even I– who’ve been reading Anderson for 40 years and once had a library of 30+ novels/collections of Poul’s work– haven’t read them? “Time Heals” was published in 1949 (and perhaps written in 1948). Poul was all of 23 years old. He and the rest of the world were living under the shadow of the Bomb. “Time Heals” was his seventh story ever published. By 1951, Anderson was writing Howardian sword & planet tales like “The Virgin of Valkarion” and “Witch of the Demon Seas”. Minor classics of pulp adventure. If you don’t believe me, ask Morgan Holmes. 1951 is also when Anderson launched his Dominic Flandry series. I guess those suck as well.

    Quite honestly, from what stories I’ve read, Poul really didn’t hit his stride until the pulps started waning and Ace began putting out their “Double” paperbacks. It’s not really his fault that the timing was what it was. Also, the early ’50s were when Anderson became lifelong friends with his fellow SFF greats, Jack Vance and Gordy Dickson, who probably had a positive influence on his writing.

    Scroll down to “Short Stories” and you can see the timeline:

    It’s hard to believe you’re writing off one of the great authors of SFF solely on the basis of a very few (and very early) stories, but that’s sure how it looks from here. Good Anderson fiction is not at all hard to find. Plundering free scans off the web isn’t the only way to go about it.

    Hope that helps. 🙂

    • cirsova says:

      I don’t plan on giving up on him, because I KNOW he gets better. But for these early odd-ball and edgelord stories, I’ll call ’em like I see ’em, just like I plan on doing for his good stuff.

  • Mark McSherry says:

    And yet, the author of “The Double-Dyed Villains” and “Time Heals” would write the May 1950 ASTOUNDING cover story, “The Helping Hand”, a few months later. Read this as a kid in Groff Conklin’s GREAT STORIES OF SPACE TRAVEL, and never forgot it. Or its author’s name, Poul Anderson.

    • Terry Sanders says:

      This. Poul Anderson had a foot in both worlds from the beginning. Even when he admired the Great Socialist Futures he pointed out the price to be paid. And even in his libertarian rhapsodies he pointed out the price to be paid.

      What you see as nihilism was *range.* He wrote farce and tragedy, pulp and social commentary, all at the same time and frequently mixed together. He was equally at home on Toka and Mirkheim, and knew that the Crusaders and the Aesir at Ragnarok were equally heroic. And that the same Davy Crockett who inspired a hundred hilarious tall tales went clear-eyed to his death at the Alamo–and thought both were right and fitting.

      Embrace the power of “and.”

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