Escape to Other Worlds with Science Fiction

Escape to Other Worlds with Science Fiction

illustration by gary kelley

In the Papers (1)

In the seventh week of the mining strike in West Virginia, armed skirmishes and running “guerrilla battles” in the hills have led to the Governor calling in

You can reap the benefits with no need to leave the safety of your house or go among unruly college students! Only from


April issue on newsstands now! All new stories by Poul Anderson, Anson MacDonald and H. Beam Piper! Only 35 cents.

Skirts are being worn long in London and Paris this season, but here in New York the working girls are still hitching them up. It’s stylish to wear a little

Scientists say it could be a problem for years, but so much depends on the weather that

You hope to work
You hope to eat
The work goes to
The man that’s neat!

Getting By (1)

Linda Evans is a waitress in Bundt’s Bakery. She used to work as a typist, but when she was let go she was glad to take this job, even though it keeps her on her feet all day and sometimes she feels her face will crack from smiling at the customers. She was never a secretary, only in the typing pool. Her sister Joan is a secretary, but she can take shorthand and type ninety words a minute. Joan graduated from high school. She taught Linda to type. But Linda was never as clever as Joan, not even when they were little girls in the time she can just remember, when their father had a job at the plant and they lived in a neat little house at the end of the bus line. Their father hasn’t worked for a long time now. He drinks up any money he can bully out of the girls. Linda stands up to him better than Joan does.

“They’d have forgiven the New Deal if only it had worked,” a man says to another, as Linda puts down his coffee and sandwich down in front of him.

“Worked?” asks his companion scornfully. “It was working. It would have worked and got us out of this if only people had kept faith in it.”

They are threadbare old men, in mended coats. They ordered grilled cheese sandwiches, the cheapest item on the menu. One of them smiles at Linda, and she smiles back, automatically, then moves on and forgets them. She’s on her feet all day. Joan teases her about flirting with the customers and falling in love, but it never seems to happen. She used to tease Joan about falling in love with her boss, until she did. It would all have been dandy except that he was a married man. Now Joan spends anguished hours with him and anguished days without him. He makes her useless presents of French perfume and lace underwear. When Linda wants to sell them, Joan just cries. Both of them live in fear that she’ll get pregnant, and then where will they be? Linda wipes the tables and tries not to listen to the men with their endless ifs. She has enough ifs of her own: if mother hadn’t died, if she'd kept her job in the pool, if John hadn’t died in the war with England, and Pete in the war with Japan.

“Miss?” one of them asks. She swings around, thinking they want more coffee. One refill only is the rule. “Can you settle a question?” he asks. “Did Roosevelt want to get us to join in the European War in 1940?”

“How should I know? It has nothing to do with me. I was five years old in 1940.” They should get over it and leave history to bury its own dead, she thinks, and goes back to wiping the tables.

In the Papers (2)

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Why do Canadians act so high and mighty? It’s because they know

In the Line (1)

When Tommy came out of the navy, he thought he’d walk into a job just like that. He had his veteran’s discharge, which entitled him to medical treatment for his whole life, and he was a hero. He’d been on the carrier Constitution, which had won the Battle of the Atlantic practically singlehanded and had sent plenty of those Royal Navy bastards to the bottom of the sea where they belonged. He had experience in maintenance as well as gunnery. Besides, he was a proud hard-working American. He never thought he’d be lining up at a soup kitchen.

In the Papers (3)

Why are the bands still playing Cole Porter?



Sources close to the Emperor say yes, but the Nazis deny that they have given out any plans. Our top scientists are still working to



Getting By (2)

Linda always works overtime when she’s asked. She appreciates the money, and she’s always afraid she’ll be let go if she isn’t obliging. There are plenty of girls who’d like her job. They come to ask every day if there’s any work. She isn’t afraid the Bundts will give her job away for no reason. She’s worked here for four years now, since just after the Japanese War. “You’re like family,” Mrs. Bundt always says. They let Olive go, the other waitress, but that was because there wasn’t enough work for two. Linda works overtime and closes up the cafe when they want her to. “You’re a good girl,” Mrs. Bundt says. But the Bundts have a daughter, Cindy. Cindy’s a pretty twelve-year old, not even in high school. She comes into the cafe and drinks a milkshake sometimes with her girlfriends, all of them giggling. Linda hates her. She doesn’t know what they have to giggle about. Linda is afraid that when Cindy is old enough she’ll be given Linda’s job. Linda might be like family, but Cindy really is family. The bakery does all right, people have to eat, but business isn’t what it was. Linda knows.

She’s late going home. Joan’s dressing up to go out with her married boss. She washes in the sink in the room they share. The shower is down the corridor, shared with the whole floor. It gets cleaned only on Fridays, or when Joan or Linda do it. Men are such pigs, Linda thinks, lying on her bed, her weight off her feet at last. Joan is three years older than Linda but she looks younger. It’s the make-up, Linda thinks, or maybe it’s having somebody to love. If only she could have fallen in love with a boss who’d have married her and taken her off to a nice little suburb. But perhaps it’s just as well. Linda couldn’t afford the room alone, and she’d have had to find a stranger to share with. At least Joan was her sister and they were used to each other.

“I saw Dad today,” Joan says, squinting in the mirror and drawing on her mouth carefully.

“Tell me you didn’t give him money?”

“Just two dollars,” Joan admits. Linda groans. Joan is a soft touch. She makes more than Linda, but she never has any left at the end of the week. She spends more, or gives it away. There’s no use complaining, as Linda knows.

“Where’s he taking you?” she asks wearily.

“To a rally,” Joan says.

“Cheap entertainment.” Rallies and torch-lit parades and lynchings, beating up the blacks as scapegoats for everything. It didn’t help at all; it just made people feel better about things to have someone to blame. “It’s not how we were brought up,” Linda says. Their mother’s father had been a minister and had believed in the brotherhood of man. Linda loved going to her grandparents' house when she was a child. Her grandmother would bake cookies and the whole house would smell of them. There was a swing on the old apple tree in the garden. Her father had been a union man, once, when unions had still been respectable.

“What do I care about all that?” Joan says, viciously. “It’s where he’s taking me, and that’s all. He’ll buy me dinner and we’ll sing some patriotic songs. I’m not going to lynch anybody.” She dabs on her French perfume, fiercely.

Linda lies back. She isn’t hungry. She’s never hungry. She always eats at the bakery—the Bundts don’t mind—any order that was wrong, or any bread that would have been left over. Sometimes they even gave her cakes or bread to bring home. She rubs her feet. She’s very lucky really. But as Joan goes out the door she feels like crying. Even if she did meet somebody, how could they ever afford to marry? How could they hope for a house of their own?

In the Papers (4)


In Seattle today in a meeting with


Since the Great Depression the country has been jogging through a series of ups and downs and the economy has been lurching from one crisis to another. Administrations have tried remedies from Roosevelt’s New Deal to Lindbergh’s Belt Tightening but nothing has turned things around for long. Economists say that this was only to be expected and that this general trend of downturn was a natural and inevitable


In the Line (2)

When Sue was seventeen she’d had enough of school. She had a boyfriend who promised to find her a job as a dancer. She went off with him to Cleveland. She danced for a while in a topless club, and then in a strip joint. The money was never quite enough, not even after she started turning tricks. She’s only thirty-four, but she knows she looks raddled. She’s sick. Nobody wants her any more. She’s waiting in the line because there’s nowhere else to go. They feed you and take you off in trucks to make a new start, that’s what she’s heard. She can see the truck. She wonders where they go.

In the Papers (5)

Experts say yes!


Despite what communists and union organizers may claim, the President said today

Getting By (3)

The Bundts like to play the radio in the cafe at breakfast time. They talk about buying a little television for the customers to watch, if times ever get better. Mr. Bundt says this when Linda cautiously asks for a raise. If they had a television they’d be busier, he thinks, though Linda doesn’t think it would make a difference. She serves coffee and bacon and toast and listens to the news. She likes music and Joan likes Walter Winchell. She should ask Joan how she reconciles that with going to rallies. Winchell famously hates Hitler. Crazy. Linda can’t imagine feeling that strongly about an old man on the other side of the world.

Later, when Cindy and her friends are giggling over milkshakes and Linda feels as if her feet are falling off, a man comes in and takes the corner table. He orders sandwiches and coffee, and later he orders a cake and more coffee. He’s an odd little man. He seems to be paying attention to everything. He’s dressed quite well. His hair is slicked back and his clothes are clean. She wonders if he’s a detective, because he keeps looking out of the window, but if so he seems to pay just as much attention to the inside, and to Linda herself. She remembers what Joan said, and wants to laugh but can’t. He’s a strange man and she can’t figure him out.

She doesn’t have to stay late and close up, and the man follows her out when she leaves. There’s something about him that makes her think of the law way before romance. “You’re Linda,” he says, outside. She’s scared, because he could be anybody, but they are in the street under a street light, there are people passing, and the occasional car.

“Yes,” she admits, her heart hammering. “What do you want?”

“You’re not a Bundt?”

“No. They’re my employers, that’s all,” she says, disassociating herself from them as fast as she can, though they have been good to her. Immediately she has visions of them being arrested. Where would she find another job?

“Do you know where the Bundts come from?”

“Germany,” she says, confidently. Bundt’s German Bakery, it says, right above their heads.


“Before I was born. Why aren’t you asking them these questions?”

“It was 1933.”

“Before I was born,” Linda says, feeling more confident and taking a step away.

“Have you seen any evidence that they are Jews?”

She stops, confused. “Jews? They’re German. Germans hate Jews.”

“Many Jews left Germany in 1933 when Hitler came to power,” the man says, though he can’t be much older than Linda. “If the Bundts were Jews, and hiding their identity, then if you denounced them—”

He stops, but Linda has caught up with him now. If she denounced them she would be given their property. The business, the apartment above it, their savings. “But they’re not, I’ve never—they serve bacon!” she blurts.

“You’ve never seen any evidence?” he asks, sadly. “A pity. It could be a nice business for you. You’re not Jewish?”

“Welsh,” she says. “My grandfather was a minister.”

“I thought not, with that lovely blonde hair.” It’s more washed out than it should be, but her hair is the dishwater blonde it always has been, the same as Joan’s, the same as their mother.

“I might have some evidence,” he says, slowly. “But any evidence I had would be from before they came here, from Germany. Some evidence that they were still Jews, if you’d seen anything, would be enough to settle it. The court would deport them back to Germany and award us their business. You could run it, I’m sure you could. You seem to be doing most of the work already.”

“I just serve,” she says, automatically. Then, “What sort of thing would I have noticed? If they were Jewish, I mean?”

Temptation settles over her like a film of grease and hope begins to burn in her heart for the first time in a long time.

In the Line (3)

If you’re black you’re invisible, even in the soup line. The others are shrinking away from me, I can’t deny it. They wouldn’t give us guns to fight even when the Japanese were shelling the beaches up and down the California coast. I left there then and came East, much good it did me. If I’d known how invisible I’d be here, I’d have stayed right there in Los Angeles. Nobody there ever chased after me and made me run, nobody there threatened to string me up, and I had a job that made a little money. I never thought I’d be standing in this line, because when I get to the head of it I know they’ll separate me out. Nobody knows what happens to us then, they take us off somewhere and we don’t come back, but I’m desperate, and what I say is, wherever it is they got to feed us, don’t they? Well, don’t they?

In the Papers (6)


Will there be a buffer state of “Scythia” to divide the two great powers?

BATTLE IN THE APPALACHIANS: NATIONAL GUARD REINFORCEMENTS SENT IN President says it is necessary to keep the country together

Sixty people were hospitalized in Birmingham today after

New titles by Frederik Pohl and Alice Davey

Fragano Ledgister
2. Fledgist
Now that is a story! Superbly written, very much in the syle of Dos Passos and Brunner.
Ben R
3. sphericaltime
That was brilliant. Just brilliant.

And Fledgist beat me to it: Stand on Zanzibar is one of my favorites and the references to his style were immediately obvious.
Ken Walton
5. carandol
Good story, in a horrible sort of way. I was expecting Brunner and Dos Passos from what you said when you were writing it, but what it actually reminds me of most is Moorcock's "Breakfast in the Ruins." A mixture of the style and the way the appallingness of the situation creeps up on you slowly, together with the unasked "What would *you* do?"
Madeline Ferwerda
6. MadelineF
Yeek. Like watching a leg rot off from lack of antibodies to some plague. I'd forgotten how creepy your stuff was, Jo. Nice...
betsy lundsten
7. kalmn
i agree with madelinef. creepy. a very fine creepy horrible thing.
Alexander Gieg
8. alexgieg
A small note: the link provided in the e-mail newsletter to this story doesn't work, at least for me. It attempts opening a page on the non-existent address http://www.escape to other worlds with science (yes, with spaces in the name and all).
9. hobbitbabe

Thank you.
10. sylvia_rachel
Oh. Oh, how awful.

I mean, wonderful. But awful.
11. tetar
Excellent story using period references -- some sly, such as Linebarger, and the style itself -- and some overt, such as Lindbergh and Hitler, to capture the ambience of times that very easily might have been.

And how sf'nal does the contrast make our own sub-reality today?

Brava, Jo Walton.
Paul Weimer
12. PrinceJvstin
This is a good story in the "It could be worse" by Harry Turtledove story sense.

I wouldn't want to live in that world. I prefer mine, warts and all.
Pablo Defendini
13. pablodefendini
@ alexgieg
Yessir, you are, unfortunately, correct. The text link in the email is busted, but the image link works. There seems to have been a copy/paste error there. Alas, since the email already went out, there's not much I can do about it. Apologies.
Chris Pitchford
14. databoy
I feel like I've witnessed a horrific accident just narrowly avoided! With a little shot of adrenalin in how close we came!

I also like how 'Jo', the author made 'Joan' a little bit of an alter (older) ego: they're both Welsh!

If you haven't read the trilogy Farthing, Ha'penny and the latest, Half a Crown, you must if you like to see our world transformed addressing the issues we face in an original and powerful prose! I was devastated by the second book....

I agree with @carandol -- Moorcock's format for some of the Cornelius provides an excellent template for alternate histories!
Aquila G
15. Aquila1nz
Wow, chilling, right to the very last word!
Irene Gallo
16. Irene
Nice reading, Patrick.

It's so much fun to read these stories in print and then re-experience them in audio.
Bryant Durrell
17. Bryant
Re: sly references -- also the nod to Tiptree.
18. Sarah S.
A shudder up the spine. If you know people who are illegal aliens, you know how close the "In the Line" sections are to real, current nightmares.

I'm a huge fan of FARTHING and HA'PENNY. Looking forward to reading HALF A CROWN and seeing Jo Walton at Boskone.
19. DG Lewis

To anyone who believes that "Free is not a business model", I've just added Jo Walton to my "must buy these books next time I'm at the bookstore" list.
20. dorfird
I had to Google Alice Davey to get the reference. Now I'm in the middle of a "preview" of a biography on Google Books, but I haven't been at all limited in which pages to read, although there's a "copyrighted material" notice.

Jo, if you're reading this: I re-read Brat Farrar after reading Farthing, but I couldn't catch the problems you had working out when it was supposed to take place. Could you (or others) please enlighten an ignorant USer?
21. wealhtheow
Egads, that was chilling.
Jo Walton
22. bluejo
Dirfird: Brat Farrar (spoilers!) was published in 1952, and set, presumably, in 1951 or 1952. Patrick's parents were killed, and Brat left the orphanage ten years before... and they were killed on holiday in France, and he went to France on his way to America.

This really doesn't make sense in our world! France in 1942 (or 1940, or 1941...) was occupuied by the Nazis, and Britain was at war with them.
23. Unfocused Me
Well, you just sold a set of the trilogy.
Jo Walton
24. bluejo
I just want to recommend the audio version. We decided it needed an American voice and Patrick volunteered, and I think he's done it absolutely brilliantly. If you liked reading it, you'll love hearing it.
Vicki Rosenzweig
25. vicki

You're good at this, you know.
26. Old Far Seeing Art
I pretty much shy away from "alternate history" stories. Of course, in this case, I didn't know that was the genre. But... this was fantastic.

Such a thin, thin line - the one that separates us from them in this story. The horrible parts of this story - those are the parts that make this excellent reading. Not because they are horrible but because they could become true so very easily. "could own the whole business and their property if you could show they are jews..."

Bruce Cohen
27. SpeakerToManagers
Jo, you really do know how to dig the nightmares out of the places we don't like to look and show them to us. The newspaper headlines nail the lid on the coffin with a mix of sober reporting of awful things and invocations of the Wookie Misdirection ("Look over there! A Wookie with a home permanent!"). And it all has the claustrophobic feeling of living in a time when evil seems to have cut off all avenues of real escape. Well done and crafted.

dorfird: That biography of Alice Sheldon is available in trade paperback. It's a really excellent book, well worthy of its subject.
28. RosemaryRK

Amazing and chilling...

Amazing and chilling and weirdly poignant...

Because there they are, these people trapped in a nightmare world merely one side-step away from our own; and it's OUR own writers, ones who called US to imagine other possibilites, still calling out to them.

To imagine something else, something different. Escape.

And it's especially poignant to me that none of the characters in the story actually do read science fiction, or are at all interested in it.

We hear the call; we do not hear the response.

If any.

29. mezilla

"Winchell famously hates Hitler. Crazy. Linda can’t imagine feeling that strongly about an old man on the other side of the world."

Jeezus Creezus, this is scary. Too real.
Sherwood Smith
30. Sherwood
"Are home perms as good..." I remember that! Somehow these details twist the knife even more. A powerful story, fantastic.
31. LeonardoF
Brilliant. This kind of unprejudiced? honest? straight-to-the-point? way of thinking that incubated this story is what I think is lacking in this world.

Standing applause.
32. theHerald
I read Philip Roth's "The Plot Against America" last year, which seemed to be the prequel to Jo Walton's story. In Roth's story, a post-War America is described, Lindbergh having been elected President and America having gone to war with the Germans and Japanese against the Russians and the rest of 'em. Jews are still being sought after, just like in Jo's story. Blacks are persecuted. It's the same story, essentially.

But still: All ideas are derived elsewhere, right? Roth's novel could be seen as derived from Philip K. Dick's novella on the same subject ("The Man in the High Castle", also regarding a post-War America occupied by Germany and Japan). Walton's story is further derived, and is an interesting introduction to the "alternative history" genre, which includes the likes of Harry Turtledove.
Ursula L
33. Ursula
Temptation settles over her like a film of grease and hope begins to burn in her heart for the first time in a long time.

And this is why hope was in Pandora's box, along with all the other evils of the world...
Sucheta Dasgupta
34. phaedrus
Yes, I agree. Hope is addictive and often the only good thing about dilettantes and drama queens.

Well written! I thoroughly enjoyed it. Yes, and that homepage link doesn't work: I tried it, too, at first
Nicholas Alcock
35. NullNix
Well, that was sufficiently chilling that if I hadn't already read Farthing et al I might have avoided them for the sake of my mental health.

So, an advance warning to anyone else who might get turned off the trilogy: Farthing et al are *not this scary*. They ramp up in the same way, but it takes two whole books so you don't end up shivering and hiding under the desk quite so fast.

Excellent stuff.
Liza .
36. aedifica
NullNix@35: I disagree, I thought Farthing was exactly this scary. Ha'penny was less scary for me, and I thought it might be because I had been warned by reading Farthing, but this story shows me that wasn't why.

I was going to hold off and not read this story til after I've had a chance at Half a Crown, but I gave in--and I think I'm still unspoiled for the novel.

Also, wow.
Jo Walton
37. bluejo
Aedifica: You are entirely unspoiled for the novel except that when you come across some minor mentions of what has been happening in the US, you'll have more context for that.
Sandi Kallas
38. Sandikal
Are there any plans for a novel set on this side of the pond? I still want to know more about what happened to Lucy and David after Farthing.
Jo Walton
39. bluejo
Sandikal: I have no intentions of writing anything else in that universe ever. I am so sick of fascists you wouldn't believe. And more generally, I find writing things in American very challenging -- even in this short piece that is a deliberate pastiche, there were several tiny idiom things I got wrong and had to change. It's hard writing in something that isn't my native language, and I don't think I could keep it up for a whole novel.
mm Season
40. mmSeason
Mezilla: 'Linda can’t imagine feeling that strongly about an old man on the other side of the world.' - It was 'old man' that got me, harder than anything. My husband can't even read Farthing, found it too unnerving. Maybe he'll manage this piquant little taster.
41. Gregory Benford
A deftly done story, Jo.

I doubt that anti-Jewish feeling would have made headway in the US, a la Roth's unimaginative and inept novel. Fascism, maybe -- though it would be called Americanism of course. But Fascism has no logical root in antiSemitic ideas. I note that nowhere does anyone question that Keynsian economics would eventually bring prosperity. Of course World War II did the job, not the FDR policies.
I think alternate history still has much to tell us about our society.
42. seeford
Wow - excellent story!
I had Farthing and its sequels on my TBR list, but I'm bumping them waaaaay up to the top now!

I know the story is supposed to be set around/after WWII, but I have to say that I kept flashing on it as being futuristic for us here in the U.S. right now. The economy, lack of jobs and grinding poverty, anyways. The headlines like "ANOTHER BANK FOUNDERS IN PENNSYLVANIA" and "PRESIDENT SAYS WE MUST ALL PULL TOGETHER" and the excerpt about the economy titled "CAN THE ECONOMY EVER RECOVER?"

Eeeek! My most cynical black thoughts about where we might be heading - and you wrote them all down with an illustration to boot!
John Ginsberg-Stevens
43. eruditeogre
I just found this in the Stories listing. Excellent story! It weaves a very evocative tapestry as everything comes together. I like the combination of alternate history and cautionary tale, even in its few obvious moments. Well-done!
44. Lola Raincoat
Oh, well done! I'm a historian and generally allergic to counterfactuals (though a fan of the Farthing series) so I'm just delighted to read one that didn't make me break out in hives. Thank you so much!

The comments are interesting, though: the world of this story isn't any creepier than our own c. 1960, depending on whose story is being told and which headlines you're reading. Break out the microfilm reader and see for yourselves! For that matter, anyone paying attention to immigration and border issues in the US (as one commenter already noted) knows how close this is to present-day reality for some of us. And, pace Benford, there's no "of course" about what ended the Depression in the US or globally; historians are still arguing about that one.
Holly Glaser
45. hglaser
This reminds me of what my dad went through before WWII - his dad went broke co-signing a loan for a buddy then left for CA to start over but came home no richer. My dad lived on old fortune cookies in a bag stashed in the grocery store where he worked and took food home. That ended and he was sent to the CCC, then the navy.. where life got better. It could have been much worse. Jews were not welcome in most wasp enclaves and many who lived at that time still watch who they tell.

48. ABGarza
Just amazing... absolutely perfect pacing, a nice and steady set of revelations. The usage of the news clippings was amazing, and similar to something I have wanted to/still want to do myself. Just amazing.
Clark Myers
51. ClarkEMyers
Mentioned in the Wall Street Journal for 23 July in a review of the Dozois collection. Oddly the same thing I thought nicely done and I think some of the posts call clever is in that review called an annoying inside joke.

If speculative fiction is to stay in the gutter where it belongs then I'd say inside jokes for insiders is part of the deal.
52. Cojafoji
An incredible and semi-horrifying story filled with what if's that make you shiver. I loved the newspaper bits, they gave the story that extra edge...
54. Vladhk
Please write the book.
Jo Walton
55. bluejo
Vladhk: I have written three books set in Britain in this universe, this story takes place simultaneously with the last one Half a Crown.
Gina 'Oz Pound
56. KawaiiOz
Intriguing and effective style. Not at all what I was expecting.
Elise Matthesen
58. LionessElise
A very late response to Gregory Benford here, who said, "I doubt that anti-Jewish feeling would have made headway in the US, a la Roth's unimaginative and inept novel."

I write this comment in a city of which Wikipedia says, accurately:

"Minneapolis was known for anti-Semitism beginning in the 1880s and through the 1950s. The city was described as "the capital of anti-Semitism in the United States" in 1946 by Carey McWilliams and in 1959 by Gunther Plaut. At that time the city's Jews were excluded from membership in many
organizations, faced employment discrimination, and were considered
unwelcome residents in some neighborhoods. Jews in Minneapolis were also not allowed to buy homes in certain neighborhoods of Minneapolis."

I have no trouble believing anti-Semitism could take hold in the US. Some of my relatives were those Jews who were not allowed to buy homes in certain neighborhoods of Minneapolis. Some of my other relatives were Germans who thought that was as it should be. All of that makes the story even scarier.
59. Kip W
Late to the party, but well done. Yeah, I guess it could be worse.

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