Saturday, June 14, 2008

Philip José Farmer's "The Sliced-Crosswise Only-on-Tuesday World" (short story, science fiction, free): Romance in a weird overpopulated world

Quote from short story titled The Sliced-Crosswise Only-on-Tuesday World by Philip José FarmerThis story was later expanded into "the Dayworld trilogy, set some thirteen-hundred (normal, not divided by seven) years later", according to Dave at The ED SF Project.

Story summary.

Imagine a world where everyone lives only one day of the week; rest of the week, you hibernate. So you may be a Tuesday person, I may be a Wednesday person, etc!

It's a pretty crowded world. Many unrelated people live together. Somewhere in your house is a "stoner room" where people who use it the other 6 days are hibernating. The hibernation vaults of everyone who share the home - on the same day & on other days - are all together, & have transparent front. These hibernation vaults are called by many names: "eternium cylinders", "stoners", or "coffins".

At the end of your day, you go stand in your vault, & press a button. Machine will automatically wake you next week your day.

When you tell someone your age, you say "thirty-five (Tuesday time)"!

This also is a world with a somewhat high handed government. Oh - the government is also, of course, day-based. So Wednesday President is a different individual than a Tuesday President.

You can seek transfer to another day by applying to governments of both days. It's an extremely tedious process - can take years. And you will be lucky getting the transfer once in a lifetime.

This is the story of Tom Pym, a Tuesday man. "He had been sixteen about one hundred and six years ago, not that that made any difference. Physiologically, he was thirty."

He's just been alloted "the very house he had picked". He will be one of the 63 men & women sharing this home - 9 awake each day. When going into hibernation at the end of the day in his new home, he will fall in love (at first sight) with "Jennie Marlowe. Born 2031 A.D., San Marino, California... twenty-four years old. Actress. Unmarried.", a Wednesday woman who shares his home. He'll leave a message for her; she's not interested in a friendship where she can never meet him.

But he's obsessed with her. So he goes through the years long process of getting himself transfered to her day, after a lot of governmental forms & interviews. Finally, when he arrives in Wednesday world of hers after transfer, he finds to his horror that she has been transferred to Tuesday, his original day, the same day!

Looks like she was also unhappy with her day, had been seeking transfer for a long time, & one of the government officials involved in Tom's transfer who had visited her as part of governmental approval process had also fallen in love with her! Poor Tom, exiled in another world that doesn't have his lady love!

Fact sheet.

First published: Robert Silverberg (Ed)'s "New Dimensions 1", Doubleday, 1971.
Rating: B
Download full text from Internet Archive.
Included in Ellen Datlow's Sci Fiction classics.