“‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” — Harlan Ellison®

Harlan Ellison is another living legend of science fiction. He has won pretty much every award the science fiction and fantasy field has to offer, multiply: he’s been named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, been presented with life achievement awards (World Fantasy, Bram Stoker, and International Horror Guild), and won eight ½ Hugos, three Nebulas, five Bram Stoker Awards, eighteen Locus Awards, and the World Fantasy Award, among a slew of others. Ellison’s innumerable classics—most of which can be found in the mammoth collection The Essential Ellison—include “The Deathbird,” “Jeffty Is Five,” and “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream,” as well as our next story, which won him one of his Nebulas and one of his Hugos. He is also the editor of what are arguably the genre’s two most important anthologies: Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions.

Early sea voyages were dangerous things.  The oceans were rough; it was hard to store enough provisions, and the maps were rough sketches where they existed at all.  In fact, it’s a wonder anyone could attempt to draw a map:  it was almost impossible to calculate longitude on a moving boat.  In 1714, the British government even established a special advisory board on the topic, with a twenty-thousand pound prize for the man who could find the solution.

The solution came in the form of a better clock, one unaffected by weather conditions and movement.  That clock was John Harrison’s marine chronometer.

In our next story, people might just curse John Harrison’s name.  If it weren’t for his chronometer’s ability to keep accurate time all the time, their entire society would be different.  If there were only inaccurate pendulum clocks and spring-wound watches, these people might not be slaves to the timetable.  Instead, punctuality is the law of the land.

Here’s a world where time is not only money:  it’s life and death.