A band in instalments

There’s a short story by the science-fiction writer James Tiptree Jr. (less well-known as Alice Bradley Sheldon) called The Man Who Walked Home. The man in the title, after a cataclysmic particle-accelerator mishap, was flung several million years into the future. It’s hard to say in what physical form he survived, but from his point of view he was alive and trying to make his way back home.

Several decades later, after Earth’s population had somewhat renewed itself, a few people finally happened to be in the neighbourhood where the figure of the man made his annual one-second-long apparition as a flailing giant accompanied by thunder.

Several more decades passed, during which a cult slowly grew up around the yearly event, and it dawned on the faithful that the man was actually speaking. A couple of centuries later, technology had recovered enough to provide a primitive sound-and-vision recorder and the long task of assembling the man’s message in agonisingly short bursts had begun. Scarcely a couple of decades more had elapsed when some of the elders realised that they were witnessing the man’s message backwards.

At long last, they could start to make some sense out of the strange sounds they’d been hearing.

The Boo-Hooray Theory are slightly more organised than that – their gigs are played forwards and last considerably more than a second.


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