Eileen Gunn was born on June 23, 1945.
Gunn’s story “Stable Strategies for Middle Management” was nominated for a Hugo Award in 1989 and the next year she received a Hugo nomination for “Computer Friendly.” Her collection Stable Strategies and Others, which included original works, was nominated or shortlisted for the Philip K Dick Award, the James Tiptree, Jr. Memorial Award, and the World Fantasy Award. Two original stories from the collection, “Nirvana High,” written with Leslie What, and “Coming to Terms” were nominated for the Nebula Award, with “Coming to Terms” winning the 2005 Nebula Award for Best Short Story.
Gunn published “Thought Experiment” in Jonathan Strahan’s 2011 anthology Eclipse Four: New Science Fiction and Fantasy. She subsequently included it in her collection Questionable Practices and Paula Guran selected the story for the anthology Time Travel: Recent Trips.
Ralph Drumm is an engineer given to performing the sort of “Thought Experiment” the story is named for. While sitting in a dentist’s chair having his teeth whitened, Drumm begins to muse on a way to achieve time travel and after returning home turns his thought experiment into a reality.
The story follows Drumm as he sight-sees through three different periods, a Wessex in the mid-fifteenth century where the inhabitants seem to speak a version of Anglo Saxon, a visit to Bethel, New York to see Woodstock in 1969, and to Washington, D.C. on April 15, 1865 to witness the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. For the most part, Drumm is only a witness to these events, although he senses hostility towards him on his repeated trips to Wessex, each spaced a year apart so he won’t have to worry about running into himself.
Gunn does bring up the idea of Drumm’s interference with history, not only when he tries to warn Lincoln about Booth’s impending assassination attempt, but on a more subtle level, simply by existing in times when he shouldn’t have. Gunn’s early description of Drumm as the first time traveler also foreshadows the possible existence of other, later time travelers.