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Just Like Old Times by Robert J. Sawyer

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This is a guest post by Paul Franceschi.

“Just Like Old Times”, a 1993 short story written by Robert J. Sawyer, is about a disembodied serial killer who is sentenced to travel back in time by linking his mind to that of a Tyrannosaurus rex about to die.

Non-spoiler Summary in a Nutshell

Rudoph Cohen is a cold-blooded serial killer, who is responsible for taking the lives of dozens of victims. Cohen is sentenced to death in the year 2042, but his lawyer managed to convince the judge that he be involved in a program of euthanasia by chronotransference. Cohen will have to transfer the contents of his mind into the brain of a young Tyrannosaurus rex, about to die very shortly, thus causing at the same time the death of Cohen.

My Two Cents

This short story is an illustration of the art of short story writing. It brilliantly exemplifies how to successfully captivate the reader and be thought-provoking with regard to several deep problems, in a very short space. Sawyer succeeds in this in this short story where the narrative manages to capture the reader’s attention, thanks in particular to the author’s skills to enrich the narrative by the most recent biological and paleontological data regarding dinosaurs, concerning notably vision, hearing and gender differentiation. In parallel, the story hints at some more deeper issues–death penalty, euthanasia, time travel, uploaded human consciousness–in the same time as being an investigation into the cognitive state of a murderer.

Interesting Tidbits

  • Word Count: 3,865
  • Published: 1993
  • As Robert J. Sawyer himself explains, this short story was commissioned by Mike Resnick for his anthology Dinosaur Fantastic, but Sawyer accepted the offer somewhat apprehensively, since he hadn’t written a new short story in five years.
  • “Just Like Old Times” was the winner of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Award (“the Aurora”) for Best English-Language Short Story of 1993

Where You Can Find “Just Like Old Times”

  • This short story was first published in the anthology Dinosaur Fantastic, edited by Mike Resnick and Martin H. Greenberg (DAW, 1993)
  • The story is also available online on the author’s site: Just Like Old Times.


Paul Franceschi is a philosopher who studies paradoxes and cognition, and also publishes SciFi short stories. The ‘Albaru’ is the English translation of a short story of his.