Callahan's Crosstime Saloon

Callahan's Crosstime Saloon

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In the fictional universe of Spider Robinson
Spider Robinson
Spider Robinson is an American-born Canadian Hugo and Nebula award winning science fiction author.- Biography :Born in the Bronx, New York City, Robinson attended Catholic high school, spending his junior year in a seminary, followed by two years in a Catholic college, and five years at the State...

, Callahan's Place is a bar
Bar (establishment)
A bar is a business establishment that serves alcoholic drinks — beer, wine, liquor, and cocktails — for consumption on the premises.Bars provide stools or chairs that are placed at tables or counters for their patrons. Some bars have entertainment on a stage, such as a live band, comedians, go-go...

 with strongly community-minded and empathic clientele. It appears in the Callahan's Crosstime Saloon stories
Short story
A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas and novels. Short story definitions based on length differ somewhat, even among professional writers, in part because...

 (compiled in the first novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 of the same name, along with its sequels Time Travelers Strictly Cash and Callahan's Secret; most of the beloved barflies appear in the further sequels The Callahan Touch, Callahan's Legacy, Callahan's Key, and Callahan's Con, and the computer game.


The bar is run by Mike Callahan. The regulars are welcoming and willing to listen to any visitor's problems, no matter how strange, but do not snoop if a visitor is unwilling to share. Strange and unusual events and visitors turn up with frequency in the stories. Regulars at Callahan's include a talking dog, several extraterrestrials and time travel
Time travel
Time travel is the concept of moving between different points in time in a manner analogous to moving between different points in space. Time travel could hypothetically involve moving backward in time to a moment earlier than the starting point, or forward to the future of that point without the...

ers, an ethical vampire
Vampires are mythological or folkloric beings who subsist by feeding on the life essence of living creatures, regardless of whether they are undead or a living person...

, a couple of Irish mythological beings
Irish mythology
The mythology of pre-Christian Ireland did not entirely survive the conversion to Christianity, but much of it was preserved, shorn of its religious meanings, in medieval Irish literature, which represents the most extensive and best preserved of all the branch and the Historical Cycle. There are...

, and an obscenity-spewing parrot. The stories make heavy use of puns
A story pun is a humorous short story or vignette ending in an atrocious pun where the story contains sufficient context to recognize the punning humor...

. Irish whiskey
Irish whiskey
Irish whiskey is whiskey made in Ireland.Key regulations defining Irish whiskey and its production are established by the Irish Whiskey Act of 1980, and are relatively simple...

s are the preferred beverage, with Tullamore Dew
Tullamore Dew
Tullamore Dew is a blended Irish whiskey. It was originally a pot still whiskey, first distilled in 1829 in the small town of Tullamore, County Offaly, Ireland. The name derives from the initials of an early manager of the concern, Mr. Daniel E. Williams: D.E.W. Tullamore Dew is the second...

 and Bushmills
Old Bushmills Distillery
The Old Bushmills Distillery is a distillery in Bushmills, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It is owned and operated by Diageo plc of London, England, and is a popular tourist attraction, with around 110,000 visitors per year...

 mentioned in nearly every collection of shorts or novel that references the saloon. The stories are seen by some as an homage to Fletcher Pratt
Fletcher Pratt
Murray Fletcher Pratt was an American writer of science fiction, fantasy and history, particularly noted for his works on naval history and on the American Civil War.- Life and work :...

 and L. Sprague de Camp
L. Sprague de Camp
Lyon Sprague de Camp was an American author of science fiction and fantasy books, non-fiction and biography. In a writing career spanning 60 years, he wrote over 100 books, including novels and notable works of non-fiction, including biographies of other important fantasy authors...

's Tales from Gavagan's Bar
Tales from Gavagan's Bar
Tales from Gavagan's Bar is a collection of short stories by science fiction and fantasy authors L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt, illustrated by the latter's wife Inga Pratt...

and Arthur C. Clarke
Arthur C. Clarke
Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, CBE, FRAS was a British science fiction author, inventor, and futurist, famous for his short stories and novels, among them 2001: A Space Odyssey, and as a host and commentator in the British television series Mysterious World. For many years, Robert A. Heinlein,...

's Tales from the White Hart
Tales from the White Hart
Tales from the White Hart is a collection of short stories by science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, in the "club tales" style.Thirteen of the fifteen stories originally appeared across a number of different publications. "Moving Spirit" and "The Defenestration of Ermintrude Inch" were first...


Lady Sally McGee, the madam of a house of excellent repute (and Mike Callahan's wife), stars in Robinson's Callahan's Lady
Callahan's Lady
Callahan’s Lady is one of many books in the Callahan's Crosstime Saloon series by Spider Robinson. It is made up of 11 vignettes, all revolving around a bar and brothel owned by Lady Sally McGee, wife of Mike Callahan...

and Lady Slings the Booze. The regulars at Lady Sally's brothel (where the employees are "artists" and the patrons are "clients") insist on the same empathy and humor as those at Callahan's, and they are just as likely to have fantastic backgrounds. Relatedly, nobody in Lady Sally's is forced into anything they are unwilling to do.

This is the source of Callahan's Law (also known as the Law of Conservation of Pain and Joy): "Shared pain is lessened; shared joy, increased—thus do we refute entropy." Stated another way: "Just as there are Laws of Conservation of Matter and Energy, so there are in fact Laws of Conservation of Pain and Joy. Neither can ever be created or destroyed. But one can be converted into the other."


  • Jake Stonebender: The narrator of the Callahan stories; he tried to commit suicide after losing his wife and daughter to a car accident which he believes to be his fault. His physician, 'Doc Webster', saved him and sent him to Callahan's. Jake is a master with his guitar, whom he calls "Lady Macbeth". In the last chapter of the audio-book for "The Callahan Chronicles" it is revealed that Jake is actually the writer, Spider Robinson, in another dimension.
  • Mike Callahan: The owner of the bar, he is always ready with a drink and a friendly word.
  • Sam "Doc" Webster: M.D.; one of the oldest regulars and a master of puns. He works shifts at Smithtown General.
  • Fast Eddie Costigan: The bar's piano player; he jams with Jake and is equipped with a blackjack to discourage nosy questions.
  • Long Drink McGonnigle: One of the oldest regulars; a night watchman and also skilled at puns.
  • Tom Hauptman: An ex-minister and widower, who was locked away for ten years with his wife in a Latin American banana republic. He believes missing out on ten years of sociological development means he cannot do his job. Callahan offers him the job of assistant bartender after he tells his story.
  • Noah Gonzalez: A sergeant in the police force, he works on the bomb squad.
  • Michael "Mickey" Finn: He is a humanoid alien who was sent to destroy Earth. Coming to Callahan's makes him want to reconsider; with the assistance of the patrons he is able to become his own being and save the planet.
  • Tommy Janssen: A teenager who comes to Callahan's and gives up his heroin addiction.
  • Tom Flannery: One of the former regulars who has eight months to live at the start of the series.
  • "Slippery" Joe Maser: He is bigamous; both wives are aware of one another.
  • Marty Matthias: had a gambling issue, but got it fixed after he came to Callahan's.
  • Rachel: A woman, which is a rarity in itself at Callahan's. She also may be immortal, but is long-lived at the very least.
  • Shorty Steinitz: Had his appendix removed by Doc Webster on Callahan’s bar; world's worst driver; makes a living restoring antique vehicles.
  • Big Beef McCaffrey: Was kicked out of the bar in 1947 by Mike Callahan, without opening the solid oak door first. The door has been since mended, but poorly.
  • Mary: Mike Callahan's daughter and woman blacksmith. The love of Jake Stonebender's life and the wife of Mickey Finn.
  • Ralph Von Wau Wau: Mutant talking dog and regular customer. Regular at Lady Sally's. Also, skilled ventriloquist.


Callahan's Crosstime Saloon contains the following stories, virtually all of which were published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact
Analog Science Fiction and Fact
Analog Science Fiction and Fact is an American science fiction magazine. As of 2011, it is the longest running continuously published magazine of that genre...

  • "The Guy With the Eyes"
  • "The Time-Traveler"
  • "The Centipede's Dilemma
    Centipede's dilemma
    "The Centipede's Dilemma" is a short poem which has given its name to an effect in psychology: the centipede effect . This is when a normally automatic or unconscious activity is disrupted by consciousness of it or reflection on it...

  • "Two Heads Are Better Than One"
  • "The Law Of Conservation of Pain"
  • "Just Dessert"
  • "A Voice is Heard in Ramah..."
  • "Unnatural Causes"
  • "The Wonderful Conspiracy"

Time Travelers Strictly Cash contains four Callahan stories and several non-Callahan stories and essays.

Callahan's Secret contains four Callahan stories; there is only Callahan material.

Callahan's Legacy contains three sections that were not separately published as stories.

All of the later works appeared as singular novels.

Some elements of Callahan's Lady and Lady Slings the Booze have been separately published in Pulphouse
Pulphouse Publishing
Pulphouse Publishing was an American small press publisher based in Eugene, Oregon and specializing in science fiction and fantasy. It was founded by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch in 1988. The press was active until 1996...


Other versions

The series has a related Usenet
Usenet is a worldwide distributed Internet discussion system. It developed from the general purpose UUCP architecture of the same name.Duke University graduate students Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis conceived the idea in 1979 and it was established in 1980...

A usenet newsgroup is a repository usually within the Usenet system, for messages posted from many users in different locations. The term may be confusing to some, because it is usually a discussion group. Newsgroups are technically distinct from, but functionally similar to, discussion forums on...

, alt.callahans, two IRC
Internet Relay Chat
Internet Relay Chat is a protocol for real-time Internet text messaging or synchronous conferencing. It is mainly designed for group communication in discussion forums, called channels, but also allows one-to-one communication via private message as well as chat and data transfer, including file...

 channels, #callahans on Undernet
The Undernet is the fourth-largest publicly-monitored Internet Relay Chat network circa 2011, with about 12 client servers serving 60,000 users in 11,000 channels at any given time....

 and #callahans on freenode
freenode, formerly known as Open Projects Network, is an IRC network used to discuss peer-directed projects. Their servers are all accessible from the domain name [irc://], which load balances connections by using the actual servers in rotation...

, and is located on Second Life
Second Life
Second Life is an online virtual world developed by Linden Lab. It was launched on June 23, 2003. A number of free client programs, or Viewers, enable Second Life users, called Residents, to interact with each other through avatars...

 as Callahan's Crosstime Saloon, for fans.

In 1997 Legend Entertainment
Legend Entertainment
Legend Entertainment was an American developer of computer games, best known for their complex, distinctive adventure titles throughout the 1990s....

 released a graphic adventure game for the PC, designed by Josh Mandel (of Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist
Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist
Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist is a comic Old West adventure computer game created by Al Lowe and Josh Mandel and published by Sierra On-Line in 1993...

fame), based on the series. The player controls Jake Stonebender (narrator of the books) through a series of bizarre adventures. Included in the game are several songs performed by Spider Robinson himself, which can be heard by talking to the pianist in the bar and asking for "one of your specialties".

External links