Jonathan Strahan’s 2022 Someone in Time: Tales of Time-Crossed Romance is, as the title suggests, an anthology of short pieces that feature transtemporal romance. Although most of the stories are original to this anthology, two are reprints.
Each piece is accompanied by a short biographical entry for the work’s author.
Two things that jumped out at me:
- Although there seems to be no particular reason backward time travel would be favoured over forward travel (recall that forward time travel is not only possible but inevitable), the time travel featured here is the jaunt-into-the-past variety.
- It may not be entirely unrelated that virtually all of the futures from which people set out are either disappointing or terrible. I suppose people need to be motivated to leave their home time, but one does get the sense that SF authors are incapable of imagining futures that are not disappointing or horrible. Mind you, I would have said much the same in 2011 and look at the wonders the subsequent decade delivered to us.
There is the risk with such a specific theme that the reader will be presented with a book composed of variations of the same story (Perhaps if I feel malicious enough, I will dig an example out of my archives for review.). Unsurprisingly, given the editor, that is NOT the case here. I suspect this is not least because the pool of authors recruited for this project are themselves a diverse lot, rather than, oh, the editor’s buddies from a reclusive literary society.
Now for the deep dive:
Introduction (Someone in Time) • essay by Jonathan Strahan
Strahan tells us why and how this anthology was assembled.
“Roadside Attraction” • short fiction by Alix E. Harrow
Determined to find his destiny somewhere in time, our young protagonist is surprisingly slow to notice when he has succeeded in his goal.
I note that long before our hero starts traveling in time, the method he uses has been shown to be useless for the purposes to which governments might put time travel, which I greatly appreciate, being a reader easily distracted by details of the setting.
“The Past Life Reconstruction Service” • short fiction by Zen Cho
A director who has foolishly sabotaged his own professional and personal lives turns to his past incarnations for inspiration. His quest is successful but not in the manner he expected.
How the scientific community reacted to the confirmation of reincarnation is but one of many questions left to the reader’s imagination.
“First Aid” • short fiction by Seanan McGuire
A desperate peon in America’s doleful future embraces a one-way mission to the past so that her sister can enjoy economic security. The technology proves flawed, but the results are not at all unpleasant.
“I Remember Satellites” • short fiction by Sarah Gailey
Dispatched on a one-way mission to the past, an exiled time traveler finds unexpected consolation.
“The Golden Hour” • short fiction by Jeffrey Ford
A melancholy tale of a man desperate to reconnect with his one true love, yet fearful he will imprison her in bonds of affection.
This is one of the few stories not told from the traveler’s perspective, because (one suspects) the story would not work if the reader could see the traveler’s thought processes. In a way, this reminded me of a more readable Lafferty tale.
“The Lichens” • short fiction by Nina Allan
A project to recover evidence of alien activity in the past runs afoul of an unforeseen property of time travel.
“Kronia” • (2005) • short story by Elizabeth Hand
A relationship varies as it is experienced in many different versions of a life.
“Bergamot and Vetiver” • short fiction by Lavanya Lakshminarayan
A time traveler from a dismal future seeking to properly document the Indus Valley civilization learns too late that they have utterly misapprehended the study’s purpose.
“The Difference between Love and Time” • short fiction by Catherynne M. Valente
A whimsical love story featuring a personified continuum.
“Unbashed, or: Jackson, Whose Cowardice Tore a Hole in the Chronoverse” • short fiction by Sam J. Miller1
A love-smitten time traveler able to sample endless permutations of a love affair can never escape his memories.
“Romance: Historical” • short fiction by Rowan Coleman
A curious and undocumented feature of a venerable bookstore enables romance, but forces a painful choice on the lovers.
“The Place of All the Souls” • short fiction by Margo Lanagan
Otherworldly meeting of souls is inordinately complicated by real-world commitments.
“Timed Obsolescence” • short fiction by Sameem Siddiqui
Commodified time travel provides gig-work for the judiciously cautious and a dilemma for the protagonist.
“A Letter to Merlin” • short fiction by Theodora Goss
A terminally ill woman allows her mind to be imprinted on Guinevere of Camelot. This is part of a complex effort to render human history less terrible.
“Dead Poets” • short fiction by Carrie Vaughn
A time traveler has a brief audience with a long-dead poet … but not the poet she expected.
Time Gypsy • (1998) • novelette by Ellen Klages
Recruited by an ambitious physicist to recover a long-lost scientific paper that might contain the secret to cheap time travel, a scientific historian opts to repurpose her foray into history.
Note the date: I expect a modern story would have eschewed the g‑word.
A question the professor never asks himself, a question he should have asked: “if cheap time travel is possible and will be realized thanks to this project, why are we not overrun with time travelers?” “Is cheap time travel a good idea?” would also have been a good question to ponder.
1: I don’t think I’ve ever hung a footnote off a title before. The story’s biographical material notes that Miller won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, adding a hope that the award would soon be renamed. This might not be necessary since the award has not been given out since Ng’s memorable speech after winning the other Campbell Award (for best author) pretty much killed the Campbell brand as far as awards go.