Kress is mostly known for using biology and especially genemodifications in her science fiction, so this time travel story from 1991 is a bit different but still very much a Kress story.
Everyone knows the trope about going back in back to kill some historic person in order to prevent a terrible war, though I can’t really recall many stories directly doing that. Here Kress creates an interesting setup where a mysterious church group tries to manage different time streams. They do this not by killing people in the past, but taking them hostage. The story follows Anne Boleyn being taken hostage and held in a facility with other historic figures like Helen of Troy and Herr Hitler. She is treated well given the circumstances, but what she wants most of all is some explanations on why she was taken out of her time and what her now cancelled future would have looked like. Rightfully she feels robbed of having the freedom to live her own life and decide her own destiny. This causes some problems for her hostage takers and are forced to reevaluate their methods.
Anne Boleyn was the queen of England from 1533 to 1536 when she was executed. Removing her before that apparently would prevent the great English Civil War about a hundred years later. I am not that well versed in that period of history, but while interesting – that part of the story is really not that important. What makes this story good is Anne, her perseverance and vigor to work within this system that has captured her and robbed her of her life, to achieve some kind of justice in the end.
You don’t need to be a history buff or even know who Anne Boleyn is (admittedly I didn’t) to enjoy the story. The characterization of Anne is what makes this story worthwhile. The time-travel stuff is just a delightful bonus.
Using a time machine for a safari trip to prehistoric times, especially the time of dinosaurs, is a well known science fiction trope. This story from 1956 is a classic example of this.
The story is told by a time-travel hunter, who runs a small business taking customers back to prehistoric times to shoot extinct species – like dinosaurs. He recounts a specific trip where he took two very different men back in time to hunt dinosaurs. A small successful businessman, August Holtzinger, who wants to prove to himself and his fiancée that he is “man” enough to take down a big animal. And Courtney James – a hot tempered playboy seeking thrill and adventure. On the trip James acts totally irresponsible shooting everything that moves, Holtzinger gets nervous and he soon questions whether the trip was such a good idea. He could settle for just a minor hunting trophy while James wants the big dinosaurs. And the tour leader just tries to get everyone out alive. Unsurprisingly things go horribly wrong. Suffice to say without spoiling too much – the usual time-travel paradoxes also comes up in the end.
This story is entertaining and pretty straight forward. It has all the classic archetypes for a hunt-in-the-wild story with the levelheaded leader that does things against his own better judgement, a scared passenger regretting even coming along and the hothead causing trouble with his stupid behavior. Especially the last part makes the story less enjoyable for me. I am generally not a fan of stories where the action is driven forward by dumb decisions. Not because everyone is always rational in real world situations, but it is just more interesting to read something where the characters ends up in dangerous situations despite doing most things right. The leader even had the “this is a bad idea” internal dialogue from the start, but went on anyway. Still, it is an important classic for the genre – especially when it comes to dinosaurs and time-travel.
A long novella that follows a highway patrol squad on duty in a future where the highways a several miles wide and the cars are going several hundred miles per hour. There is not much of a story. The squad do regular things like handling accidents, bank robbers and even a baby birth.
The writing is competent but I fail to see any point to this story. It doesn’t really need to be science fiction. It is basically just faster cars and larger highways as a background setting for a rather mundane description of the working lives of this highway patrol.
I suppose the appeal is that it shows appreciation for the everyday working heroes and such professions are still needed in the future, but there is not much appeal to this story today.
The cover story for this issue of Asimov’s brings us aboard a spaceship that has some kind of accident. This gets told from two alternating point of views. From the rescueship and from the livestock manager Gabe aboard on the other ship.
I was a bit confused about the structure at first because switching between viewpoints and time usually means that they merge for some reveal in the end. However here it is quickly revealed that the rescue will be successful and that Gabe has survived almost 30 years on the ship. So a good deal of the story is various flash backs of his time on the ship, how he makes food and such, and most importantly – gets in contact with the only other other survivor, Alis. She is in another part of the ship that is sealed off, so they are never able to reach each other but stay in touch with radio communication.
At first I thought the story was well written with a steady engaging flow, as is to be expected by Palmer, but lacking a bit in drama and tension because the immediate dangerous situation is relatively quickly resolved. I also didn’t feel that engaged in the main characters – yet.
Because without saying too much, there is a twist and reveal later in the story that turned things around. That started a very emotionally engaging end to the story and made the Gabe character much more interesting. So it started out as sort of fine 3 star story for me, but turned around to a story I will definitely consider for my vote in the yearly Asimov’s Reader Award poll.
There have been written countless stories about people uploading their mind to a computer simulation, but this story did it from an angle that I haven’t seen often. A group of scientists are working on an early prototype of a computer simulation where they can upload their minds before the die. The premise here is that people die from the procedure. The protagonist of the story is a scientists who is dying of cancer but is hoping to be able to continue her work in this simulation.
What I like about this premise is that it follows the mind upload technology in its very early stages and convincingly show that that is a very error prone process. Science fiction too often portrays almost perfect technology, but reality is usually more messy with software full of bugs. In this story things go wrong while still being successful. A group of various scientists is living inside a computer simulation but their memories are weird and not reliable. They need to work together with the technicians in the real world to set things straight.
The story is told with alternating scenes from the past and the present situation with the simulation and this works quite well. At 20.000 words it is a bit too long in my opinion, but worth reading none the less.
This is the first story in the anthology The World Turned Upside Down edited by Jim Baen, David Drake and Eric Flint. Their premise for the selection was stories that impressed them when they first read them – usually at a young age. I found that important to remember when reading this story from 1946 today, because it didn’t “wow” me that much but it is clear to see why it would have made an impression if I have read a story like that earlier in my science fiction reading life.
The story is told from the perspective of aliens visiting our solar system because the sun is about to explode and they want to save as many lives as possible. They are surprised that radio signals is coming from the system because the system was visited “only” four hundred thousands years ago and for these beings it is almost inconceivable that an intelligent species could have evolved so quickly. They find an Earth devoid of life, but with abandoned cities and structures – among that where the radio transmission was coming from.
There is a lot to like about the, for the time, original perspective of letting aliens explore Earth and tell a future human history from their perspective with various misconceptions. But it is somewhat lacking as a story because it is mostly aliens observing and making their conclusions. Also, many stories have been written since then exploring similar themes – and many were likely inspired by this – so it comes out as somewhat predictable.
However, it is a good example of what science fiction stories in the Golden Age of Astounding in the 1940s could produce and an important story for the history of the genre.