May Be Some Time
a novella by Brenda W Clough
(published in Analog, April 2001, $3.50.)
Rating: "A", maybe "A+". The best 'man out of time' story ever?
Captain Titus Oates, a member of Robert Scott's 1912 British Antarctic expedition, is best known for his last words: "I am just going outside and may be some time." Thus doubly qualifying himself to star in Clough's wonderful new time-rescue story [note 1].
Capt Oates awakes in 2045 to the attentions of two ministering angels.... One, Dr Shulamith 'Shell' Gedeon, takes him for a walk in the park. Titus is taken aback at 21st-century female attire: "Even the street beggars in Calcutta didn't go about bare to above the knees... If they allowed women to become doctors, surely it was not a very much further descent to let in whores?" [note 2] Titus asks Shell, "How did you ever become a doctor? A nigger, a Jew and a woman!" Whack! Yes, he's off to a fine start in 21st century couth and romance....
Which is the best part of "Time" -- seldom have I read such a convincing and consistent evocation of a man out of time. The backstory's fun too -- Oates was rescued as a proof-of-concept from a successful SETI decryption of plans from the alien 'Forties', who may have given humans an FTL star drive -- which of course can also be used as a time-machine.
This is an exceptionally successful story on all levels. And funny too. Don't miss it, and look for it on the award ballots next year. Bravo!
May Be Some Time is the opening of Clough's next novel (in progress), but is fully self-contained. An excerpt is at <http://www.analogsf.com>
PS: This issue of Analog also has a fine science-fact article on Mt St Helens volcano, 20 years later. Overall, it looks promising -- these two easily cover the US$3.50 cover price.
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© Peter D Tillman 10 March 2001