“Yeah, it was okay,” he said in a vaguely encouraging voice. “Not bad for a first effort. Just so you know, there’s not really much of a market for this type of historical retrospective fiction stuff anymore, but let me see what I can do with it for you.”

futrMaybe Larissa was right; maybe this guy was a charlatan in an expensive suit—‘Didn’t they always come in nice clothing?’ I’d asked her—but he seemed basically sincere and anyway, no one else was beating my door down right about now.

What was I thinking, quitting my job and trying to make it as a writer? No one really reads much anymore, and besides, by now it’s all pretty much been said. It’s all right there, words and words and more words, everywhere and all the time. What made me think I was so special that anyone would care two cents worth about my pathetic musings? So my first little tract—non-fiction published by a vanity press, how cliché!—about global warming had sold a few thousand copies, enough to get me an agent, big deal. I should’ve kept my job working for the old man. Poverty is never as sexy in practice as it seems in theory. Continue Reading

The day the inevitable happened was, surprisingly, warm and sunny. I’d always pictured it as forebodingly dark with a torrential downpour of historical—nay, biblical—proportions. Since I knew it was of course coming at some point, I suppose it was comforting to think of it as somehow dramatic or noteworthy. But this was just another day, and quite a lovely one at that. Go figure.

The feeling started to come on during my morning shave, took form in the shower, and slapped me upside the head over breakfast. As I said, I always knew it was in the offing, but even when you know something is looming it can still reach out and grab you with a jolt of unpredictability, like the old jack-in-the-box toy where you’d turn the lever knowing the obvious result and yet still get a mild start when that damned thing popped out. For many people, the abstract notion of “the apocalypse” is probably a bit like this, something that feels inevitable but is viewed amorphously—until the moment when it all goes down before your eyes. I guess having a general idea and seeing the real thing are two very different processes. Continue Reading

The car zipped through an opening the size of a doorway, narrowly missing the other three vehicles vying to move in the same direction, adjusting to their presence with precision coordination and lightning reflexes that no “Drivers Ed” school could ever teach. Accelerating smoothly, we careened onward through the city’s dizzying traffic, without a concern for either safety or timeliness—both of which were guaranteed by the central operating system and the supercomputer behind the wheel.

Well, actually, as a technical matter there was no one behind the wheel. The vehicle was its own operator, of course, part of the first generation of truly “emancipated motorized units” (or EMUs, for short), and sold on the market as a new class of transportation devices called the Autonomobile. These vehicles were allowed to proceed without a driver per se, but they could not do so without a passenger. So the oddity was that the technology had simply moved the rider to a different seat in the carriage. Continue Reading

The phenomenon only lasted long enough to get a short message through, but unpacking the implications of the response will take far longer. The science of radiometry behind the capacity to send information across space—and thus, by definition, through time—isn’t what I want to focus on here; as a scientist, there will be many opportunities to try and replicate the process and publish on the results. As a human being, however, and as a parent with a liberal sensibility that includes concern for the future, I am mostly preoccupied with the reply. My query is as follows, and below is what I received back:

To whomever receives this transmission: I am a scientist living in the year 2017 and have found a way to open a “pinhole” through time by which to send a message. I know this may sound unbelievable, but I’m hoping that anyone capable of receiving it in your time would have sufficient knowledge to understand. I can only offer as proof the internal logic of my message to you, which is one of deep concern. Our world is beset by violence and conflict, and our environment is rapidly destabilizing. Our political systems grow more venal each day, and the culture is plagued by shallow media and poor education. I know this sounds grim, but I am hoping that from your vantage point in the future, things look better. If you receive this, please use the same wavelength to send a reply—promptly, as the portal will soon close… Continue Reading

Dear Polemis,

I have reviewed the archive thoroughly and am pleased to report that I have uncovered some previously unknown information that illuminates the context of events in the relevant time period. This is a remarkable text, the authenticity of which has been verified. I am ascribing its authorship, for the sake of ethnographic integrity, to the character we have been identifying as “Dante” and welcome your insights on how best to present this artifact in the context of our overall preliminary findings about that era in prehistory. Here then, is the text of the original document in full, as we have unearthed it.

Respectfully,

Lemastar, 1 May 4891 Continue Reading