Since I noticed a respected colleague, who has a novel on the BSFA Award long list, nudging his fans who are members of the BSFA to vote the book on to the short list, I thought I might presume to puff my crackpot novella “The Brain From Beyond” (PS Publishing) from the long list to the short list likewise as regards Short Fiction. Here’s a teaser, or infuriator, in the form of the first few paragraphs…
In October 2776, the TMSS Fibonacci sets off on its fourth mission to salvage time machines adrift in spacetime. As usual, Fibo’s crew is Xiaolong and Ngela and Zbeth and Yatta. A TMSS is a Time Machine Salvage Ship, the only one in existence, so far as they know.
It’s firmly believed that no other timeship should be despatched from 2776, plus or minus a few years, in case Fibo’s delicate navigation is thrown off course by resonance. So there’s no Chrononaut Corps of dozens of eager candidates training and awaiting, in hot competition for a place on board a timeship. Frustrated would-be chrononauts can console themselves that the Fibo is basically a garbage truck, although of course it’s much more important than that.
Results so far: eight time machines recovered along with their defunct crews. Defunct sounds better than skeleton crews. Not always connected skeletons, either, if cannibalism occurred.
Journeys by time machine take from a few hours to a few days, down to half a billion years ago Common Era. Thereafter—or rather, therebefore—progress stalls. Like crawling through treacle. Mind you, if you plan on a visit to Planet Earth half a billy years ago, you’d better pack oxygen masks—the Earth hasn’t accumulated enough oxy yet. And watch out for the oxy high 200 million years closer to the present. Combustible era; you might easily arrive in the midst of a raging forest fire.
Always assuming that you navigate to where you can step outside. Big assumption!
The diligent listener will notice that, if TMs have habitually missed their targets, nevertheless our narrator seems familiar with time travel circumstances up to half a billy years ago, which must have been reported back accurately somehow and somewhen.
Usually our fab four pass their times of transit congenially by concocting tales, by neobarbershop quartetting, as well as by measuring the nature of Nothing and by probing the parameters of Fibo‘s A.I.plus—as if the A.I.plus doesn’t realise this!—and Zbeth occasionally by folding Origami cosmoses with different geometries to ours. For info, maths and physics, and funnies they consult the on-board intelligence, Homer.
Homer helps them home in. Without Homer, where would they be? Adrift, like all other known time machines.
Our tale begins as Fibo heads off for a newly detected cluster of probabilistic pings between 2070 and 2080 CE.
2072 was when a one-kilometre asteroid brushed Antarctica at a tiny impact angle before ricocheting onward back into space. As likely as not, those stranded TMs were heading for 2072 or the immediate aftermath years rather than ending up in that decade out of power after desperation jumps…