Size / / /

1.

Somewhere in the vicinity of two hundred and fifty million years in the future, or in 1930 if you prefer, the Fifth Men—that is, the fifth descendant variety of humanity imagined by Olaf Stapledon in Last and First Men—become acutely aware of their place in time. They are a long-lived and high-minded people, and although they feel a duty to the future, they come to feel an equal responsibility to those who preceded them. “With meticulous love,” we are told, “they would figure out the life stories of extinct types,” from the brontosaurus to the American (p.208). Such reconstruction, “not merely as abstract history but with the intimacy of the novel” (p. 208), becomes an obsession for the Fifth Men and provides a convenient bridging device for me. This second instalment of Depth of Field is going to be about the imagining of deep time across the patchwork landscape of SF traditions: the aeons to come and the strangeness they may hold. Yet here are the Fifth Men indulging in the type of historical recreation that I discussed last time, an entire species of Gaustines!

 

2.

To restate a more substantial point from the last column, the time behind us can be as hard to grasp as the time ahead of us. Deep time stretches in both directions, and before heading out into the wilds of the future, it's worth briefly considering the established vastness of the past, as laid out in a book such as Marcia Bjornerud's 2018 monograph Timefulness, which offers, in wonderfully lucid and occasionally playful prose, a geologist's take on how we can and do create narratives about events that take many times longer than a single human lifespan to occur.

After an engaging tour of how we know what we know about the deep history of the planet—the mechanisms used for geologic dating and how they built up the accepted 'atlas' of the ages, epochs, and periods of the past—Bjornerud's segue to the debate about how and when to define the start of the anthropocene, and how to think about where we go from here, feels freshly shocking. Geology is founded on an assumption of uniformitarianism, a belief that the processes of the future will be like those of the past, that may no longer hold true. In fact, she writes, when thinking of the near future, we are “in a position strangely analogous to that of pre-nineteenth century geologists who had no guidelines for understanding the geologic past” (p. 131). She builds to a longing and science-fictional peroration to advocate for “timefulness” as a way of thinking, riffing on Kurt Vonnegut's suggestion that the US government should include a Department of the Future that would ensure all citizens are “time-literate”. She contends that such an office “would set in motion a realignment of priorities in all aspects of society” (p.175), with improvements ranging from better pay for public school teachers (“whose work represents an investment in the future,” p.176) to an electorate primed to reward legislators who deliver long-term, truly sustainable initiatives.

Fundamentally, Bjornerud argues that a timeful mindset “requires one to shed the illusion that there is only one version of the world” (p.179). She discusses projects intended to help us more confidently project ourselves into the future, such as the ongoing performance of John Cage's “Organ2/ASLSP (As Slow as Possible)” at Halberstadt Cathedral in Germany that is due to end in 2639; one imagines she would be sympathetic to a novel such as Ian McDonald's Hopeland (2023), which includes a similar musical performance and a similar project of helping its readers to think over a longer time horizon than they otherwise might.

Simultaneously, however, Bjornerud notes that the further out from now that you go, the more confident you can be about at least some future milestones. She runs through some examples. In about eighty thousand years' time, the Earth will reach the point in the Milankovitch eccentricity cycle at which its orbit makes another ice age possible—although the actuality will be dependent on greenhouse gas concentrations. In two hundred and fifty million years (at around the time of the Fifth Men) plate tectonics will unite a new supercontinent, preemptively christened “Pangaea Ultima.” In two billion years, the sun's increasing luminosity will vaporise Earth's oceans, which aside from the direct inconvenience, will likely also slow the progression of further continental drift. And in five billion years the sun will become a red giant and engulf the Earth. For Bjornerud, timefulness is also a guard against the existential fatalism that such a long-range perspective might provoke. For me, the long-range perspective in itself can be a bracing test of how fully we can shed the illusion that there is a single version of the world.

 

3.

Olaf Stapledon's preface to Last and First Men is explicit that this is his project. “To romance of the far future,” he states in a preface, “is to attempt to see the human race in its cosmic setting, and to mould our hearts to entertain new values” (p. ix). The astonishing achievement of the novel is that ninety-three years after its publication, its vertiginous logarithmic accelerando from two years to two billion years in the future does still unlock some mental doors, at least for me. Stapledon's future is not always (not even very often) one that I would wish for; but as it meditates on life's purpose and potential ending, it conveys a compelling sense of possibility. In his essay, “Thoughts on the Modern Spirit,” probably written around the same time as Last and First Men, Stapledon writes of a “unique ecstasy of disinterested admiration” that arises from contemplating the nature of the universe and the place of humanity within it; that ecstasy animates the novel.

So much so that in writing about it, there is a great temptation to report, as though it were actual history, and catalogue and comment on the strangenesses depicted. The detail of the First World State, for instance, a few hundred years from now. It is a place of great material wealth and physical capability—its inhabitants all have private aeroplanes, rarely work more than four hours per day, and live to be almost two hundred years old—that is entranced by a “worship of movement”: “the individual's conduct was determined by the obligation to produce as much motion as possible, whether by his own muscular activity or by the control of natural forces” (p. 62). Or the bravura depiction of alternate evolution on Mars that leads, ten million years from now, to a protracted conflict between the Second Men and cloud-based intelligences that can, but do not always, form a group mind; the distinction between the Martian public mind and Martian individuals carrying remarkable resonance, these days, with the gestalt mood that emerges on social networks. Or the development of the Fourth Men, perhaps two hundred million years from now: great brains, twelve feet in diameter, housed in specialist buildings, dominating the world around them via machine servants, and who ultimately design the more noble Fifth Men we met at the start of the column. On and on it goes, until we reach the eighteenth and last human species: massive, “both more human and more animal”, in which different individuals may be reminiscent of different contemporary species, but share a common “upward-looking astronomical eye” (p. 255) on the top of their heads, who live in groups of ninety-six composed of multiple male sexes, female sexes, and sub-sexes, and who, through an advancement of the obsession of the Fifth Men, are able to project their consciousness back through the aeons in order to dictate the history of humanity via Olaf Stapledon, so that he can publish it as his first novel.

(Pause for breath.)

But this litany, as enjoyable as it is (albeit not half as enjoyable as the original pure strain: you should read this book), is also something of a dead end. Taking the predicted history too literally leads to, for instance, Gregory Benford's surprisingly snippy introduction to my 2009 Gollancz edition of the book (dated 1987 and probably reproduced unaltered from the 1988 St Martin's Press edition), which complains about Stapledon's evident “smouldering dislike” of America leading to a “completely wrong” portrait of the near future because he clearly believed that “the United States could never be a positive influence”. It is true that the opening few chapters, which describe a succession of nation-state wars, the destruction of Europe, and an American-Chinese standoff ultimately leading to the formation of the First World State, are less interesting than what follows. But that's not because they bear no resemblance to actual history, nor is it due to a specific anti-Americanism, nor even due to the fact that all of Stapledon's nation-state portrayals are uncomfortably essentialist (his depiction of China, while perhaps not as xenophobic as some other contemporaneous writers, is still built around a guiding “eastern mysticism”). They are less interesting than what follows, I think, because they are closer to conventional novelistic narrative, and as such simply much more familiar.

Stanislaw Lem, in a 1970 essay translated and published in English in 1986, makes another version of this point: the opening chapters of Last and First Men are weak, he suggests, because they are predominantly examples of what he calls “technical imagination”, extrapolations that take place within a recognisable frame consistent with our own understanding. The later chapters are strong because they are dominated by what he calls “culture-construction”, in which the nature and potential of humanity itself becomes a variable, opening up a richer and stranger canvas in which all sorts of configurations can be depicted with a refreshing lack of implicit judgement about their value systems, because they are not necessarily traceable to us. Lem takes advantage of the accomplishment to diss everyone else in a way that I wouldn't endorse (“compared with this book, which is almost 40 years old, SF is one great step backward”), but the idea of culture-construction is without doubt a rewarding frame within which to read Last and First Men, one which sees it not as a particularly spectacular future history, but as a tool to enable particular ways of thinking, particular states of mind, by foregrounding not the technological mastery that its world-shaping descendent species ultimately achieve, but the ontological anxieties that Stapledon builds into each of them. What haunts me about the Fifth Men, for instance, is their conclusion about the futility of religion: “Though the love which had misled them was itself a very lovely thing, yet they were misled” (p. 206). I don't know whether that's an expression of despair or grace, but I do know that it draws force from being a revelation from intelligences that have reasoned out their own distinctive form of timefulness.

 

4.

What counts as deep time? When does the far future start?

Stapledon uses the latter term, and, perhaps following him, so does The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, whose entry focuses on stories set in what might be paraphrased as evening times, either of the Earth or the universe. Perhaps if you can pin a date more precise than the nearest million years on it, it's not the far future. Meanwhile, “deep time”, as Noah Heringman discusses in Deep Time: A Literary History (2023), may have been popularised in the 1980s by writers such as John McPhee in narrative overviews of geology such as Basin and Range (1981), but the concept is obviously older. Heringman dates it back, via novels such as Ballard's The Drowned World (1962), not only to early geology (although the contemporary phrase used about Hutton's work was “abyss of time”), but to Hindu, and other, cosmologies that situate recorded history within a vaster frame. His interest in “the qualitative dimensions of deep time as an imaginative experience” (p. 3) feels relevant to my exploration here, albeit in the opposite temporal direction. Perhaps any duration that makes a human life feel infinitesimally small is deep time.

And perhaps a couple of recently published data points may be of interest. Gollancz, the publishers of Paul McAuley's Beyond the Burn Line (2022), describe the novel, which is set approximately two hundred thousand years from now, as taking place “in the deep future”; in contrast Orbit, the UK publishers of Annalee Newitz's The Terraformers (2023), which is set a mere sixty thousand or so years from now, describe it merely as “an exploration of the future”. On Stapledon's timeline, both of these novels take place before he's even got to the Second Men, and in such light, both novels—though in many ways  fine and stimulating—can't help feeling a little limited. Both books are divided into segments that skip forward a generation or two in order to show change in their worlds. Both books position themselves geologically: Newitz specifically refers to “the end of the anthropocene”, whereas McAuley's “burn line” is the trace of its start. And both extend the definition of “people” beyond the human, to include a variety of uplifted animals or artificial intelligences.

And both books avoid true strangeness. Beyond the Burn Line is initially the tale of Pilgrim, a scholar's apprentice burning to complete his late master's work and uncover the truth about mysterious “visitors” to his world: whether they exist at all and, if they do, what they mean. The world he lives in is (to our eyes) comfortably familiar, a pseudo-Victorian gaslamp world that frequently recalls actual British scientific history, albeit with the not insignificant difference that its inhabitants are sharply-dressed descendants of raccoons. But their scholars are gradually re-discovering a theory of evolution (“the theory of selective change”, p. 14) and constructing a geological history (reporting evidence of “the great flood which had destroyed the terror lizards; the cleansing fire which had put an end to the wickedness of ogres”, p. 14). McAuley's prose is calm and his plotting is meticulously controlled, which allows the unsettling juxtaposition of the animal-fable quality of the story and the vasty nature of the scientific questions that lie behind it to speak for itself. Put another way, Beyond the Burn Line generates an evocative timefulness, not least through a wondrously graceful ending, but it doesn't construct culture so much as recreate it.

And the same is true of The Terraformers. If McAuley is on one level re-staging and investigating nineteenth-century British imperialism, then Newitz is doing the same for twenty-first century American capitalism. The Terraformers is set tens of thousands of years further down the line than, say, their first novel Autonomous (2017), but in a similarly rapacious world, and one where everyone talks like us. (One character tells another: “you're in your feelings, my friend”, p. 145.) So The Terraformers, while a more vivacious and eyeball-kicky read than Beyond the Burn Line, is also not a particularly strange book, unless you count the underpinning slowness of the capitalist structures that administer the terraforming of Sask-E over tens of thousands of years without any noticeable evidence of instability. Everything about Sask-E is commercially determined in a familiar way: every plot of land is destined to be sold for one kind of development or another, and every intelligent being living there, which accounts for almost all the characters we meet over the course of the three linked novellas that make up the book, has been designed, grown, and decanted for a purpose, and is a form of corporate property.

As with McAuley, many if not most of the beings are not baseline human, a reality that is very elegantly indicated by the novel's second sentence which, if it was the first sentence, would be one of the great first sentences in SF: “There was some kind of person—possibly Homo sapiens—tending a fire at the edge of the boreal forest”. Unlike McAuley, who takes the personhood of all his characters as read even if, politically, they may experience limitations, in the world of The Terraformers there are divisions set up between those beings who count as persons and those who do not. One of the major subplots of the novel is to question, and in most cases, break down those divisions, and Newitz is very good at most of this process: good at presenting different types of person; good at depicting intimacies; emotional and physical, between them; good at relationships at both personal and societal levels. But towards the end of the novel it's difficult not to notice that the top-to-bottom artificiality of Sask-E has enabled Newitz to stack the deck slightly in favour of the arguments that they (and I) agree with. Personhood for animals is a lot more straightforward when you're on a planet where there is no such thing as a baseline animal.

McAuley and Newitz are at quite different stages of their careers: the former has published over 20 novels across a four-decade career, the latter three, starting in 2017. Still, these two novels really do make an interesting pairing; perhaps the resonances suggest something in the ether. In quite consciously echoing periods of actual history, both novels turn their settings into theatres, staging relevant plays for the benefit of their contemporary readers. I liked both books, but preferred McAuley, who at least provides hints to think about the nature of that facade, and ultimately gives those hints a textual payoff. For Newitz, the thousands of years of time necessary to set her story on a plausibly terraformed planet are made less estranging by mechanisms such as extreme longevity, and as such The Terraformers deliberately avoids conveying not just strangeness, but the sense of smallness we might seek in reading about the far future. (It is a novel about the strength of people's agency, not its limitations.) But both novels, after all, are set only on the uppermost slopes of the abyss of time.

 

5.

The same can't be said of Sunfall, a collection of linked stories by C. J. Cherryh, first published in 1981. “It was simply old, this world”, a prologue informs us. The sun has “turned wan and plague-ridden” (p. 5) we are told, and it is dying “its eons-long death, in glorious flarings of radiations [...] it brought days of strange color” (p. 57). Taking that at face value, the sun may be declining towards its red giant phase, and so we may be talking now of billions of years in the future, not mere tens of thousands. The collection is saturated with background exhaustion. In the opening story, “The Only Death in the City”, we are introduced to what remains of Paris, now and for thousands of years a vast sealed edifice in which its inhabitants hide away from the sky, yet with many levels layered in dust, and vast and enviable libraries unused. And somehow, those who die have started to be reincarnated, infants with “haunted eyes [...] waiting on adulthood, for body to overtake memory” (p. 6) The resulting lives are “a curious mixture of caution and recklessness”:

Caution, for they surrounded themselves with the present, knowing the danger of entanglements; recklessness, for past ceased to fascinate them as an unknown and nothing had permanent meaning. (p. 6)

They are, in other words, a timeless people, rather than a timeful one. They offer each other advice such as, make many friends, to ensure that whatever configuration of souls you are reborn into, there will always be someone who is glad to see you. And never set strong patterns, lest you be doomed to re-enact them for eternity. But it's as hard to make a story out of this sort of society as it is to set one in an achieved utopia, and so into the stasis comes a spark of change, a new soul, who grows into a man who falls in love with an old soul. It does not go well. It ends in death, as do many of the stories that follow: small finalities in a world that is itself dying.

All of the stories evoke a similar mood in their opening pages. Each takes as its subject a different city: in London, ghostly presences trouble “senses deceived by the radiations of the dying star and the fogs which tended to gather near the Thames” (p. 21). Moscow “lived through the final ages wrapped in snows, while forests advanced and retreated” (p. 56). New York has hypertrophied into “a single spire aimed at the clouds [...] it grew into its last madness [...] a latter-day Babel aimed at the sullen heavens” (p. 94). Each city is a last redoubt, each running down in its own specific way; such grand melancholy is mesmerising, and yet also becomes the collection's limitation. As with McAuley and Newitz's novels, true strangeness is in short supply. As each story moves from scene-setting to plot, it becomes clearer that Cherryh's intent is to showcase an idea of the essence of each place. Paris is decadent ennui; in London, we spend the majority of the story with a young woman detained in the Tower of London, where she is visited by ghosts of English monarchs, all (funnily enough) dating from before the date when the story was written, none from the billions of years leading up to its present. In Moscow, a hunter faces down a wolf. In New York, construction workers go on strike. The relationship between plot and place feels superficial, and the relationship between plot and time feels downright dissonant: the dying sun is used to explain Paris's reincarnations and London's ghosts, but nothing else about the way the characters live, think, or act feels different enough to our contemporary world (or recent past). These are not just stories about timeless people: they are an attempt at a kind of timeless tourism.

The entirety of Sunfall is reprinted in the 2004 Collected Short Fiction of C. J. Cherryh, along with an additional story, “MasKs”, set in Venice. It is longer than any of the other stories, but earns that length; it also has many of the strengths and weaknesses of its compatriots. The almost-cliche imagery that Cherryh attaches to Venice, and builds her story around, is masquerade: a young woman has to work out how to escape an impending arranged marriage that would seal an alliance between her family (noble but poor) and one from Verona (common but rich), and her hopes hinge on a compelling harlequin she meets during the festival. But three things about the story make it an interesting ending for the book. First, only one of the original stories had a female protagonist; the choice of another one here has an undertone of Le Guinian writing-back-to-revise, the more so because, second, it is also only the second story that does not end in death. In fact, the protagonist is explicitly told at one point, “You can end, or you can begin” (p. 169); and she chooses the latter. The third interesting feature is the very selection of Venice, surely one of the least likely cities to achieve a timeless eternal existence, notwithstanding the fact that this version of it is equipped with “immense sea gates” (p. 144), and “the newest pilings float, rather than rest, in the accumulated detritus of ages” (p. 145). Even in 1981, the same year that Sunfall was first published, Kim Stanley Robinson was drowning Venice. So, setting and protagonist fit together here: both offer a promise of active renewal that the earlier Sunfall stories deny.

 

6.

Somewhere between Stapledon's desire to unlock our minds and Cherryh's deep-time-as-vibes lie C. M. Kosemen's All Tomorrows and Ryu Mitsuse's 10 Billion Days and 100 Billion Nights. The former is a short book, self-published as an ebook in 2006, still available on the author's website (and still in need of a copy-edit). Its profile comes primarily from a video dramatization released in 2021 that has received at the time of writing approximately thirteen million views on YouTube. The appeal is its creativity: sometimes it feels like an exhibition catalogue, or a role-playing sourcebook, but along a timeline that describes the rise, fall, and renewal of the human species over billions of years, Kosemen inventively imagines over three dozen distinct types of human descendant. No recreations of familiar cultures here, then, and Kosemen is an artist by training, so the description of each descendant species is accompanied by an illustration, in a physiologically creative style I can only describe as 19th-century zoology by way of 20th-century surrealism.

The descendant species are the result of extreme biological manipulation following the conquest of humanity by aliens known as the Qu. In an attempt to build a perfect society, the Qu create and subsequently abandon descendants ranging from Mantelopes, bred as “living recorders” (p. 26) and (reminiscent of some of Newitz's characters) equipped with full sentience but not the ability to express it, to Temptors, in whom sexual dimorphism has been grotesquely twisted such that “females were beaked cones of flesh some two meters tall, rooted in soil” (p. 32; the illustration for that one is quite something). One of the more memorable descendant species is the Colonials, whose world had resisted the Qu and who as punishment are remodelled into “quilt-like fields of human flesh” (p. 36), intended to subsist on the waste products of Qu civilisation and forced to watch without ever being able to act. Some of these descendants recover a degree of civilisation; many are ultimately wiped out in a subsequent age by a machine war, prosecuted by mad uploaded minds known as Gravitals, desperate to recreate humanity's golden age.

There is a sharp disappointment in store at the end of the book, however. On the final page, we learn that Kosemen's narrator, like Stapledon's, is speaking to us from the even further future, having recreated the history of humanity as an instructive lesson. The Qu and the Gravitals, it turns out, are intended to be seen as opposing poles, the former seeking an idealised future while the latter strives for an idealised past; but what matters in the end, to the historian, is that they are both wrong and that what readers should return to and focus on is “the very life you lead at the moment” (p. 111). This is not so much timefulness as a kind of time-blindness: a deliberate turning-away from the confronting transformations displayed in earlier sections.

Mitsuse's novel builds to a similar plea to consider the importance of the present, but in a considerably more nuanced fashion, which is quite something for a novel in which Jesus and Buddha engage in numerous laser battles. It achieves its effect by inverting Sunfall's approach. In place of a textually ancient setting filled with too-familiar characterisation and plots, we are offered considerably more adventurous characterisation in what is textually a considerably less distant setting. First published in Japan in 1965 and 1966 as a series of short stories, fixed-up into a novel in 1973, and translated into English in 2011 by Alexander O. Smith and Elye J. Alexander, 10 Billion Days … may open with an omnisciently narrated prologue that recapitulates the birth of life on earth (“the result of two billion years of long, long toil was about to make itself apparent”, p. 11), and may end with a slingshot that promises the titular aeons, but the majority of the story takes place over at most 10 million days. This puts it a shorter distance into the future than even Newitz—only a few tens of thousands of years—but Mitsuse’s characters are forced to grapple with cosmological-scale events in a way that Newitz’s are not, with the result that Mitsuse ultimately does better at conveying the largeness and strangeness of such events than any of the authors I've discussed, save Stapledon.

Initial historical chapters introduce four central characters. Plato, tracking rumours of Atlantis across North Africa, finds his consciousness entangled with that of a specific Atlantean, Orionae, a witness to the fall of the society a few thousand years earlier. Prince Siddhārtha, in Nepal, is granted a vision of a cosmic war that hovers behind the mortal one threatening his current life, and in an encounter with Asura—who his teachers insist is “the very essence of evil in the universe” (p. 99), although it turns out there is rather more to her story—begins to grapple with a universe that seems to be structured by unavoidable cycles of destruction. And on the plains of Golgotha, Jesus of Nazareth is executed, but as the astronomer Judas watches in bafflement and horror, he hears snatches of dialogue from the earlier stories leak through a rift in the sky, revealing that we have been glimpsing the same struggle from different angles, and that it has to do with the role of an alien Planetary Development Commission in the shaping of earthly life. This much takes us to the half-way point of the novel: the remainder shifts thousands of years into the future, and depicts reincarnated cyborg versions of Orionae/Plato, Siddhārtha, and Asura, awaking at intervals and trying each time to understand the nature of the reality they have awakened into, while engaged in a running battle with Jesus, who has been recruited by the enemy.

There are moments of deadpan absurdism in this scenario that made me think of a writer like Lavie Tidhar: “Siddhārtha walked on alone, acutely aware that so long as Jesus of Nazareth was at large, he could be walking into a trap” (p. 205). But the backdrop is empty and melancholy. When Siddhārtha first awakes, he walks down a wide concrete road. “It lay forgotten, the wind its only traveler [...] the kind of barrenness from which no life could ever hope to revive” (p. 164). He finds a downed spacecraft with a display depicting colliding galaxies, and then a ruined city behind an immense shieldwall. In his second awakening, Siddhārtha, Orionae/Plato, and Asura cautiously explore a [Rendezvous With] Rama-like abandoned construct, dusty and mysterious, evidence of another failure by the Planetary Development Commission, and home to “a civilization whose story of destruction had begun after history had already ended” (p. 227). There are some descendants of humanity—as Earth's environment worsened, humans initially adapted into a communal body, and then uploaded themselves—but nothing like the variation on display in, say, All Tomorrows. All is twilight, albeit a twilight punctuated by the aforementioned laser battles. At the very end, only Asura remains:

A sudden feeling of tremendous loss descended upon Asura. Now she must face the truth of her situation—wherever she turned, however she advanced or retreated, she would be alone. There was no way back to what had been, and in front of her stretched another ten billion days and one hundred billion nights. (p. 276)

We don't see those billions on the page, but they loom large in the reader's mind. That choice underlines, I think, how Mitsuse only shares part of a goal with Stapledon. He certainly aims to make us feel the smallness of humanity's place in a cosmic setting, and he certainly succeeds. He is not so interested, I think, in persuading us to entertain new values—but not in the directive carpe-diem fashion of Kosemen. Rather—as indicated by the choice of protagonists, and the traditions of thought they represent—I think Ten Billion Days … is an encouragement to reflection, to think about the values we hold in our lives, where they come from, and how meaningful (or meaningless) it might be to live by them, even if we are brief candles destined to be snuffed out. It's not Stapledon's unique ecstasy of disinterested admiration; it is more a kind of mental bridging technique like the ultra-long musical compositions mentioned earlier. In other words, it's a reminder that there is more than one route to timefulness in fiction, which is good, because I agree with Bjornerud that we need all the timefulness we can get.

 

Editions used

Timefulness by Marcia Bjornerud (2018). Princeton University Press 2018 (Princeton, NJ, US). Hardback. ISBN: 9780691181202.

Sunfall by C. J. Cherryh (1981), in The Collected Short Fiction of C. J. Cherryh (2004). DAW Books (2004). Hardback. ISBN: 9780756402174.

Deep Time: A Literary History by Noah Heringman (2023). Princeton University Press 2023 (Princeton, NJ, US). Paperback. ISBN: 9780691235790.

All Tomorrows by C. M. Kosemen (2006). Self-published. Available at: http://cmkosemen.com/books.html [accessed June 2023]

“On Stapledon's Last and First Men” by Stanislaw Lem (1970). Translated into English for Science Fiction Studies vol. 13 (1986), pp272-291.

Beyond the Burn Line by Paul McAuley (2022). Gollancz 2022 (London, UK). Hardback. ISBN: 9781399603713.

10 Billion Days and 100 Billion Nights by Ryu Mitsuse (1967). VIZ Media LLC 2011. Hardback. ISBN: 9781421539041.

The Terraformers by Annalee Newitz (2023). Orbit 2023 (London, UK). Paperback. ISBN: 9780356520865.

Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon (1930). Gollancz 2009 (London, UK). Paperback. ISBN: 9780575082564.

 

 



Niall Harrison is an independent critic based in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. He is a former editor of Strange Horizons, and his writing has also appeared in The New York Review of Science FictionFoundation: The International Review of Science Fiction, The Los Angeles Review of Books and others. He has been a judge for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and a Guest of Honor at the 2023 British National Science Fiction Convention. His collection All These Worlds: Reviews and Essays is available from Briardene Books.
Current Issue
13 May 2024

This variation on the elixir of life pairs the flavour of roasted roc with the medicinal potency of the philosopher’s stone. But buyer beware: this dish isn’t for everyone.
mourn and lament while mixing, then cut down a tree
At the end of every tunnel, there was an epithelium of silence that deluged the larynx.
Issue 6 May 2024
Issue 29 Apr 2024
Issue 15 Apr 2024
By: Ana Hurtado
Art by: delila
Issue 8 Apr 2024
Issue 1 Apr 2024
Issue 25 Mar 2024
By: Sammy Lê
Art by: Kim Hu
Issue 18 Mar 2024
Strange Horizons
Issue 11 Mar 2024
Issue 4 Mar 2024
Issue 26 Feb 2024
Load More